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  1. #1
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    Default Section hiking the AT thru SNP in May. Bad idea?

    I have read that it is not advisable to plan a section-hike along the AT from mid-May thru July because of the priority that is given to thru-hikers in shelters and at campsites. I was starting to plan a backpacking trip thru SNP and came across this information on the NPS website. Now I am debating on whether or not I should plan my trip there or decide on a different section of the AT, or another trail altogether. Unfortunately, my schedule doesn't allow me to be too flexible because I'm in school. I was looking to go when my spring semester ends in May, around the 15th or so. My only other option would be late August, but I think the weather will be too hot and the trail too busy with families and boyscouts. I guess I'm just seeking advice on whether my plan is going to be doable or if the AT will simply be too busy with thru-hikers. I mean is there really any perfect time to hike thru SNP? Any input would be appreciated. Thank you.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by getlost75 View Post
    [COLOR=black][FONT=Verdana][COLOR=black][FONT=Verdana]I have read that it is not advisable to plan a section-hike along the AT from mid-May thru July because of the priority that is given to thru-hikers in shelters and at campsites.
    this is absolutely false. all shelters in the park are first come, first served.. thru-hikers are not special

  3. #3
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    I have read that it is not advisable to plan a section-hike along the AT from mid-May thru July because of the priority that is given to thru-hikers in shelters and at campsites.
    All shelters have 4 spaces reserved for thru-hikers. The balance of the spaces (approx 8) are reserved for section-hikers with reservation permits.

    plus only thru-hikers are permitted to tent-camp at shelters.

    Panzer

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    Are we talking SNP or GSMNP?
    Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. -Kahlil Gibran

  5. #5
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    shenandoah

  6. #6
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    I would find a differnt part of VA to hike SNP is overused and too many road crossings. Skyline Drive is a constant car noise provider. The park sucks no views unless you go up Bear Fence Mountain ( I think that is it's name ).

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    plenty of views if you walk along road. plenty of overlooks

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    anyone can hike the AT anytime they want, there are no reservations, the shelters are first come first serve, just bring a tent incase the shelter is full or if it has some ignorant A hole in there saying that its only for thruhikers,
    if the later happens .
    make sure you put your tent right inside the shelter !

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Worldwide View Post
    I would find a differnt part of VA to hike SNP is overused and too many road crossings. Skyline Drive is a constant car noise provider. The park sucks no views unless you go up Bear Fence Mountain ( I think that is it's name ).
    I did the Shenandoah in early March when all the stores were closed and the car traffic nonexistent. Highly recommend a winter traverse unless you love the roar of motorcycles and the boundless rolling couch potato car traffic. A winter hike can be a somewhat solitary experience and you never know when you'll get hit with a much better kind of noise than traffic: howling high winter winds on the ridgetops. Maybe even some snow.

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    getlost75 Who cares if you want to hike SNP in may do it. The thru hikers will not be like oh your not a thru hiker than get out of the shelter. If one of them does than just steal their shoe laces while they are a sleep. Most thru hikers will want to sleep in their tent any way. So just bring a tent and dont be intimidated by them, they are hikers just like you but they are just going a little further. Good luck and go for it.

  11. #11
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    Having lived in VA, I can tell you first-hand that SNP gets VERY crowded during the summer with hikers and motorists. However, when I thru-hiked that area May 18 to 23, there was no problem. So, the sooner the better.

    Also, SNP probably has the best trail on the AT--very well maintained with good grades--but almost no views from the trail. For that, you need to roadwalk a bit. You WILL see plenty of wildlife; deer and black bear, if you're lucky. You do need a permit to hike in the park, but shelters are not reserved.

    Be sure to visit Big Meadows for resupply. They have a good display about the building of the AT and Skyline Drive at the visitor's center. The Tap Room in the basement of the lodge is a good place to meet other hikers too.

    --Jack Frost

  12. #12
    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    About the only place where thru-hikers have some priority is in Great Smokey Mountains National Park where 4 bunk spaces are set aside for thru-hikers along the AT. Elsewhere, including SNP, it's first come, first served. In Great Smokey Mountains National Park, off the AT, space is on a permit system.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peaks View Post
    About the only place where thru-hikers have some priority is in Great Smokey Mountains National Park where 4 bunk spaces are set aside for thru-hikers along the AT.
    and that is an unofficial rule. nothing in the NPS rules says that
    http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisi...untry-regs.htm

  14. #14

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    All shelters have 4 spaces reserved for thru-hikers. The balance of the spaces (approx 8) are reserved for section-hikers with reservation permits. plus only thru-hikers are permitted to tent-camp at shelters. Panzer

    About the only place where thru-hikers have some priority is in Great Smokey Mountains National Park where 4 bunk spaces are set aside for thru-hikers along the AT. Elsewhere, including SNP, it's first come, first served. In Great Smokey Mountains National Park, off the AT, space is on a permit system. Peaks

    Where is this information published?

