View Full Version : Tents at shelters ?

06-12-2009, 11:07
We plan on doing part of the AT in the Smoky Mountain Nation Park in October and I was wondering if we could set up tents near the shelters or if we have to stay in the shelter if there is room?

We dont know how many of us we will have but it may be 5-6 or it may be 15-20 Boys Scouts and adult leaders.


Rain Man
06-12-2009, 11:37
We dont know how many of us we will have but it may be 5-6 or it may be 15-20 Boys Scouts and adult leaders.

To my knowledge, you cannot legally (nor morally) take 15-20 Boy Scouts plus leaders in a single group nor stay at a single shelter.

But, why not go to the horse's mouth? Contact the GSMNP Ranger Station, which issues the permits, and ask them. Then do what they say (which too many Boy Scout groups don't bother to do, sad to say).

Have a good time (learning and obeying the rules).



06-12-2009, 11:48
Thru-hiker seaon (with spaces reserved for AT thru-hikers) is over by the end of June. You'll need a reservation with permit for each shelter, and you'll be expected to stay inside the shelter.

If you want to tent, consider the Benton MacKaye Trail in the Park. It will give you plenty of chances for experiencing the Park, both in the mountaintop AND in the valleys, a much better cross-section than the AT. And there are plenty of tentsites along the way.

BTW, to the best of my knowledge, group size for permits is limited to 8 hikers.

Check here (http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/backcountry-camping.htm) for details.

06-12-2009, 19:23
Just to let you know, I (and many, many other hikers) HATE it when big groups come and they put people in shelters. Tenting around the shelters is fine, but you can not put people in them them- the shelters are for solo hikers and groups of two (maybe even three).

06-12-2009, 19:25
You cannot take a group and sleep in the shelter- shelters are for solo hikers and groups of two (maybe even three during the slow season). I hate it when groups sleep in shelters.

06-12-2009, 19:26
Sorry, didn't mean to write that twice, but I thought it didn't post.

06-12-2009, 22:21
The National Park link gives all of the info; I also find the ALDHA companion boils it down even simpler:

"Backcountry Permits—Backcountry permits must be obtained before entering the
park. A self-registration facility is located near the pay phone at the Fontana Dam
visitors center (page 30). Forms and a deposit box are also available at the “Fontana
Hilton” for northbounders. Southbounders—if you do not get a permit at Bluff
Mountain Outfitters in Hot Springs, you must trek 1.3 miles east on Tenn. 32 from
Davenport Gap to the park’s Big Creek Ranger Station. Section-hikers (considered
to be anyone not beginning and ending a hike 50 miles outside the park) can make
reservations by calling the GSMNP Reservations Office at (865) 436-1231. Anyone
caught without a permit will be issued a $125 ticket!"

Shelter Policy—Park regulations require that you stay in a shelter. While other
backpackers must make reservations to use backcountry shelters, thru-hikers are
exempt from this regulation, and, from Mar 15 to Jun 15, four spaces at each A.T.
shelter are reserved for thru-hikers. If the shelter is occupied by reservation and four
thru-hikers, however, additional thru-hikers should tent close by and use the bear
cables. Because only thru-hikers are permitted to tent-camp at shelters, the burden
is on them to make room inside shelters for others who have reserved space.

And yes, the limit on a backcountry group is 8.

06-13-2009, 00:19
Tenting around the shelters is fine

Not in the park. Many of the shelters there don't really have tenting areas because it isn't allowed unless you are a thru-hiker, and they will fine you if they catch you.