Appalachian Trail management encompasses the on-the-ground stewardship performed by volunteers and agency partners to maintain the Trail, its structures, and its natural and cultural resources.
Our stewardship efforts include educating and supporting A.T. users to adopt hiking and camping techniques that minimize damage to the natural environment. We promote Leave No Trace principles and deploy ridgerunners and caretakers along high-use sections of the Trail to help hikers and other visitors understand those principles and avoid unnecessary resource damage.
Trail management encompasses the on-the-ground stewardship performed by volunteers and agency partners to maintain the Trail, its structures, and its natural and cultural resources. It includes keeping the footpath clear of natural overgrowth and blowdowns; building and relocating sections of the footpath; building and repairing shelters and other structures; and caring for overnight sites. We coordinate this work, provide training, help set policy parameters, supply funding and other assistance to 31 Trail clubs, and recruit and manage volunteer Trail Crews.
To help ensure consistent management practices along the roughly 2,190 miles of the Trail, we provide a number of resources for volunteer leaders, agencies and others, including a library of A.T. management policies and other reference materials.
The Appalachian Trail Crews
The six volunteer Trail Crews tackle large-scale projects such as Trail relocations and rehabilitation and bridge and shelter construction. The crews are active from May through October each year, working on projects from Maine to Georgia. Trail Crew projects—which last for a week or more—are planned and completed in cooperation with A.T. maintaining clubs and agency partners such as the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service. Applications for these crews may be submitted using the links below.
Volunteers of 31 designated A.T.-maintaining clubs do most of the day-to-day work on the Appalachian Trail. More about the Trail clubs and their volunteer opportunities can be found on their websites, using the links found here.
Boundary and Corridor Lands
The A.T. Boundary Program protects the public’s investment in the lands that surround the Trail. To ensure the continued protection of the Trail corridor, volunteers from A.T. maintaining clubs work with the ATC to monitor and maintain more than 1,500 miles of the corridor’s exterior boundary from Tennessee to Maine.
To monitor, volunteers walk the tracts and boundary lines of lands acquired for the Trail and assess them to ensure their continued conservation. To maintain, volunteers repaint blazes and brush out the line, keeping it well marked and easy for our neighbors to identify.
Natural & Cultural Resource Management
The 250,000-acre corridor of the A.T. and its surrounding landscape are rich in natural and cultural resources.
Running primarily along the Appalachian highlands, Trail lands protect headwater streams for major East Coast watersheds. These high elevation lands also provide critical habitat for plants, animals and fungi, including hundreds of rare species. The A.T. is well suited for large scale climatological studies and provides a habitat corridor through otherwise disconnected conservation lands Roughly one-third of the U.S. population lives in close proximity to A.T. In many respects, threats to the health of A.T. lands also represent environmental challenges to everyone downwind and downstream of the A.T. This makes the Trail and its protected corridor an ideal indicator for environmental conditions that directly affect more than 120 million Americans.
In 2009, the National Park Service completed the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Natural Resource Management Plan which describes the important resources of the Trail and suggests management actions. The ATC, the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, as well as other agencies and organizations, work cooperatively to understand the status of these resources and to engage volunteers, or citizen scientists, in monitoring natural resources. Monitoring projects are aimed at assisting cooperative management partners in the development of effective adaptive management strategies, ensuring the long-term health of significant resources.
Current Monitoring Efforts
The following monitoring projects offer opportunities to engage with scientific partners at the National Park Service and other organizations. Monitoring protocols have been developed by these partners to ensure scientific standards are met.
Learn about threatened species that the A.T. supports and the best management practices for protecting them.Learn More
Track the spread of problematic plant species and work collaboratively to eliminate targeted populations of invasive species.Learn More
Help partners at the American Chestnut Foundation understand restoration of this once important species of Appalachian forests.Learn More
Phenology is the study of seasonal plant and animal lifecycle stages and how they are influenced by forces such as weather and climate. Tracking trends in plant and animal responses to seasonal changes can provide insight as to how our climate and ecological systems may be changing in both the short- and long-term. You can help scientists track these seasonal changes along the Appalachian Trail by joining our partners at the Appalachian Mountain Club in their iNaturalist community science project and recording your observations anytime you hike.Learn More
Cultural Management Initiatives
South Mountain Partnership
The South Mountain Partnership is a regional, landscape-scale conservation project in south-central Pennsylvania. This Partnership has emerged to guide efforts within the South Mountain Conservation Landscape, one of seven Conservation Landscapes that the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has identified throughout the state.
Kittatinny Ridge Conservation Project
The Kittatinny Ridge (Appalachian Mountains) is a treasured landscape rich in history, beauty, natural resources, and recreational opportunities. It is the largest landscape conservation project in Pennsylvania - stretching from Delaware Water Gap in Northeastern PA and heading southwest on the top of the Ridge to the Mason-Dixon Line. Experience its 'Ridgeness' at the link below.
PA Act 24 / ATC Mini-Grant
Act 24 was passed to encourage municipalities to protect the Trail Corridor through stronger planning and zoning regulations. In this way, the Trail Corridor will be integrated further into the community landscape across Pennsylvania. ATC established a mini-grant to help fund these activities. Click the link below for more information.