View Full Version : Permits

10-20-2012, 16:52
Hello fellow 2013 thru hikers!
I will be traveling from my native state of CA to thru hike the AT tentatively in April, 2013 starting at Springer Mt. I noticed there are a few parks that require one to reserve permits as well as to sleep at designated shelters. I am an environmentally conscientious hiker and understand the leave no trace principals but would like to avoid shelters when possible and essentially stealth camp.

1) how are permits best obtained for the 4 national parks...especially Baxter?

2) has anyone been successful at stealth camping (sleeping off trail only) without being caught by roaming park rangers?

Odd Man Out
10-20-2012, 17:58
GSMNP will have a new system where you have to pay for the permit. I'm not sure if anyone knows exactly how this will work yet. You must stay in the shelter if there is room, otherwise you tent next to the shelter.
SNP you self register at the station where you enter the park (same as GSMNP has been). Dispersed camping is allowed as long as you are far enough from the road, buildings, trails, and water sources.
Baxter is a state park, not a national park. Register for a camp site when you get there. You must stay at your registered site.
There is no 4th park I am aware of, unless you are talking about HF/C&OC NHP's. Camping not allowed.

I wouldn't be surprised if your get some replies suggesting that illegal camping is not environmentally conscientious. Much of the AT allows dispersed camping (i.e. the other definition of stealth camping - legal but not at designated camp sites) so you won't usually have to stay in shelters. Places where you are required to camp at designated sites or shelters are typically are in high use and/or environmentally fragile areas (GSMNP, BSP, the Whites). Ignoring those regulations will Leave a Trace, is illegal, and not something an environmentally conscientious thru hiker would plan on doing. Of course that's just my opinion. Others will no doubt chime in.

10-20-2012, 19:42
What O.M.O. said, dito. Unlike the wild west, the AT is a narrow strip of wilderness which passes near a lot of urban areas. There are sections which get a lot of heavy use. These are the areas which have camping restrictions and one should follow the rules. On the southern sections, up to Virginia, you will find many camp sites just off the trail which are not offical "designated" sites. Once into Virginia, your onto a more narrow and rocky ridge walk and off trail camping opertunities are more limited. Once into New England, the terrain is such that camping at designated sites is almost the only practical (and often legal) way to go.

No doubt you will eventually find that camping at or near shelters is the way to go. The ammenities are hard to pass up, such as established and cleared tent sites, picnic table more often then not, reliable water source is usually near-by and the all important privy. To say nothing of the social aspect of hanging out with your fellow hikers.

10-20-2012, 20:49
If you are through hiking all of the parks have some options for thru hikers. The place that really takes things serious is Baxter State Park, get caught stealthing and you most likely are banned from the park and fined. On the other hand they do have thru hiker campsite, first come first served until its full and if you talk to the rangers, they will usually find a place for you to stay. The key is with Baxter is dont try to pull a "fast one".

10-20-2012, 22:23
Baxter was about as feeble as the rest of 'em.

10-21-2012, 16:13
Thank you everyone for your in put on permits. It appears from AWOL's book anyway that as you approach the parks and can better pin point your arrival time, you can call and reserve a permit. It sounds like you set base camp at a designated sight at Baxter and plan an out and back to the summit.

Regarding stealth camping, refer to Ray Jardin. My idea was to feel like I was indeed in the wilderness as much as possible. I was intending to cook and use the privy at the shelters, but "bivy" well off the beaten path to avoid the stench of the privy and looking at sights heavily impacted by humans. I understand the leave no trace policy. I don't build fires or modify sights, just sleep where there's a natural clearing. The problem with designated shelters, is that their spacing may not be synchronized with you daily planned trail miles