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12 Appalachian Trail Predictions for 2025

The release of the movies “Wild” and “A Walk in the Woods” in 2014 resulted in a huge backpacking boom that saw a 1000% increase in the number of thru-hikers and section hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Things were never quite the same on the AT after that and it got even weirder than before.

Here’s a look at what we predict the Appalachian Trail experience will be like 10 years into the future in the year 2025.

The ATC Sells Adopt-a-Trail Sponsorships to Corporations
The ATC Sells Adopt-a-Trail Sponsorships to Corporations

1. After more federal funding cuts, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy sells Adopt-a-Trail sponsorships to major corporations for segments of the trail to help finance trail maintenance and improvements.

2.  With so many more hikers hiking the trail, the treadway is split down the middle into a fast lane and a slow lane.

3. The sides of the trail are lined with tiny LED lights for night hikers.

4. The ATC starts awarding 2000 mile certificates to hikers using the Virtual Reality AT Thru-hiker Game, if they complete 2000 miles on a treadmill which simulates PUDS while wearing a VR helmet.

5. The International Appalachian Trail is extended to include a section of trail on the Moon.

6. Trip Advisor starts rating hiker hostels.

7. Zagats publishes the AT Restaurant Guide with ratings for restaurants, pubs, delis, and pot bars along the AT.

8. The states along the trail set up toll booths at their borders to collect entry fees from thru-hikers and section hikers.

9. Most universities offer college credit for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.

10. Amidst heath concerns, trail angels that offer cooked food along the trail must post a restaurant health inspection rating.

11. The Appalachian Trail is declared non-smoking, except for designated spots outside shelters.

AT Capsule Shelters
AT Capsule Shelters

12. The standard lean-to shelters are replaced with Japanese capsule style sleeping bays for individual hikers. This switch was needed to accommodate the huge influx of hikers and the fact that night hikers want to sleep during the day. The new capsule shelters can house more hikers at a time because their sleeping berths are stacked.

What are your predictions for the Appalachian Trail, ten years into the future in 2015?

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32 comments

  1. ;-))) & best wishes Philip

  2. O.k., full disclosure, Philip: Are you being sponsored by Snickers now? :-)

    Very funny!

    What is/are PUDS?

  3. Until I thought it through and realized that environmental impact statements would delay things infinitely, I was thinking that to stop erosion concerns, the AT Conservancy would initiate a Kickstarter campaign to pave the entire trail, including stepping, handrails, and wheelchair access ramps.

    • Well then … a Kickstarter campaign to fund the EIS for paving the entire trail, including stepping, handrails, and wheelchair access ramps … and another to fund the EIS for installing handrails along the trail

  4. great post!, i’am a day hiker who’s only recently done short day hikes on portions of the A.T. here in PA, and joined a local hiking club, i can see how a lot of people are worried the the A.T. will be taken over by novices in the next few years, but hopefully something positive out of that will come more people who get involved in trail maintenance and general awareness for protection in the future,..that being said i think everyone knows how bad cell reception can be along the trail ,maybe we will be in the era of mini-cell phone towers posted along trees or at each trailhead sponsored by A.T.-mobile!(ugh!) all these new hikers will be stopping every 100 yards to update there status!

    • I see the concern the trail will be taken over by novices and I see it as a mixed blessing. Its unfortunate to have overcrowding but I would prefer it to undercrowding. The more people who use wilderness areas the better the momentum behind preservation efforts.

      • I’m sorry Chris, but that is mindless marketing drivel cooked up my conservation non-profits who want to perpetuate their endowments into perpetuity. Capitalism trumps wilderness every time.

      • You should contribute to my non-profit although its a bit outside your normal realm. I believe that the oceans should be for everyone and some animals are just taking up too much space. My non-profit “Nuke the Whales” hopes to end this imbalance through ecological application of nuclear warheads.

    • That day is pretty much here. The number #1 cause of injury on the AT today is people tripping over tree roots while entering Facebook updates on their cell phones.

    • I don’t know about anyone else but all this talk about cell phone usage and Facebook update sounds like a complete disaster. Have we all forgotten that these are the reasons why so may of us hikers beginners and experience alike look forward to hiking, is to get away from the noise, pollution and to find a little peace and quiet in the wilderness. And whilst it may not hurt to to have a GPS or some sort of tracking device, having these gadgets however defeats the whole purpose of why we head for the trails and to backpack so we can rough it in the woods. So we can carry our own food and the bare essentials that is needed for survival and to me the journey is what make it exciting

  5. I think Phil is way too optimistic. I see a large number of people who will see Wild and conclude that hiking the PCT will solve all their ills. Hiking the PCT will be the cure all for those looking for an easy fix.

    An enterprising trail “angel” who camps out at the 20 mile mark could probably score a ton of lightly used equipment from those who find that hiking isn’t the quick fix they hoped.

