Appalachian National Scenic Trail 2021 Highlights

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) provided the following highlights for the Appalachian NST during the 2021 calendar year:

Conserving Trail Lands and Boosting Climate Resilience

Sunrise on top of Quill Hill in Maine overlooking Crocker and Reddington Mountains and the AT. Quill Hill is to be conserved by the Trust for Public Land with help from a Wild East Action Fund Grant, the grant fund administered by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy on behalf of the Appalachian Trail Landscape Partnership. Photo by Jerry and Marcy Monkman.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) continues to convene the Appalachian Trail Landscape Conservation Partnership (ATLP) with the National Park Service to accelerate the pace and scale of land conservation in the A.T. Landscape with over 100 partners. The ATLP completed a strategic plan and created a Climate Advisory Group to develop strategies of focus for the coming years. ATC administered the 4th year of Wild East Action Fund Grants, awarding $500k to 19 organizations to support land conservation of climate resilient lands and build the capacity of partner organizations to do even more great work across the A.T. Landscape.

Collaboration and Engagement

Before and after photos of the graffiti removal that took place at Bake Oven Knob. Photo by Ash Bailot / The Morning Call.

Volunteers with A.T. maintaining clubs in the Mid-Atlantic removed graffiti from Bake Oven Knob, a popular destination on the Appalachian Trail in Germansville, PA with a reputation for its paint-covered rocks. The Pennsylvania Game Commission purchased Elephant Snot, a biodegradable liquid used to remove graffiti, along with other equipment like hoses and backpack sprayers. Local fire departments, outdoor clubs and around 50 volunteers scrubbed away 30-years-worth of graffiti off the vista’s rocks. A.T. management partners, including ATC, USDA Forest Service Appalachian Ranger District, and Carolina Mountain Club agreed to launch a Max Patch Trail Ambassador program to encourage responsible recreation by visitors and to collect data to help future management direction at the site. This is part of a comprehensive approach to Visitor Use Management by A.T. management partners that includes area restoration, a temporary camping ban on the summit, and increased public education.

Strengthening Organizations and Partnerships

A look at the A.T. volunteer opportunities the public sees on the Volunteer Engagement Platform (VEP). Courtesy Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy recently launched a digital clearinghouse for A.T. volunteer opportunities. The Volunteer Engagement Platform (VEP) ( connects volunteer interest with any volunteer-coordinating organization along the length of the Trail. In the last year, 97 events were shared to broaden public engagement in the care of the A.T.

ATC launched a flagship training virtually in 2021. The Volunteer Leadership Academy took place at the beginning of this year in lieu of the traditional in-person Volunteer Leadership Meeting. Through this adapted virtual framework, 125 volunteers attended pathways of learning related to Cooperative Management of the A.T. along with requisite resources for volunteer and project leaders, as well as Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI).

ATC’s Volunteer Relations program staff have been giving strategic thought to making volunteering open to all as part of the organization’s current strategic plan. The team developed 9 recommendations for A.T. partners on ways to accentuate focus on volunteer management best practices. ATC is working to roll ideas out to clubs and support their adoption of strategies in the year ahead.

Local Economy, Tourism and Community Health

Interior of the newly constructed trail center in Damascus. Photo by ATC.

The Town of Damascus will soon be home to the ATC’s southernmost Visitor Center: the Damascus Trail Center. The Visitor Center, located in the heart of Trail Town, USA will be a destination for visitors to the Appalachian Trail and the Southwest Virginia recreation economy. Funded by the Town of Damascus and staffed by the ATC and volunteers, the newly constructed facility is a showcase for community stewardship.

Set to open in Summer 2022, the Center will be a place for visitors to discover nearby outdoor recreation and connect with the Appalachian Trail and trail stewardship opportunities. It will offer high-quality interpretive exhibits, recreation and conservation-based programming, and local and regional tourism information.

Education, Interpretation and Cultural Expression

Latinxhikers and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy co-sponsored a “Reflection Hike and Potluck” event in Georgia. Photo by Alex Garcia.

ATC led an Emerging Leaders’ Summit hosting 41 workshops with 71 special speakers and panelists. The Summit was a virtual experience centered on young people aged 14-35 but was open to all. The Summit strengthened connections between young leaders and their networks, sparked momentum for youth movements at the intersection of nature and climate justice, and provided a space for artistic creation and performance utilizing the outdoors and the Appalachian Trail as a muse. An impact report can be found at

ATC continues to build networks and support affinity groups, which are a means by which those with shared interests and shared identities can contribute to ATC’s mission. Affinity groups are global in reach and open to all. Groups include Wild East Women with dozens of organizations and volunteer groups supporting women’s work days and virtual events, as well as a Latinx Partnership Coordinator and an Indigenous Partnership and Research Coordinator—both working to amplify communities through events and education and outreach programs. Alex Garcia, Latinx Partnership Coordinator, led a reflective hike, service days, and multiple virtual events and workshop sessions including Mobilizing Your Whole Self to Promote Meaningful Change. Jay Levy, ATC Indigenous Partnership and Research Coordinator, presented multiple workshops for educators and youth on sacred connections to the land and led a Tribal Youth Hike for Wellness and interpreting and exploring the history of the Appalachian Mountains through Indigenous eyes.