New House Bill Could Allow Mountain Bikes in A.T. Wilderness Areas

by Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Updated 1/21/18

A federal piece of legislation — H.R. 1349 — could soon be considered by House congressional members. The bill proposes to open designated Wilderness Areas to mountain bikes and other forms of mechanical transport, breaking dramatically from the legislation passed as part of the Wilderness Act.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is strongly opposed to this bill because of its potential conflict with the purpose of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) as a world-premiere, footpath-only recreation experience. Bikes in the 25 Wilderness Areas along the Trail could drastically impact the hiking experience, as well as create significant additional work for our volunteers who maintain the upkeep of the A.T.'s treadway.

Why does the ATC object?

  • When Congress established the National Trails System Act nearly 50 years ago, the A.T. was designated solely for foot-travel to preserve and honor the pleasures of walking. That distinction has been significant in the A.T.’s appeal to travelers from around the world and the overall experience more than three million people enjoyed last year.
  • How the A.T. might be affected by H.R. 1349 is of grave concern and puts the overall A.T. experience at risk. Could allowances for mountain bikes in Wilderness Areas overrule the vision and congressional intent to keep the A.T. open only for foot travel? Could some sections of the A.T. be required to allow bikes? And if so, what kind of management challenges would that pose? If passed, court challenges are anticipated to sort out these and many other questions. 
  • Click HERE to learn more about ATC’s position.

What about mountain bikes on trails?

While bicycles are incompatible with the nature and purposes of the Appalachian Trail and the Wilderness Act, ATC supports mountain biking and other sustainable forms of outdoor recreation on America’s public lands, but not in federally designated Wilderness Areas.

We work collaboratively with groups like the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) in defining new trail choices. Notably, IMBA does not support bikes in Wilderness Areas. Read IMBA's testimony HERE.

What can you do?


H.R. 1349 In the News


Leave a comment
  1. george | Jan 24, 2018
    Geez, I'm considering thru-hiking and the idea of negotiating with bikers kinda defeats any consideration. Already sent my email to my rep. 
  2. Thomas | Jan 11, 2018

    You all need to look at the bigger picture and not just the AT. The is about wilderness areas and they should stay wildernees areas. I’m in the southwestern US and there are alot of good hiking trials the bouy scouts use for backpacking. Some of the best are within wilderness areas.  They should stay the way they are.  Let they go to a forets instead.  This is the first step in losing these wilderness areas, by allowing this exception or that.  I say lets stay off this slippery slope of he politicians and say no!

  3. Chris W | Dec 22, 2017
    This piece of propaganda makes “fake news” real.
  4. Ken | Dec 20, 2017
    Nothing in this proposed bill would ask for bicycles to be allowed on the Appalachian Trail. You are fear mongering to your base, using this as a tactic to raise money. You should be ashamed. 
  5. Claire Danielson | Dec 18, 2017

    Evidently, this is who we all need to write in addition to our own congressmen:

  6. Claire Danielson | Dec 18, 2017

    This is the note back from my congressman. I am ANGRY. 

    December 18, 2017Ms. Claire Danielson34 Diana DrBlack Mountain, NC 28711-9447Dear Ms. Danielson:Thank you for contacting my office regarding H.R. 1349.  I appreciate having the benefit of your thoughts.On March 2, 2017, Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced H.R. 1349 to amend the Wilderness Act to ensure the use of bicycles, wheelchairs, game carts, and strollers is allowed in wilderness areas.  H.R. 1349 has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee, where it awaits action.  While I do not sit on this committee, please know that I will keep your thoughts in mind should this legislation come to the House floor for a vote.Thank you again for contacting my office.  It is an honor to serve as your United States Congressman.  Your suggestions are always welcome, and if ever I may be of assistance, please do not hesitate to call me.Sincerely, Patrick T. McHenryMember of Congress

     A perfect example of lumping things together in a bill. Wheelchairs in wilderness areas? No problem. Strollers in wilderness areas? No problem. GAME CARTS? For God's sake. Let's all go hiking on the AT and stand aside while a hunter hauls a carcass on by (I think this is what this bill is REALLY about). And bicycles? Well, mountain bikers have their designated trails, and plenty of them. Wilderness areas that have been designated by the Wilderness Act for foot traffic only DO NOT need to be opened up to mountain bikers. Great sport, but can you imagine one zooming by you while you hike the AT. AND talk about tearing up trails. Argh.

