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  1. #1
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    Default Where to get camping info for the AT?

    I know that different sections of the AT have different rules WRT where you may legally camp. I often see this fact referenced, but I don't recall ever seeing a good resource for actually getting this info. Some of these rules I am familiar with (GSMNP, SNP, NF). Others I'm not so sure about. Let's assume that most of the time I will want to camp legally at the end of the hiking day where ever I end up - presumably not at a shelter (i.e. dispersed camping). As the trail goes in and out of dozens/hundreds of different jurisdictions (National Park, State Park, National Forest, State Forest, State Preserve, private land, etc...) how does one typically figure out out the camping rules for where you happen to be at any given time as they are constantly changing?

    1. Rules are posted on signs as you pass from one management area to another:
    "Private Property -No Camping Allowed" or "Welcome to insert state name here - Camp only at shelters" or "Welcome to the Butthead National Forest - Dispersed Camping Allowed" for example

    2. Rules are indicated in one or more of the major guide books (AT Guide, TH Companion, AT Data Book, etc...) which I don't yet own, but when I do, it will tell me all I need to know:
    "After you pass Butthead Gap, 3 miles North of Butthead Shelter, you will be entering the Butthead State Game Area where dispersed camping is not allowed, until you cross over into the Butthead National Forest 8 miles later when you cross the Butthead River." for example

    3. You look up the rules for each area before your hike and find the boundaries on your map which you carry with you. (I'm guessing this is not used much).

    4. Other???

    I'm not so much looking for the info, but rather a comprehensive source of information.

  2. #2
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    Default

    For the sections I hike frequently, I have purchased the official Appalachian Trail guidebooks and maps:

    https://www.atctrailstore.org/catalo...tid=0&compid=1

    The guidebooks and maps make it very clear what the specific camping regulations are for various areas. For example, on my upcoming section hike from Rockfish Gap to Harpers Ferry, the rules are uniform and well documented within Shenandoah National Park. For the areas outside the park, my guidebook clearly identifies areas closed to camping and the maps have indications as well.

    I know that most thru hikers will not carry these type of guidebooks. I am not sure whether the A.T. Guide and the other various guides for thru hikers are as comprehensive regarding no camping zones. For me having the guidebooks is great because I get a lot of information on natural and human history of the area and I don't mind carrying the books for sections. I'd probably feel differently on a thru hike.
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  3. #3
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    In my experience, I assume you can camp anywhere as long as it's 200 feet from the trail or a water source and below tree line or alpine zone, UNLESS the trail is signed otherwise and normally, if applicable, it will be usually at the trail head. If you want to know beforehand, the internet is a good source assuming you know what the jurisdiction is of the area you plan on camping in, i.e. GSMNP, SNP, WMNF etc. Guide books and maps are best but they are prone to becoming outdated as they sit in your bookshelf year after year. Rules do change, especially in the heavily used park sections.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prime Time View Post
    In my experience, I assume you can camp anywhere as long as it's 200 feet from the trail or a water source and below tree line or alpine zone, UNLESS the trail is signed otherwise and normally, if applicable, it will be usually at the trail head. If you want to know beforehand, the internet is a good source assuming you know what the jurisdiction is of the area you plan on camping in, i.e. GSMNP, SNP, WMNF etc. Guide books and maps are best but they are prone to becoming outdated as they sit in your bookshelf year after year. Rules do change, especially in the heavily used park sections.
    You forgot to say, "and in the woods." Some places in the mid-Atlantic the corridor isn't even that wide, or it runs through meadows and hedgerows. I'm thinking of the stretch between Darlington Shelter and Boiling Springs, PA.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by rafe View Post
    You forgot to say, "and in the woods." Some places in the mid-Atlantic the corridor isn't even that wide, or it runs through meadows and hedgerows. I'm thinking of the stretch between Darlington Shelter and Boiling Springs, PA.
    Very true and I could add "if you can". To get 200 feet off the trail in parts of the White Mountains would require a Bulldozer.

  6. #6
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prime Time View Post
    Very true and I could add "if you can". To get 200 feet off the trail in parts of the White Mountains would require a Bulldozer.
    Note that the blanket 200 foot from the trail "rule" in the Whites only applies to Wilderness Areas. Likewise, there is absolutely no blanket 200 foot "rule" in the Whites regarding water sources, though good LNT practices many lead you a aide by those recommendations.

    There are plenty of restrictions for areas above tree line, around shelters, near roads and in specific areas of course. Often times these area signed, but not always. For simplicity sake (and partly out of ignorance) some of the AMC signs suggest blanket rules that simply don't exist.

    Same thing for the AT thru hiking guides.

    if you see someone camping next to the trial alongside a flowing stream don't assume they are camping illegally.
    Last edited by rickb; 03-28-2014 at 03:15.

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