The Hiker Bubble on the Appalachian Trail Must Burst

When will the Bubble burst on the Appalachian Trail?

When will the Bubble burst on the Appalachian Trail? (Please Note: This picture was not taken on the AT.)

Traffic jams on highways are called ... well, traffic jams. Herds of hikers -- especially the hordes who hit the Trail northbound from Georgia in the spring -- comprise the "Bubble." Unless more thru-hikers avoid hitting Springer Mountain at once, it's about to burst.

The reality of the Bubble is inconceivable. Imagine seeking a spot to sit near a shelter built for 10 -- with 50-70 other weary hikers who are trying to find trees to hang hammocks, build campfires, set up tents, stock up on water and pee in privacy.

Forget your vision of a woodsy oasis with 150 trees conveniently spaced for hammocks. You'll probably find a tent rudely erected inside the shelter with a groovy dude playing "world music" on an iSomething. Add in partiers, snorers and stoners, mice and men, and you'll think you're camping at Woodstock. (Ask your grandmother.)

Avoiding the Bubble -- The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Way

You can avoid crowded conditions almost completely and make an even more positive impact by selecting an alternate start location. Mid-trail thru-hike starts can allow you to avoid weather extremes (if you wait until about mid-April). Starting a hike Georgia after April 15 and then planning to "flip" mid-trail also offers the benefits of avoiding crowds and hiking in milder weather.

Flip-Flop the Appalachian Trail

Tags: Attractions, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Trail, News, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Conservation, Hikers, Hiking Safety, flip-flop appalachian trail hike, appalachian trail bubble of hikers, and overcrowding on appalachian trail

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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hondo on Dec 18, 2015
we are still planning on doing our trip in march, its like everything else people watch a movie and want to hike, they did the same when a river runs through it came out, dam Robert Redford, i think once most of theese people get a ew cold wet rain soaked, snowed on days they will thin out pretty quick
neversink on Dec 18, 2015
I loved the book, "A Walk in the Woods" -- but the movie was awful!!!!! I don't think it inspired anyone to walk the trail....
Peepers on Dec 19, 2015
Absolutely!!! I know movies can seldom hold true to a book but A Walk in the Woods was ridiculous...I 'read' the audio version and must rent it became one of my favorite stories ever and had a hard time getting out of the car and would sit in the carport listening to another chapter. THAT story motivated me, not the movie AND Robert Redford who I love dearly was way too old to play Bill Bryson.
neversink on Dec 18, 2015
Or you could plan an alternative route on side trails and major trails that takes you off the AT into more wilderness and more secluded areas, and at times uses the AT for short or long distances.
Liz Dyer on Dec 18, 2015
There are so many other trails around where you can get a wilderness experience without the crowds. I will hike on the AT off season.
Richard Judy on Dec 19, 2015
I hiked for five days recently on the Benton MacKaye Trail from Three Forks to Cherry Log. Never saw another hiker. It's a good alternative starting route for Northbounders if you aren't a purist. When I did a SOBO thru-hike in '73, I had many totally solitary days. No more.
Happy Baby on Jul 8, 2016
I agree, Richard. The Benton MacKaye Trail is much lesser-known than the AT and I think it'd be a great idea for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to promote using it as an alternative for the southern section. As a personal preference, it would also possibly help a bit with Purist snobbery. Maybe.