The Appalachian Trail is a national treasure that makes a great family camping trip. The trail itself is over 2,000 miles long and goes through Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. An international addition to the trail runs through Canada to the North Atlantic Ocean.

Many people have tried to hike the entire trail in one shot camping along the way but only a tiny fraction have made it.  Because the trail covers a wide expanse of territory the terrain of the trail ranges from easy meadow hiking to extremely difficult mountain hiking.

The trail is marked with clear markers throughout its length. You can camp in tents along the trail or your can stay in three sided lean-tos that are provided at regular intervals to give hikers a chance to sleep in a sturdy shelter.  There are usually cleared spots to pitch a tent close to the shelter and there are always clean water sources and outhouses near by as well. These shelters are maintained entirely by volunteers; there are no paid staff that work on the trail at all.

The AT, as it’s known, also crosses several towns along the way so that hikers can stop and get supplies, a shower, do some laundry, and get a hot restaurant meal.  The trail is entirely free from beginning to end, making it a very low cost family camping destination.

Since it’s pretty likely that you won’t be able to, and probably won’t want to, hike the entire trail what you can do is mark off a portion of the trail that you do want to hike and make travel arrangements into the area of the trail that you want to start at and out of the area that you want to end at.  Starting and ending at one of the little towns that the trail crosses is a smart thing to do because then you can arrange for a taxi to take you to town where you can make arrangement to get back home.

Hiking the AT is a great family vacation but it’s not really appropriate for younger children, so if you have young children you might want to wait until they are a little older to take a camping vacation on the Appalachian Trail.  Since the terrain can get rough and you do need to cover a certain amount of distance to get to a town it’s better if you wait until you’re sure the kids are up to the challenge before you take them out on the trail.