Responding to COVID-19
2020 Thru-Hikers: Picking Up Where You Left Off
March 31, 2020
Dear 2020 A.T. Thru-hiker,
We hope this email finds you safe and healthy.
Since COVID-19 emerged as a threat, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has had two goals. First, we wanted to keep everyone in our community – volunteers, visitors, partners, and the Trail’s adjacent villages and towns – safe and healthy. Second, we wanted to protect the Trail while volunteers and staff were unable to access and take care of it. The only option to achieve both objectives was to ask everyone to stay away from the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), something we’ve never done before nor imagined doing.
Many thru-hikers heeded this call. For this, we are enormously grateful.
We know many thru-hikers made big sacrifices to keep the Trail’s visitors, volunteers, and its adjacent communities safe. So, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is adopting a special policy for this year’s thru-hiking class. We will recognize all 2020 thru-hikers who began their hikes this year and left the Trail prior to March 31, 2020, postponing until after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that special precautions are no longer necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or ATC issues an announcement. Once the CDC issues this guidance, thru-hikers can pick up where they left off — whether at mile 5 or 500 — and have twelve months from the date they choose to resume their hikes to complete the remainder of their journeys and still be recognized by the ATC as a thru-hiker and 2,000-miler.
No one should be punished for doing the right thing. We want to make sure this year’s thru-hikers who left the Trail have every opportunity to accomplish their dream. And, we profoundly thank those who postponed their hikes entirely.
For thru-hikers remaining on the A.T., we advise you to leave the Trail immediately and shelter in place at the closest off-Trail lodging available to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19 until the CDC and local authorities advise it is safe to travel. Please consider:
- Trail closures continue to increase with access points to the A.T. (e.g. trailheads and connecting trails) closed on US Forest Service land south of Virginia; shelters and privies closed on National Park Service land (Trail-wide) and on state park land in New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania (as well as all overnight camping in Maryland); perimeter closures for the Smokies and Graham County, North Carolina; and dozens of Trail businesses temporarily suspending services. For the most updated list, please visit ATC’s Trail Closures page.
- The ATC will not recognize thru-hikes that continue after March 31, 2020 or for those who traveled through any areas that were posted closed when the hiker entered.
- Until further notice, we have paused our thru-hiker registration system at ATcamp.org, and the handout of 2020 hangtags at all locations. We will relaunch these programs as soon as the CDC issues the “all clear.”
We firmly believe, during these difficult times, that unless everyone is safe, then no one is. We appreciate your assistance in keeping the Trail community safe and healthy.
If you have any questions, please contact us via email at [email protected] or phone at 304.535.6331. For updates and guidance involving COVID-19 and the A.T., please visit appalachiantrail.org/covid-19.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Team