How Crowded is the Appalachian Trail Really?

The predictable pattern of a 25% increase each year has remained steady despite Hollywood’s recent attempts to bring more people out into the wild. Only about half of these hopeful thru-hikers will make it to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and one quarter will make it to Katahdin. The impact of the crowds decreases as the masses thin, but the southern 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail suffer widely from its popularity.

From erosion and severe land compaction, to overflowing privies and bear cables that break under the weight of so many food bags, the A.T. in the south feels the effect of the large number of bodies crowded into one narrow, two-dimensional trail that many temporarily call home.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy started an initiative in 2015 to encourage thru-hikers to register online pre-hike. Click here for the ATC’s registration link. This is in an effort to disperse hiker start dates to alleviate strain on the trail.

The ATC strives to increase the accuracy of this data by placing five ridgerunners on the GA section of trail, one specifically on site at Amicalola to ensure that hikers have been counted online. Individuals have stated they chose their start date based on the information they gathered from the registration chart.

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