The Appalachian Trail: Is it getting too crowded?

Hiking the A.T.
Mt. Katahdin-Maine

A friend recently sent me this newspaper article about hikers  overcrowding the Appalachian Trail  I’ve been hearing a lot about this in recent years and, in the south, in spring, it appears to be true.

When I thru-hiked the A.T. in 2003, it was crowded then, I thought. The shelters up to Damascus, VA were nearly always full. And many hikers, especially in Georgia and North Carolina, would set up under overhanging roofs to the sides and even in front of shelters. I can remember being in one shelter where we were packed inside like sardines. After that night, I tented, unless I was fortunate enough to arrive early and get a spot next to a wall where I could hang a few things and get a bit more privacy.

So, I can imagine how crowded it must be now. Added to this, the article tells of large gathered groups of hikers summiting Mt. Katahdin en masse, the northern terminus in Baxter State Park. The hikers stray outside the trail corridor into sensitive habitat. I’m sure this is happening on other parts of the trail. I’ve been hearing accounts of more litter simply left by hikers on the A.T. and, sadly, larger groups drinking to excess and using recreational drugs.

I’m not sure what the answer is to this increased usage of the A.T. The article speaks to the issues and poses a few possible solutions. I’ll leave it at that.

at stone plaque

Published by Ray Anderson

Hiker and writer. Have hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, The Long Trail (Vermont), and some of the Continental Divide Trail. My trail name is "HAMLET." Have written three hiking novels (thrillers). The first one, "THE TRAIL," was traditionally published in 2015. My second hiking thriller, "SIERRA," released Oct 2016. Book three in my AWOL hiking-thriller series, "THE DIVIDE" releases from Turner Publishing 8/18/2020.

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