Transportation Along the AT: The Section Hiker’s Dilemma

Over the past 3 years, I’ve section hiked more than three-quarters of the Appalachian Trail, stretching from Monson, ME down to Hot Springs, NC. Through section hiking, by necessity, I’ve become rather adept at patching together public transportation and shuttles to plan my trips (as well as bail partway through ill-fated hikes). I’m happy to share what I know and the resources I’ve used, as a springboard for future section hikers. However, while I say section hikers, I’ve known more than a few thru-hikers who wanted to get off trail for a few days for a big city adventure or to visit friends or family. These are options for them as well.

When I first started planning my section hikes, I scoured the internet for resources related to section hiking transportation  and come up rather empty handed. Recently, I’ve found some resources (ATC, AWOL’s guide, Thru-Hiker’s Companion, various blogs, a recent Appalachian Trials post) but in general, I found them to be limited and often unaware of local bus lines and how to use them to connect to larger transportation systems (like Amtrak or Greyhound).

I’ve used a variety of search techniques that work for me:

1) Using a guide (e.g. AWOL’s, Thru-hiker’s), I compile a list of towns close to the trail along my desired route.

2) For Greyhound and Amtrak info, I use their station locator tools, combined with Google Maps. Don’t rely on Google Maps alone though; sometimes the information is outdated or incorrect. If there’s a question, always go to the actual company’s website and find the station information and schedule there. This has narrowly saved me from missing my bus twice.

3) After figuring out the rough desired exit point from the trail, if transportation is rather far away, I look into local buses, using “town, state” plus “bus” or “transit” for my search terms.

4) For flights, I use Google Flights to purchase my tickets and then use a guide to figure out shuttle transportation to the trail.

Blurred Amtrak train passing by

Photo thanks to Flickr

Disclaimer: I travel to the Appalachian Trail from New England, so my travel plans and transportation explored reflect this. Also, these are not the only trail towns with transportation and I’m sure there are other ways to get to and from those towns (guides can be helpful in some instances for this). But these are the methods I found and explored based on my section hiking needs, many of which were not clearly noted anywhere I looked. Hopefully, they can provide a good starting point for others.

Hand holding a sign saying "South" in front of a blue sky

Photo thanks to Flickr

Some of these transportation options will require you to hitchhike or get shuttles to access the transportation, but they’re relatively close to the trail and are often the only way to get off trail between large towns with public transit that links to cities and larger systems. Note: the links below for Amtrak, Greyhound, and Peter Pan go to the individual station not the main page, so you can get the address should you need it.

Transportation to/from the trail, listed South to North:

  • Hot Springs, NC: No buses or trains arrive in or nearby Hot Springs. You can take a plane into/out of Asheville, NC; there are many shuttles available to take you the ~35 miles between Asheville and Hot Springs.
  • Marion, VA: A Greyhound station is available in town; the local bus goes into town from Mt Roger visitor center/Partnership shelter.
  • Pearisburg, VA: A Greyhound station is available 40 miles away in Wytheville; that bus allows travel to Charlotte, NC, where there’s an airport. There are multiple local shuttle options. Amtrak is available 25 miles away in Blacksburg.
  • Daleville, VA: Greyhound station is available 12 miles away in Roanoke; there are local shuttles available.
  • Waynesboro, VA: Both Greyhound and Amtrak out of Charlottesville, VA ; there are local shuttles available.
  • Harpers Ferry, WV: Amtrak is only ~1 mile from the trail.
  • Port Clinton/Hamburg, PA: hitchhike or call a taxi to get into Hamburg from Port Clinton; there’s a a local bus that stops at the Lowe’s that goes to Reading . In Reading, there’s a Greyhound.
  • Delaware Water Gap, PA: Greyhound station, piggybacking on Martz/Trailways buses, is in town ~0.5 miles from the trail.
  • Peekskill, NYMetro North commuter train into NYC is ~5 miles from the Appalachian Market in Garrison, NY, near Graymoor; all transition options available in NYC.
  • Pawling, NYMetro North commuter train into NYC; the station is directly on trail. All transit options available in NYC.
  • Great Barrington, MAPeter Pan station is ~3 miles from the Rt 7 road crossing. Peter Pan offers access to Boston and Baltimore.
    • Can use BRTA for transport near/around the trail
  • North Adams & Williamstown, MANorth Adams Peter Pan station ~2 miles & Williamstown Peter Pan station ~ 3 miles from the Phelps Ave/Rt 2 intersection. Peter Pan offers access to Boston and Baltimore.
    • Can use BRTA for transport near/around the trail
  • Bennington, VTThe VT Trans Lines bus is available ~5 miles away from the Rt 9 road crossing. It is unique in that it connects Burlington, Rutland, Manchester, Arlington, and Bennington to Albany, which has both Greyhound & Amtrak. They also offer transportation between Hanover, White River Junction, Killington, and Rutland.
  • Manchester & Rutland, VTFrom both Manchester and Rutland, you can use local buses to get to Burlington; from there, the Mega Bus goes to Boston. All transit options available in Boston.
    • For Manchester to Rutland, use the MVRTD’s The Bus.
    • For Rutland to Burlington, use the ACTR
    • Additionally, for Rutland to Burlington, Rutland to Albany, or Rutland to White River Junction/Hanover, use the VT Trans Lines.
  • Sherburne, VT: VT Trans Lines stops ~ 1 mile from the trail at The Inn at Long Trail/Sherburne Pass.
  • Hanover, NH: Greyhound is available right on trail in town. Amtrak is available ~5 miles away at White River Junction.
  • Lincoln, NH: Greyhound is available at Tedeschi’s food shop and gas; it’s ~5 miles from The Flume parking area and 5.5 miles when you walk under I-93. Additionally, Concord Coach, which goes to Boston/Logan Airport, stops at Lincoln’s 7-11.
    • You can get to Lincoln via the AMC shuttle from most of the Whites.
  • Pinkham Notch, NH: Greyhound is available directly on trail.
  • Gorham, NH: Greyhound is available in town, ~5 miles from the trail at Rt 2 road crossing, by the White Mountains Lodge & Hostel.
  • Maine (somewhere that isn’t Millinocket/Katahdin):
    • For Rangeley, Stratton/Eustis, and Caratunk: the closest bus station (Concord Coach and Greyhound) is in Waterville, ME, 1.25-1.5 hours south by car .
    • For Monson: Bangor is only 1.25 hours southeast by car ; Bangor has Concord Coach , Amtrak, and Greyhound.
    • Most of the hostels in this area are used to doing longer distance shuttles. I used this to my advantage during my section hikes in Maine.

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Comments 6

  • Katherine : Nov 27th

    why do you give hours instead of miles for those last few entries (Maine)? Driving, hiking?

    • Aubri Drake : Nov 27th

      Hello, Katherine. Originally, I went with drive time in hours for Maine because the miles often drive slow because it’s a lot of back roads, but I’ve updated it to add miles. Thanks for your feedback!

  • JASH : Nov 29th

    Read your post with amusement. I’ve been section hiking The AT for 24 years and have enjoyed every step. They have this invention called an automobile that I have found useful. The ATC has a Shuttler page on their web site that helps too.

    Happy Trails,

    JASH – Just A Section Hiker

    • Aubri Drake : Nov 29th

      You’re correct of course, JASH. Cars and driving are an option for some people and some section hikes. People can find the link to the ATC’s shuttle list here; that page also offers up some information about buses, planes, and trains near the trail. Guides may provide more frequent updates regarding shuttling information, though the ATC updates fairly frequently.

  • Erin Oliver : Feb 23rd

    Hi Aubri!

    Thanks for posting this. I’m a Cambridge-dwelling data nerd who wanted to find some info on section-hiking before beginning the day’s work. I am delighted to find your post and learn from your experiences.

    Quick question: Have you organized seasonally to avoid mud/weather? Are there any “lessons learned” around that that you would suggest for planning?

    Thanks again!

    • Aubri Drake : Feb 23rd

      Hi Erin,

      Since with section hikes, you can chose when to hike each area, I very much arrange my hikes accordingly. For example, most places recommend avoiding VT/NH/ME before Memorial Day due to the damage hikers can do to the trails when the trails are still absorbing the snow melt. Those states also tend to have black fly season in June/July – so you might want to avoid those times as well. IMHO, I tend to favor August and September for New England backpacking. Down south, you can start hiking a lot earlier, but you’ll need to keep in mind when most people set out NOBO and plan accordingly to avoid the crowds. It also gets hotter and more humid during the summer down south than it does up north. Personally, I’m an avid spring/fall hiker – high summer is too hot and winter is generally too cold for me.


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