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Hikers being asked to postpone full-length hiking plans on Appalachian Trail because of COVID-19

"Going through these small towns and spreading COVID-19 could greatly impact hospital systems."

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Hikers are being told to postpone plans to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail this year due to COVID-19. It comes as people look to make full-length hikes over 14 states in the coming year. 

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports the Appalachian Trail Conservancy made the suggestion because it feels the pandemic makes long-distance hikes unsafe until at least 2022.

Morgan Sommerville, regional director for the conservancy, says that as long as the pandemic continues, while vaccines aren't widely available and there's been no all-clear signs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the conservancy is recommending against long-distance hikes on the trail. 

The start date for people hiking fully across the Appalachian Trail starts around mid-March to mid-April, so the announcement by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy helps people plan ahead.

"I think the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is practicing social responsibility by asking people not to hike across the full-length of the trail. Going through these small towns and spreading COVID-19 could greatly impact hospital systems," said an EMT/rescue worker that lives near Boone, North Carolina, who spoke with WUSA9. "Local economies in these small towns could be impacted if there are not "thru-hikes" (going through and staying overnight in these towns) where they don't stop at hostels overnight and spend money along the trail, that is a downside."

The Appalachian Trail runs through 14 states from Georgia to Maine and covers 2,193 miles.

Harpers Ferry is the closest Appalachian Trail access spot for many in the DC metro area and is a popular place for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts alike because of its magnificent views.

The U.S. Forest Service did temporarily close national forests and trails because of the coronavirus's spread but opened many of them back up in late-May 2020.

All shelters on U.S. Forest Service lands (most areas between the southern terminus in Georgia and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia) remain closed, according to Forest Service officials.

Quarantines, testing requirements, or other travel restrictions or recommendations are currently in place for some or most visitors to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, according to the conservancy's website.

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