The rules about vehicles on the Appalachian Trail are very clear. You can’t ride a bicycle on it. Nor
can you use a motorized vehicle.
36 CFR 7.100 – Appalachian National Scenic Trail. (a)What activities are prohibited? (1) The use of bicycles, motorcycles or other motor vehicles is prohibited.
The US Forest Service knows this and says so on the website for the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest:
The A.T. is marked with white vertical paint blazes, two-inch by six-inch. It is a foot trail – travel by horse, bicycle, or motorized vehicles is not allowed.
And according to a more specific order for this national forest, “Vehicles, horses, pack animals’ and bicycles” are prohibited on the A.T. unless there is “a permit specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act or omission.” We have seen no such permit, nor does any closure order we have seen state that Forest Service personnel are authorized to use motorized vehicles on the A.T.
“Violations of these prohibitions are punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both. (16 U.S.C. 551, 18 U.S.C 3559 and 3571).”
According to the Roanoke Times, though, security forces for both Mountain Valley Pipeline and the US Forest Service road ATVs up and down the AT for 19 days with Forest Service permission, avoiding a walk of less than 1/4 mile to and from a round-the-clock camp where they were denying access to food and water for a protesting tree sitter.
Kris Schneider (a 2002 AT thru hiker who moved from Ohio to the New River Valley after seeing the area) discovered the damage and reported that the AT had become a muddy road six to eight feet wide. Andrew Downs of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy followed up with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
One day after the original story appeared in the Roanoke Times, a law enforcement agent for the US Forest Service issued an apology, claiming that they were using the ATVs “to conduct welfare checks” on protesters. It seems much more likely that these were shift changes for the armed security forces. At times they traveled two abreast, buzzing past a hiker on the AT: