Note Before Reading
Welcome to our A.T. Guide Step-by-Step Part 2: WV-MA! This was written to help people cut through the clutter and ambiguous descriptions encountered in the many guides and word-of-mouth experiences on a thru-hike. Please take this information with a grain of salt. It is our opinion, which may be different from yours.
We will not be going into depth about the terrain of each state. There is plenty of that already out there. Besides terrain does not really matter; you either hike through it or you quit. This is mainly a description of towns in relation to resupply and lodging/camping. Only the things we did are included. We will not cover all the possibilities available in each town visited.
We can only describe what we encountered, on whatever day, with whoever happened to be there. Our intention is not to discredit or discourage you from going somewhere and giving somebody your business. This guide is our opinion based on our hiking style, standards, and experience. Keep in mind, we hiked NOBO in 2018. Things can and do change.
We will not be covering specific gear in this guide. That will be a post on its own. We will cover things like having the right gear in specific weather conditions but not what specific brand we used.
Welcome to West Virginia, the half-way point...just kidding. There's not much to this state. You'll be in and out within a day.
Harpers Ferry, WV
Harpers Ferry is a town geared towards tourists visiting the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park.
This means that the prices are higher here than most other trail towns.
The ATC headquarters is located here and is a must stop for a thru-hiker.
Harpers Ferry is not easily walkable, as far as resupply goes, and you should plan on doing a mail drop or spending extra money to get to a grocery store.
Guides list a couple of options for gear stores that are located down near the park.
These are not going to have much that a thru-hiker would want other than shoes. One of them carries Altra running shoes but does not stock many sizes.
If you need to get to Wal-Mart, fast food, or other hotel options, you may want to catch a ride into Charles Town, just North of Harpers Ferry.
Econolodge: This hotel is hiker friendly. We got a hiker rate. The rooms are immaculate and tidy, and the staff was very helpful.
The hotel is easy to walk to from the trail, and the post office is a short distance into town. The rooms all had cable T.V. and refrigerators.
There are several options for food delivery to the hotel. I would stay here again.
ATC: This is the location of the ATC headquarters. You stop in, they take your picture and put you in the log book.
They have a computer and some small snacks in the hiker area.
It is fun to look through the log books and see some past hikers and to see who is just in front of you.
The headquarters is also a good place to try to get in touch with a trail angel or other services if needed.
They do sell Darn Tough socks.
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park
Harpers Ferry National Historic Park: This is a great park to visit if you enjoy history. It will only take a couple of hours, if that, to see most of what the park has to offer.
Two Rivers Treads: This place is not located in Harpers Ferry, and you will have to drive to Ranson.
If you need to get some quality shoes, this is the place. The store caters to marathon/ultra runners.
Two Rivers offers all kinds of tools, like foam rollers, balls, and bands to use while you are in the store. The staff was knowledgeable and friendly. They also sell Xoskin shirts and socks, the best hiking shirt I used on the AT.
Just an FYI, they have free coffee and are in walking distance to some awesome food at Ortega's Tacos. They have hands down the best Mexican food I had while on the AT.
Heritage House: We ate here one morning because of a lack of options.
Don't waste your time or money. They were out of just about everything.
The food was mediocre at best.
It was expensive, and the portions were disappointing.
Menas Pizzeria: They have good pizza and a decent price.
They deliver to the Econolodge.
I would eat here again.
We did not stop or resupply in Maryland.
Hiking was normal, nothing to write home about.
No big ups or downs.
You will be in and out of this state before you know it.
You will be going through several monuments and state parks that are worthy.
Washington Monument State Park is on the trail.
You can get a great view from the top of the tower.
It is totally worth the little side trail.
Pen-Mar County Park is another nice park that is directly on the trail.
There were plenty of people in this park, and we got some epic trail magic here.
There are restrooms and a snack bar (closed when we were there).
If you hunt around, you can find some outside electrical outlets.
This is an excellent place to loiter and try to yogi some food.
Don't let all the talk about this state scare you. PA was one of my favorite states. All people talk about is the rocks. Get used to that, from here forward, there are going to be roots and rocks all the way. This is just the gateway. Also, you will continue to feel like you're just on the edge of urban areas. Hearing gunshots and traffic noise is commonplace. What people don't talk about is how awesome the hiking is in Southern PA. The AT is smooth, the trail is wide, and the elevation is pretty nice. Southern PA has some of the best shelters you will see on the entire trail and some bad ones.
