It’s estimated that 2-3 million people hike the Appalachian Trail (or at least part of it) every single year. It crosses 14 states, making it one of America’s most famous hiking trails.
Many people choose to hike the whole thing, but bear in mind it’s not for the faint-hearted. The full trail is 2193 miles and it takes most hikers anywhere from 5-7 months to complete, although the record for hiking the full trail is just 41 days.
With lots of people choosing to stay in-country this year for their trips, we can expect to see a rise in numbers hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail this summer. Although, we might not have included grizzly bears in those numbers.
Currently, part of the trail has had to be closed off after a spell of aggressive bear activity. The closure is in Tennessee, between mile 451 and 464 northbound, and includes shelters and campsites in that region.
It would appear that several hikers have had close encounters with our furry friends recently, and some food has mysteriously gone missing from campsites.
Hikers are still allowed to hike through this portion of the trail, but campsites and shelters are off-limits for now. That includes the Double Springs Shelter and the Backbone Side Trail.
Don’t let this piece of news put you off hiking the trail though. Bear attacks are extremely rare, and good bear safety whilst hiking or camping will help keep a safe distance between you and any bears around.
Here are some tips for bear safety while camping:
- Make plenty of noise so that bears are alerted of your presence.
- Never feed the bears.
- Do not store food in your tent.
- Dispose of food waste safely.
- Keep your campsite clean, and all food stored.
In case you are approached by a bear:
- Make loud noises to scare the bear away.
- Back away slowly, do not run.
- If you are attacked, do not play dead. Fight back with anything around you that might prove useful (sticks, rocks, etc).
Again, don’t be put off your hike due to the presence of bears. Bears have always been present along the Appalachian Trail, and between 2000-2016, there were only 23 fatal bear attacks in the whole of the United States. To put it into perspective, cows kill around 20 people per year in the USA, and we don’t stop walking through fields.
Stay alert on the trail, keep up with bear safety tips, and enjoy your hike!