Out of the about 260 shelters along The Appalachian Trail, these 12 are the most unique due to structure, location, or amenities offered. Yes, some Appalachian Trail shelters actually do provide hikers with amenities!
Over Mountain Shelter
The barn at Over Mountain was built in 1970 with the land later being donated for use to the ATC and renovated for hikers as a shelter in 1983. The shelter conversion held up to 30 hikers before being condemned on structural weaknesses in 2019. This shelter remains a thru hiker favorite to visit and to camp around. Even if you’re not camping here, you should definitely take the time to stop by to see the big red barn and the hillside views that look out to farmland below. The side trail to get here is about .3 miles downhill. A fun fact about this shelter as if it wasn’t unique enough is that it’s the only shelter in Tennessee with a privy!
This is an iconic shelter in Virginia after the Grayson Highlands for a few reasons but one of the best reasons is that you can order pizza and other deliveries directly to the shelter. There are several shelters that this can be done along the trail from but Partnership is the first one that northbound hikers will hit. It’s a beautifully built shelter that sleeps 16 or more and has an upper loft and shower attached. To the side is an enclosed privy, clothes line, fire pit, and easy access to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area headquarters. Restaurants leave delivery menus here and hikers can either get cell service down by Route 16 or use the centers’ phone to make calls. Tenting and alcoholic beverages are ‘not allowed’.
Chestnut Knob Shelter
This is one of the enclosed type of shelters that are found along the AT. This style is typically built at higher elevations to protect hikers from the elements. Sitting at 4,407 feet of elevation and on the top of a bald this is definitely a place that can experience some weather. The shelter is set up with a bunk room and a picnic table inside. Outside is available for tenting and has amazing views that look down to the valley of Burke’s Garden. This is a great spot to catch the sunrise from looking out over the valley.
Quarry Gap Shelter
Quarry Gap Shelter is a shelter that makes you feel at home in every sense. The caretaker is very active onsite and keeps everything inline. As the trail approaches a white picket gate appears and a barrel of planted flowers and garden sculptures come into sight next to it. The shelter area is more like that of a compound enclosed by rhododendron plants and gardens. The two shelters by side fit about 8 and there are tent platforms and tent areas nearby. In the picnic table overhang area, the shelter is equipped with board games and activities. Make sure you check out the privy too – it’s the only privy on the trail that I saw with hanging artwork and an air freshener!
Located .2 miles off trail down Hawk Mountain Road, this shelter I believe used to be run by an AT trail angel and donated the property later on to be an official AT shelter. It is now run with a caretaker in the house and the bunkroom in the shed behind the house. The bunkroom is equipped with plenty of interesting trail maps, books, and resources. Towards the side is a bathroom with a shower and flushing toilet. Tenting is located down and across the street. Hikers love this shelter for the outlets and charging station provided too.
State: New Jersey
This shelter is privately owned and located .2 miles down a dirt road from the trail. This should be a must stop to meet Jake even if you’re not staying at the shelter. Jake isn’t actually a person, he’s a donkey! Jake roams the farm property and comes up to snack and hang with hikers. There are two cabins on the property but one is usually locked leaving the other for sleeping and the rest of the area for tenting.
West Mountain Shelter
State: New York
This is your ordinary Harriman State Park stone-built shelter but what makes it incredible is that it looks out to the south leaving the New York City skyline visible on a clear day. I didn’t get the chance to stay here on my thru hike but I had friends who slept here and in the morning they were woken up to a bear outside the shelter eating mulberries out of the tree in front, quite a trail sight!
State: New York
RPH stands for Ralphs’ Peak Hikers’ and is definitely one of the more unusual shelters on the trail. The shelter is built of cement and sleeps 6 in a bunk style cabin with one side open. It is close to roads making it a popular shelter for ordering food and getting trail magic. Although close to roads, parking nearby is difficult because of the residential neighborhood surrounding it. Other features of this shelter include a lawn for tenting, water jugs when the well is dry, plenty of lounge chairs, and a decent hiker box.
Upper Goose Pond Cabin
This cabin is about a half a mile off trail but it is every bit worth the walk. Some hikers even choose to take a zero at this cabin because there’s so much to do. The cabin is located on Upper Goose Pond and has easy access to the pond with a boat launch and dock. The canoes are available to be used free of charge by hikers at permission of the caretakers. The cabin sleeps about 14 but during covid unfortunately this has been limited to 25% capacity. Other amazing features of this cabin are the all you can eat (AYCE) pancake breakfast cooked by the caretakers, the cabin porch chairs, and the great selection of games and activities.
Bromley Ski Patrol Hut
This was probably my favorite ‘shelter’ during my thru hike on the Appalachian Trail. At the summit of Bromley Ski Mountain is a ski patrol hut that the mountain lets hikers use during the summer off season. Water and electricity are turned off but what hikers really love is being on top of a mountain with a cleared summit and ski lifts. The mountain gives great 360-degree views making it perfect for sunset, sunrise, and star gazing. Some hikers even cowboy camp on the ski lift platforms and netting to catch a good sunrise. Check out my milky way shot below; it was my favorite from the trail!
This is another unofficial AT shelter and is located on private land but the owner permits hikers to use the cabin as a shelter. The shelter is different than any on trail due to its upper deck platform above the second floor making it a great place to watch sunrise and sunset. The only downside to the shelter is that there is no water in the vicinity so carrying water is a must.
Pierce Pond Shelter
This shelter itself is built typical of the Maine shelter style but it’s located directly on a pond with good swimming and hangout rocks. Even better is that it’s located .2 miles from Harrison’s Pierce Pond Camp, a sporting camp located below the dam of Pierce Pond. Harrison who has run the place for I believe 37 years now is an awesome guy who is very hiker friendly. He runs a pancake breakfast every morning at 7am that seats 10 hikers who must stop over to the shelter and sign up the night before. His cabin also offers accommodations and is a wonderful place to hang out for a bit after breakfast. Be sure to watch the humming birds feed on the back porch, I’ve never seen more in my life!
*Mileage provided is 2021 northbound mileage rounded taken from the Guthooks App
**Shelter details are subject to change at any time and specific research should be done before relying on this guide. Guthooks App has a comments section that is helpful for latest news and updates. Secret Hike is not sponsored or affiliated with Atlas Guides aka Guthooks.
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