The ATC's Proactive Stewardship Plan

We've been hard at work solidifying our plan to manage the surge in visitors that we believe the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) will see next year. Learn more about our initiatives below, and for a detailed breakdown, see our case statement on Protecting the A.T. Hiking Experience

Thru Hiker Increase Graph Icon


A Growing Number of Visitors

When the book "A Walk in the Woods" was released in 1998, estimated northbound thru-hiker starts rose by 60 percent over the span of two years. The Trail has seen an approximate 10 percent increase in thru-hikers every year since 2010. Use by day-hikers, overnight, and section-hikers has also increased. The Trail receives an estimated 3 million visits each year.

Current Initiatives:

Leave No Trace Logo

New education and awareness campaigns in conjunction with Leave No Trace and its principles to promote sustainable use of the Trail.


Trail Karma Logo

The Trail Karma program, using nontraditional pay-it-forward concepts, incentives, and social media to encourage responsible use.


RidgeRunner Logo Patch

An increased number of ridgerunners who interact with the public on the Trail. In addition, in 2016, caretakers will be present at popular shelters in key locations in Georgia. These caretakers will provide Leave No Trace guidance, help orient campers, and ensure appropriate use of the site when necessary.


Thru Hiker Online Registration Icon

A voluntary thru-hike registration system designed to disperse hikers, reducing the major damage caused by large groups of hikers and providing a better hiking experience. 2016 will mark the second year of the system's use.


Alternative Hike Compass Icon

Promotion of alternatives to the traditional Georgia-to-Maine thru-hike route, including “flip-flop” options for different starting points. The 2016 Flip Flop Kick Off will take place in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia on April 16 and 17.



31 Trail Maintaining Clubs Icon

Ongoing communication with our 30 Appalachian Trail maintaining clubs to coordinate response efforts to increased Trail use.


AT Diamond Reversed White


Help us #ProtectYourTrail

Volunteer at a local club, become a member, or join the millions of people that take a walk on the Appalachian Trail (responsibly!) every year.

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