Hikers asked to postpone plans to hike the Appalachian Trail this yearAndrea Smith

There’s disappointment in store for anyone with plans to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail this year, as recommendations have been made against embarking on long-distance hikes on the trail.

Completed in 1937, the Appalachian Trail is the country’s longest footpath, spanning more than 2100 miles, crossing two national parks, traversing eight national forests and hitting 14 states from Georgia to Maine. Each year, approximately 3500 people attempt to hike the entire trail, althoughonly one in four makes it all the way through. It’s estimated that two to three million people trek a portion of the Appalachian Trail annually, and are attracted by its misty mountains, deep woods, flowery pastures and bear sightings.

Hiker on the Appalachian Trail in Maine
Hiking the length of the Appalachian Trail is not recommended at present © Jonathan A. Mauer/Shutterstock

The recommendation has been made by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, because it feels the pandemic is making long-distance hikes unsafe due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of the issue is that long-distance hikers stay at shelters, campsites, lean-tos and huts along the trail and not all of them are not set up for social distancing. There are also the risks posed by people encountering each other in towns along the way to consider.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy leads the effort to protect, maintain and celebrate the trail, and is largely funded by its more than 42,000 members and over 600,000 supporters. Its regional director, Morgan Sommerville, told the Asheville Citizen Times that the conservancy is advising against long-distance hikes on the trail for as long as the pandemic continues, while vaccines aren’t widely available and there have been no all-clear signs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Up-to-date information can be found on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s website here.

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