Park Service Seeks Public Comment on AT Landmarks

The draft management plan proposes preservation methods for the Appalachian Trail's Triple Crown in Virginia.

Photo: Brett Maurer/Moment Open via Getty Images

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The National Park Service and its partners are seeking public commentary on the management of the Appalachian Trail’s Triple Crown after growing usage sparked concerns over conservation. 

The Triple Crown includes three of Virginia’s most popular destinations, including Dragon’s Tooth, Tinker Cliffs, and McAfee Knob—all of which have seen an increasing amount of traffic over the past decade. As a result, Park Service officials drafted a management plan to reduce trail damage and protect the local resources. 

Tinker Cliffs offer some of the most sweeping vistas on the trail. (Photo: Ashton Dooley / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images)

In a news release, officials wrote: “Because of increased visitor use, this trail segment has seen increasing wear and damage to natural areas. It raises facility and safety concerns as well. The draft of the Visitor Use Management Plan proposes ways to reduce impacts to the trail and its users, protect cultural and natural resources, address facility and safety concerns and improve opportunities for visitors to use, experience and enjoy the trail in safety.”

McAfee Knob alone is widely considered the most photographed spot on the entire 2,200-mile AT, which draws day- and thru-hikers from around the world. Over the past few years, local officials have done everything to accommodate the crowds from expanding parking options to establishing a shuttle service. Tinker Cliffs and Dragon’s Tooth are quickly rising to the same level of popularity as McAfee Knob. The new management plan is the latest step toward cementing long-term protections on this section of the trail. 

One of the AT’s Triple Crown hikes, Dragon’s Tooth, draws hordes of hikers every season. (Photo: S.C. Shank / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images)

The draft of the management plan suggests taking steps like actively managing parking lots, restricting overflow, and diversifying transportation options around the three destinations in the Triple Crown. In order to protect and maintain trails, the plan also highlights the need to install drainages and erosion-eliminating structures. 

In response to the Visitor Use Management Plan, acting Superintendent of the Park Service John Cannella stated: “This proposed Visitor Use Management Plan is the product of a true partnership of many who care about Virginia’s Triple Crown.” He added that “passionate outdoor recreation, environmental stewards, and others in the community are already part of this planning effort, but now it’s your turn. We want to hear from everyone who has something to say.”

Those who are interested in submitting comments on the management plan can do so until August 31st.