Appalachian National Scenic Trail pilot survey

  • Authors: Zarnoch, Stan; Bowker, Michael; Cordell, Ken; Owens, Matt; Green, Gary T.; Ginn, Allison
  • Publication Year: 2011
  • Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)
  • Source: Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS–143. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 56 p.


Visitation statistics on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) are important for management and Federal Government reporting purposes. However, no survey methodology has been developed to obtain accurate trailwide estimates over linear trails that traverse many hundreds of back-country miles. This research develops a stratified random survey design which utilizes two survey instruments, exit-site tallies and a survey questionnaire, to obtain visitation estimates on a portion of the AT. The design identifies three components (standard site days, augmented site days, and special events) which can be used to subdivide the sampling frame into estimator types that lead to more efficient sampling and estimation processes. In addition, design-based and model-based approaches are used to obtain estimates for comparison purposes. The survey was performed from June 1 through August 14, 2007, on a 109-mile stretch of the AT from Harpers Ferry, WV, to 10 trail miles north of Boiling Springs, PA, at the Scott Farm. Visitation estimates were 66,967 for the design-based approach and 70,912 for the model-based approach, with coefficients of variation of 23 and 16 percent, respectively. Individual strata-level visitation estimates were quite variable and differed substantially between the two approaches. An extrapolation to the entire trail for the whole year was performed by developing an appropriate sampling frame from which the strata weights could be obtained. Using the model-based approach and assuming the survey data were representative, the 2007 annual visitation extrapolation for the entire trail was 1,948,701 with a coefficient of variation of 20 percent.

  • Citation: Zarnoch, Stanley J.; Bowker, J.M.; Cordell, H. Ken; Owens, Matt; Green, Gary T.; Ginn, Allison 2011. Appalachian National Scenic Trail pilot survey. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS–143. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station. 56 p.
  • Keywords: Design-based estimator, Lincoln-Petersen estimator, mark-recapture estimator, model-based estimator, recreation trail use estimation
  • Posted Date: October 14, 2011
  • Modified Date: October 14, 2011
  • Print Publications Are No Longer Available

    In an ongoing effort to be fiscally responsible, the Southern Research Station (SRS) will no longer produce and distribute hard copies of our publications. Many SRS publications are available at cost via the Government Printing Office (GPO). Electronic versions of publications may be downloaded, printed, and distributed.

    Publication Notes

    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
    • Our online publications are scanned and captured using Adobe Acrobat. During the capture process some typographical errors may occur. Please contact the SRS webmaster if you notice any errors which make this publication unusable.
    • To view this article, download the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader.