The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) recently released updated guidance for visitors seeking to visit the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) while minimizing the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. The guidance covers a wide range of topics and considerations for hikers, including keeping hike locations local, minimizing time spent in towns, and using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizer in addition to standard hiking gear.
“As warmer weather takes hold and some states’ stay-at-home orders are rolled back or expire, we understand that many people are anxious to return to public lands like the Appalachian Trail,” said Sandra Marra, ATC President & CEO. “We believe the scientific information has become clearer on how to keep yourself and those around you safe from COVID-19, though we still encourage everyone to use an abundance of caution and practice social distancing wherever possible.”
The guidance also recommends that A.T. thru-hikers continue to postpone their journeys for the time being, as thru-hiking typically requires travel through dozens of towns across state lines, presenting multiple opportunities for COVID-19 to be spread in Trailside communities. However, the ATC has also identified three scenarios, any one of which would lead to a review of this recommendation: the removal of all A.T. closures in place due to the pandemic, a flattening or reduction of the COVID-19 infection rate in all A.T. states for a period of two weeks, and the availability of an effective COVID-19 vaccine.
This guidance was developed by a task force convened by the ATC with the specific purpose of finding the safest ways for Trail users, volunteers, and staff to re-engage with the A.T. during the COVID-19 pandemic. The task force is comprised of representatives from ATC staff, federal and state agency partners, Trail maintaining clubs, A.T. Communities, local leaders and medical experts to help ensure multiple perspectives are represented in any guidance issued.
To view this guidance and learn more about the ATC’s efforts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the A.T., please visit appalachiantrail.org/covid-19.
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