Shutterbug’s Favorite (and Least Favorite) Places to Camp on the Appalachian Trail

Note: The opinions in this post are completely my own and not that of The Trek. 

In 2017 I hiked around 1500 miles of the Appalachian Trail. In that time I camped in a lot of different places. Most of them were awesome but there were a select few that I disliked for one reason or another. Here’s a list of my favorite (and not so favorite) campsites along the AT. I’ve arranged them by mile marker going north based off of the 2017 AWOL Guide. They’re each rated out of 5 stars!

My next blog post will be a list of my favorite & least favorite restaurants along the trail so keep an eye out for that!

Georgia

Photo of my dad at Justice Creek in 2016. We woke up to a dusting of snow!


Justus Creek (GA Mile 14.4): This campsite is absolutely beautiful. It sits right next to the creek and is surrounded by beautiful rhododendron bushes.

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Lance Creek (GA Mile 24.2): This was the most crowded place I camped along the entire trail. There were so many people and everyone’s tents were crammed right next to each other. It gets so crowded because it’s the last campsite with water before the small section of trail where a bear canister is required. Most people hike from here up Blood Mountain and to Neel’s Gap. The campsite has a hill on either side so good luck finding a spot to pee where no one can see you. I’d suggest loading up on water here and finding a stealth spot further down the trail.

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Cheese Factory Site (GA Mile 56.3): After spending the day with my friends in Helen, GA, Miss Janet suggested that we hike to this campsite. We got there after dark but luckily the campsites were very easy to find and there were plenty of them. Within a minute or two my friend and I found a nice flat spot where we could lay down our sleeping bags. We were too tired to setup our tents so it was our first experience cowboy camping! The campsite is surrounded in rhododendron bushes and was quite a beautiful site to wake up to in the morning.

North Carolina

The night sky above Tellico Gap


Tellico Gap (NC Mile 128.9): Cowboy camp under the power lines on a clear night. You won’t regret it. And if you’re up to it, do a sunrise hike up to the Wesser Bald tower.

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Locust Cove Gap (NC Mile 147.4): Hiking 10.4 miles out of the NOC when 7 of those miles are uphill was a dumb idea. Especially since we wound up at a campsite that was overfilled with hikers and there was nowhere to pee without someone seeing you.

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Fontana Hilton (NC Mile 165.6): Stay here. Just do it. The solar panel charging station works really slowly but it’s a nice sentiment. Walk over to the dam for sunset. There are flush toilets and showers. There’s also a shuttle that will bring you into Fontana Village if you want a restaurant meal for dinner.

Clingmans Dome


Double Spring Gap Shelter (NC Mile 196.4): While there’s nothing particularly interesting or great about this shelter, it is only about 3 miles from Clingman’s Dome. That makes it the perfect spot to camp the night before you hike up to the dome to see the sunrise! Trust me, it’s worth getting up super early for!

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French Broad River (NC Mile 273.8): After you walk through Hotsprings, you cross this river on a bridge and the trail proceeds to follow it for a bit. Do not camp along here if it’s supposed to rain! Many people stealth camped here to avoid having to pay money to stay in Hotsprings. After 3 days of rain some of their tent sites were now part of the river! I heard stories of people waking up to 4 inches of rain water in their tents. Yikes!

Tennessee

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Ash Gap (TN Mile 375.3): My friends and I were planning on hiking to the Roan Mountain shelter but when we got to this gap it started to rain. We set up camp and tried to wait out the storm. The rain lightened up a bit so some of my friends decided to get water for the group. They looked for awhile and couldn’t find anything even though it had just rained. The next morning I woke up to my tent on my face because it’d snowed overnight. It was that really annoying wet & heavy kind of snow too. Oh, and it was MAY! All of my gear was soaked. I also realized I had pinkeye and that I’d left my warm leggings at Miss Janet’s. Needless to say I associate this campsite with bad memories. Hence the one star.

Overmountain Shelter


Overmountain Shelter (TN Mile 384.5): This shelter is a two story barn that can fit a huge amount of hikers. There’s also some spots to tent nearby if you’d rather not stay in the shelter. It’s an awesome place to stay, have a fire, & enjoy Tennessee’s beautiful scenery.


Stealth Spot (TN ~Mile 407.1): In between the random bench along the trail & the gravel road there’s a beautiful campsite along the creek. It’s surrounded by rhododendron bushes and it quite beautiful!

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Laurel Fork Stealth Spot (TN Mile 420): There’s a bunch of beautiful camp spots right along the creek in between where the Laurel Fork shelter is and where the Laurel Falls Trail splits away from the AT.

Virginia


Virginia Creeper Trail (VA Mile 470.1): There are so many stealth spots along here. Perfect place to camp for free if you get to Damascus before trail days and just want to wait around for the festivities to start.

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Partnership Shelter (VA Mile 532.4): This shelter is close enough to the road that you can order pizza delivery! Just walk over to the visitor center. If you don’t have cell service the visitor center usually will let you use their phone. There’s also showers here!


Campsite Near Dismal Falls (VA Mile 610.6): After swimming at Dismal Falls all day you can either camp right there or walk a couple tenths of a mile north for a more quiet campsite. Plenty of space for tents & hammocks.

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Sarver Hollow Shelter (VA Mile 679.6): This shelter was the worst. The sign said it was .4 off trail but it definitely felt longer than that. Going to the shelter is steep & downhill. You can imagine how fun it was coming back up. The only cool part about this shelter is that there’s a bunch of abandoned stone structures near the water source. Also, it looks very new because hardly anyone ever makes the trip down there. Oh, and according to the logbook & my friend that thru-hiked in 2016, it’s haunted.


Glasgow Shelter (Glasgow, VA): This shelter is in the center of town and was created thanks to a lot of donations & was made as an eagle scout project. The shelter has power, bunks, hot showers, clean porta potties, a fire ring, room to tent & hammock, and is 100% FREE. Staying here you’re just a few steps away from a delicious pizza joint.

Note: There’s a gap between Glasgow & PA because I didn’t hike that section. I’m sure there are plenty of awesome camp spots along that section of trail!

Pennsylvania

The last of the SLO-BOS at the 501 Shelter

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501 Shelter (PA Mile 1193.7): This shelter is another one that has power & you can have pizza delivered. Just walk the short blue blaze to the road crossing to meet the delivery driver. There are bunks to sleep in or you can setup your hammock in between the support beams. There’s a caretaker that lives next door. He seemed nice enough but came into the shelter early the next morning to make sure we were all getting ready to leave. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take a zero day here even if it’s freezing rain/sleeting outside.

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Port Clinton Pavilion (PA Mile 1217.6): The town lets hikers use this pavilion for camping. You can sleep under the pavilion or setup your tent in a designated tenting area. There’s also an outdoor fireplace across the street & a water pump. A local man leaves his number on the bulletin board and offers free shuttles to the grocery store & to the Cabela’s.

Note: There’s a gap between PA & The Secret Shelter because I didn’t hike that section. I’m sure there are plenty of awesome camp spots along that section of trail!

New Jersey

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“Secret Shelter” (NJ Mile 1343.4): This is a small cabin that is on private property but is usually open for thru-hikers to use. It was closed for part of the summer this year but was reopened sometime in June. There are power outlets, a spigot, a privy, and a shower available to use.

New York


Ralph Peak Shelter (NY Mile 1429.2): This shelter is right on the trail and features four walls (with two door cutouts & a few windows,) a water pump, privy, tenting area with two sets of hammock posts, & a weekend-long summer cookout that’s strategically planned for when the bubble of nobos are hiking through. If you’re at the shelter and there isn’t a cookout going on you can always order pizza or chinese and have it delivered to the shelter! Fun fact: the new tent pad & hammock post area is dedicated to my dad!

Connecticut

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Stealth Spot Outside Salisbury (CT Mile 1499.6): When my hiking partner and I made it to Salisbury it was already getting late. Neither of us had the cash to stay at Maria’s place (although from what I heard it’s a great place to stay!). We decided to hike on and found a stealth spot shortly after the trail passed a cemetery and went back into the woods. I wouldn’t recommend staying there unless you really have to because of how close to town it is. But it’s a great spot if the local hostels are full or you’re running out of cash.

Massachusetts


Upper Goose Pond Cabin (MA Mile 1548.1): Even if you’d only be doing a 1 mile day, make sure to stay at this cabin! There’s a caretaker during the summer who makes coffee & pancakes for all the hikers every morning. If you pick a bunch of wild blueberries he’ll make blueberry pancakes. You can also swim in the lake or take one of the canoes out to the island and back. There’s a bunkhouse with mattresses or you can tent/hammock. You’re also welcome to take zero days here. Make sure to donate to the caretaker! He does a lot to make sure the cabin is clean & taken care of.

Vermont

Harmon Hill


Harmon Hill (VT Mile 1608.8): There’s no water at this stealth spot but there is a flat grassy area, small fire pit, & a beautiful view where you can watch the sunset. There’s also a BUNCH of wild raspberries that were a delicious breakfast!

