According to the ATC’s records as of this December, 1,385 northbound thru-hikers, or those who walk the A.T. from Georgia to Maine, have passed through Harpers Ferry, resulting in an increase of 9 percent over last year’s data. The number of southbound thru-hikers, or those who walk from Maine to Georgia, has increased by 14 percent to total 192. The number of those who choose to thru-hike the A.T. in an alternative, non-contiguous way that disperses use has increased dramatically, with 291 people passing through Harpers Ferry, an increase of 139 percent.
Upon arriving at the ATC’s Visitor Center in Harpers Ferry, hikers who are attempting to complete the entire Trail are photographed in front of the iconic “Appalachian Trail Conservancy” sign. The picture, along with other information about the hiker, is documented at the Visitor Center. This year the ATC has seen not only a significant increase in the amount of long-distance hikers who stop at the Visitor Center to be photographed, but also an increase in visitation overall. Since the release of “A Walk in the Woods” on Sept. 2, the number of visitors at the Center has increased more than 50 percent. The movie has sparked interest in the A.T. among a broad range of people, inspiring new audiences to learn about and explore this national treasure.
“These numbers reveal the importance of a proactive stewardship plan that will address the impact of growing numbers of hikers on the Appalachian Trail,” said Ron Tipton, the ATC’s executive director. “With the help of our partners, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy plans to meet the challenge of ensuring all hikers are able to have a high quality hiking experience.”
The ATC’s plan to protect the A.T. hiking experience, which is currently being implemented by A.T. stakeholders, focuses on four main areas: hike planning and registration; a visitor use analysis; the creation of new campsites and restoration of existing sites; and an increase in education and outreach initiatives. The ATC is seeking $1.3 million to fully implement this stewardship plan.
It’s important for Thru-Hikers of the past to pitch in and help future Thru-Hikers by teaching Leave No Trace ethics and by guiding them to a succesful hike which ultimately, leaving the AT the way they found it.
To learn more about how the ATC intends to protect the A.T. hiking experience, visit www.appalachiantrail.org/awalkinthewoods
If you are thinking about Thru-Hiking the AT. Look at our Appalachian Trail Prep class. It teaches you what you need to be a successful Thru Hiker.