ATC Begins Planning for Hikers’ Safe Return to Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has begun taking steps to develop guidelines for hikers to safely return to the Appalachian Trail.

In a statement here, the ATC said their guidelines’ priorities will be the safety and health of staff, volunteers, trail users, and trail communities. The announcement comes as some states along the trail begin reopening.

In the meantime, the ATC is standing by the request it made to hikers in March asking them to stay off the trail in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on the trail and in nearby communities.

“We know this was a difficult decision for those seeking the benefits of the A.T. experience, including many who had planned section and thru-hikes this year, and we greatly appreciate your assistance in helping prevent the spread of this dangerous virus,” said Sandra Marra, president and CEO of the ATC.

“Now over a month has passed since we made this request, and many have asked an important question: when will it be safe to return to the Trail?” Marra said.

Marra said a task force will be formed to adopt several guiding principles:

  • The task force will adopt an evidence-based approach, relying on the best science available.
  • The task force will account for the unique characteristics of the AT and develop guidance that is specific to the AT and the broader trail community.
  • The task force will consider the policies of our federal and state partners as well as restrictions and closures implemented at the local, state and federal levels.

The ATC asked hikers in March to get off the trail or not start a thru-hike, and many thru-hikers complied after struggling with their decisions. Some hikers have continued to attempt a thru-hike from Georgia to Maine, against the ATC’s advice.

The ATC also asked federal agencies to close the trail until April 30, and although many trailheads were closed and overnight camping at shelters was banned, the agencies did not meet the ATC’s request.

Featured image courtesy Maggie Slepian.

Affiliate Disclosure

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.

Comments 8

  • Avatar
    Hiker guy : May 2nd

    States opening state parks and we’re going to the open ones to hike camp and spend our money
    The ATC delays is just gonna kill trail towns And drive all the business elsewhere great smokie mt opening back country,may8 all Georgia parks opened this week Texas TN NC open,opening.
    Let those who wanna hike, hike
    the AT . Those who wanna stay
    home ,and be keyboard whinners, go ahead
    The Sec of Interior paid no attention to ATC’s request to close the trail and neither should We. They are just now getting a committee. At what cost. The ATC is showing its a political group not a hiking group.Keeping people from the outdoors where UV light kills all virus’s in minutes. Borders on neglict. Open the trail or there will be next to no trail town support for the ATC that bankrupted their businesses they need a committee to determine their liability when the sec interior would not close the trail

    Reply
    • Avatar
      James Clements : May 3rd

      Totally agree Lost alot of respect for the ATC thru all this!

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Jeremy : May 5th

      Why didn’t the ATC follow suit with the States and president Trump? Everyone knew that they couldn’t violate our constitutional rights. That’s why they only recommended and strongly urged us to stay home. Nobody went to jail for going to Walmart. I mean, are the right people in the right job positions in the ATC? They need to stick to their job and just maintain the trail. I can’t believe the lengths they went to to try and keep us off the trail. Worries me.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Robert Webb : May 2nd

    Open the trail ,we want to hike.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Todd haug : May 2nd

    I wish someone would just answer the questions strait. When can we go back hiking. Will begin….. phased reopening ….. forming a task force…..
    Give us a date. Give what sections or states are opened or the date they will be.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Meerkat : May 2nd

    Hiker Guy, I smell Astro Turf. You complain about keyboard whiners, but you are just a selfish, whiney, keyboard bully with a desperately poor grasp of how viruses are transmitted. If UV light was so fantastic at killing viruses, why does Noro sweep through the hiking community? It just makes you feel like dying whereas Covid 19 does make people die. I also didn’t see lots of UV getting underneath the roofs of the shelters where folks will gather. (did you ever stop to think this through?) It can overwhelm the health services of those small towns and counties. If you are really a hiker, you’d also realize that you can hike whenever you want to, but smart people, who know how epidemiology works, are willing to see where the science leads. If epidemic history is a guide, a second wave is a strong possibility later in the year with other waves to follow. Other countries broke quarantine too soon and suffered setbacks. I have delayed my thru attempt and stay ready.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Darren : May 2nd

    Not sure what the ATC does matters. They’re just virtue signaling. Smokies are reopening, Georgia is open, Baxter will reopen. The trail has always been open. Many hostels and shutters have been open. None of them give a hoot what the ATC recommends, only what the CDC guidance is. And CDC’s concern is not long-distance hikers, it’s massive crowds of tourists and dayhikers jamming popular locations.

    Those concerned should stay home. Don’t force your fears on others. We know now if you’re under 50 you are at less risk than flu. If you’re older than 65 you should probably stay away from crowds, but that’s not for us to force on those who accept the risk.

    Small mountain towns are in desperate economic straits and need our business. They are not at special risk from hikers. Truckers, antiquers, leafpeepers, canoers, bikers, and anglers spread anything by car 30 times faster than you hike. Not to mention hiker stink is the original social distancing!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Steve : May 5th

    Don’t let anyone stop you from hiking.

    Reply

What Do You Think?