Favorite Appalachian Trail Lean-To’s, Shelters, and Tent Spots

How many ways can a three sided, ~10 person shelter/lean-to be built? About 100 if you ask me. It took me 5.5 months in hike the AT and I think I saw only a handful that were exact copies of one another.

Before the trail, I researched shelters in cool locations on Instagram, The Trek blogs, and YouTube… but there wasn’t much information on them. That’s why I’m creating this post, and hopefully it helps you pick great places to stay and makes your trek memorable!

*all mileage based on 2017 AWOL guide

Georgia, Plumorchard Shelter: 73.8

I’m adding this one because it was the first shelter I came to that had the picnic table under the roof. Now this may not seem like a big deal but when it starts raining and a million people try to fit under a shelter it gets crowded and wet REAL FAST. This was a great shelter that just added some extra room.

North Carolina, Cheoah Bald: 144.9

Spectacular campsite! Now if you see this on AWOL you’ll see this is right at the top of a HUGE climb out of the NOC and right after Sassafras Shelter and it may seem daunting but I promise the view will be worth it! You can see for miles! The area up top is big enough for 10 tents. There is not water on top so make sure you carry it up from the shelter.

North Carolina, Jane Bald: 380.4

We didn’t camp here because we hit this place in the morning but you’re walking in big, grassy balds for a few miles so you’ll have plenty of options to camp. It’s very similar to Max Patch and Hump Mountain.

New York, West Mountain Shelter: 1396.0

This shelter is .6E off the trail which is considered ‘far off the trail’ and instead of hiking to the shelter we decided to tent probably .1 miles off the trail on the way to the shelter. It was amazing! There was about 6 tent spots and back on the trail you can see the NYC skyline 34 miles away!

New York, Fitzgerald Falls:  1375.8

I didn’t camp at this location but I’m adding this because this is a PERFECT spot for trail magic or a large camping area. It would hold about 40 tents. We had a fantastic, gracious trail magic here put on by the Class of 2016 and the spot the couldn’t have been more perfect!

Upper Goose Pond Cabin, Massachusetts: 1548.1

I think this is the most popular shelter on the trail, after all you get pancakes! They have about 20 bunks inside and many tenting spots around the shelter. There’s a caretaker who will cook you pancakes (for a donation) and will allow you to take out a canoe on the pond where you can paddle around an island.

North of VT is when we camped/tented anywhere on the trail that were beautiful rather than staying in shelters!

Stratton Pond Shelter, Vermont: 1640.0

This is an honorable mention because this was our first major pond that we could swim in! The shelter was big as well however the only downside was it was about a .3 mile walk down to the pond. If it was raining out it would be a perfect shelter to hang a hammock inside under the rafters.

Vermont, The Lookout: 1718.2

This privately owned cabin is graciously available to use for AT hikers (they have the right to close it for a period of time if it’s rented). It’s .1W off the trial but definitely worth the trip. The cabin can sleep about 20 people and has a ladder to a widows walk which is above tree line so you have 360 degree view.

New Hampshire, Wocket Ledge: 1,900.0

This was a perfect little tent spot, big enough only for 1 tent, to look back on all of the Whites. You’ll have a prime spot for the sunset of Mt. Madison!

Maine, Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to: 1,960.0

Probably one of the best ponds for swimming! It seems like you’re walking out for about a mile before the water gets over your knees but it would be a perfect pond to wade around in your sleeping pad.

Maine, East Flagstaff Lake: 2,019.5

OH MY GAWDDDD this place was heaven! This spot is only about 25 yards from the trail where there are about 5 tent sites on the dirt but we actually tented on the small pebbles (make sure you have a grown cloth just incase). We were treated to great sunset and a fire pit that was awesome.

Maine, East Carry Pond: 2,028.3

Most spectacular sunset on the whole trail. The trail goes right along the beach here but is only big enough for 2-3 tents.  We saw a couple motorboats out on the lake here.

Maine, Nahmakanta Lake: 2,148.6

We did not plan on staying here but my dad injured himself and needed to get back to Millinocket. This place (the trail goes RIGHT thru it) was actually a small campground, enough for about 15 sites. A man actually showed up and he was planning on doing trail magic the next day! Long story short – we all sat around the fire at night and in the morning he was nice enough to drive my dad to Millinocket. This would be a fantastic place for trail magic! You can drive right to it.

Hope you all enjoy your hike 🙂

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Comments 11

  • Dr. Fix-it : Jan 7th

    Loved your list. I also liked the Overmountain Shelter, a converted barn, off mile 384.5. Did not stay there but it was fantastic!

    • Samantha : Jan 8th

      Yes we stayed there as well along with 30 other people!! The night was a cloudless, warm day so none of actually slept in the barn, just around the fire pit.

      • Sleeveless '05 : Feb 6th

        I also stayed at overmountain shelter (barn). I arrived in the dark after everyone was asleep. It was so foggy that I literally almost walked into the barn door. What a treat when I woke up in the morning to see the clouds lifting and the amazing view.

  • SOLACE : Jan 8th

    Thanks for sharing.. some of my favs for sure! Maine is Magical.. you hit some prime spots!! soooo needed that late in your hike! Smiles in Miles, SOLACE

  • Gary (milkshake 2013 : Jan 11th

    Also plumorchard is a double decker and has an electrical outlet?

  • Cosmo Catalano : Jan 12th

    Just an FYI, a donation is NOT REQUIRED at UGPC (Upper Goose Pond Cabin), nor has it ever been. Pancakes are for all long distance hikers at the Cabin (always at the discretion of the Caretaker). While not required to do so, 99.9% of Caretakers do offer to cook pancakes (and do the post-breakfast cleanup). Beautiful place to stay or visit, arguably the best swimming on the Trail (best in NE, anyway).

  • Pando : Jan 12th

    Loved the tent site list and areas to camp. I’ve always been under the belief that “favorite shelter” was an oxymoron lol.

  • Sweeper : Jan 13th

    East Flagstaff Lake ❤️

  • Pony : Jan 14th

    Totally agree on Upper Goose Pond Cabin and Nahmakanta. I believe the best place to stay, rather than Sabbath Day Pond Lean-to, is the very tiny little beach about 1/3 of a mile south of the shelter. Perfect.

  • Lisa : Jan 31st

    I took notes, thank you Samantha! My 2016 AT Guide says that camping on the shore of Nahmakanta Lake is prohibited. Is there a spot away from the shore, or did you risk it?

    • Samantha : Feb 2nd

      Lisa- Camping on the shore is prohibited but the campsites are only about 50 yards from the shore. There’s 2 privies there that you’ll see and cleared out spots. We were confused as well, arriving there, but it’s pretty well marked where the sites are.


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