New House Bill Could Allow Mountain Bikes in A.T. Wilderness Areas

by Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Updated 1/21/18

A federal piece of legislation — H.R. 1349 — could soon be considered by House congressional members. The bill proposes to open designated Wilderness Areas to mountain bikes and other forms of mechanical transport, breaking dramatically from the legislation passed as part of the Wilderness Act.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is strongly opposed to this bill because of its potential conflict with the purpose of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) as a world-premiere, footpath-only recreation experience. Bikes in the 25 Wilderness Areas along the Trail could drastically impact the hiking experience, as well as create significant additional work for our volunteers who maintain the upkeep of the A.T.'s treadway.

Why does the ATC object?

  • When Congress established the National Trails System Act nearly 50 years ago, the A.T. was designated solely for foot-travel to preserve and honor the pleasures of walking. That distinction has been significant in the A.T.’s appeal to travelers from around the world and the overall experience more than three million people enjoyed last year.
  • How the A.T. might be affected by H.R. 1349 is of grave concern and puts the overall A.T. experience at risk. Could allowances for mountain bikes in Wilderness Areas overrule the vision and congressional intent to keep the A.T. open only for foot travel? Could some sections of the A.T. be required to allow bikes? And if so, what kind of management challenges would that pose? If passed, court challenges are anticipated to sort out these and many other questions. 
  • Click HERE to learn more about ATC’s position.

What about mountain bikes on trails?

While bicycles are incompatible with the nature and purposes of the Appalachian Trail and the Wilderness Act, ATC supports mountain biking and other sustainable forms of outdoor recreation on America’s public lands, but not in federally designated Wilderness Areas.

We work collaboratively with groups like the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) in defining new trail choices. Notably, IMBA does not support bikes in Wilderness Areas. Read IMBA's testimony HERE.

What can you do?


H.R. 1349 In the News


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  1. Tammy Vitale | Mar 27, 2018

    There should be no questions about how one does the trail? A trail has a beginning and an end, and it starts with one foot walking and ends with the other.

  2. george | Jan 24, 2018
    Geez, I'm considering thru-hiking and the idea of negotiating with bikers kinda defeats any consideration. Already sent my email to my rep. 
  3. Thomas | Jan 11, 2018

    You all need to look at the bigger picture and not just the AT. The is about wilderness areas and they should stay wildernees areas. I’m in the southwestern US and there are alot of good hiking trials the bouy scouts use for backpacking. Some of the best are within wilderness areas.  They should stay the way they are.  Let they go to a forets instead.  This is the first step in losing these wilderness areas, by allowing this exception or that.  I say lets stay off this slippery slope of he politicians and say no!

  4. Claire Danielson | Dec 18, 2017

    Evidently, this is who we all need to write in addition to our own congressmen:

  5. Claire Danielson | Dec 18, 2017

    This is the note back from my congressman. I am ANGRY. 

    December 18, 2017Ms. Claire Danielson34 Diana DrBlack Mountain, NC 28711-9447Dear Ms. Danielson:Thank you for contacting my office regarding H.R. 1349.  I appreciate having the benefit of your thoughts.On March 2, 2017, Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced H.R. 1349 to amend the Wilderness Act to ensure the use of bicycles, wheelchairs, game carts, and strollers is allowed in wilderness areas.  H.R. 1349 has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee, where it awaits action.  While I do not sit on this committee, please know that I will keep your thoughts in mind should this legislation come to the House floor for a vote.Thank you again for contacting my office.  It is an honor to serve as your United States Congressman.  Your suggestions are always welcome, and if ever I may be of assistance, please do not hesitate to call me.Sincerely, Patrick T. McHenryMember of Congress

     A perfect example of lumping things together in a bill. Wheelchairs in wilderness areas? No problem. Strollers in wilderness areas? No problem. GAME CARTS? For God's sake. Let's all go hiking on the AT and stand aside while a hunter hauls a carcass on by (I think this is what this bill is REALLY about). And bicycles? Well, mountain bikers have their designated trails, and plenty of them. Wilderness areas that have been designated by the Wilderness Act for foot traffic only DO NOT need to be opened up to mountain bikers. Great sport, but can you imagine one zooming by you while you hike the AT. AND talk about tearing up trails. Argh.

  6. Robert Moss | Dec 17, 2017

    email sent to interested parties:

    While HR 1349 is indeed an evil attempt to contaminate our wilderness areas with an inappropriate use, and I have emailed Payne instructing him to oppose the bill, the ATC is panicking---or worse yet, using scare tactics to raise funds.

    HR 1349 would modify 16 U.S.C. §1133(c), which lists prohibited uses and activities in designated Wilderness Areas, including any "form of mechanical transport". This is currently interpreted to mean bicycles. HR 1349 would add, “Nothing in this section shall prohibit the use of motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized bicycles, strollers, wheelbarrows, survey wheels, measuring wheels, or game carts within any wilderness area.” That would change subsection (c) to not prohibit bicycles in Wilderness Areas, generally.

    However, lack of a prohibition in this general provision does not override use restrictions specifically applying to the AT, permitted uses on which are regulated under a separate statute and implementing regulations. Subsection (c) would have to read  positively, "Bicycles are permitted in Wilderness Areas, any existing law to the contrary notwithstanding," in order to override the provisions specific to the AT.

     Who's behind this is a puzzling question. IMBA formerly tried to get subsection (c) changed to allow bicycles. It seems they are now singing a different tune. It may be that their opposition, combined with hiker opposition, will stop this proposal with respect to Wilderness Areas generally.
  7. Shane | Dec 17, 2017
    Are bikes currently allowed on any parts of th AT that don't reside in wilderness area?
  8. Paul | Dec 17, 2017
    Mountain bikes will not be allowed on the AT with the passing of this bill. The AT is a footpath. The AT has a governing body. HR 1349 allows that governing body to its job. It removes the blanket ban on a national level. There is no nationwide ban on horses, but, they are not allowed on the AT. Same thing. If this bill passes, I will help advocate for more wilderness. As it sits, I do not and will not help put an acre of land into wilderness. Thanks for taking care of a great trail.
  9. brett | Dec 17, 2017
    Keep up the fight!!!!!!
  10. Rich | Dec 15, 2017

    "Hikers would lose the quiet and contemplative nature of the Trail".....

    Unlike people with their friggin' stereos, tablets, cell phones, dogs.......

    And NO, I do not support bicycles on the AT.

  11. Erma Lewis | Dec 15, 2017
    No bikes.  Let's keep the trails safe and quiet.

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