  7. Ray Nelson | Dec 17, 2017
    According to tbe results of IMBAs survey. Most of the members would be in favor of reasonable bike access in Wilderness, so they arent really acting in members behalf. The AT trail would not be desireable for mountain bike access. However, hundreds of miles of trail that we have lost access to over the past few years at least would be.  
  8. Robert Moss | Dec 17, 2017

    email sent to interested parties:

    While HR 1349 is indeed an evil attempt to contaminate our wilderness areas with an inappropriate use, and I have emailed Payne instructing him to oppose the bill, the ATC is panicking---or worse yet, using scare tactics to raise funds.

    HR 1349 would modify 16 U.S.C. §1133(c), which lists prohibited uses and activities in designated Wilderness Areas, including any "form of mechanical transport". This is currently interpreted to mean bicycles. HR 1349 would add, “Nothing in this section shall prohibit the use of motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized wheelchairs, non-motorized bicycles, strollers, wheelbarrows, survey wheels, measuring wheels, or game carts within any wilderness area.” That would change subsection (c) to not prohibit bicycles in Wilderness Areas, generally.

    However, lack of a prohibition in this general provision does not override use restrictions specifically applying to the AT, permitted uses on which are regulated under a separate statute and implementing regulations. Subsection (c) would have to read  positively, "Bicycles are permitted in Wilderness Areas, any existing law to the contrary notwithstanding," in order to override the provisions specific to the AT.

     Who's behind this is a puzzling question. IMBA formerly tried to get subsection (c) changed to allow bicycles. It seems they are now singing a different tune. It may be that their opposition, combined with hiker opposition, will stop this proposal with respect to Wilderness Areas generally.
  9. John Fisch | Dec 17, 2017

    This entire post, beginning with the headline, is a  fraud.

    The proposed legislation speaks ONLY to the interpretation of the Wilderness Act.  

    Since the AT receives its designation as a footpath outside the Wilderness Act, any clarification of the Wilderness Act is irrelevant to yhe AT.  The AT would still be designated and governed as it always has been.

  10. Shane | Dec 17, 2017
    Are bikes currently allowed on any parts of th AT that don't reside in wilderness area?
  11. Paul | Dec 17, 2017
    Mountain bikes will not be allowed on the AT with the passing of this bill. The AT is a footpath. The AT has a governing body. HR 1349 allows that governing body to its job. It removes the blanket ban on a national level. There is no nationwide ban on horses, but, they are not allowed on the AT. Same thing. If this bill passes, I will help advocate for more wilderness. As it sits, I do not and will not help put an acre of land into wilderness. Thanks for taking care of a great trail.
  12. brett | Dec 17, 2017
    Keep up the fight!!!!!!
  13. Gentry Kramer | Dec 17, 2017
    Your article is patently false. HR1349 would NOT open Wilderness Areas including the AT to mtn bikes. It ONLY puts WA control in the hands of local federal land managers. Those managers have every right to maintain currently access policies.  
  14. Voree Smith | Dec 17, 2017
    It doesn’t actually open any trail to bicycles. It gives the land managers the option to consider them. Correct me if I’m wrong but a trail purely designated as a footpath since its inception will never open to wheeled travel. So be it.  
  15. Marc-Aurèle Fortin | Dec 17, 2017

    You're right about IMBA's anti-mountain biking stance. Because of it, however, IMBA now has about as much credibility and influence among grass-roots mountain bikers as anti-vaccination lunatics have among doctors. If IMBA is around in a year I will be surprised. People are deserting it by the hundreds, judging by social media.

    As for mountain biking (and baby strollers!) in Wilderness, you don't tell your readers the bill's key feature: It only lets the local staff decide if those evil wheeled devices can defile a trail. (/sarcasm.) If you don't trust the Forest Service and National Park Service staffs to manage trails, let's turn trail management over to a giant computer.

    It looks like ATC smells a good fund-raising opportunity here. (I noticed the large MAKE A DONATION box.) Sure, let the gullible fork over more money. Scare-mongering works!

