The number of thru-hikers hiking the Appalachian Trail and The Pacific Crest Trail has grown so large that crowding is really starting to become an issue. Are we loving these trails to death and destroying the “primitive experience” they were created to protect? Litter, shelter vandalism, human waste disposal, campsites stripped of all burnable wood, widespread campsite proliferation, interpersonal conflicts, negative wildlife interactions: life on the trail just isn’t the same as it used to be. How can we protect our National Scenic Trails so that overuse doesn’t destroy their essence?
Leave a comment below that with your opinion on how to address the following issue:
We should make all thru-hikers buy a permit in order to hike a National Scenic Trail. This would cut down on the numbers by eliminating the people who are vagrants and live on the trail while capping the number of people who can hike it each year. The use fees could be put into maintaining the trail and the shelters and keeping them pristine.
The problem isn’t with the thru-hikers: the population of other hikers and campers who use the trail is much greater and they are the reason the trails are so over-crowded and dirty.
All thru-hikers should be required to spend 2 days on trail and shelter maintenance crews to hike the AT and PCT.
Education is the answer. The ATC should hire more trail runners to educate hikers along the trail regardless of whether their thru-hikers or not. That program did a lot of good when I saw it in action in Connecticut and Maine.
I realize that this is a heated issue, so please be respectful of other commenters opinions, even if you strongly disagree with them .