Appalachian Trail signpost in Shenandoah National Park, USA – Photo from Getty Images
On Wednesday, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), a non-profit that protects and maintains the Appalachian Trail, announced that they have sent a letter to all registered multi-day Appalachian Trail hikers asking them to postpone their section or thru-hikes. “We do not make this request lightly,” the ATC said in the letter. “We manage and protect the A.T. because it is meant to be hiked. However, the practices necessary to support a section or thru-hike may make A.T. hikers vectors to spread COVID-19—whether congregating at shelters or around picnic tables, traveling to trailheads in shuttle vans, or lodging at the various hostels up and down the Trail.”
If hikers decide to embark on their thru-hike anyway, the ATC is asking that they avoid starting their hike at the southern portion of the trail. Georgia is the most popular launching-off point, and its popularity will make it hard for hikers to maintain a safe distance from each other.
The ATC has asked hikers to self-isolate if they feel ill and to keep in mind that many services along the trail, such as shuttles, hostels, outfitters and libraries may be closed. Hikers are also encouraged to plan for the fact that grocery stores may be running low on inventory when they stop to resupply. The ATC reminds hikers that, should they need medical attention, communities along the trail may have an overburdened healthcare system that is low on resources.
In addition to encouraging hikers to postpone their thru-hikes, the ATC has also closed all visitor centers until further notice and withdrawn all ridgerunners and caretakers from the trail for the next two weeks.
To stay up to date on how COVID-19 is impacting the Appalachian Trail visit https://wildeast.appalachiantrail.org/explore/plan-and-prepare/hiking-basics/health/covid19/.