No fees or paid permits are required to access the Appalachian Trail for simply walking. In two of the national parks that the A.T. passes through, permits are required for backcountry camping. One requires a fee. The majority of campsites and shelter sites are free. Some campsites, especially in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, may have fees, particularly in heavily used areas or ecologically sensitive ones. At these sites, caretakers educate the public on Leave No Trace practices and special regulations required to protect sensitive areas. In these areas caretakers typically also manage composting privies.
No, a permit is not needed to begin a thru-hike of the entire A.T., but in 2015, thru-hikers will be able to register their thru-hike start date and location with ATC. By mid-February, a link will be available here.
For more information, call 865-436-1297.
Shelter Policy – Great Smoky Mountains National Park regulations require that you stay in a shelter. While other backpackers must make reservations to use backcountry shelters, thru-hikers are exempt. From Mar. 15 to June 15, four spaces at each A.T. shelter are reserved for thru-hikers. If the shelter is full, thru-hikers can tent close by. Only thru-hikers are allowed to tent next to shelters, so they are responsible for making room for those who have reservations in the shelters.
Backcountry Accommodations – Two types of structures are near the A.T. – day-use (“shelters”) and overnight-use (“huts”). Camping at or near day-use shelters is prohibited. Huts are available to long-distance hikers (those spending at least three consecutive nights in SNP) as space is available. Tenting at huts is permitted in designated campsites; all huts within the park have campsites available.
Green Mountain National Forest/Green Mountain Club (Vermont).
The Green Mountain Club (GMC) maintains the A.T. throughout the state of Vermont. Fees are collected at some high-use campsites in this area to help defray field-program costs and support shelter and Trail maintenance along the A.T. in Vermont. A GMC caretaker may be present at other sites, but a fee is not charged. No permits or reservations are required.
White Mountain National Forest/Appalachian Mountain Club (New Hampshire). Overnight fees are charged at some Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC)-maintained campsites in the White Mountain National Forest, though all are available on a first-come, first-served basis. A system of eight full-service huts offers meals and lodging; reservations are strongly recommended during peak season. More information is available at outdoors.org/appalachiantrail. Baxter State Park (Maine).
To access Baxter State Park by vehicle for a day-hike, a day use parking reservation is strongly recommended, as there are finite number of parking spots. Once all parking spots are full, you cannot enter the park. To camp overnight, a reservation is required and a fee is charged. Those hiking the A.T. and walking more than 100 miles continuously on foot before entering the park do not need an advance reservation and are eligible to stay at The Birches site, but must still pay a camping fee. If the site is full, hikers must wait for space to become available. For more information and to make parking or camping reservations, visit baxterstateparkauthority.com
Are bicycles allowed?
Bicycles and other wheeled vehicles are not allowed on the Appalachian Trail, except in a few places where the A.T. coincides for a short distance with a road, highway, or other multiple-use trail. The A.T. was conceived and designed as a wilderness footpath where the hiker travels by his "own unaided effort." Also, the A.T. has been built by hand by volunteers and continues to be maintained by volunteers. In most places it is very narrow and rugged. Bicycle use would not be sustainable on the primitive, relatively fragile trails of the A.T., nor would it be safe for hikers and cyclists to share the same trail.
Can I ride my horse?
No, with a few exceptions. The Appalachian Trail is designed, built, and maintained by hikers for foot travel. Motor vehicles are illegal on all off-road sections of the Appalachian Trail. Bicycles and mountain bikes are not permitted except where the A.T. is co-aligned with the C&O Canal towpath in Maryland and the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia. Pack animals, including horses, mules, donkeys, goats, and llamas, are not allowed on the A.T. (whether they are packing anything or not), except that horses are permitted along the C&O Canal towpath in Maryland and in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (where, by law, about 50 percent of the A.T. in the park is open for horses as a historical use).
Are there any parts I can drive?
You can't actually drive along the A.T. (except where the A.T. passes through a few towns for a mile or two, such as Hot Springs, NC, Damascus, Virginia, and Hanover, NH). However, the A.T. closely parallels and frequently crosses the 100-mile scenic Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
Are there any notable places I can visit by car?
There are many famous landmarks or vistas on or within a short distance of the A.T. that are accessible by car on paved roads. These include Neel Gap, GA; Wayah Bald, NC; Clingmans Dome, TN; Roan Mountain, TN; Grayson Highlands, VA; Harpers Ferry, WV; Washington Monument, MD; PenMar, MD; Boiling Springs and the ATC mid-Atlantic Regional Office, PA; Pine Grove Furnace State Park and the A.T. Museum, PA; Pochuck Swamp boardwalk near Vernon, NJ; Bear Mountain, NY: the Great Swamp boardwalk and A.T. train stop near Pawling, NY; Mt. Greylock, MA; and Mt. Washington, NH. Many of the access roads are closed in winter. A network of more than 30 officially designated A.T. Communities are also located on or close to the A.T. and welcome hikers and tourists alike.
Can I bring my dog?
Dogs are allowed everywhere on the Trail except in three areas:
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
- Trailside Museum and Wildlife Center in Bear Mountain State Park, New York
- Baxter State Park, Maine
Dogs must be leashed on the forty percent of the Trail that uses National Park Service-administered lands. (Actually, we recommend that you keep your dog leashed at all times.)
Are groups allowed to hike?
Groups are welcome on the Trail, but they do have some special considerations.
Is hunting permitted?
Hunting is allowed—as long as the hunter observes state laws and regulations—along more than half of the Appalachian Trail's length, including some part of all fourteen Trail states. During hunting season, make sure you can be seen and heard. Wear a blaze-orange cap and vest and/or backpack cover at all times, including in and around camp.
Can I carry a gun?
ATC strongly discourages hikers from carrying firearms: Most experienced A.T. hikers consider them impractical and unnecessary, and encountering an armed stranger makes many people uncomfortable. To legally carry a firearm on the Trail, you must meet the permitting standards of the state and locality in which you are hiking. On national-park lands, discharging a firearm is illegal, even if you have a legal permit to carry it. Extra efforts may be required to secure weapons in towns to abide by local ordinances and private-property owners' rules. (Firearm rules vary by land ownership. The Trail crosses 14 states and more than 90 state, federal, or local agency lands, with each having its own rules and regulations; you are responsible for knowing and following those rules.) In areas of the Trail corridor where hunting is legal, hikers may see hunters carrying firearms. Hunters must abide by their own set of firearm rules, somewhat separate from firearm-carry rules but also varying by state and county.
Is commercial filming allowed?
Permits are required for commercial filming on almost all of the A.T. The Trail passes through many jurisdictions, each requiring a separate permit, and commercial filming is generally not allowed in the 26 federally designated wilderness areas along the A.T.
Those contemplating filming in multiple areas along the A.T. should first complete a filming permit
for the Appalachian Trail Park Office. Permits require a processing fee; a daily location fee may also be required, as well as numerous additional permits from other jurisdictions. If you have questions about the permit process, contact the Appalachia
n National Scenic Trail, Park Service Office at 304-535-62