Baxter State Park Announces Permit Cards for Appalachian Trail Hikers

It’s no secret that Baxter State Park has it’s eyes fixed on the hoards of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers that visit Katahdin each year. Concern for the future of the Northern Terminus is exponentially growing as park advocates attempt to balance conservation with popularity.

Over the last 24 years, the Appalachian Trail has seen about a 75% increase in foot traffic. And the trail’s growth in popularity is not expected to cease. In an attempt to accurately monitor long distance hikers, Baxter State Park has announced that they will be implementing a permit system beginning in 2016.

Northbounders, Flip-Floppers, and Section Hikers are now required to redeem a permit from one of the following locations:

  •  Park Headquarters in Millinocket
  •  The Appalachian Trail Lodge in Millinocket
  •  Directly from the BSP/AT Steward at Abol Bridge
  •  Katahdin Stream Campground in Baxter State Park

Southbounders are currently exempt from this requirement. The permit will be dated when issued and then dated again at Katahdin Stream Campground upon the completion of each Katahdin hike. Long Distance Permits will also be required for hikers staying at the Birches facility. There will be no limit on the number of distributed permits.  No cost is associated with these cards at this time.

A count of issued permits will be updated daily on both BSP’s facebook page and website. Similarly to hiker registration with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Baxter State Park will publish a list of hikers on their website at the close of each season.

It’s possible that this is the first step to limiting thru-hiker foot traffic in the park.  Since Northbound hikers account for the largest percentage of thru-hikers, the permit system may be a means to accurately address just how much of an impact thru-hikers are having on the park. Baxter State Park already restricts the number of cars that are allowed to enter the park each day. This has proven to be an effective way to limit day-hikers.

Katahdin’s delicate Alpine zone and the overall health of the park is undeniably influenced by human traffic. Baxter State Park has reason for concern as thru-hiker numbers soar. Although Katahdin has marked the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail for nearly a century, current events demonstrate that it is not impervious to change.

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 9

  • Silvia Cassano : Mar 11th

    I think it is a step toward actually knowing and understanding the actual numbers of people summiting each day and a way to educate hikers as they arrive. Better data and better education help recreation managers make decisions, and hopefully help hikers to understand the stewardship component they are expected to uphold.

  • Gena : Mar 11th

    This feels exactly like a loss of freedom that trail hikers seek in their outdoor life. More paperwork and bureaucracy only take away from the experience. Big industry annihilate landscapes, and individuals get caught paying the toll. It is the bulldozers that are the problem, not people walking the wilderness. Support freedom for people to walk the earth. If they show up, they have already done the hard work.

    • John Kildren : Mar 16th


  • jerry prendergast : Mar 12th

    It’s the first step to increasing their revenue stream which they need. It’s also the next step in decreasing the tourist industry which they have doing for years. As a group we used the Maine wilderness at least three time a year spending a fair amount of money. Now we enjoy NH, VT instead as Maine’s prices and attitude have driven us away.

  • Russ Aulds : Mar 12th

    Accept overpopulation……

  • Bob Rogers : Mar 16th

    Interesting that they don’t require SOBO hikers to permit. Wouldn’t be any harder to collect cards at the starting point for the NOBOers. Wonder what their logic is for that.

    • Ethan : May 23rd

      South bounders don’t cause trouble and don’t feel entitled like north bounders do by the time they reach the park


What Do You Think?