The ATC Asks People to “Please Stay Off the Appalachian Trail,” Including Day Hikes

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy issued a statement Monday, March 23, asking people to stay off the Appalachian Trail altogether.  This includes day hikes and pertains to the full length of the trail.

The statement, issued by Sandi Marra, the ATC’s president and CEO, is making this request due to the lack of social distancing being practiced in popular regions of the trail.

In a time when social distancing is necessary to minimize the spread and contraction of a dangerous virus, many have escaped to nature seeking isolation and unpopulated spaces. On the Appalachian Trail, however, what they’ve found are trailhead parking lots exceeding their maximum capacities, shelters full of overnight hikers, day hikers using picnic tables and privies, and group trips continuing as planned. Popular spots along the Trail like Blood Mountain in Georgia, the McAfee Knob area in Virginia, and Annapolis Rocks in Maryland have seen day use reach record-breaking levels. Cars line the highways leading to popular day-hiking spots on the trail. Hiking the A.T. has become, in other words, the opposite of social distancing.  – Sandi Marra

This comes six days after the ATC asked people to postpone their long-distance backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail, including those already out on the trail.  This joins a very long list of closures on trail, in towns, and trail-related events.

In the statement, Marra added that the trail will not be closed as “(they) cannot physically bar access to trailheads or connecting trails.”

There is an unfortunate truth about this virus: unless everyone is safe, no one is safe.”

You can find the full statement here.

The ATC has also created a list of closings along the Appalachian Trail that can be found here.

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Comments 22

  • Elease Buffaloe : Mar 23rd

    Boooooooooo!! We are encouraged to go outside and walk! My husbands’ dream is to thru hike the AT. He works, so he cannot do so for several years. Because the virus has killed 65% of his business – he has been furloughed for six weeks. PERFECT TIMING to take a HIKE!!!

    Reply
  • Brian Wilson : Mar 24th

    Yes people this sucks, but let’s all be adults and suck it up just for a while. It defeats the purpose of social distancing when everyone converges to a common place. Take a walk around your block or other part of your town. My wife had to cancel her AT…trust me, I know it sucks, but let’s be responsible. Places are closing because people cant seem to practice social distancing like we are asked to. Its like the entire class is having recess taken away because of a couple of bad students.

    Reply
    • Wanda Shirk : Mar 24th

      The AT has always be the Route I-95 — the Superhighway — of hiking. There are lots of remote, wilderness trails where hikers can typically be out for days and not see anyone. Try, for example, the Mid State Trail in Pennsylvania, which goes 325 miles from Maryland to NY, connecting with the Finger Lakes Trail. PA’s Mid State Trail is part of the Great Eastern Trail, which was designed partly to take pressure off the AT. The GET (of which PA’s Mid State Trail is a part) is much more remote than the AT, Only a handful of hikers have ever completed it.
      I don’t think I’ve ever had a day on the AT without seeing anyone, but I often have on PA state forest trails. Check out Keystone Trails Association for ideas. It is possible to spread out more in the outdoors and not cluster on the AT. Backpacking on the more remote wilderness trails will get you in shape for the eventual AT thru hike.

      Reply
      • raquel elvira beltran : Mar 24th

        Sad but we need to do what we need to do.

        Reply
      • Shannon : Mar 25th

        Very well said! This is absolutely true. I live in SC now but am from MD and the same is true there. Everyone congregates to places like Annapolis Rocks but there are so many other wonderful trails where you rarely see another soul but also offer challenging terrain and beautiful scenery. Like you said it’s all still good training for a thru-hike if that’s your goal. So let’s get creative people! Check out your state parks or go on the app AllTrails and trust me you will find some hidden gems. I know it’s frustrating to not have access to something we all love like the AT but we are all sacrificing something but that doesn’t mean we still can’t do a little research and find some other great trails and hidden gems to explore. Happy hiking everyone and be safe! 🙂

        Reply
  • Aaron : Mar 24th

    What sucls is the damage done by the exdessive hyping of fear and shaming in the name of social responsibility. The ATC would close the AT altogether this season, if it could. This is unprecedented and sad. Social justice warriors clamoring like the fear mongering lemmings they are always have to ruin things for others. Many hikers have succumb to the soc iui al conditioning and ended their hikes. That is what sucks… I respect people’s decisions to get off trail, but I won’t respect the fear hype and shaming going on in social media. I for one am going Sobo this year, and am looking forward to a quiet season on the trail.

    Reply
    • David : Mar 24th

      Finally, some voice of reason amidst the fear mongering madness.

      Reply
    • Tom : Mar 24th

      So right. I am planning a 4 day section in a not quite so popular section of the AT on April 2. Not using shuttle service, hostels, shelters, privys, as this was the plan from the beginning. Tell me again why I shouldn’t be out in the woods?

      Reply
      • Chill Bill : Mar 24th

        Because the governing body that has been responsible for maintaining, overseeing and providing for the experience that so many of us have enjoyed is politely asking you to stay away from the trail. There’s plenty of natural space and trails beyond the AT.

        Reply
    • Chill Bill : Mar 24th

      The ATC is just responding to the scientific consensus. You can label it however you want, fear-mongering, unprecedented, sad, sucks, shaming, etc., in order to rationalize your opinion of the matter. However, the scientific communities and organizations are our best intelligence when it comes to this. I’d rather trust them than some contrarian on an outdoor blog. Stay safe.

      Reply
  • Scott Elmquist : Mar 24th

    Ridiculous..Instead of hiking on a wilderness trail I suggest heading into town, going to Walmart and roam the isles in search of TP then head across town and hit the local Lowe’s or Home Depot to get something you don’t need oh and drop by the beer distributors to get a 30 pack. They are all open with zero word of closing down for your safety. Then I read this saying stay off the AT. See you in the woods. I’ll keep my distance from you.

