The business of hiking

While Warren County and Front Royal, Virginia are drawing up plans for extensions of the Appalachian Trail to bring hikers into town, there has been little discussion on the effect hikers have on the economy. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy states more than 2 million people visit some part of the trail every year, spending between $125-168 million annually, with $27 million going to local communities.

According to Alyson Browett, the Appalachian Trail Ambassador for Front Royal-Warren County and the chair of the Front Royal-Warren County Appalachian Trail Community Committee, between 750 to 800 hikers stop by Front Royal during the hiking season to buy food and supplies, stay in hotels, dine at restaurants and pick up or send packages at the post office.

“Hikers are hungry because they burn a lot of calories every day and when they get off the trail, they’re looking for a nice warm meal,” Browett said. Browett said a one-way hike up the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine, costs about $5,000 and takes about three to five months. According to Browett, many of the hikers are professionals.

“They’re teachers, police officers, people who just graduated college, retirees and veterans who have some disposable income and are between jobs or were able to get the time off from work to fulfill their lifelong dream,” Browett said.

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