ATC to Resume 2000-Miler Program, Says Thru-Hikes Now “Safer”
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) announced on Tuesday that “long-distance hiking on the A.T. is now considered to be a safer activity.” The Conservancy will recognize thru-hikers and 2000-milers for the first time since March 31, 2020, when it paused its registration and recognition process due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In light of the decision, ATC will re-open facilities in Harper’s Ferry, WV and Monson, ME. It will resume issuing hangtags to registered hikers. The Conservancy will acknowledge miles hiked since May 11, 2021 toward 2000-miler status. However, in accordance with its previous guidance, ATC will still not recognize miles hiked prior to that date during the pandemic.
“We have followed the science, particularly recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We have monitored conditions on the ground, and we continue to collaborate with our local, state, and federal agency partners; with Trail maintaining clubs; with Trailside communities; and with the hiker community to ensure coordination across the A.T.,” the organization wrote on its website.
Vaccine Now Widely Available
The ATC’s COVID-19 Task Force was waiting for one of two criteria to be fulfilled before it would endorse long-distance hiking: for the CDC to determine that the pandemic was under control, or for a vaccine or treatment to become widely available. “We have determined that the second of these criteria has been fulfilled, and significant gains have been made toward fulfilling the first,” ATC said.
To date, roughly 35% of Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 since distribution began last December. Nearly half have received at least one dose. Experts say at least 70-85% of the population must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
In addition to the broad availability of vaccines, ATC cited the CDC’s relaxation of outdoor masking guidelines and a reduction in regional pandemic restrictions.
The CDC announced on April 27 that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals can now go outside without a mask and can safely gather in small groups outdoors.
The US Forest Service also announced in late April that it would reopen AT shelters on Forest Service lands from Georgia to Virginia, such that a majority of AT shelters are now open to the public. (Significant shelter closures and camping restrictions still exist between northern Virginia and Massachusetts).
Finally, all 14 Appalachain Trail states have either removed or relaxed out-of-state travel restrictions such as mandatory quarantines.
Hikers Should Still Exercise Caution
“While we are excited to resume some of our programs put on pause for the last year, we remind everyone that there are still risks associated with hiking on popular and often-crowded trails like the A.T.,” ATC reminded hikers in its updated guidance.
Trail users should continue to practice social distancing and mask up indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces. And the Conservancy recommends tenting rather than staying in shelters.
Getting vaccinated prior to hitting the trail will also significantly reduce the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. (Anyone age 16 or older in the US is currently eligible to be vaccinated).
As always, long-distance hikers should register their trips with ATCamp.org and practice Leave No Trace principles.
“The ATC acknowledges the past year has required significant sacrifices both within and outside the A.T. community of volunteers, supporters, and hikers,” the organization wrote.”We thank everyone who has taken, and continues to take, extra steps to help combat this pandemic.”
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.