    Reply
  • Brian Wilson : Mar 24th

    No one is saying that you shouldn’t. The way you have planned your hike sounds fine. It’s the ones who are ignoring the social distancing requests and are congregating so to speak. Fear-mongering is telling everybody to buy up all of your guns and ammo because the Democrats are in office. Fear-mongering is not social distancing while trying to slow the spread of a virus that has no vaccination yet. It’s the people who ignore this stuff, then contract the virus without showing signs or symptoms, then unknowingly pass it to those who are more vulnerable.

    Reply
  • Paul : Mar 24th

    I live 15 minutes from the AT in Western NC. Did several day AT training hikes in Jan/Feb of this year; however, I prefer backpacking in places such as the Shining Rock Wilderness, Linville Gorge Wilderness, Pisgah NF, etc. I normally stay away from the trail Mar – May during the NOBO hiker rush. Many other great places to go with far fewer people.

    Reply
  • Tony : Mar 24th

    My brother was doin the thru hike he started on the 13th of March he was forced off by the 22nd of march all the towns on the at are shutting down there is no way to resupply it would have turned into a 100 percent survival situation for him. So if anybody does decide to do the trail please be safe an aware of ur food stocks an ur location have someone in the outside kno where u are an ur route there is limited to no help on the trail with all the shut downs none of this is meant to scare anybody just a plea to b cautious.

    Reply
  • Pierre Vézina : Mar 24th

    As U say: “There is an unfortunate truth about this virus: unless everyone is safe, no one is safe.”…So what are U doing as an organization to help those approx 1000 hikers stuck on the AT??? https://www.facebook.com/mattnorman111/videos/10157982380240890/?hc_location=ufi

    Reply
  • Timothy Ebert : Mar 24th

    Good call! very few restrooms and if there is one doubtful it is clean. Also pooh in the ground is dug up by animals and could cause cross contamination to other species. Bats Snakes and dogs have been confirmed to be susceptible to the virus!

    Reply
  • Theresa : Mar 24th

    I find it funny that the ATC has a freaking CEO 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️ doesn’t suprises me… lady not everyone lives in mansions and can afford a Rick life style like yourself, so we tend to the woods. You can not stop people from going to the woods.🤷‍♀️

    Reply
  • Smoky : Mar 25th

    May 1st. Katahdin. SOBO.

    Reply
  • FREEBIRD : Mar 25th

    I sold everything i had before getting on the AT on February 24th 2020 ! I have no family or friends to go home too…The Trail has been my home Feb 24 th and I’ve been waiting 30 years to make this happen! I an’t throwing in a towel for someone to tell me other wise ( unless someone can find me a full time job and pay my rent , buy me a car and give me a check for $5,000 + ! ) I served my country in the USMC and i an’t giving up !! Its been peaceful out here, The smokeys were a nightmare with all kinds of wackos at them…I’ve been in VA now for a week and the local people have been amazing!! The outside world is in a panic and the AT real world has been great !! I have not had one problem with food at stores ! The post office is still runing and my mail drops are still there !! People in the outside world are in a panic over a virus that kills people who are in bad shape or are 80 years old ! At 56 i am in the best shape of my life! …So many people think that rides from hitchhiking is going to give you a virus? You sit in the back of a ford pick up truck and stay away from people! Come on you stupid people this is about doing a Thru Hike, not living in someones home over every weekend!! I have had fresh fish and rabbit along the trail and fires as much as i can …I slowed down my miles and just enjoying my hike !! If people who are for Thru hikers want to do something good for us , Than say we are proud of you ( Freebird ) keep it up and take care of yourself because i have heard it from so many people along the AT towns !! The only Negative effects are people who wished they were here and not licked in doors with screaming kids and a crazy wife !! Good luck to that and I am moving north!! Freebird GaMe 2020

    Reply
  • Goofball : Mar 25th

    WTF , ATC have no right telling me or any of my brothers and sisters of the Appalachian Trail to get off !! The National Park service hasn’t shut down and As a Thru Hiker on the AT ( I started march 1 ) have not heard anything about local police shutting down roads or yellow tape on the Trail…lol…Thats 100 % Bullshit!! If anything the local police officers have helped us out and told us to be safe !! We had no problems getting permits for Smokeys and the rangers gave us a bag of oranges to eat ! I don’t know what this fellow is talking about gates at the Fontana Dam ? We spoke to a ranger and local police officer yeasterday that said nothing about the pack being closed to Thru Hikers ! Yes to day hikers and visitors maybe…But shit …No worries out here on the Trail…( There are about 20 or 25 of us ) We are all keeping are hands clean and sleeping in our tents ! My Mom and Dad said that there is no food left in town at home !! Every gas station I’ve been in is loaded with goods…I don’t need TP , so no worries there .Freebird , Fastball, Pauly are i are just out side of town in our tents enjoying a thunderstorm…So to you all who think life is crazy because of media has you brainwashed into becoming a world panic…good luck…We are all fine and we are all safe as long as you so called day hikers stay away from us…So stay home and we willbe free from the panic virus…🖕👽👽👽

    Reply
  • BobP : Mar 27th

    Did 3 days of day hiking with my dogs on or near the AT in a northern state this week. Did not see another person on the trail. Crowded areas should be shut down but it is wrong to issue blanket statements for the entire AT and all trails.

    BTW, I was thru hiking the PCT this year but got off at the request of the PCTA and US Forest Service, the latter which was shutting down forest access. There was no shortage of food or kindness in hiker towns. I can readily deal with reasoned arguments but not the many others that offer little facts in their damning ‘get off the trail!’ statements.

    Reply

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