View Full Version : PENNSYLVANIA: Estimating annual bag nights on A.T. vs. other trails

12-29-2017, 11:43
Pennsylvania has about ~230 miles of A.T., but ~1,300+ miles of "other" backpacking trails, such as: Black Forest, West Rim, Laurel Highlands, Old Loggers Path, Loyalsock, Susquehannock, Quehanna, Gerard/Oil Creek, Chuck Keiper, Allegheny Front, Pinchot, Thunder Swamp, Lost Turkey/John P Saylor, Donut Hole, Tuscarora, Standing Stone, Mid State, North Country (the last two actually longer than the A.T. in PA). Many are shown here: http://www.dcnr.pa.gov/Recreation/WhatToDo/Hiking/StateForestHikingTrails/Pages/default.aspx or here: http://www.docs.dcnr.pa.gov/forestry/recreation/hiking/nationalscenic/index.htm

How would you estimate the percentage of annual backpacker stays in the woods, or "bag nights," on the A.T. vs. other trails?

Trying to come up with a crude approximation of annual bag nights on the A.T., I see there are about 950 2000-miler completions noted in 2017 for the A.T. Assuming all of these stay, say 10 nights in the woods in PA, 950 x 10 = 9,500 bag nights. Then if you assume that half (it's probably less than half, making this conservatively low, think of a Scout troop with ~80 bag nights per weekend) of all A.T. backpacking bag nights are successful 2000-milers, you get 2 x 9,500 = 19,000 A.T. bag nights in PA. I am sure the ATC has more sophisticated user count estimates, so if you know what they are, feel free to share!

The "other trails" vary widely in popularity. LHHT, BFT, and WRT have trampled trail with obvious campsites, or shelters (LHHT). Much of DHT or the north/south ends of MST is overgrown with faded blazes, and sometimes little ground evidence of what guidebooks written years ago call campsites. LHHT and Gerard/Oil Creek require registration, which on LHHT has visible enforcement, so some bureaucrats should have good "bag night" counts on these (though I could not find them).

I found that, on MST, a register near State College had 835 entries per year, and one near the NY border had 19. From the 835, assume 20% are backpacking; from the 19, assume 50% are; for an average annual backpacking usage of 88.25. Let's say on the other trails an average of 15 mi/day, 1300 / 15 = 86.67 nights per trail. So in my crude estimate based on averaging two extreme data points, 86.67 x 88.25 = 7,700 (time to round) PA "other trail" bag nights.

Total bag nights, 19,000 + 7,700 = 26,700.

Percentage of PA bag nights on the A.T.: 19,000 / 26,700 = 71.16% say 70%.

Comments? More knowledge?

12-29-2017, 15:13
Interesting. There are walking choices other than the AT, and we would all be well served if they saw more use. Good for PA for having more of those choices. I wish CT had numbers that good -- but I fear my State probably has at least 90 percent of "bag nights" on the AT. I would wish for a number more like 50%, with the AT becoming the "Gateway" Trail for committed hikers up and down the east coast.

12-29-2017, 18:34
I suspect the AT dominates the bag night counts for most of its states, except WV, NY, maybe VT. Could be a bit less overwhelming in TN, NC, NH, ME.