After a pandemic pause, the Appalachian Trail is considered safe for long-distance hikers again.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, an organization that helps maintain the popular path, had recommended that people stop major hikes until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considered the pandemic under control or a coronavirus vaccine was widely available.
While the trail itself didn’t shut down, the group urged people against long-distance hikes as shelters were closed and states initiated travel restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Thanks to the COVID-19 vaccines available across the country, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy said Tuesday it’s now safe for hikers to take up long-distance treks again. Beginning May 17, the group will also resume its program to recognize people who hike 2,000 miles on the trail.
Four things led to the conservancy changing its guidance:
Multiple COVID-19 vaccines are widely available
The CDC said people who are vaccinated don’t need to wear masks outdoors
Appalachian Trail shelters on Forest Service land have reopened from Georgia to Virginia, making the majority of shelters open again
All states the trail goes through have relaxed mandatory quarantines and other COVID-19 traveling restrictions
The Appalachian Trail stretches from Maine to Georgia. Hiking the entire path usually takes five to seven months, and many people start their trips on the southern end of the trail in March or April, according to the conservancy.
“Long-distance hiking on the A.T. is now considered to be a safer activity, especially for those who have received one of the COVID-19 vaccines,” the Appalachian Trail Conservancy said in a news release.
Besides encouraging people to get vaccinated before starting a hike, the conservancy said hikers should wear a mask in crowded parts of the trail.
Campers should also consider using personal shelter to stay physically distanced from others and wash their hands frequently, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy said.
“There are still risks associated with hiking on popular and often-crowded trails like the Appalachian Trail,” the group said. “All the information that we have received from National Park Service Public Health Officers and the CDC remind us that we are still a distance away from being able to say that the pandemic is under control and continued vigilance is needed.”
People who want to take shorter day hikes on the Appalachian Trail should check their local safety guidelines before going.