Appalachian Trail Conservancy Asks Hikers to Postpone Long-Distance Trips

Due to the current lack of adequate improvement of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is urging hikers to wait until next year to plan their long-distance trips. 

In an attempt to encourage people to postpone, the ATC announced that aspiring thru-hikers will not be recognized for the completion of the Appalachian Trail in 2021, as of now. Recognition was not given for thru-hikes in 2020. 

“The rising number of COVID-19 cases continues to make long-distance hiking a potential contributor to the spread of coronavirus along the Trail and in Trailside communities,” the ATC—an organization that helps maintain the 2,190-mile famous footpath—stated in an announcement on their website. “The best way to ensure you and others remain safe is to postpone your hikes.”

In normal times, the A.T. annually draws more than 3 million hikers and thousands attempt to walk the entire trail, which runs northbound from Georgia to Maine. 

Considering the CDC’s COVID-safety guidelines, the ATC and other trail advocates are concerned about the gathering of hikers in various towns near the A.T. to resupply gear. Plus shelters along the trail don’t allow for proper social distancing, and washing hands with soap and water is not always possible. 

“We’re concerned about the safety of A.T. volunteers, A.T. hikers, of the members of A.T. communities, and of course ATC staff and staff of our federal partners,” said Morgan Sommerville, the conservancy’s regional director, the Citizen-Times reported Monday.

To protect volunteers, things like privies are currently not being maintained. All shelters on national forest lands are closed due to the pandemic, and many states require visitors to quarantine or have a recent COVID-19 test. 

The ATC’s top priorities are keeping the trail and its visitors safe. They realize there will still be people attempting to thru-hike and urge that if they do, they should properly plan, prepare, and practice social distancing. 

“If you hike the Trail in 2021, proper planning and preparation will help ensure everyone’s A.T. experiences are safe, healthy, responsible, and successful,” The ATC states on their Prepping for 2021 page, where they are offering safety tips and vital information on the status of the A.T. 

If you hike the Trail in 2021, proper planning and preparation will help ensure everyone’s A.T. experiences are safe, healthy, responsible, and successful.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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