Cool Places to See on the Northern A.T.

This is part two of an article that lists some points of interest you will encounter on your A.T. thru-hike. Part one takes you from Springer Mountain to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, the unofficial halfway point! Click here to access part 1. Part 2 picks up where that left off and takes you all the way to Katahin.  Some of these spots I describe are well known and detailed in AWOL’s guide. Others are hidden gems only discovered by talking with other hikers or stumbling upon them accidentally.  Please note, there are myriad additional hostels, vistas, restaurants, and shelters that warrant recognition, but I have only listed the ones with which I personally am familiar below. Please contact each place for specific policies which may change from year to year. The information below was current as of the 2015 hiking season. 

Sampling tasty beer is a hobby of mine, so look for the Beer button icon throughout this article for places that brew or serve quality beer along the A.T.! Other helpful icons are: hostel icon for hostels, 326 for shelters, top_mountain_goal_flag-128 for views or unique sections of trail.


Maryland Marvels

top_mountain_goal_flag-128 Annapolis Rocks, Maryland – Most of Maryland is like a walk in the woods. Its hills are gentle and terrain is less rocky than other spots.  Do not miss the 0.2 mile blue blaze side trail to Annapolis Rocks! The view is delightful, and the tentsites are well-maintained. Nice place to catch a good sunset. Privies and water available at campsite.


hostel iconNostalgic B&B – Cascade, MD – Beautiful B&B in a home.  Reasonably priced and includes breakfast and shuttle to and from trailhead! This was my very first hostel on my flip-flop thru-hike. What a wonderful first experience!


Pennsylvania Points of Interest

hostel icon 219 Market Street, Duncannon, PA – You’ll walk right through the city of Duncannon as you follow your white blazes. This specific address is not listed in AWOL’s guide, but only discovered by word of mouth or walking past the house and seeing the posterboard sign in the front yard welcoming hikers.  Sometimes Bob and Sue, the owners, will throw something on the grill for dinner.  They offer camping on their beautiful lawn or sleeping in the attic of their barn.  When trail angels like this go so far out of their way, it’s common courtesy for us hikers to offer a small donation as a thank you. Positive karma is pretty cool to have on your side, especially the farther north you go. Say hi to Bob and Sue for Clarity!

219 market street
219 Market Street

Beer.jpgDoyle Hotel and Restaurant – Duncannon, PA – You’ve got to visit the Doyle as an A.T. hiker. It’s almost like an initiation. 😉  Whether you stay there or not is your call, and you may want to read a review or two first, but at least visit Vickie in the bar for the most unique company you’ll find on trail!  And the burgers are greasy goodness!

milkshake Pine Grove Furnace General Store and the A.T. Museum
– Home of the half-gallon challenge, Pine Grove offers delicious meal options as you walk right by it steadfastly following the white blazes.  Halfway through your thru-hike, do you dare to attempt the feat that only a few brave souls accomplish? Can you eat a half gallon of ice cream in 30 minutes or less? If so, you get a spoon.  And bragging rights.  And hopefully you avoid getting sick afterward. I’m a chicken and skipped the ice cream challenge on a 90 degree day. However, the Avocado Burger was fantastic! Right down the street is the A.T. Museum and a neat place to cool off for a while.  There are outlets to charge your phones in both locations.


hostel icon Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania -What a picturesque little town this is! The A.T. walks you right through the  heart of town past the post office and the ATC Mid-Atlantic Regional Office.  Allenberry was a really neat place to land for the night and only 0.4 road miles off trail. They have reasonable hiker rates for a room, food and bar service (most days), laundry and a pool! Their breakfast buffet was delectable!


top_mountain_goal_flag-128The Pinnacle – This view is down a 0.1 mile blue blaze side trail.  The panoramic views are epic! In my humble opinion, this was Pennsylvania’s greatest vista!

The Pinnacle
The Pinnacle


326 501 shelter – This is a unique A.T. shelter with four walls and a window on the ceiling, complete with a solar shower and a faucet for potable (drinkable) water. Its best feature? There’s pizza delivery here! Look for menus in the shelter. There was even a huge trail magic feast get delivered the night I resided at the shelter!


