Appalachian Trail Conservancy

SidehillBeth Critton and Bob Proudman

Despite Thousands on the A.T., Managers Make Strides in Reducing Impacts in 2016

By Bob Proudman and Beth Critton
Since we wrote about managing visitor use on the Appalachian Trail earlier this year (see The Register—February 2016) ATC, the Trail clubs and agency partners have continued efforts to reduce the impact made by increasing numbers of hikers.
ATC’s Visitor Use Manager Jason Zink reports that more than 3,000 hikers used ATC’s voluntary registration system in 2016, up from about 2,000 in 2015. More than 780 registered as “flip-floppers” starting in Harpers Ferry or elsewhere, or as south-bounders starting at Katahdin. ATC estimates that use of the A.T. in 2016 increased 22 to 24 percent over 2015.
Thru-Hiker Registration—ATC’s voluntary thru-hiker registration for 2017 began November 24. This is the third consecutive year that prospective thru-hikers can enter their hike dates in order to help reduce peak-load overcrowding at specific sites on the Trail. See voluntary hiker registration data from 2015 and 2016 here.
Increase in Ethical Hiking—ATC Social Media Specialist Jordan Bowman recently wrote that there are indications that hikers want to do better by the Trail and its environment. See his article “2016 Sees Rise in Ethical Hiking Practices among A.T. Hikers” here. Are club and agency managers seeing similar trends, or not? Please let us know at
New A.T. Visitor Center in Monson, Maine—Reports from Baxter State Park indicate that hiker behavior improved overall in 2016 and that hikers showed an increased understanding of the unique management and regulations of the park. An estimated 72 percent of northbound thru-hikers stopped at the visitor center before the final hundred-plus miles to Baxter Peak, the A.T.’s northern terminus, an encouraging development.
Animal Food-Storage Systems—Last spring, ATC developed an advisory for Trail clubs and agency managers on Animal-Deterrent Food Storage Systems. To prevent wildlife from becoming conditioned to human food sources, particularly with increasing bear activity, we all need to do more to prevent incidents between people and wildlife and to keep the A.T.’s environment natural.
New Policy on Visitor-Use Management (VUM)—This year, the ATC Stewardship Council tackled direction for systematically addressing mushrooming visitor use on the Trail. Cosmo Catalano, chair of the council’s Trail and Camping Committee (working on recreation- and resource-management direction), was the moving force for the Visitor-Use Management Policy that was adopted by the ATC Board in October. The policy says that ATC will use the framework developed by the Interagency Visitor Use Management Council to define, develop, implement, and review actions intended to address visitor-use challenges.
All other programs mentioned in February—A.T. ridgerunners and caretakers, Trail Ambassadors, and Leave No TraceTM education efforts—have continued and expanded under the energetic direction of ATC’s regional directors, staff, and Trail clubs.
As always, we’d love to hear your insights to improve management of the Appalachian Trail.
Beth Critton is Chair of the Stewardship Council
Bob Proudman is now an ATC consultant contributing to The Register

Visitor Use Manager Jason Zink

We welcome Visitor Use Manager Jason Zink to the ATC staff. He and other staff members are working with Trail clubs and other partners to understand and address visitor use challenges from Georgia to Maine.
Jason worked for 15 years as an environmental engineer, often combining ecological restoration projects with trail planning and public access/education. He has worked for North Carolina State University and environmental consulting firms, including many years of self-employment.
Jason earned a B.A. in mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and has graduate degrees in environmental engineering from North Carolina State University. 
Since 1998, Jason has hiked more than 8,000 miles on the A.T., and remains fascinated that it is possible to walk between Georgia and Maine through the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.

Fire Bans, Closures

Fire bans (including restrictions on backpacking stoves in some areas) and Trail closures are currently in effect at various locations along the Appalachian Trail from central Virginia to Georgia. Smoke is affecting air quality in areas of the Trail in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia. 

Given an unprecedented number of fires this fall and drought conditions in many areas, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy strongly recommends no campfires along the entire Appalachian Trail at this time.

ATC posts known updates on closures and other conditions at, but may be unable to keep up with rapidly changing situations.

Heard of Flip Flop, Leapfrog, and Cool Breeze?

No, they aren't hikers' Trail names. In ATC lingo, they are alternative itineraries for prospective A.T. thru-hikers. The advantage of these hikes is that they reduce overcrowding at shelters and campsites and help minimize resource damage.

A "flip-flop" hiker might begin hiking in Harpers Ferry and travel north to Katahdin, then return to the starting point and hike south to Springer Mountain.

"Leapfrog" hikers begin at Springer after the throngs of thru-hikers have moved north. They hike to the midsection of the Trail, then skip to New England and hike to Katahdin before returning to complete the section they skipped.

Information and the pros and cons of alternative thru-hikes (including the "Cool Breeze") can be found at

Anyone who plans to complete the entire A.T. in single year is encouraged to use the voluntary registration system to help spread out concentrated use.

Flashback to 1983

Need to replace an axe handle? Check out this "Flashback" to a 1983 article by Bob Proudman (at left in photo above) in the Register Blog.

Other recent blog posts include stonework techniques and safety tips from the Jolly Rovers Trail Crew, the inaugural season of ATC's Conservation Leadership Corps, and more "Flashback" articles from the printed version of The Register.


Toolkit for Trail Clubs

A.T. club managers and volunteers - this web page is for you! 

From back issues of The Register  to a maintainer reference library, ATC policies, local management planning, information on managing volunteers, and more—the Toolkit is the best place to find resources quickly.

Share the Wealth...

...of information found in The Register. 

The Register is intended for Trail volunteers and managers. It began as a printed newsletter, then moved online, and is now emailed monthly. The image above is from the April 1978 inaugural issue. Email issues are posted in the Trail Club Toolkit and can be found here.

Please forward this issue to Trail maintainers and anyone interested in the stewardship of the Trail and encourage them to subscribe by sending their first and last names and email address to

Volunteer of the Month

“Always remember that you have the power to change the world you live in every day. The power lies in volunteering for causes and initiatives you love,"  says Kayla Carter.

Kayla serves on ATC's Next Generation Advisory Council, maintains a Trail section with the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club, and is passionate about sharing the incredible natural resources of east Tennessee.

(Read more about Kayla here

2017 ATC Meetings

Mid-Atlantic Regional Partnership Committee
March 3-4
Bangor, PA

Southern Regional Partnership Committee
March 10-12
Black Mountain, NC
New England Regional Partnership Committee
March 18
Hanover, NH

ATC Stewardship Council
May 4-5
Shepherdstown, WV

ATC Board of Directors
May 10-12
Dawsonville, GA

Maine 2017 Biennial Conference
August 4-11
Waterville, ME
The Register  is published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for the volunteers of the Appalachian Trail, their agency partners, and others interested in the stewardship of the Trail.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy mission is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trailensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. To become a member, volunteer, or learn more, visit
Our mailing address is:
ATC Headquarters
799 Washington St, PO Box 807
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

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