Note Before Reading
Welcome to our A.T. guide step-by-step part 3: VT-ME. 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.
The Appalachian Trail between Pennsylvania and Massachusetts has a suburban feel to it. You aren't far from city noise and a good meal most of the time; however, in Vermont, it starts to feel more like wilderness again. The mountains seem taller, and you can look out across them without seeing too much civilization sometimes. Also, the terrain is tougher in Vermont. Beginning with Mount Killington, you have larger ups and downs. Things will get more and more difficult from here on out until you get through the Rangeley area in Maine. I know you're tired, but the hardest terrain is coming up quick. Buckle up. By the way, Ben and Jerry's doesn't fall from the sky in Vermont. Some of the views are killer though.
This is not the most walkable town on the trail. Bennington has everything you need to get clean and do a full resupply. We used Uber to get to the grocery and movie theater for our motel.
Catamount Motel: The owner will shuttle you to and from the trailhead. The rooms were clean, had a fridge, and they have laundry and loaner clothes. The motel is within walking distance of a Friendly's and some other local options. I would stay here again.
Manchester Center, VT
The Price Chopper here is great. This town is short on affordable lodgings. The hostel was full. After calling all around town looking for something else, we gave up and hitched back to the trail at night. There are good stealth spots right in the woods close to the trailhead parking. In their defense, there was an equine show in town at that time, so I think the rooms were even more expensive than usual. We stopped at the Manchester House of Pizza. I wouldn't eat here again. They made us put our backpacks on the back porch out of sight and in the rain. There are no refills on sodas, and the staff was unfriendly.
This town is excellent. There are plenty of resupply options, places to loiter and charge, and good eats. We visited the Wal-mart and then headed over to the Subway. Keep an eye on your stuff here though. There seemed to be a large police presence and loads of seedy-looking folks milling about. The public transportation here is affordable and accessible, going right back up to the trailhead. Rutland is home of the Yellow Deli - a popular hiker hostel and a religious cult. Please read this before deciding to go there.
Gifford Woods State Park: This is a good stop for a clean shower room with hot water. You could use the showers without camping. You just need quarters. The camping is okay, but you have to pay a fee. The major plus is you can order pizza to the office, and there are wifi and outlets for charging. Ice cream is sold from the office as well.
West Hartford, VT
There is a big blue house adjacent to the library with a huge AT sign hanging on the barn. The owners are hiker friendly and will invite you to chill on their porch and eat. Don't be shy. If the weather is good, many hikers swim in the river and jump off the bridge.
This is a beautiful, upscale town. The people are very friendly towards hikers with trail magic literally lining your road walk into the square.
Dan & Whit's General Store: Visit this place for a good, if expensive, snack. This store really has it all. Their slogan is "if we don't have it, you don't need it".
Ready for some tough hiking? Oh, good. Because New Hampshire is here to kick your ass. It is beautiful and wonderous, and tough! I loved New Hampshire. In the list of best states on the A.T. mine goes Maine, New Hampshire, and Virginia. You'll probably need some extra zeros in New Hampshire. If you're human, your joints will hurt. Pack extra food and plan to do fewer miles. Also, get ready to meet the Appalachian Mountain Club. They have taken over the White Mountain National Forest.
Hanover is compact and crowded near the Dartmouth Green. Along Main Street, you can find restaurants and resupply (CVS). There is a bus system here that will take you to nearby Lebanon where you can find a well-stocked outfitter and lodging. We had some friends host us for a few nights, so I'm not sure about the lodging accommodations in Hanover proper. Check out this very helpful, comprehensive guide for A.T. hikers in Hanover and Norwich, click here.
Lou's Restaurant & Bakery: This is an awesome place for breakfast. Try the cruller french toast. See the menu here. Also, tell them you're a thru-hiker, and they'll give you a free donut. We ate here twice. This is a compact diner. Please bathe if you can before you go. You will be elbows to elbows with the locals.
Eastern Mountain Sports: You can take the bus to visit this well-stocked outfitter. There are many hotels in the area. You can take the bus or Uber.
The hostel is the reason to get off the trail here. It is close to the trail, and they offer free shuttles for resupply and meals.
Hikers Welcome Hostel: The separate bunkhouse is the bomb. It's new, clean, and spacious. In the original building, there is a common room with a T.V. and an enormous DVD collection, but the room is cramped. The bathroom and showers are outdoor. This is a pretty decent hostel. The post is across the street. Ordering meals is a bit of a pain. The process is unorganized. Every evening, the phone is passed around to place an order, and then the group is shuttled to town for pick up. Oh well, at least you get a burger. The pay process is also weird. You keep track of your own expenses on a sheet of paper, and then you have to find the staff when you're ready to pay. I would stay here again though.
