Appalachian Trail Shuttles are hiker taxis that will ferry you to and from the trail when you need to leap-frog to the end of a section or need a ride to nearby town, hostel, train or bus station. They’re part of the unregulated network of hiker services that you find scattered between the small towns that border the Appalachian Trail, up and down the east coast.
The benefit of using a shuttle driver is that they really *know* the trail. They know where the trailheads and dirt road crossings are, which logging roads are open and which are gated shut, they’re up to date on the latest trail conditions and weather forecast, and they know where all of the other services that hikers need are located, from laundromats and post offices to hostels and grocery stores. Many drivers also have some sort of “connection” with the trail as former hikers and can tell you what to expect in the area when it comes to shelters, campsites, and other landmarks.
The majority of shuttle drivers run shuttles part time, so it’s not unusual to find yourself driving in someone’s beat up family minivan or truck. The class of ride varies widely from air-conditioned Suburbans with leather seats to real beaters.
You can find the most up-to-date names and contact information for A.T. Shuttle Drivers in David Miller’s annual AT Guide and on the state-by-state AT Shuttle List published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Whenever possible, it’s best to schedule a ride a week or so in advance, especially if you’re coming from some distance. I also like to request a confirmation by email or text message a few days in advance. Most of the drivers are reachable by text messages and that’s often the best way to communicate with them.
Fares are best negotiated in advance when you make the reservation, as well as the form of payment, be it cash, check, or credit card. Fares vary widely. Some drivers will charge you $1/mile, some $2/mile, some will charge a flat free for multiple people, or charge each person separately. Understand what the fee is in advance to avoid any hassles at the end of the ride.
Tips for Section Hikers
If you’re hiking a section of the A.T., it’s best to park your car at your final destination and then take a shuttle to where you want to start the trail. This gives you the ability to hike back to your car free from any scheduling constraints, since it’s hard to to predict what your pace will be like on the trail.
In addition, many hostels and B&B, provide shuttle services on request. This can be desirable if they’re willing to let you park on their property while you hike your section and is much safer than parking at a remote trailhead or public lot, especially if you have out of state plates. Some shuttle drivers will also let you park in their yards, which is a big perk, since obvious hiker cars are tempting break-in targets at trailheads.
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