ATC Releases Updated Trail Use Guidance, Asks Thru-Hikers To Continue Postponing Hikes
May 20, 2020; 2:30 p.m. MST: The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has released updated guidelines for Appalachian Trail users, including day hikers, overnight hikers, and prospective 2020 thru-hikers.
2020 AT Thru-Hikers
With over 50,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in AT states, and the constantly changing national and global circumstances, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is asking hikers to continue postponing their 2020 thru-hikes. There are still more than 100 shelters closed along the AT, and though some states might have relaxed regulations, access to privies and shelters isn’t guaranteed. The ATC is also continuing to put a hold on 2,000-miler recognition.
One of the main objectives with stay-at-home and travel restrictions is to stay local, and hiking 2,000 miles through 14 states goes directly against those recommendations. Stopping in town to resupply, hitching, taking shuttles, and stopping at the post office and laundromat—all tasks thru-hikers must do along their hike—has the potential to contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
There is not currently a set time for these recommendations to change, but the ATC is working with partners to review and update thru-hiker guidances as conditions change. These conditions can include but are not limited to:
- When all official pandemic-related AT closures are lifted
- The rate of COVID-19 infections has remained flat for two weeks and quarantines for out-of-state visitors in all 14 AT states have been lifted.
- An effective vaccine to protect against COVID-19 is widely available.
Read the full updated guidelines for 2020 thru-hikers here.
Day Hikers / Overnight Hikers
As stay-at-home recommendations are lifted and states relax restrictions, the ATC cannot restrict trail users, but asks that before hikers head to the trail, they ask themselves the following questions:
1) Are you, or anyone in your group, exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, or have you been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19?
2) Is there an official closure of the section of the AT you are planning to hike?
3) Are you, or anyone in your group, missing any essential gear to not only have a safe and healthy hike but also mitigate the spread or contraction of COVID-19?
If you or anyone in your group can answer yes to those questions, it is in the best interest of yourself and other trail users for you to stay home. Not only does strong discretion before public trails usage help mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19, staying safe on the trail and avoiding accidents or potential rescue scenarios helps ease the strain on first responders and medical personnel.
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The ATC also asks hikers to follow these guidelines during local outings on the Appalachian Trail:
-Stay local and hike close to home. Avoiding travel is still key. Keep tabs on trail closures here.
-Hike only with people from your household and immediate circle. If the trailhead is crowded when you arrive, consider alternate locations or waiting for a less popular day.
-Follow all CDC recommendations for sanitizing and face coverings in towns if you happen to stop in a trail town you don’t live in.
-Understand restrictions and closures are not the same along the entire trail. More than 100 shelters are still closed, and restrictions are still active throughout AT states. Several states still have 14-day quarantines required upon entering.
-Know your area and don’t take unnecessary risks. There is already a strain on the medical system, and putting more pressure on first responders is detrimental to the community as a whole.
Read the full updated guidelines for day hikers and overnight hikers here.
Feature image via Maggie Slepian
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