North Woodstock, NH
The Notch Hostel: Call up the staff at the Notch, and they will pick you up at an arranged time. We hitched into town for resupply at the grocery, then the Notch folks picked us up from there. It worked out fine. This hostel is comfortable and has full amenities. Be prepared for lots of stairs. We were on the third floor. I don't know how many times I climbed those stairs because the showers, kitchen, and gear shed are downstairs. They have an efficient pay process, which I appreciate. A lot of times at hostels, they are really unorganized. This one is not. They are weird about the T.V. though. We wanted to do a tramily movie night in the living area but weren't allowed. It felt a little like being back home with mom and dad.
White Mountain National Forest, NH
This part of the hike is pretty. I admit some anxiety about doing the Whites because of the hut system. The stuff we read beforehand made it sound like we might not be able to find camping for free. This isn't exactly true. You can camp for free in the Whites, but to do so legally you must follow the ton of rules listed here. Basically, they make it very hard for you to camp for free legally. You do have to pay for camping in developed areas. When you get to these campsites, you are required to check in with the caretaker to pay a fee.
The huts are out of the question for those on a tight budget, and they might be booked up anyhow. Reservations in advance are possible, but that means you have to regiment your journey through the Whites. If you're cool with spending the bucks and having a rigidly planned hike, then go for it. It is possible to get work for stay at the huts, but you cannot count on it. Show up around 4 p.m. and start inquiring with the staff. You can rest assured that you will have a place to sleep at the Lake of the Clouds, even if it is in the disgusting "dungeon" for a small fee. It is a toss-up at the huts, some of the staff was really nice, some treated us like we were dogs.
AMC Highland Center: We arrived at Crawford Notch in the steady rain hoping to catch a ride up to the AMC Highland Center for a meal. The buffet was super expensive, and once we got there we didn't want to hitch back to the trail in the rain. It was a tough hitch just getting there. We would have camped at the road but that is illegal, and the man was about. Some of our friends got hassled in the middle of the night camping close to the road and were told to move on. We ended up spending a fortune bunking and eating here. Stay away from anything AMC, unless you want to spend a lot of dough.
Lake of the Clouds Hut: We had a good experience here. Showing up at 4 p.m., we talked with the head croo in charge, and she let all 6 of us do work for stay. You have to wait around until all the guests are fed, and then you can eat for free. There was a lot of food, and it was good. Then we cleaned the kitchen and set up our sleep mats on the dining room floor. If they're full up on work for stay, you have to sleep in the dungeon for a fee. This place is scary, dark, and dank. It's basically a small storm room beneath the building. Stay here only if you're desperate.
Pinkham Notch Visitor Center & Joe Dodge Lodge: We stopped here for the breakfast buffet. It was really good but expensive. If you can hang out for a while, it's worth it. You can gorge, charge, and relax. You could do a resupply here.
Gorham is a decent little place albeit a bit too spread out for walking convenience. There is a Wal-mart some miles from the trail. You can hitch there or pay for a shuttle. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from and places to lodge. It's not a bad place to do a zero.
The Barn: The guy that owns this place is a nice fella who thru-hiked the A.T. before it was popular. If you get a chance, sit and chat with him. His stories are unique. I would not stay at the Barn again though. If you don't mind dirty places, then go for it. I thought the whole place was pretty filthy and overly crowded. There's always a line for the one tiny, gross bathroom. Also, the sleeping quarters are in the attic. The flat sheets do not get changed every day but are sprayed down with Lysol. It is hot up there, and there's no escape from inconsiderate people. If you're on a tight budget, the price is affordable.
Rattle River Hostel: This hostel was pretty great. The on-boarding process is a bit of a cluster, but it's a pretty good system. They funnel you into a gear/shower room. There you pay, stash your gear, get loaner clothes and step into the shower. There is a sign-up board on the wall for shuttles to town. After all this, you can enter the house. It has full amenities. The kitchen and dining area are spacious. A living area has a full movie library. They also have foam rollers for your use, which is excellent for recovery. The dishwashing process is a bit strange. They have you stack your dishes next to the sink instead of washing them. Apparently, they don't trust you to dispose of food scraps properly. This made the kitchen pretty messy and cluttered. I would stay here again.
Southern Maine is tough stuff...much like what you've been experiencing in New Hampshire thus far. Get your camera ready. Maine has the most beautiful scenery on the entire A.T. You've been tired for a while now, but you still have a lot of walking to do. The trail in Southern Maine is an elevation roller coaster with steep ups and downs. After the Bigalows, the trail tames compared with the Whites and Southern Maine. It is covered in rocks and roots though. Also, do you like bogs?
