Long-Distance Trekkers Welcomed Back To The Appalachian Trail
Good news for anyone with the stamina to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, as long-distance hikers are once again welcome.
Up until recently, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has advised against long-distance hikes of the much-lauded trail. However, at last, with the widespread availability of effective COVID-19 vaccines and the fact that outdoor activities are recommended by the CDC, the ATC has amended its recommendation. This is good news indeed for those hoping to head out in the fresh air along the Appalachian Trail.
Appalachian Trail Open To Long-Distance Hikers
Back in March 2020, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) recommended that long-distance hikers postpone their treks. This was due to the many risks this type of hiking poses with the spread of COVID-19. Fast forward to now, and the good news is that this recommendation has been removed.
The change in the recommendation comes for two reasons. One is the widespread availability of effective COVID-19 vaccines in the US. The second comes from a recent announcement made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where outdoor activities, such as hiking, pose significantly lower risks of spreading the virus. The CDC says this is the case even among small groups of both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
The main reason the ATC recommended against long-distance hikes last year is that trekkers stay over at campsites, shelters, huts, and lean-tos along the way. Not all of these accommodations are set up for social distancing, making them a risk to hikers. The ATC also said there were risks with hikers stopping over in towns to resupply. To get to these towns, the hikers would have to arrange for a shuttle or hitchhike, both of which increase the risk of spreading the virus.
About The Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is the longest footpath in the US, spanning more than 2,100 miles. The trail, completed in 1937, heads through 14 states from Georgia to Maine, crosses two national parks, and heads through eight national forests.
Each year, the Appalachian Trail sees around 3,500 hikers attempting to complete the entire trail. However, only around one in four hikers make it the full way. However, estimations are that between two to three million people hike at least a portion of the Appalachian Trail each year.
Part of the trail’s attraction is the beautiful scenery, including deep woods, looming mountains, bird and bear sightings, and pastures full of flowers.
Recommendations For Hiking The Appalachian Trail
Besides receiving a vaccine, the ATC is encouraging hikers to always carry a mask for those instances when social distancing cannot be maintained. It also recommends taking a tent or other personal shelter system along with them, rather than using the various accommodation options available at various points on the trail. The ATC also recommends that hikers follow CDC recommendations to protecting themselves and others while on the hike.
The ATC has made other changes to its guidance. One includes classifying a “thru-hike” of the trail. This is where a hiker tries to travel the entire trail within a twelve-month period, which it considers a safer activity, especially for those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The second is that the organization is also restarting its recognition program for those hikers who have completed a full thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. This had been paused during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conservancy has also announced reopening dates for two of the ATC’s visitor centers. The Visitor Center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, will reopen with modified operations on May 27. Meanwhile, the A.T. Visitor Center in Monson, Maine, is set to reopen on June 2.
Readers can check the latest information and guidance on the Appalachian Trail’s official website before making the trip.