The Green Mountain Club and Appalachian Trail Conservancy are urging hikers to avoid the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail in Vermont as volunteers and staff assess damage to infrastructure following disastrous floods earlier this week.
From Sunday through Monday, a rainstorm dropped more than 8 inches of precipitation on parts of the state, swelling waterways, flooding streets, and inundating some of the state’s best-loved trail mileage. The storms, which killed one person in Barre City, caused an estimated $3 to $5 billion in damage according to Accuweather and prompted a federal emergency declaration from President Biden. In a statement, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called it the worst natural disaster to hit the state since the Great Vermont Flood of 1927, which killed 84 people.
As the flood waters began to crest, both the ATC and the GMC published statements asking hikers to get off trail or stay home.
“Flood waters brought catastrophic destruction to areas of New York and Vermont, and the condition of the Appalachian Trail in Vermont is unknown at this time,” the ATC wrote on its Facebook page on Tuesday. “Widespread road closures and washouts in Vermont may make accessing the Trail impossible in some areas of the state. Hikers should postpone their hikes in Vermont until emergency management officials advise that leisure travel can begin again and conditions improve.”
In an email on Thursday, Chloe Miller, communications director for the Green Mountain Club, said that hikers should plan on staying off the Long Trail and the state’s stretch of the AT for at least a few more days.
“We’re still actively in the middle of a severe weather outlook, so folks would be putting themselves—and our state’s already-stressed emergency crews—at risk if they decided to go hiking right now,” Miller wrote. “We will have a better sense of our guidance for hikers early next week.”
Crews from the GMC began a preliminary assessment of their local trails on Wednesday. A page on the club’s site detailed the damage they had found: The Long Trail was closed between Bamforth Ridge and the Winooski River footbridge due to flooding and downed live wires from electric fences. The Lamoille River suspension bridge was closed due to flooding, as were the Forest City Trail bridge and a bridge near the Peru Peak shelter. A number of road access points were still impassible.
Still, the news wasn’t all bad. While a full assessment of the trails’ conditions will take time, Miller said that the trails they managed hadn’t lost any bridges or other “major infrastructure”. That’s a contrast from 2011’s Tropical Storm Irene, which washed out crossings and caused large-scale blowdowns.
“We’ve been aware of and planning around intense rain events for some time, and adapting trail management strategies to account for them, so it’s a testament to the value of those durable trail structures like checksteps, staircases, and waterbars,” Miller wrote. “Also a testament to our crews and volunteers who keep the trail maintained.”
Outside of Vermont, the storm closed New York’s Bear Mountain State Park, a point of interest for AT hikers, and took out a major bridge. Heavy rains earlier this summer temporarily closed the Kennebec River’s canoe ferry and led to dangerous conditions throughout Maine’s portion of the AT.
Hikers can find the latest updates on Vermont trail damage and reroutes on the GMC’s site.