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Officials urge people to stay off Appalachian Trail to limit spread of COVID-19

‘Hiking the A.T. has become...the opposite of social distancing’

Officials with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy are discouraging people to hike the Appalachian Trail, which includes popular local hiking spot McAfee Knob.
Officials with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy are discouraging people to hike the Appalachian Trail, which includes popular local hiking spot McAfee Knob. (Photo by Tim Lewis)

ROANOKE, Va. – Some are flocking to outdoor activities hoping to practice social distancing and instead finding crowded hiking trails. Officials with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy are discouraging people to hike the Appalachian Trail, which includes popular local hiking spot McAfee Knob.

“We cannot close the Trail. We cannot physically bar access to trailheads or connecting trails. We can and do, however, urge everyone to please stay away from the Appalachian Trail until further notice,” ATC leaders wrote in a release.

The ATC says avoiding the Appalachian Trail is part of an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Amid the pandemic, officials say they’ve seen McAfee Knob and other local hiking spots reach near record-breaking levels.

“...Many have escaped to nature seeking isolation and unpopulated spaces. On the Appalachian Trail, however, what they’ve found are trailhead parking lots exceeding their maximum capacities, shelters full of overnight hikers, day hikers using picnic tables and privies, and group trips continuing as planned,” ATC leaders wrote in a release. “Hiking the A.T. has become, in other words, the opposite of social distancing.”


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