permits and regulations

No fees or paid permits are required to access the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) for simply walking, but some New England campsites ​impose fees and you must obtain permits for backcountry camping in two national parks on the A.T.

More information about regulations pertaining to camping and fires along the A.T. can be found here.

A permit is not needed to begin a thru-hike of the entire A.T.,
but you are strongly recommended to participate in the voluntary thru-hiker registration.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee/North Carolina)

  • Thru-Hiker Permit: Hikers who meet the definition of an A.T. thru-hiker (those who begin and end their hike at least 50 miles outside the park and only travel on the A.T. in the park) are eligible for a thru-hiker permit of $20 (valid for 38 days from the date issued for an up to 8 day hike through the Park). Permits are available here. A permit may also be obtained in person at the park’s Backcountry Office (at the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg) or over the phone; with permits issued by fax, mail or email. Hikers staying overnight in the backcountry are required to have a printed copy of the permit. For more information, call 865.436.1297.

  • Shelter Policy: Great Smoky Mountains National Park regulations require that you stay in a shelter. While other backpackers must make reservations to use backcountry shelters, thru-hikers are exempt. From March 15 to June 15, four spaces at each A.T. shelter are reserved for thru-hikers. If the shelter is full, thru-hikers can tent close by. Only thru-hikers are allowed to tent next to shelters, so they are responsible for making room for those who have reservations in the shelters.


Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

  • Backcountry Permit: While there is no charge for permits, they are required of all backcountry travelers. The permit can be obtained at visitor contact stations during business hours. Permits for A.T. long-distance hikers are available by self-registration on the Trail at the park's north and south entry points. If you are planning your visit well in advance (allow two full weeks), permits are also available by mail from Park Headquarters. For more information, click here

  • Shelter and Hut Regulations: Two types of structures are near the A.T.: day-use (“shelters”) and overnight-use (“huts”). Camping at or near day-use shelters is prohibited. Huts are available to long-distance hikers (those spending at least three consecutive nights in SNP) as space is available. Tenting at huts is permitted in designated campsites; all huts within the park have campsites available.


Pennsylvania Game Commission (Pennsylvania)

  • Fluorescent Orange Requirement Nov. 15 - Dec 15: On state game lands in Pennsylvania (much of the A.T. between the and Delaware Water Gap (roughly the northern 2/3 of the state), all hunters and non-hunters are required to wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined, or a fluorescent orange hat, from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15 (except on Sundays). The orange material must be visible from all angles (360 degrees). For more information about hunting ssafety along the A.T. visit www.appalachiantrail.org/hunting.

  • Camping Regulations: Only thru-hikers (defined as those "walking the Appalachian Trail from point of beginning to an exit, which is not the place of beginning) may camp on Pennsylvania Game Commission lands, and these hikers must camp within 200 ft of A.T., at least 500 ft from a stream or spring.


Green Mountain National Forest/Green Mountain Club (Vermont)

  • Campsite Fees: The Green Mountain Club (GMC) maintains the A.T. throughout the state of Vermont. Fees are collected at some high-use campsites in this area to help defray field-program costs and support shelter and Trail maintenance along the A.T. in Vermont. A GMC caretaker may be present at other sites, but a fee is not charged. No permits or reservations are required.


Baxter State Park (Maine)

  • 2017 Appalachian Trail Long Distance Hiker Permit: A free A.T. long distance hiker permit will be required of all long distance A.T. hikers: Northbound Thru-Hikers (Nobos), Southbound Thru-Hikers (Sobos), Flip-Flop Thru-Hikers and Section-hikers.

    Long distance A.T. hikers must obtain a permit card in person at Baxter State Park Headquarters or Katahdin Stream Campground when the A.T. (Hunt Trail) opens for hiking. Once hikers obtain a permit card they will need to have it stamped at the Katahdin Stream Ranger Station.

    The number of AT-Hiker Permit Cards for 2017 are limited by a Baxter State Park quota: 3150 A.T. hikers. If all available permit cards have been issued for 2017, "The Birches" long distance hiker campsite will close for the year. Hikers may complete their hike by obtaining a Day Use Parking Reservation (DUPR) or campground reservation and enter the Park through the Togue Pond Gate.

    For more information, please visit the Baxter State Park webpage or refer to their recent announcement
  • Thru-Hiker Campsite Fees: Those hiking the A.T. and walking more than 100 miles continuously on foot before entering the park are eligible to stay at The Birches site, but must still pay a camping fee. If the site is full, hikers must wait for space to become available.

  • Non-Long Distance Hiker Campsite Fees: To camp overnight, a reservation is required and a fee is charged.

  • Car Parking Reservation: To access Baxter State Park by vehicle for a day-hike, a day use parking reservation is strongly recommended, as there are a finite number of parking spots. Once all parking spots are full, you cannot enter the park.

  • To make parking or camping reservations, click here.
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special uses

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a footpath and corridor of land under the overall administration of the National Park Service. However, more than 60% passes through lands owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service and many other federal, state, and local agencies. Rules and regulations may vary in different areas, but overarching trailwide policies exist. 
 
The A.T. corridor is managed so those who experience it on foot can intimately connect with the wild, scenic, and natural elements of the environment.
 
To protect the Appalachian Trail and the A.T. experience, certain incompatible activities, such as advertising or use of motorized vehicles, are prohibited. Some activities, including large-group use, events, or commercial filming, may take place only if a Special Use Permit has been issued by the appropriate land managing agencies.
 
To apply for permits, visit the websites of the land managing agencies or the Appalachian Trail Park Office