Movie expected to bring surge in Appalachian Trail hiking

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — National Park officials are expecting a spike in traffic along the Appalachian Trail after the release next month of a Hollywood film about two hikers who attempt to conquer the 2,190-mile route.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials saw a 60 percent increase in traffic in the area after Billy Bryson’s book, “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on The Appalachian Trail,” was published, according to The Daily Times in Maryville (http://bit.ly/1PHfqlo). The movie, out Sept. 2, is based on the 1998 book and stars Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.

Christine Hoyer, backcountry management specialist for the park, says officials knew the movie was coming.

“There’s been quite a large group working on this for a year,” she said.

Hoyer said land managers — including the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and some state parks — have been working with The Appalachian Trail Conservancy on how best to prepare for increased traffic.

“The movie coming out is great, but it’s challenging because The Appalachian Trail already is so used,” Hoyer said. “The 71 miles (in the Smoky Mountains National Park) is, hands down, the highest used corridor of the 848 maintained trails in the park.”

The Appalachian trail stretches from Georgia to Maine along the east coast.

Many of the hikers won’t attempt the whole trail, but will just do sections in the park, Hoyer said.

Volunteers and staff at The Appalachian Trail Conservancy have created a series of videos that will teach visitors how to reduce their imprint on the trail. The conservancy consulted during the film’s production and assisted with its environmental messaging.

The Appalachian Trail traverses Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Fontana Dam to Davenport Gap, which Hoyer calls “a pretty out there backcountry experience.”