Plan and Prepare

Getting Ready for A.T. Group Hikes

May 26, 2022

An A.T. group hike is a special adventure that can help forge strong bonds among group members, introduce new hikers to the Trail, and create memories that last a lifetime. However, group outings also take some advance planning and special considerations when compared to solo camping, so we’re offering guidance to help you and your group have a safe and low-impact outing on the Trail.

Tips and Guidelines for Group Camping on the A.T.

Photo by Horizonline Pictures

  • The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) considers a group on the A.T. to be six to 10 people traveling together, including leaders. 10 is the maximum size for overnight trips on the A.T. The limit for groups doing a day hike (not camping overnight) is 25 people including trip leaders.
    • If your group size exceeds the above recommendations, divide into groups of 10 or fewer, camp in separate locations, and register each of the groups separately.
    • If you’re unable to divide into groups of 10 or fewer, you may be able to find local, front country campgrounds to base out of and complete day hikes on the Trail instead.
    • Group size limits for both overnight and day hiking may be smaller in certain areas, such as in federally designated wilderness areas, so make sure to research any special regulations before heading out.
  • Your group should check and follow all local land management guidelines. You may need a permit from a state forest, park, or other agency depending on where you will be camping.
    • If you are not sure who the local land manager is for your planned trip on the A.T., please contact us at!

  • Leave A.T. shelters for individual hikers. Groups should plan to use personal shelter systems (tents, tarps, hammocks, etc.) on their trip.
  • Take care to keep group members together. The group should plan to travel at the pace of the slowest member, wait for everyone at trail junctions, and assign one trip leader to act as the “sweep” — the person that always brings up the rear.


Follow Leave No Trace Principles

Photo by Horizonline Pictures

  • Groups can have a disproportionate physical impact on the A.T. environment, treadway, and facilities. Traveling and camping in small groups help reduce that impact.
  • Be mindful of keeping your equipment consolidated and voices quiet at shelters, campsites, rest spots, and vistas to help preserve the sense of solitude and remoteness for other hikers who encounter your group.
  • Take extra care to dispose of dishwater properly, especially if you are required to use soap or bleach. Pack out all food waste and trash.
    • Also emphasize to your group that only human waste and toilet paper can be put in privies — all trash, personal hygiene products, and wipes should be packed out.
  • Plan to camp only at designated campsites or near shelters. Many designated camping areas along the Trail have group-specific areas – use these when available.
  • Do not build any structures along the Trail or at campsites, such as survival huts or forts. Instead, leave the Trail and campsites in the same condition as you found them (or better).
  • Always pack the 10 essentials, including a first aid kit that can accommodate the needs of your group. Consider taking a Wilderness First Aid or First Responder course before leading a group hike.


Groups hiking in Vermont or New Hampshire should also contact the Green Mountain Club (VT) or the Appalachian Mountain Club (NH).

Give Back to the Trail

Participating as a group in a volunteer project along the A.T. is a great way to give back, learn about the maintenance and management of the Trail, and bond as a team. Scouts may even be able to count their volunteer time toward a new badge!

Volunteer Today

With proper preparation and attention to Leave No Trace principles, a group hike on the A.T. can lay the foundation for a lifetime of responsible outdoor recreation and introduce new audiences to the wonders of the Trail, as well as work with the rest of your group to foster responsible recreation practices.


Learn More Helpful Hike Preparation Tips

Learn more about safety and preparing for your hike using our Hiker Resource Library. You can also catch up on our 2022 Hiker Preparation series, which covers topics from food storage to picking out where to camp along the Trail.