Hikers behaving badly: Appalachian Trail partying raises ire

More than 830 people completed the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail last year, up from just 182 in 1990, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, based in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. At Baxter State Park in Maine, the northern terminus of the AT, the number of registered long-distance hikers grew from 359 in 1991 to more than 2,000 in 2014.

The growing number of hikers is becoming a management nightmare at Baxter, where officials say they also believe the culture and attitude of the people using the footpath is changing.

Jensen Bissell, director of the park, said in a letter to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy late last year that AT hikers are “open and deliberate in their desire for freedom from all rules and regulations.” He warns that the trail may need to end somewhere besides Katahdin if something doesn’t change soon.

Some say there appears to be a growing sense of entitlement among thru-hikers, many of whom are just out of college or have enough money to leave work for months at a time.

Ron Tipton, executive director of the Conservancy, said the vast majority of thru-hikers are respectful and on the trail for the right reasons. He said he believes that the sharp increase in hikers has simply made it more challenging to deal with the behavior of a few.

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