The rocks are certainly a challenge. You will do some bouldering and some climbing no big deal. What people hate about this state are the baseball-sized rocks that are strewn all over the entire trail for days. This will tire out your ankles, and you will notice the fatigue in your feet and legs. Your neck may be a bit sore from looking down so often. Remember not to forget your face and head as you're spending so much time looking down that you smash your face into a tree limb.
PA is where the bug net came out. There are small flies that constantly get in your face and will annoy you. We were hiking here in June.
You also need to really start paying attention to your water sources in this state; there are a few dry stretches. You cross the Mason-Dixon line coming into the state, and you will hit the actual halfway marker for the trail near Pine Furnace.
This is a small town with a Wal-mart and some other services. We only went into the Wal-mart for resupply.
Trail of Hope Hostel is run by Junker, a recipient of the volunteer-of-the-year award from the ATC. The hostel is just down the road from where the trail crosses U.S. 30. Junker is a really nice fella who has thru-hiked and understands hikers. The hostel has laundry and a full kitchen. It's not the cleanest, but Junker will shuttle you or let you borrow a car to go to town for resupply. No TV or movies. I would stay here again if I wanted a Hostel. The next shelter is pretty awesome. Junker does lots of shuttling in the area so if you need one in the area, call him.
Quarry gap shelter: This is a really nice shelter. The water is right in front, super clean, swing chairs, fairy gardens, and more. Someone takes really good care of this place. I generally do not sleep in shelters. I prefer to tent, but I would sleep in this one.
Timbers Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor: This restaurant is really close to the trail on U.S.30 and completely worth a stop. They are a local greasy spoon, hiker-friendly, and have good prices for a ton of food. I would eat here again.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park: This is a nice state park, has camping, showers, and food. The camping spots are a good hike off the trail and are really nice but also pretty pricey. I would not stay here again. There is the Ironmasters Hostel in the park; we did not stay there. There is the Pine Grove General store in the park and is the home of the half- gallon challenge. I would skip the ice cream and just get a burger and fries. They are really good. They have enough stuff to do a small resupply. The A.T. Museum is located in the park too and was closed when we were there. I wanted to go there but couldn't.
Boiling Springs, PA
Boiling Springs is another expensive place on the trail. People here were very friendly. The grocery is a bit of a hike and hopes of a hitch were small. Although the town is nice, I would not put it in the category of hiker-friendly. We struck out with a couple of the hostels in town, and the woman from Allenberry Resort was just plain rude on the phone.
ATC regional office: The office is right on the trail and has a spigot for water. This is a good place to loiter for a piece if you need a rest. The office will help you get in contact with services if needed.
Cafe 101: This restaurant has great food and is hiker friendly. I really thought the food was good but is a little on the pricey side. I would eat here again.
A small town with everything a hiker would need. We came here instead of staying in Boiling Springs. We got a hotel for half the price and just got an Uber to Carlisle.
Sleep Inn South was what you would expect from it. The rooms were clean and tidy, and they gave us a hiker rate. They had a TV, cable, and a refrigerator. They have guest laundry machines and detergent. The hotel is within walking distance of Wal-mart, multiple food options, and a movie theatre. We had found a sign in town that said they would give a free shuttle at the outfitter to the hotel. We called, and it was false. I would stay here again.
This is the home of the Doyle Hotel. We didn't stay at this hotel because it looked like it had space herpes. This was later confirmed by several other hikers that did spend the night there.
Goodie's: This is a decent greasy spoon. The food is filling and plentiful. I would eat here again.
Port Clinton, PA
Walking nobo into Port Clinton, you will encounter the steepest descent on the trail so far or it felt that way. We had a bad first impression of this town because of Odyssa's book; however, we found the people here to be quite amiable. It has a post-office on the trail. We heard the fire station is a good hangout for drinkers.
The town supports a shelter. It is a huge pavilion with a port-a-john. This seemed to be a hot spot for magic. Locals stopped by often to offer rides. If you want to resupply or eat, you will want to get a ride into Hamburg. Cabela's in Hamburg runs a free shuttle for hikers. They pick up at the post office.
Port Clinton Peanut Shop: What an awesome candy store! They have every kind of candy imaginable. The staff was friendly. This place is a hiker's dream.
Welcome to Hamburg, PA! This place has everything a hiker needs, including Wal-mart, fast food, sit-down restaurants, candy stores, hotels, and the world's largest Cabela's.
Cabela's is wonderful! They will shuttle you to and from your hotel. Honestly, you might not need much from Cabela's but maybe buy something anyway. They provide a charging station for us in the lobby. If you get dropped off at the Cabela's, Wal-mart is within walking distance. One last thing...attention, hikers! Red Robin has bottomless fries.