This is a cool tiny place where you can easily walk to whatever you need. There is a post office, general stores, restaurants, and lodging.
The Human-Nature Hostel: Human-Nature Hostel has a beautiful geodesic dome for its central room. Light comes in from the numerous windows, welcoming hikers to a sanctuary of rest. Ryan “Yukon” Holt, the visionary behind Human-Nature, has appeared on Discovery’s “Naked and Afraid“. The AYCE blueberry pancakes are tasty. There are daily paid shuttles into Mexico, ME for resupply. There are some weird rules here like you can't use the indoor bathroom during the day. Also, the outdoor showers weren't working properly when we were there. There is a comfy T.V. lounge downstairs. This is a cool hostel. I would stay here again. I really liked that the bunk room is a designated sleep space, meaning you're not allowed to "hang out" in there unless you're sleeping.
Little Red Hen: The food here is mediocre. You can camp out back though, so that's cool. They have a great porch for loitering.
Andover General Store: There is an excellent greasy spoon diner in the back of this shop. Don't forget to check out the bathroom. It is Stephen-King themed. You could do a resupply here or at the other convenience store across from the Little Red Hen. There is some space for loitering out front, and this is a good spot for hitching.
We went into Rangeley just for the grocery. It was a turn and burn. The store, an IGA, is excellent though.
This a speck of a place. Aside from the Looney Moose, we got the feeling that hikers weren't welcome. It seemed that the local lodging spots are out to gouge. The owner of the Stratton Motel was drunk when we talked to him. He said when we called he thought "easy money" and quoted us $30 per person for a tent site and shower. We camped in some really nice flat spots at the trailhead instead.
White Wolf Inn: The service here was pitiful and the food bad. Go to the Looney Moose instead.
Fotter's Market: This is an adequate spot for resupply. It is more expensive than the chain grocery stores, but the selection is good for a small market.
Looney Moose: The food here is delicious, and the portions are large. You feel welcome there, and the staff is lovely to hikers.
Harrison Pierce Pond Camps, ME
What a great breakfast! You should let them know the night before that you are coming. It's a short hike to the cabin from Pierce Pond. The two fellas that registered our group got fed a free steak dinner.
The Caratunk House B&B: This place is owned by a thru-hiker. He knows exactly what we need and runs an efficient, friendly operation. The pulled pork sandwich with a strawberry milkshake is excellent. We didn't stay the night but were able to get a quick shower and laundry done. He has a good store for resupply and accepts packages. I would stop here again.
Shaw's will pick you up from the trailhead and shuttle you into town. You can walk from Shaw's to restaurants and the post office. There is a Monson AT Visitor Center. You can reserve camping spots for Baxter State Park here.
Shaw's Hiker Hostel: We stopped here for breakfast, showers, and laundry. It was sufficient. There is a gear store with plenty of resupply options. It's a place to relax and catch your breath before hitting the final stretch.
Monson General Store: I give this place two thumbs up for their deli. The sandwiches were very good. You can buy a few good snacks here too. I would eat here again.
Lake Shore House: The food is mediocre, small, expensive, and the service was bad.
ATC Center: This was a really useful stop before heading into the 100-Mile Wilderness. The ATC will be more than happy to get you on the Web site for Baxter State Park and help you secure a reservation. If you are traveling in a group, I would recommend doing this.
This is a pretty section of the A.T. People say it's flat. That's not exactly true, but there are some flat-ish parts. The rocks and roots are intense here. Be very careful with your footing. If you can camp at the Rainbow Dam, I recommend that. The view of Katahdin is awesome!
Abol Bridge Campground & Store: The store has plenty of options if you need to buy a little food for the final push. There is a restaurant. It is expensive and the food was nothing to write home about. You have to pay for wifi.
Baxter State Park
You must register at the Ranger's office. If the campground is full, you will have to hitch to Millinocket. They have strict rules and will not work with you at all. There is no overflow camping. The campsites are also expensive. Coming down from Katahdin, we took the Abol Bridge Trail. It was fine. We came to the Ranger Station at the bottom of the mountain. Yoging a ride to Millinocket from the parking lot was easy.
The town is pretty walkable from the Appalachian Trail Lodge. There are restaurants nearby.
Appalachian Trail Lodge: This was a clean, efficient, affordable hostel. They give shuttles to the bus stop so that you can get to Bangor easily.
Appalachian Trail Cafe: The food here is decent and cheap. It's a fun place to stop because you can sign the ceiling panels under your A.T. class.
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!