[June 1, 2016]
Baxter State Park recently announced a new permit system for Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hikers for summer 2016. Park staff have been raising concerns about increasing thru-hiker numbers and declining behavior for several years. Our cover story in the summer 2015 issue of Forever Wild provided some background on these issues. Here are the key details of the new permit system:
- All northbound, section, and flip-flop AT thru-hikers entering Baxter State Park in 2016 must obtain an AT Long Distance Hiker Permit Card. Permits will not be required for southbound AT thru-hikers.
- Permits will be free, and there will be no limit on the number available in 2016.
- Hikers must provide their legal name and trail name, and must acquire their permit card in person.
- The permit card will be date-stamped at the time of issue, and again at Katahdin Stream Campground in the Park after the hiker completes his or her Katahdin climb.
- All northbound, section, and flip-flop AT thru-hikers entering through the Togue Pond or Matagamon gates, or staying at The Birches thru-hiker campsite, will be required to show their permit card.
- Permit cards will be available at the Katahdin Stream ranger station, BSP Headquarters in Millinocket, and the AT kiosk at the Park boundary when the AT steward is present.
Every permit card issued will involve a one-on-one conversation between the thru-hiker and a BSP staff member. This will provide a great opportunity to answer questions and share expectations about behavior on Katahdin. This should be a very straightforward process for hikers, particularly since permits are already required elsewhere on the Appalachian Trail, including in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is opening a new Visitor Center in Monson, Maine this summer. Monson is the last town northbound thru-hikers pass through, and an ideal spot to do outreach related to finishing well on Katahdin. Permit cards will not be available at this Visitor Center in 2016, but AT hikers may preregister for their permit using an on-site tablet computer provided by Baxter State Park, and print a receipt that can be exchanged for a permit when the hiker arrives at Baxter. Park staff will receive information on hiker registrations daily.
Friends has received many phone calls and letters related to the Appalachian Trail over the past year. As always, we welcome and appreciate feedback from our members. Please write or email anytime with your thoughts. We will continue to devote substantial time and resources to these issues in 2016.