  15. #15

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    Sorry Lone Wolf, I posted after you. It does bother me that people asking for advice are given mis-information. getlost75 was given wrong information. A lesson learned for all of us. On the trail or off, get as much information as you can (some will be wrong information some will be correct information) and make the best decision with the information that you have. getlost75, I would go ahead and make plans to leave for SNP on May 15. The park may be a crowded and some shelters may be full, (bring a tent) but it will be a nice hike. I would take a few side trips to overlooks to get better views. Big Meadows is a nice place to relax, try and share a tent site with someone, if you stay the night. The charge is $20 for a tent site if you stay at Big Meadows. Big Meadows' Tap Room is nice. Pinnacles Picnic Grounds has some good views, don't camp at the picnic grounds, walk down the trail a few yards. Mary's Rock has great views of Thorton Gap and Luray, VA. There are several Waysides that are worth walking into. Many hikers do not like all the vehicles and tourist, but that is what you will see in the SNP. If you make it to Front Royal go to the Vistor's Center. Ask for the number to the 'The 'Loft' it is run by Tom and Sharon Johnson. Tom is a past president of the PATC. It is a small hostel run by donations only (by law). The Johnson's love the At and have added on to their house to accomodate hikers. They do not advertise, (told me I could mention their place). Anyway, have a good hike.

  16. #16

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    Those who complain about noise and crowds and traffic are greatly overexaggerating and frankly don't know what they're talking about. Remember people, we're talking May, not "the summer." Big difference!

    First of all, in early May you'll find conditions more resembling winter than summer in that none of the trees save the low gaps are leafed out - most are barely budding. So you will get views and one cool thing is to observe the progression of green in the valleys lightening and thinning as you scan your eyes up the ridge to the barren-looking ridgeline.

    IMO, May brings out the best flowers. You may still catch bloodroot in early May. For sure by mid-May, you'll see trillium and my favorite in the high elevations: fringed phacelia. As to viewpoints, there are plenty of them. As to traffic & crowds, the most you'd see is on weekends. Yes, I'd avoid Memorial Day weekend but otherwise, you'll never feel crowded.

    So ignore the naysayers and go for it. May is probably the best time to hike SNP.

  17. #17
    So many trails... so little time. Many Walks's Avatar
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    You'll enjoy the hike more if you plan to use a tent or hammock and only use the shelters for eating and socializing. Make use of the waysides and other locations mentioned. The trail crosses the road so many times it's easy to catch some great views like LW mentioned. In the case of really severe weather the rule of thumb is to fit everyone into a shelter. We only had one instance in GSMNP where a few section hikers came in late in the rain thinking they had the entire shelter reserved for themselves because they had their paper and threatened to start pulling people out. Everyone got a huge laugh out of that because the shelter had a bunch of upcoming and ex Marines. That just wasn't going to happen. They mellowed out after a few days on the trail. The reservation system there is flawed because there is no way to tell how many spots are reserved any given night. I'd say hike when you want, but plan to be self sufficient and you'll be fine. Just go with it and enjoy the trip, SNP is a beautiful place to be. Note: If you hike real early in the AM there you'll have a really good chance to see bears. We saw 2 within the first 10 minutes in the park and they kept on coming from there. Pretty cool! Enjoy!
    That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest. Henry David Thoreau

  18. #18

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    Starting on a Friday might not be too bad. Avoid starting on a Saturday, as this is the day many section hikers start, plus the weekend crowd. Mid week would be better. I happend to hit the SNP on a Saturday, along with scores of section hikers. This was in early May.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by getlost75 View Post
    I have read that it is not advisable to plan a section-hike along the AT from mid-May thru July because of the priority that is given to thru-hikers in shelters and at campsites. I was starting to plan a backpacking trip thru SNP and came across this information on the NPS website. Now I am debating on whether or not I should plan my trip there or decide on a different section of the AT, or another trail altogether. Unfortunately, my schedule doesn't allow me to be too flexible because I'm in school. I was looking to go when my spring semester ends in May, around the 15th or so. My only other option would be late August, but I think the weather will be too hot and the trail too busy with families and boyscouts. I guess I'm just seeking advice on whether my plan is going to be doable or if the AT will simply be too busy with thru-hikers. I mean is there really any perfect time to hike thru SNP? Any input would be appreciated. Thank you.
    Do you have a link that shows this, just curious? It is absolutely false. However, SNP is ran by a government bureaucracy and as with most government agencies the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. GSMNP is a perfect example of this; the info on their website is in direct contradiction to the information they provide at the registration station.

    May is a good time to go, the crowds would be less than in late August. Good place to see bears got a pic in my gallery of one near Lewis Mountain Campground (2006) and this year (2008) I saw a momma with three cubs in a tree.

  20. #20
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    Wow, thank you for all your input. I will take it all into consideration. Here is the information that I was referring to, "Unless you are a thru-hiker, do not plan your trip along the AT at Shenandoah NP from mid-May through mid-July! While the AT in the park is always busy, this is when the north-bound thru-hikers come through Shenandoah and there will not be any camping available at the huts."
    This info can be found in the notes on the following link,
    http://www.nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/upload/SHEN_BCTrip-AT_through_SNP_average_15_miles_per_day_E102.pdf

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