  16. AC | Dec 16, 2017
    Do you beleive in science? Well, multiple studies show mountain biking has no significant negative efrect on trails. Moreover, if mountain bikers are allowed, you'll have a whole new (younger and more enthusiatic) user group to help in trail building and maintenance. Look at places out West like the Lake Tahoe area. Miles and miles of new trails are being built and the vast majority are being buillt as multi-use trails by mountain bikers.  Stop fear mongering and focus on real issues. If you care more about banning mountain bikers than you do about universal healthcare, take a step back and think about your priorities. 
  17. AC | Dec 16, 2017

    LOL. Do you beleive in science? Well, multiple studies show mountain biking has no significant negative efrect on trails. Moreover, if mountain bikers are allowed, you'll have a whole new (younger and more enthusiatic) user group to help in trail building and maintenance. Look at places out West like the Lake Tahoe area. Miles and miles of new trails are being built and the vast majority are being buillt as multi-use trails by mountain bikers.  Stop fear mongering and focus on real issues. If you care more about banning mountain bikers than you do about universal healthcare, take a step back and think about your priorities. 

  18. D.B. | Dec 16, 2017
    When I joined a meeting of other bike advocates with Congressman McClintock (my representative in CA)  to ask him to sponsor this bill, we were focused only on thise trails that hikers and horses rode in designated Wilderness or Wilderness Study Areas that would be also compatible for bikes. The AT is an iconic trail, and doesn’t fit put cause. To he clear, bikes have zero interest in ridng the AT trail. And no land manager is going to open that trail up to bikes. 
  19. Sid | Dec 16, 2017
    ATC...We as mountain bikers don't want access to the AT. We want some of the wilderness areas to be open to mountain biking. We can all share in the resources and for a long time now we have not had that opportunity to enjoy the same wilderness that hikers have access to. 
  20. Aaron | Dec 16, 2017
    In short, this has nothing to do with the AT.  It has everything to do with Wilderness Areas and Areas under review for Wilderness areas.  The bill proposes that the local land manager designate trails which allow bikes.  Some of the more recent Wilderness areas have trail systems that were built and used by local bikers, but now do not have access. I think we can all agree that is stinks to use and maintain a trail then are told you can never use it again.  It is that simple.  The AT is not wilderness.  No equestrian, biker, pogo stick junkie, etc would ever want to take away this great trail from hikers.  But we would like you to READ the bill, understand it empowers the local land managers, and realize it gives back access to trails to those locals who built and used trail systems for years.
  21. Joe smith | Dec 16, 2017
    I hate to break it to you, but it does not break from the 1964 legislation. In fact that legislation supported bicycles in wilderness areas. This allows local land managers to DECIDE to allow bicycles in wilderness areas. It does not mandate it. 
  22. CG | Dec 16, 2017
    Uh...nobody is interested in riding their bikes on the AT. Everybody knows it is foot only, has been that way forever, and nobody that I know is interested in changing that. What cyclists are interested in is not loosing trails that they have been using for years to more Wilderness designations. Stop with the fear-mongering.
  23. Jon | Dec 16, 2017
    This is blasphemy!  A lie!  H.R.1349 would so no such thing. The AT has less than 150 miles in designated Wilderness and Congress has, by law, made this a “footpath”.  Do not be fooled by misrepresentation of good legislation. Please take the time to read the apecific language of the bill. It is well written and does nothing other than reatore the original intent of the Wilderness Act. 
  24. don Converse | Dec 15, 2017

    Can you cite the study that concluded trail bikes cause more damage to trails than hikers? Just curious. I heard from some that studies show trail bikes do not cause any more damage to trails than do hikers.

    also, where does the americans with diabilities act come in. In Georgia we have had handicapped or shysically challanged people move through our wilderness areas on wheeled vehucles.

  25. John N | Dec 15, 2017

    As a long term supporter of the ATC, a hiker, and a mountain biker, I disagree with the ATC and IMBA position on opposing this bill.  I have witnessed more impact in sensitive wilderness areas from cattle and sheep grazing, horses, and non-dispersed camping than would be caused by mountain bike access.  In my experience as a trail builder and maintainer working with both hiking and biking organizations, the bikers mobilize more volunteers and contribute more time to trail maintenance.  

  26. Rich | Dec 15, 2017

    "Hikers would lose the quiet and contemplative nature of the Trail".....

    Unlike people with their friggin' stereos, tablets, cell phones, dogs.......

    And NO, I do not support bicycles on the AT.

  27. MK | Dec 15, 2017

    BALONEY!!  Recipe for meat amalgam...meh

  28. Erma Lewis | Dec 15, 2017
    No bikes.  Let's keep the trails safe and quiet.

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