Permits & Regulations
Permits, regulations, and fees
Most areas of the Appalachian Trail do not require fees or permits, but a few do. Know before you go.
Entrance or parking fees are collected at some national and state parks that the Trail passes through. Permits are required of overnight site users in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (with a small fee) and Shenandoah National Park (no fee). A free permit is required in Baxter State Park for all A.T. long-distance hikers. Some overnight sites, especially in New England, require fees. (See below for more details.)
Regulations are set by the local land-managing agency.
Listings of these agencies can be found on ATC’s site here and on the National Park Service site here.
Several hundred miles of the A.T. in all states from Virginia through Maine are located on what are known as National Park Service Appalachian Trail corridor lands. These are generally all A.T. lands outside of national, state, and local parks and forests. Comprehensive regulations for National Park Service A.T. lands can be found in the Compendium of Orders.
Camping and fire regulations along the A.T. can be found here.
Certain activities, including large-group use, events, and commercial filming, require permits.
(See “special uses” below.)
Smoking is prohibited at all shelters on federal lands and many shelters on state lands.
All overnight hikers, including thru-hikers, are encouraged to participate in a voluntary registration system, ATcamp. Registering will help you avoid crowded areas and will help preserve the Appalachian Trail.
Site-specific Regulations, Permits and Fees
The most notable regulations are listed here but are not comprehensive; be sure to check regulations with local agencies before you go.
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 campers. 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.
- Entry Fee: An entry fee of $30 per vehicle, valid for seven days, is collected at vehicle entrance stations in the park. More information about fees, and fee-free days, can be found here.
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 safety 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 & White Mountain National Forests (Vermont & New Hampshire)
- Campsite Fees: The Green Mountain Club (GMC) maintains the A.T. through the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont, and the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) maintains the A.T. through the White Mountain National Forest, respectively. These organizations collected fees of approximately $10/night per person at some of the high-use backcountry campsites they maintain in this area. These revenues 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.Note: 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.
Baxter State Park (Maine)
- Appalachian Trail Long Distance Hiker Permit: A free A.T. long distance hiker permit is 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 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 are limited by a Baxter State Park quota: 3150 A.T. hikers. If all available permit cards have been issued for the year, “The Birches” long distance hiker campsite will close for the year. In that case, 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.
- 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.
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 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. 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.