Trail and Facilities Management

Trail and Facilities Overview

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.) is managed as a simple footpath, following characteristics and qualities identified in the A.T. Comprehensive Plan, adhering to subsequent policies published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), and following guidance found within A.T. partner Local Management Plans.

The sections below address Trail management and maintenance, overnight facilities, and visitor use management.

Project Management Resources


Annual work planning between local A.T. clubs and land managers sets the stage for work in the months and years ahead. Work beyond routine maintenance requires review. Start with a National Park Service (NPS) Appalachian National Scenic Trail park office (APPA) project proposal form to begin necessary review for National Environmental Protection Act Review, as well as Section 106 and Historic Preservation Act Review.

Project Proposal Form

APPA Project Planning Flow Chart

Accomplishments on the A.T. such as the addition or removal of Trail features like steps or waterbars, or changes to structures, such as the replacement of a shelter roof, should be reported to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail using the Trail Facilities Update Forms found below. Updates using these forms are reflected annually on the A.T. Facility Web Map App.

Background Information and Training on Trail Asset Inventory

Facility Inventory Update Process

ATC, NPS-APPA, and the Appalachian Trail-maintaining clubs have undertaken a Trail-wide inventory to count every location and feature along the A.T. corridor. This information helps us prioritize limited funds and resources toward their continued care. Improving project development and cost estimation, tracking, and reporting will also make the Appalachian National Scenic Trail more competitive for federal funds.

To keep the information current, work completed by ATC and Trail club volunteers needs to be reported.

Questions and comments should be directed to [email protected] or your ATC regional office.

Facility Asset Inventory Process Presentation 2022
Inventory Update Process Cover Letter (Version 2.0)
Inventory Update Process Flow Chart

Inventory Update Forms

The forms are to be used to report completed improvements and alterations, not for planning purposes. They should not be used to report on work accomplished with non-APPA funds. APPA funded projects will be captured through the Capital Plan and other task agreement reporting procedures.

Questions and comments should be directed to [email protected] or your ATC regional office.

A.T. Bridge Update Form (Version 2.0)
A.T. Designated Campsite Update Form (Version 2.0)
A.T. Parking Area Update Form (Version 2.0)
A.T. Privy Update Form (Version 2.0)
A.T. Road Inventory Form (Version 2.0)
A.T. Scenic Vista Update Form (Version 1.5)
A.T. Shelter Inventory Update Form (Version 2.0)
A.T. Side Trail Update Form (Version 1.1)
A.T. Treadway Update Form (Version 1.1)

General Treadway Management

Trailheads and Parking

Trailheads are the most visible evidence of the Trail for the general public and provide the first impression of the Trail to its visitors.
Trailhead Kiosks, 2012 Update to Trailhead Bulletin Board

Side and Connecting Trails

ATC Connecting Spur, Side, Access, and Coaligned Trails Policy (2022)

The National Trails System Act makes specific reference to the formal designation of side and connecting trails as components of the National Trail System. Formal designation is the responsibility of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (if that trail is located within national forest proclamation boundaries) or the USDI Secretary of the Interior (on all other lands).

The following definitions of designated side and connecting trails are consistent with the legislation:

  • Designated Side Trail: Any trail formally designated as such by action of the Secretary of Agriculture or Secretary of the Interior that intersects the A.T. and provides additional access to the A.T. from outside the Appalachian Trail corridor.
  • Designated Connecting Trail: Any trail formally designated as such by action of the Secretary of Agriculture or Secretary of the Interior that connects the A.T. and another National Scenic, Historic, or Recreation Trail.

Other trails intersecting the A.T. do not require formal designation at the Secretarial level. They may include:

  • Spur Trails: Provide passage to points of interest or Trail facilities.
  • Access Trails: Typically local trails that intersect the A.T. and are formally recognized and maintained by a local Trail club or another Trail management partner. These trails may originate and travel on public land, private land, or cross both before they connect to the A.T. Often informally referred to as “side trails”.
  • Coaligned Trails: Other trails that share the same treadway and protected corridor as the A.T.
    Spur and Access Trails as described above are often referred to informally as “side trails” and are not intended to be an extension of the National Trails System—in other words, they are not intended as Designated Side Trails or Designated Connecting Trails, and therefore do not require action by the Secretary. However, planning for construction of any new Spur or Access trails must include the same formal review process noted above for Relocations.

Overnight Site Management

Care for the A.T. is guided by ATC’s published standards and companion resources from the US Forest Service.


Planning and managing overnight sites relates to visitor use management, the experience of the Appalachian Trail, sanitation, food storage, and minimum impact practices by Trail planners and visitors. For overnight site work beyond routine maintenance, A.T. managers will need to submit the form A-2-Checklist-for-Overnight-Facilities in addition to the project proposal forms at the top of this page to their ATC regional office.

Guidance for Locating and Designing A.T. Shelters and Formal Campsites (2007)
ATC Policy on Accessibility
Backcountry Sanitation Manual (2nd Edition)
ATC Food Storage Policy (2022)
Overnight Use Area Condition Assessment

Remember that any changes to these types of Trail facilities should be reported through the Trail Asset Inventory Update process, detailed above.


Visitor Use Management

Topics in this section address permitted and non-permitted visitor activities, visitor education methods and strategies, and methods for measuring and managing visitor impacts to the biophysical, social and managerial settings that affect the hiking experience.

The Appalachian Trail is a popular place to visit, with millions of visitors to the Trail each year. Most of this is day use or short-term overnight use, but the sheer volume of users creates many management challenges. Impacts on the Trail environment are often evident along high-use sections of the A.T.: litter, unsanitary conditions, trampling, bootleg campsites, fire rings, damaged trees, and shortcutting at switchbacks are resource impacts frequently reported by ridgerunners and Trail maintainers.

Hikers also affect each others’ backcountry experience—as the number of people seeking a primitive backcountry experience increases, the potential for solitude decreases.

Visitor Use Management Policy for the A.T.

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