Travel | May 14, 2021 4:06 pm

Appalachian Trail Open to Thru-Hikers Once Again

The trail has been more or less off limits to long-distance hikers for the last year as a result of the pandemic

Cole Mountain, Appalachian Trail
Cole Mountain, Appalachian Trail
Josiah Gascho/Unsplash

The Appalachian Trail is the longest “hiking only” footpath in the world, spanning from Georgia to Maine. But for the bulk of the past year, it’s been effectively off limits to all long-distance hikers due to COVID-19. Now, according to a new report from Matador, that’s about to change.

Last year at the onset of the pandemic, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) made the decision to close the trail in entirety. Two months later, toward the end of May, it was announced that roughly 98% of the trail would be open again with the exception of a few previously offered services like bathrooms and shelters — services that, for obvious reasons, long-distance hikers rely on. The belief was that day hikers didn’t pose as much of a risk as long-distance hikers in terms of spreading the virus, since hiking the full distance of the trail comes with obligatory congregation at the aforementioned shelters, campsites and surrounding towns.

“Day hikers can mitigate exposure, but there is no feasible way thru-hikers can because of the closures,” Sandra Marra, president and chief executive of the ATC and chief executive, told The Washington Post. The ATC advised long-distance hikers to postpone their plans.

Now though, according to Matador, it looks like all signs are a go, and with two of the trail’s visitor centers reopening over the course of the next month and a half, thru-hikers are being welcomed back to the trail. Of course, precaution is still advised (wear a mask, social distance, avoid public shelters, etc.) and vaccines are encouraged, but if you’ve been feeling down and out about not being able to hike from Maine to Georgia this summer, this should come as good news to you.