  6. There is already a Snickers Gap on the AT in northern Virginia, which is the home area for the Mars family and candy company.

    • I wondered if there was a connection! I meant to Google it. I’m getting ready to hike that section soon — heading south from Harper’s Ferry (so far have completed from Delaware Water Gap in NJ to Harper’s Ferry, in bits & pieces over the last couple of years).

      Deep fried Snickers!!! YAHOO!!! Sounds like a great high-calorie trail (or pre-trail) meal, especially for Winter hiking in the Whites :-)

  7. All joking aside, I”m expecting permits and lottery systems to be required to hike certain sections of the trail.

    I always envisioned hiking the 100 mile wilderness and Baxter as the last section of my long AT section hike. I wanted to finish at the end. That plan has changed! I’m hiking it in 2015 before Baxter starts putting restrictions in place.

    And I’m not bashing Baxter. They have had to endure the costs associated with hundreds of extra visitors. Unfortunately not everyone lives by LNT standards and it leaves the park to deal with the fall out.

  8. I see SAR billing people for reckless behavior rescues. The people and trash are a concern, but people who do not prepare properly or realistically is a bigger issue. They could possibly endanger others. And although I thought the concerns from Baxter were a bit much, I agree with the vast majority. Many Thrus have taken advantage of what is available to them and used deceptive means to get their way (dogs). It is sad that the trail has to be ruined by the few. Hiking has done so much for me, the thought of an invasion of ‘OH look at mes’ does not make me a happy camper. Sadly, the entitled generation feels that they just deserve things while hiking, and they feel that rules and common courtesy do not apply to them. I think the books and movies are wonderful and make people aware of the need for these trails. Maybe potential LD and Thru hikers should have to watch a driver’s ed type video before they set out. And while the traill is a great educational tool, if you are not paying attention and open to the lessons, you will learn nothing. Don’t even get me started on the phones, speaking as a once guilty person.

    • As a section hiker, who has met only friendly, excellent people on the trail (apparently not everyone’s experiences) — including thru-hikers — I’m curious about what you mean when you write, “Many Thrus have taken advantage of what is available to them and used deceptive means to get their way (dogs).” What does this mean?

      This thread seems to have started as a light-hearted, whimsical (maybe semi-serious) conjecture, and it seems to have opened some festering resentments, and turned into a lot of bashing.

      As for me, I’m looking forward to opening my first concession stand on the trail (I’ll definitely include Snickers in the offerings) — I just have to figure out the best spot for the first one — location, location, location . . .

      :-)

  9. Some thru hikers are getting fake tags online so their dogs can be considered “service dogs” and parks like Baxter have to allow them to bring dogs in.

    It’s sad, but true. Baxter wrote a lengthy complaint about this and about dozen other issues they have with the Thru Hikers to the AMC.

    I agree with you, 90% of the hikers I’ve met in my travels have been wonderful. Unfortunately it’s the minority that ruins things for the majority.

  10. Oh my goodness! I am a skim reader first then I go back over to really read the text and my brain was suffering with the #12 pod thing……then I bothered to read the heading and my brain stopped smoking.
    Y’all enjoy your deep fried Snickers and Happy New Year!!

    BTW – need some advice and haven’t been able to find on FAQs –
    I need to hike with prescription medication that needs to stay dry and “controlled”.
    What works best?

  11. Lest we forget the cel phone charging stations. And a new safety rule: Don’t text and hike!

  12. Good point Nick – We were at BRCES (brces.org) a few days ago, the scrapes and bruises on my face that I got from running into trees and tripping over roots while I was staring at my phone, trying my hand at geocaching were good for a few belly laughs. I was told by a fellow hiker that we’ll be seeing the “no texting while hiking” signs around soon, which made it even funnier. The trails there are well maintained, very easy with beautiful streams and interesting old farmsteads – you can take along dogs, horses and even husbands….but might want to leave the cell phones in the car.

  13. Another prediction: A.T. Sherpas for hire. Here’s their business plan: hire college-age staff (geography and/or history majors are a bonus) to schlep backpacks and gear for the wealthy yuppy/hipster crowd (not sure what “they” will be called in 2025). Each night they will pitch tents or sweep out the shelter, cook a genuine gourmet trail meal, and tell campfire stories before bedtime. Foot soaks and massages will be on the menu of optional services.

  14. People will not get injured white texting as 2025 will see no need for texting and updating, By that time facebook apps will be tapping into the chip that is planted by the government at birth. All social sites will be updated as you proceed along with your daily adventures. (Just a humorous prediction)

    • Don’t laugh; I saw a serious study a couple of years ago that reported an astounding percentage of young people (I forget the exact demographic) would rather lose their sense of smell than their social media apps!

  15. I am planning a hike on the Connecticut section of the AT in June. It will be my first time on the AT. As a newcomer, I hope I am welcomed. Some of the comments made me wonder.

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