Microtel Inn: The rooms were clean. They have laundry and a continental breakfast. The service was great, and we got a hiker rate.
Delaware Water Gap, PA
This is a tourist destination, which means higher prices. It is also a bit spread out. We stopped into the Church of the Mountain Hostel. They have showers, camping, and bunks. We decided not to stay here because there were a few vagrants hanging around. You can uber into the nearby town for a room, but be warned, it is super expensive.
Edge of the Woods Outfitters: This is a decent gear store. They have a full line of gear for thru-hikers. It's the usual expensive, tourist-town outfitter, but you can find what you need there.
New Jersey & New York
Welcome to New Jersey! By the way, the rocks don't stop just because you aren't in PA anymore. But take heart, things level out-ish soon. New Jersey is fairly flat and quite buggy in the summer. It is boggy, and you will need your Deet. This is where we really started feeling the intense humidity infamous to the Appalachian Trail. Be aware that the no hitchhiking laws are enforced here. Watch out for the man! There will be many boardwalks, and you will see day hikers often. On the bright side, you will encounter many places to stop off and binge eat conveniently.
New York's has a lot of vertical, rocky trail. There is a lot of rock slab hiking. This is where we hit a massive heat wave and were forced to do some night hiking. The bug net is still on and has been since PA. Not everyone will be sensitive to this, but those little bugs really annoy some hikers. The trail still feels suburban here.
The Mohican Outdoor Center: This place is hiker-friendly. It includes a small gear store, showers (for a fee), and a counter-service restaurant. The food is affordable and portions are hiker-sized. Staff is helpful and welcoming to thru-hikers. They have a big hang-out room with tables and chairs. Electrical outlets are plentiful and the wifi is strong. I would stop here again...for longer.
High Point State Park: Thru-hikers receive a free soda from the kind staff here. They sell candy. This is a good place to loiter. There are outlets, water, and bathrooms. You can dump your trash here as well and dry out your wet gear.
Secret Shelters on the A.T.
Secret Shelter: This is a beautiful piece of land owned and maintained by a former thru-hiker, Jim Murray. There is an outdoor shower, electrical outlets, and well water. Chances are that you may see Jim. He will offer to shuttle you into town, and he bought dinner for our friend. Jim is really friendly and knows a lot of history about the trail. The shelter is fully enclosed and clean.
This small town (technically in New York) is welcoming to hikers, allowing them to set up tents in the city park. The post office is located next to the park. We enjoyed the deli (Horler's) and pizza (Annabel's) immensely. The pizza is HUGE. The park provides a peaceful, bug-free sanctuary for a good night’s sleep. There's a port-a-john. Under the pavilion, there's a hiker box. Beware of traffic. There are a lot of large trucks passing through. Register for camping permits (for free) at Horler's, which has ample options for resupply in addition to its amazing deli.
Heaven Hill Farm: When you cross route 94, you'll find this grocery. They have a deli, bathrooms, and a water spigot. There's fresh fruit here and ice cream/Italian Ice. This is an organic grocery, thus, it's a bit more pricey. They're tolerant of hikers. I wouldn't say hiker-friendly.
Wawayanda State Park: The office is a short hike on a blue-blazed trail where you will find bathrooms and water. A water spigot is located on the outside of the building that you can access even when the office is closed. The bathrooms were open as well.
Hot Dogs Plus: This stand is located on the trail when you cross NY17A. The hot dogs were fair and well priced.
Bellvale Farms: This creamery is a short walk West on 17A. You must stop here. Hands down it is the best ice cream we had on the AT. For real, I'm not kidding. Seriously. This is a great place to loiter and look for a hitch into town. There are electrical outlets, bathrooms, and a water spigot. An ATM is on site.
Warwick is a short hitch down NY17A to the city. Technically hitchhiking is illegal, but we had no problems. Warwick is spread out and not very walkable. There is a full grocery, hotels, and post office. Shuttles and Uber are available in the city. This is a good option as the main road is busy with no shoulder. We stayed at the Warwick Motel. The motel was ok, had a fridge, offered laundry, and they gave us a hiker rate.
New York City, NY
New York City: If you're feeling adventurous, you can flag down the Shortline bus early in the morning on route 17. There isn't a bus stop. When you see the bus coming, wave your arms around, and they will stop for you. This is a commuter bus full of professionals who smell much better than you do. Don't worry. They didn't seem to notice or care. The bus ride is about an hour long and $15 dollars one way.
