MARS HILL, NC (WSPA) – On Thursday morning, forest officials announced new restrictions at Max Patch an increasingly popular trail at the Pisgah National Forest in Western North Carolina.

The amount of visitors on the trail has increased significantly — causing damage to the natural wildlife habitat.

United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service

According to forest officials, past efforts of visitor education and engineering controls such as barriers and fencing have not been enough to address the challenges.

“We’ve been working with partners to achieve sustainable recreation at Max Patch because of the impacts due to a significant increase in visitors over the past decade,” said Appalachian District Ranger Jen Barnhart. “Unfortunately, the level of use is causing a public safety hazard as well as serious damage to wildlife habitat.”

The new restrictions are designed to reduce impacts to natural resources and protect public health and safety.

The restrictions will be in effect for two years and the impacts of visitors’ use of the area will continue to be monitored and addressed.

Here’s the full list of new restrictions:

  • No camping.
  • No fires.
  • Area closes 1 hour after sundown. Reopens 1 hour before sunrise. Visitors prohibited during closed hours.
  • Group size limited to 10.
  • Dogs and other animals must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet, or in a crate or cage.
  • Stay on designated trails.
  • Aircraft may not land nor drop off or pick up anything in this area. Drones are prohibited on Appalachian Trail.
  • No fireworks.
  • Bikes must stay on roads only.
  • Horses and other saddle and pack animals may not be ridden, hitched, tethered, or hobbled in this area.