Appalachian Trail Landmark, Overmountain Shelter, to be Removed

Overmountain Shelter, a popular stop for thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail near Roan Mountain, Tennessee, was closed four years ago due to structural instability. Following a decision by the U.S. Forest Service, the shelter will be removed this week.

The shelter was originally a barn on private land, which was acquired by the Forest Service in 1979. It was then converted into a shelter for thru-hikers and maintained by the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club. Since then, it has been an iconic and much-loved stop for countless hikers throughout the years.

Photo credit: Hugh Owen

The End of an Era

The Appalachian Ranger District closed the shelter in 2019 when Forest Service engineers determined the structure was unsafe. “People from all over have loved camping inside this old barn,” said District Ranger Richard Thornburgh in a 2019 press release by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), “but now there’s a real risk of it collapsing. Unfortunately, the barn was not originally designed to accommodate human occupancy.”

Although efforts were made to maintain the shelter, slope movement caused it to lean downhill, a support beam snapped underneath the loft where hikers sleep, wooden posts rotted, and wind and heavy snow put stress on the whole structure. Ultimately, repairing the shelter was considered unsustainable, and rebuilding it would not have met the management plans for the A.T. and the Pisgah National Forest, according to a release by the Forest Service.

Inside the shelter’s loft.

“This was a tough decision to make,” said District Ranger Jen Barnhart. “Many people have fond memories of staying at the shelter, and we empathize with those who will miss the Overmountain shelter.”

When the shelter is removed, some of the materials may be used by partner organizations for commemorative purposes. The field near the shelter will still be available for tent camping, the privy will remain with the possibility of future improvements, and a bench may be placed in the shelter footprint.

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Comments 6

  • Rob : Nov 17th

    So Eastman can dump all kinda $ to the city to get a road closed for no real reason but can’t afford to keep a barn shelter up and going for a really good reason and good outlook for the hiking community ,,,, that says alot about Eastman for ya rite there ,,, I use to have a lot of respect for Eastman but the older I get the less and less I have for it

    • Tennessee Viking : Nov 27th

      Eastman Chemical sponsors the Tennessee Eastman Hiking & Canoeing Club (TEHCC). However, Eastman Chemical does not dictate any policy or guidance in trail maintenance. The TEHCC is actually open to the public but does provide added benefits for Eastman employeees/retirees. The USFS and ATC have ultimate decision on any trail or shelter maintenance and projects. TEHCC is the local task force for trail maintenance labor and identifies and provides recommendations on projects which has to get ATC and USFS approval.

      The Barn itself had major structural issues. Its been patched and re-enforced numerous times. But the downhill lean and slope were too great to patch up the barn.

      There are a number of options that ATC and USFS are considering. But some of them will require studies, funding, and amending scoped project plans.

    • Girard Swan : Dec 5th

      It would not cost much more to shore it up structurally and make it last another 20 years than what it cost to demo it. We’re talking probably $10K – $15K max. I’ve been a NC commercial contractor for 27 years so I assure you this is accurate and realistic. Even less with some AT volunteers.

      But… when you get government engineers and their stamps involved.. not to mention county inspectors (failed builders with badges) – then you get this kind of stupidity and fear of liability. What a shame.

  • Chris aka Han Slolo : Nov 21st

    I’m sorry Overmountain is going to be taken down. I was lucky enough to get a spot on the patio deck in June of 2018. The view from the (porch/patio) to the valley and the mountains is iconic and one of the best. Chris

  • ASM : Nov 29th

    One of the more iconic shelters on the trail. What would be the harm in building a similar red barn shelter to replace it? A real loss.


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