We did the tornado tour of NYC, including Staten Island Ferry (which is free), Little Italy (for carbs), China Town (for a foot massage), Times Square, and Central Park. If you've never been to the Big Apple, it's hard to pass up this opportunity. Public transportation is easy in the city. We bought a day-pass for the subway and walked a lot (not really a zero after all).
New York State
Harriman State Park: This is an excellent place to loiter and receive trail magic. They have bathrooms, free showers, vending machines, outlets, and a nice beach.
Bear Mountain State Park: This is a busy park. On the summit of Bear Mountain, there is a large observation tower. They have expensive vending machines. It has a nice view of the Hudson River. There are no official campsites here. We were able to find some stealth spots nearby the summit. At the bottom of the summit (going nobo), there are bathrooms, picnic tables galore, and a free zoo, which was closed when we passed through early in the morning.
Appalachian Market: This is a great place to loiter and eat. They have all kinds of fresh foods and a counter-service grill and deli. The food is fantastic. There is a bathroom full of quality toilet paper and a flat-screen TV. You could easily do a resupply here. It is also a good place to yogi a ride.
Graymoor Spiritual Life Center: While off the trail a piece, this is a good place to camp and shower. The outdoor shower is frigid. There are a deep freeze and a pavilion with picnic tables. An outhouse is on location.
Canopus Lake Beach: This place has awesome bathrooms with free showers. The beach looked pretty clean and nice.
If you see signs for a Fourth of July party while in the vicinity of the RPH shelter, definitely go. That's all I'll say about it.
Tony's Deli (Pawling): This joint has excellent food, plenty of snacks, and cold drinks. They allow hikers to squat in the tenting area. You can pay to camp here. We spread out the Tyvek, ate, and napped in the shade. I would eat here again.
The Kent Welcome Center has bathrooms and showers ($2). This is a good place to lay out the Tyvek for a nap. The IGA is nearby. Kent Pizza Garden is decent. Backcountry Outfitters & Annie Bananie Ice Cream is a good stop. It's a stretch calling this an outfitter. The ice cream and coffee are good though. This city is walkable but doesn't have good overnight options.
Fall's Village, CT
The town has a post office and library. I would not plan on resupplying here.
The Hydro Plant: This place has an outdoor shower, meaning a shower head attached to a wall with no barriers. It is cold. There's an outlet nearby.
Toymakers Cafe: This restaurant has delicious food. They allow camping in the backyard. Give the owners a head's up if you want to camp there. It's free. Beware of bears near the compost pile! This isn't a dinner joint, but you can order pizza. There's a fancy white-table-cloth restaurant, The Falls Village Inn, nearby. It was mediocre and expensive.
Welcome to the land of Massholes. Just kidding the people we met here were great. It seems like the elevation starts getting more challenging here. The trails are pretty well maintained. On this portion of the trail, there are more good swimming opportunities. Watch out for leeches if you decide to go for a dip. You will hike over mountains, through forests & fields, and bogs. We were very fortunate in Massachusetts. A trail angel named Robert Bird slack-packed and put us up for most of the state. We did stop in a few places though. Here's the skinny.
Great Barrington, MA
When you arrive at the highway into town, you will most likely get a hitch from a man named Joe Sokul (413)717-0751. Joe is awesome and gives rides to hundreds of hikers every season. Be prepared to answer his line of questioning. Joe keeps metrics, such as age, gear, start number, and date. When Joe drops you off, go ahead and make plans for him to come to get you later. He will arrive early.
Great Barrington has everything a hiker will need to do a full resupply. The area around the community center is very walkable. Maps and guide show you downtown Great Barrington not the area around the community center.
Berkshire South Regional Community Center: This is where you want Joe to take you unless you are staying at a hotel/motel. The community center offers camping, showers, swimming pool, and charging. At the community center just purchase a day pass for $7. The pass gives you access to everything they have to offer. There is a community meal offered on Monday nights; they do ask for donations and the portions are not hiker sized. The Price Chopper is a block away from the center. They do not offer laundry here, but the Travel Lodge down the street will let you use their machines.
Upper Goose Pond Cabin: This is definitely one of the coolest shelters on the A.T. If you can spend the night, do so. The cabin offers free breakfast, clean bunks, and canoes. The lake has a dock, and the swimming is good. This shelter is supported by donations.
We hope you've found this information helpful. If you have any questions or suggestions for us, please leave us a comment. You can also send us an e-mail under our contact page. For more journals about our AT thru-hike, visit our page here. Thanks for reading!