Did you know you can camp on the Appalachian Trail without a car? Yes, it’s possible. In this article, I’ll show you how to hit the trail, what to do, and how to get there.

  • How to start your journey
  • Things to do on the trail
  • Ways to reach the trail without a car
  • Packing essentials for your trip

How to Plan a Camping Trip on Appalachian

How to Plan a Camping Trip on Appalachian

Planning a camping trip on the Appalachian Trail means preparing for an adventure in one of nature’s most beautiful settings.

Choosing Your Trail Section

The Appalachian Trail spans over 2,000 miles, so picking a section is your first task. Look at maps and guides to find parts that match your hiking level and interests.

Popular sections offer unique landscapes and challenges. Remember, some areas are more accessible by public transport than others.

Getting There Without a Car

Public transport can take you close to many trailheads. Research buses and trains that serve the area. Some shuttle services and trail organizations help hikers reach their starting points. Planning this part well ensures you start your hike smoothly.

Packing Essentials

Packing light yet comprehensive is key. Your backpack should include a tent, sleeping bag, water filter, food supplies, and a first-aid kit. Also, don’t forget a map, compass, and any needed permits. Weather-appropriate clothing and a sturdy pair of boots are must-haves.

Planning Your Stops

The trail has shelters and campsites along the way. Decide how much ground you want to cover each day and where you’ll rest at night. Some prefer the simplicity of shelters, while others opt for tent camping. Always have a backup plan in case spots are full.

Transportation to the Appalachian Trail

Getting to the Appalachian Trail without a car involves some planning, but it’s definitely achievable. Let’s explore the ways to reach the trailhead and start your adventure.

Options for Reaching the Trail from Major Cities

Many major cities near the Appalachian Trail offer public transportation options to get you close to the trail. Research online for buses and trains that stop near your chosen trail section.

From New York City to the Appalachian Trail

  • Metro-North Railroad: Take the train from Grand Central Terminal to the Appalachian Trail stop on the Harlem Line, directly accessing the trail at Pawling, NY. The trip takes approximately 2 hours, and a one-way off-peak ticket costs around $20-$30.

From Washington D.C. to Harpers Ferry

  • Amtrak: The Capitol Limited line from Washington D.C. to Harpers Ferry, WV, offers direct access to the trail. The journey lasts about 1.5 hours, and prices vary, starting from $15-$30 for a one-way ticket. Check the Amtrak website for the most current schedule and pricing.
  • MARC Train: The Brunswick Line runs to Harpers Ferry. Note this service primarily caters to commuters with limited weekend service.

From Atlanta to the Appalachian Trail

  • Greyhound Bus: Take a bus from Atlanta to Gainesville, GA. From Gainesville, you can access the trail’s southern starting point at Springer Mountain with a local shuttle service. Bus fares range, so check the Greyhound website for the latest pricing.
  • Local Shuttle Services: Some shuttle services specifically cater to hikers. These can vary in price and should be arranged in advance.

Local Shuttles and Taxis

  • Trail Town Shuttles: Many towns near the Appalachian Trail have local shuttle services designed for hikers. These shuttles can take you from the nearest bus or train stop directly to the trailhead. Shuttle services usually charge a fee based on distance; it’s best to contact them ahead of time for rates and schedules.

Using Public Transportation Apps

  • Apps like Google Maps and Rome2Rio: These apps are invaluable for planning your trip to the Appalachian Trail. They provide routes, schedules, and sometimes pricing for buses, trains, and connecting services. Always double-check with the service provider for the most accurate information.

What to Pack

  1. Backpack: A durable, fitting backpack to carry all your items.
  2. Tent: Lightweight and weather-appropriate tent for shelter.
  3. Sleeping Bag: Comfortable sleeping bag suitable for the trail’s climate.
  4. Water Filter: Portable water filter for clean drinking water.
  5. Headlamp: Reliable headlamp with extra batteries for visibility at night.
  6. First-Aid Kit: Basic first-aid supplies for minor injuries.
  7. Map and Compass: Essential for navigation along the trail.
  8. Food Supplies: Non-perishable, high-energy food items.
  9. Cooking Gear: Small stove and pot for preparing meals.
  10. Clothing: Weather-appropriate clothing, including layers for warmth.
  11. Rain Gear: Waterproof jacket and pants to stay dry.
  12. Hiking Boots: Sturdy boots with good ankle support.
  13. Multi-Tool: Handy for repairs and unexpected needs.
  14. Sun Protection: Sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat to protect against the sun.
  15. Trash Bags: For packing out trash and keeping the trail clean.

Recommended Camping Spots

The trail has designated shelters and camping areas. These spots are ideal because they’re designed to minimize impact on the environment. Check maps and guides to plan where you’ll stay each night.

  1. Max Patch, North Carolina – A stunning bald with 360-degree mountain views, perfect for watching sunsets or sunrises. It’s a popular spot, so come early to find a good place to set up your tent.
  2. Blood Mountain, Georgia – The highest peak on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail offers challenging hikes and rewarding views. There are shelters and spots to camp near the summit, giving you a true wilderness experience.
  3. Grayson Highlands, Virginia – Known for its wild ponies, beautiful meadows, and rocky outcrops. Camping here lets you enjoy unique landscapes and maybe even some pony encounters.


I hope this guide helps you get ready for your adventure on the Appalachian Trail. With the right preparation, reaching the trail by public transport and knowing what to pack, you’re set for a memorable journey. The recommended camping spots offer just a glimpse of the beauty awaiting you.