In the News: Appalachian Trail hikers take life-long memories, leave crucial tax dollars in WNC

Dr. Ash Morgan, a professor of economics at Appalachian State University and director of the univeristy's Center for Economic Research and Policy Analysis, was featured in a recent article from BPR News about the economic impact of hiking in Western North Carolina. 

According to the article, Appalachian Trail hikers take life-long memories, leave crucial tax dollars in WNC, at the beginning of 2024, a new survey targeted outdoor recreation participants across 25 Western North Carolina counties and the Qualla Boundary. It asked 1,786 respondents from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia what they do in the mountains. The survey results reflect $4.9 billion in economic output – the equivalent of 48,000 full-time jobs created – and $197.5 million in county-level tax revenues across the region generated by outdoor recreation. Most of the respondents said they spent time day-hiking in Buncombe or Watagua counties and stayed overnight. The next top counties for visitors were Cherokee, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Henderson and Jackson.

“This unique data is valuable in helping individual counties better understand the economic contribution of their outdoor recreation infrastructure, and can be used to aid future decision making,” said Ash Morgan, Center for Economic Research and Policy Analysis Director at Appalachian State University in a press release.

The impact of the outdoor recreation industry extends across the state of North Carolina. Outdoor recreation in North Carolina contributed over $11.8 billion to the state’s GDP in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. The analysis found outdoor recreation generates over $28 billion annually in consumer spending across the state.

About the Center for Economics Research and Policy Analysis (CERPA)

The Center for Economics Research and Policy Analysis (CERPA) at Appalachian State University enables decision-makers to implement policies that better achieve targeted outcomes by producing research and disseminating information on current economic and policy issues. Housed in the Walker College of Business Department of Economics, CERPA maintains the Appalachian Experimental Economics Laboratory (AppEEL) as part of the experimental economics program and encourages faculty and student student research. For more information, visit

About the Department of Economics at Appalachian State University

The Department of Economics in Appalachian State University's Walker College of Business is an intellectually vibrant place for students and faculty. As a research-intensive department committed to student learning, the department offers a wide range of courses that provide critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, complemented by student-faculty research collaboration. Our faculty members are engaged in research that contributes locally and globally in areas related to energy, environmental, development, trade, health, sports and tourism. The Department of Economics is ranked among the leading U.S. economics departments for research productivity, and is particularly strong in environmental and experimental economics. Learn more at

Ash Morgan
Published: May 8, 2024 12:40pm