Glastenbury Fire Tower


Glastenbury Mountain (VT Mile 1621.0): This mountain is the first mountain in New England where you really start to feel like you’re in the north. The whole mountain is covered in beautiful evergreen trees. There’s a fire tower at the top. You definitely don’t want to miss the sunset here! It’s absolutely amazing to look out at all the mountains you’ve climbed and the ones you’ll be climbing in the days ahead. The pine forest surrounding the tower makes for some comfy ground to set up your tent on. And there’s plenty of trees for hammocks.


Prospect Rock (VT Mile 1645.8): There’s only room for a couple tents here and maybe one or two good spots for hammocks but if you can find a spot here I’d definitely recommend it! The sunset is amazing! It’s a good spot to stay if you want to nero into town the next day. There’s no water though so make sure you carry some out from the last source!

The Lookout


The Lookout (VT Mile 1718.2): The Lookout is a private cabin that is open for thru-hikers to use. There’s an open deck on the roof that is perfect for watching the sunset or sunrise. There’s a couple flat spots for tents if you’d prefer to do that. If you have a hammock I suggest setting it up on the front porch so you can wake up and watch the sunrise from your bed. I had every layer of clothing on plus my puffy and sleeping quilt but it was totally worth braving the cold!

New Hampshire


Mink Brook (NH Mile 1756.2): This is one dope campsite. There’s an island in the middle of the creek that makes a great spot to tent or hammock. There’s also a fire pit. I really wish I’d taken a photo of the campsite but I must’ve forgotten. You’ll just have to take my word for how awesome it is.

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Dancing Bones Community (NH Mile 1783.1): I personally did not stay here but three of my friends did and said it was 100% not worth the 1.4 mile walk down the road. They advertise free camping, water, toilets, good conversation, & showers. When my friends got to the community they said it looked like it’d been deserted for years. The showers were all broken & were covered in spider webs, & they couldn’t even find the composting toilets. They also said they didn’t see a single person there. Definitely walk the ~3mi to the next designated campsite or stealth along the trail instead.

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Beaver Brook (NH Mile 1800.2): After going north down Mt. Moosilauke your knees will hurt like hell. It took me an hour and a half to get from the shelter to the bottom. That was only 1.3 miles. That is why when I found the campsites near Beaver Brook I was happy to see my tramily already setting up camp. Earlier in the day they’d talked about hiking up the next mountain but thankfully they had a change of heart. This spot is close enough to the road that it’s possible to hitch to town to get some I survived the first mountain in the whites celebratory beers. There’s also a nice toilet & garbage cans in the parking lot.

Near stealth spot in the whites


Stealth Site (NH Mile 1839.2): This stealth site was right near a beautiful creek with a footbridge going over it. We stayed there during peak fall foliage and it was absolutely beautiful! We spent the night chatting around a fire pit. There was plenty of room for our 3 tents & 2 hammocks.

Maine


Little Wilson Falls (ME Mile 2081.8): Carefully cross the top of the falls and you’ll find an awesome stealth spot to tent or hammock! It was great being able to fall asleep to the sound of the waterfall. It’s only about 6 miles into the 100 mile wilderness so it’s a great spot to stay if you’re nero-ing out of town.


Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to (ME Mile 2130.1): This shelter is right in front of a roaring brook with small waterfalls & a swimming hole. I was there in October so it was too cold to swim but if you’re there in the summertime do not miss out on this spot! There’s room to tent & hammock if you’d prefer not to stay in the shelter.

Antlers Campsite


Antler’s Campsite (ME Mile 2138.0): Even though we’d only hiked 7.9 miles we decided to stay at this campsite. There’s plenty of room for tenting and hammocking, multiple firepits, and it’s right along the shoreline of Jo-Mary Lake. My friend and I got there early and spent a couple hours catching wild musscles in the lake that we cooked up & put in our ramen for dinner. My friend woke up in the middle of the night to what he said were huskies howling at the moon but we were told that what he heard must’ve actually been wolves! I’ve also heard that you can see the northern lights here sometimes!

Nahmakanta West Beach


Nahmakanta West Beach (ME Mile 2151.2): A small side trail leads to the shore of Nahmakanta Lake. Behind the shoreline and into the trees are a couple tenting spots. There’s a picnic table and a couple beach chairs chained to the trees that locals have left for hikers to use. If you camp here, make sure to watch the sunset! It’s absolutely beautiful!

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Comments 2

  • Avatar
    Mark Stanavage : Feb 7th

    Your Beaver Brook picture is so beautiful, it makes me want to reconsider starting in February 2023. You take wonderful photos!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Kirsten Fraude : Feb 7th

      Thank you so much!!

      Reply

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