Permits, Fees and Regulations

Permits, regulations, and fees

Most areas of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, more commonly referred to as simply the Appalachian Trail or “A.T.,” do not require fees or permits, but a few do. Know before you go.

Background: The A.T. is managed so those who experience it on foot can intimately connect with the wild, scenic, and natural elements of the environment. The A.T. is a footpath and corridor of land administered by the National Park Service (NPS). However, more than 60% of the A.T. passes through lands owned and managed by many other federal, state, and local agencies. Rules and regulations are set by land-managing agencies; however, the A.T. is managed through a cooperative management system, with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) as the lead coordinating partner working with the National Park Service, 80+ other land-managing agency partners, and 30 local trail-maintaining clubs. 


There is no single, Trail-wide permit for A.T. hikers (including for thru-hikers). While most of the Trail does not require any permit, permits are required in 3 places along the Trail: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shenandoah National Park, and Baxter State Park. 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee/North Carolina)

  • Backcountry permits:
    • Permits are required for all overnight stays in the backcountry and hikers must have a printed copy of their permit on them.
    • Hikers who meet the park’s unique 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 an A.T. Thru-hiker permit.
    • Those backpacking on the A.T. who do not meet the park’s definition of an A.T. thru-hiker must obtain a General Backcountry Permit.  
    • The Thru-hiker permit is $40. The General Backcountry permit is $8 per person, per night.  
    • Permits are valid for 38 days from the date issued, which provides 8 days/7 nights to hike through the park.  
  • Shelter Policy: Great Smoky Mountains National Park regulations require that you stay in a shelter if you have a reservation for a shelter site. While other backpackers must make reservations to use backcountry shelters, those meeting the park’s definition of thru-hiker 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.
  • Parking Fee for Vehicles: Valid parking tags are required for any vehicles parking in the park. Three tag durations are available for purchase for all vehicle sizes and types: Daily ($5), Weekly ($15), and Annual ($40). Parking tags are required for motorists who pass through the area or who park for less than 15 minutes. 

Learn More & Get a Smokies Permit

Shenandoah National Park (Virginia)

  • Backcountry Camping Permit:
    • Permits are required for all overnight stays in the backcountry and hikers must have a printed or digital copy of their permit on them. 
    • Permits must be obtained in advance through You can get a permit up to 90 days in advance of entering the park. Permits are not available for purchase in the park.
    • There is a $9 per person fee and a $6 reservation fee for Shenandoah permits. For example, a permit for one person would cost a total of $15. A permit for two people on the same reservation would cost $24.
  • 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.
  • Entry Fees: An entry fee of $30 per vehicle or $15 per person entering on foot must be purchased before entering the park. These passes can be purchased on when you reserve your backcountry permit or at one of the park’s entrance stations. More information about fees, and fee-free days, can be found here.

Learn More & Get a Shenandoah Permit

Baxter State Park (Maine)

  • A.T. Hiker Permits:
    • All A.T. hikers (all section hikers and thru-hikers, including southbounders) are required to obtain an A.T. Hiker permit before they climb Katahdin. 
    • The permit is free. 
    • It must be obtained in person at the Katahdin Stream Campground ranger station.  
    • The permit may be obtained up to seven days in advance of summiting Katahdin. 
  • Campgrounds:
    • The Birches: This is Baxter’s long-distance hiker campsite. Northbound A.T. hikers (both thru and section hikers) who have hiked to Baxter through the 100 Mile Wilderness without leaving the Trail corridor are eligible to stay at the Birches. The Birches is first come, first serve and costs $10. 
    • All other campgrounds: All other park campgrounds must be reserved in advance and cost $34 per night.
  • Vehicle Entry Fees: Folks planning to hike Katahdin as a day hike must have a day-use parking reservation to enter the park. Day-use parking reservations for Katahdin are $5. More information can be found on the park’s website.

Learn More About Visiting Baxter


Besides the permit areas mentioned above, entrance or parking fees are collected at some national and state parks that the Trail passes through. However, the vast majority of remote trailhead parking areas require no parking or entrance fees. The majority of the Trail itself also does not require any fees except for some overnight sites in New Hampshire and southern Maine.

White Mountain National Forest Campsite Fees (New Hampshire & southern Maine)  

  • The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) maintains the A.T. through the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire. The AMC collects fees of approximately $10/night per person at some of the high-use backcountry campsites they maintain. This revenue help defray field-program costs, support shelter and Trail maintenance along the A.T., and management of human waste at high-use sites. No permits or reservations are required.  
  • The AMC also operates full-service huts along the Trail in New Hampshire. These backcountry facilities help concentrate the incredible use that fragile, high-elevation environments see. Huts are staffed by a “croo” and offer potable water, bathroom facilities, and food. Reservations are recommended. Many huts offer several “work for stay” positions each night that thru-hikers can take advantage of. Work for stays allow thru-hikers to stay and eat for free at the huts in exchange for help around the hut, usually serving food and cleaning.  
  • The AMC also manages the A.T. in southern Maine north to Grafton Notch; a fee is charged for use of the Speck Pond overnight site in this section as well. 
  • Thru-hikers traveling through the White Mountains are eligible for the AMC’s Thru-Hiker Pass, which offers discounts on campsites and food at AMC facilities. 


Regulations are set by each of the 80+ different federal, state, or local land-managing agencies whose land the Appalachian Trail passes through. A list of these agencies that form the cooperative management system of the A.T. can be found on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s  Clubs and Partners page. 

Several hundred miles of the A.T. (and the surrounding corridor of land) in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine are located on Appalachian National Scenic Trail National Park Service land (APPA). These A.T. lands are generally those outside of national, state, and local parks and forests as well as state game lands and national wildlife refuges.  Visit the Appalachian National Scenic Trail website for Regulations on NPS A.T. lands; A.T.-specific regulations that apply to APPA corridor lands can be found in the Compendium of Orders. 

Camping and fire regulations along the A.T. have been compiled in our A.T. Camping Chart. 

Large-group use, events, and some commercial filming require permits.
(See “special uses” below.) 

Pennsylvania Game Commission Regulations (Pennsylvania) 


Overnight and Thru-Hiker Registration is available through ATCamp. Registration is voluntary and highly encouraged. Registering on ATCamp helps protect the A.T. by reducing overcrowding. Registration also enables hikers to sign up for urgent Trail alerts. 



Prohibitions and Activities That Require a Permit

Horses are not allowed on the A.T. except for a few remote segments of the A.T. in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (click here for more information) and the C&O Towpath in Maryland. Use or possession of mules, burros, goats and sheep, llamas, alpacas and other members of the Camelidae or Bovidae family are also prohibited. 

Bicycles and e-bikes are not allowed on the A.T. except where the A.T. follows the C&O Towpath in Maryland. The use of bicycles and other wheeled devices is not consistent with the A.T.’s  intended use as a primitive footpath and would not be sustainable on the relatively fragile footpath. 

Large-group use, events, and some commercial filming require permits. See “special uses” below.

Smoking is prohibited at all shelters on federal lands and many shelters on state lands. 

Special uses (commercial group use, filming, and other)

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a footpath and corridor of land under the overall administration of the NPS. However, more than 60% of the A.T. 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 policiesexist. 

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 some types of commercial filming, may take place only if a Special Use Permit has been issued by the appropriate land managing agencies. Guided hikes, overnight hikes, or other guided activities where participants are required to pay a fee may require a special use permit or commercial use authorization.

To apply for permits or CUAs or find what activities are prohibited, visit the website of the local land managing agency; for APPA lands (lands outside other federal, state, or other local lands the A.T. passes through) find rules and regulations governing these lands here and permit applications here.