Exploring the Best Campsites Along the Appalachian Trail-Appalachian Outfitters

Exploring the Best Campsites Along the Appalachian Trail

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What are the top campsites on the Appalachian Trail you’ll come across? The AT offers 260 different shelters and 125 campsites to stay the night, and we narrowed down our selections to the best of the best so that you can plan your route accordingly.

Camping Spots on the Appalachian Trail: Before You Set Out

The Appalachian Trail covers almost 2,200 miles of terrain across 14 different states. With 260 different shelters and 125 established campsite locations available at your disposal, selecting just a few is by no means an easy task, though we tried to do our very best. It’s also worth noting that the Trail is open to visitors year-round. If you plan on hiking it outside the prime late spring to early fall window, check out our seasonal hiking tips to help you on the journey. 

Before we begin our list in earnest, however, it’s important to stress that various rules and regulations govern each campsite and location along the trail. In the interest of sustainable camping (and generally being good to your fellow hiker), make sure you familiarize yourself with these and observe them at all times since violating these rules may result in hefty fines.

Plum Orchard Shelter, Georgia

Starting off our list somewhat counterintuitively is the last shelter you will encounter when hiking through Georgia. The Plum Orchard Shelter offers three-story lodging very close to the state border and is a popular overnight destination for hikers who wish to rest before tackling Dicks Creek Gap – a very popular stretch for hiking, trekking, and camping – the next day.

Nantahala Outdoor Center, North Carolina

Another of our favorite campsites on the Appalachian Trail, the NOC makes for much more than just a camping spot or overnight lodging. While sleeping in a well-maintained, comfortable cabin is certainly an option (which doesn’t happen that often on the Trail!), their sprawling campus offers all kinds of accommodations and activities. 

Clarendon Shelter, Vermont

Located relatively near the northern start of the AT, in its original form, Clarendon was originally constructed over a hundred years ago. While its structure may have undergone significant change, the absolutely incredible nature around it remains as stunning as ever – Clarendon is situated on a calm hillside pasture next to a waterfall and a freshwater stream. It’s the perfect stop for adventurers wanting to thru-hike the entire trail.

Quarry Gap Shelter, Pennsylvania

Commonly referred to as one of the best Appalachian Trail campsites, Quarry Gap Shelter comes close to the midpoint of the AT. This is chiefly due to the unending dedication of its primary caretaker, Jim Staunch, who poured his heart and soul into embellishing this quaint little shelter. Its renowned reputation precedes it, as on the way there, you’re sure to pass by many hikers who will sing high praises of Quarry Gap.

Roan Mountain, Tennessee

Don’t let the relatively low placement on this list fool you – Roan Mountain is an absolute gem. The entire State Park offers innumerable campgrounds, shelters, and RV camping spots to cater to your needs. With dense forests and stunningly beautiful mountains all around, you can’t ask for a better spot to stop at on your hike. Even packing your backpack and coming here to spend a lovely weekend away isn’t a bad idea, as it takes just 2 hours to drive to Roan Mountain from nearby Knoxville.

Abrams Creek Campground, Tennessee

A ways down and west from Roan Mountain lies one of the most cherished sections of the AT – the Great Smoky Mountains. Known for their incredible biodiversity, scenic beauty, and old-growth forests, the Smokies enjoy universal approval as one of the best national parks in the US. It’s no surprise, then, that the area can be overcrowded with tourists. 

For that reason, we chose the Abrams Creek Campground as one of our top campsites on the Appalachian Trail. Due to its more remote location, it provides a more secluded camping experience, allowing you to truly immerse yourself and relax among unspoiled nature in its truest form. 

Catawba Mountain, Virginia

Finishing off our list with a classic – located atop the Catawba Mountain is the McAfee Knob, which places very high on most hikers’ bucket lists due to the spectacular and iconic views it offers. Trekking up the Catawba Mountain remains one of the most popular destinations for hikers in the United States, and while many consider it an out-and-back hike, camping options in surrounding shelters are available. Just be sure to comply with the local regulations, as most of the area in the immediate vicinity of the McAfee Knob is not open to camping.

The Takeaway

Hiking and camping on the Appalachian Trail can truly be the adventure of a lifetime, though with so much to see, it’s easy to get lost, literally and figuratively. However, as long as you’ve got the right Appalachian Trail gear and know where you’re going, all that remains is to simply put one foot in front of the other while taking in the gorgeous views.

You may also read: How to Plan a Family-Friendly Outdoor Adventure

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