326 Eckville Shelter – Eckville Shelter is one of the trail’s hidden gems.  Located 0.2 road miles off trail, the shelter is an enclosed bunkroom with tent platforms, a flush toilet, and a spigot at side of the caretaker’s house.  There’s even a shower!  The caretaker provides hikers with a refreshing popsicle upon arrival. Please offer to help the owner with some small task.  Clean the bathroom, pick up trash, sweep the bunkhouse, etc. Again, thank our trail angels. Without them, this journey would be a lot lonelier.


hostel icon Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania
– The trail takes you into the heart of this fun little town, a popular spot for thru-hikers to take a zero mile day! Town offers hikers a full outfitter store and a donation-based church hostel, The Church of the Mountain Hostel.  The bunkroom is comfortable; the showers are stocked.  If you’re lucky to land here on a Thursday, the church offers a hot dog dinner June-August! Please support our trail angels by leaving a donation. These kinds of places are diminishing, so please show your gratitude to the ones who continue to offer assistance!

Beer Sycamore Grill – Sycamore Grill is a fun hang out spot in Delaware Water Gap with food and drink specials daily with regular live music as well!  It’s right across the street from the church hostel.  Check out the outfitter next door as well.


New York and New Jersey Gems

camping icon Unionville, NY -Unionville is 0.5 of a mile from the A.T.  The Unionville City Park allows free camping on their beautifully maintained grassy lawn.  Annabel’s pizza is directly across the street. Leave no trace. Please.  As a hiker, we all represent the “whole” of hikers who pass through.

Beer Wit’s End Tavern – The fun people of Unionville hang out here!

hostel icon St. Thomas Episcopal Church Hostel
Vernon, NJ – This was one of my favorite church hostels on trail! The congregation is so generous, kind, and welcoming. They kept the food coming as we celebrated July 4 with a zero day here!  The hostel offers a fully loaded shower with amenities such as shampoo, soap, and razors. Laundry is available as well as a computer on site. Next door is a local diner named The Mixing Bowl with a heavenly breakfast menu. I recommend the loaded Presidential Omelet!

326 West Mt Shelter – This shelter is ignored more often than not due to the 0.6 mile blue blaze trail to get there and the lack of water and privy.  When I passed through in July of 2015, there was a small stream on the blue blaze trail heading to the shelter, but I’m not sure how reliable the source is.  The cool feature at this shelter is the view of the New York City skyline. Once the sun sets, the city in the horizon lights up like a Light Bright! The view was worth the long side trail carrying water. I enjoyed my stay here! Though not listed in AWOL’s guide, there are a few scattered tent sites around the shelter.

West Mt Shelter
New York City Skyline – Picture doesn’t do justice


Bear Mountain Recreation Area and Zoo – Following the white blazes takes you to the lowest point on the A.T., the bear cage at the zoo.  Yes, you will walk through a zoo.
306 (2)

326 Graymoor Spiritual Life Center – Four tenths of a mile off trail is the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center where hikers are allowed to spend the night for free at the monastery’s ball field picnic shelter or pitch your tent in the field.  There is water, a porta-potty, and a shower on site.  The shelter is within walking distance of a convenience store.


326 RPH shelter – This is another uniquely fun shelter located in a residential type of area but right on the A.T.  There is pizza delivery here as well as trash cans, chairs, a privy, water, tenting, and a small library.   There was a hiker feed the night I landed here. The trail provides!

Connecticut Coolness

hostel icon Bearded Woods Bunk and Dine, Falls Village, CT – This spot is definitely one of a kind, and with 2 gourmet meals included, it was worth the $50 price tag.  Hudson and Big Lu offer a clean bunk with linens, a stocked shower, laundry, and shuttle to and from trail. Pet friendly with a $10 fee. Hudson and Big Lu are wonderfully accommodating, and their kind hospitality goes above and beyond. Big Lu’s cooking is like no other on trail! Holy yum!


hostel icon Ms. Maria McCabe – Salisbury, CT – This 86-year-old spunky lady is full of personality and loaded with stories.  Located in Salisbury, her home is an easy 0.8 of a mile off trail. She charges reasonable rates for a bed in her home, a shower, and she will shuttle hikers to the pizza joint in town. Her house is within walking distance of other restaurants. Offer to clean this sweetheart’s shower or do another type of chore for her. Good karma takes you far on the A.T.


Massachusetts Madness

326 Upper Goose Pond Cabin – This is one of the most popular shelters on the A.T. Located on a 0.5 mile side trail, Upper Goose Pond Cabin features a fireplace, covered porch, bunks with mattresses, swimming and kayaking at no charge.  During the summer, water is carried in by the caretaker.  The best part?  Also free is a delicious pancake breakfast! Donations are appreciated to upkeep the shelter and provide breakfast.

camping icon The Cookie Lady – Becket, Massachusetts– A hundred yards off the A.T. resides the “Cookie Lady”. She offers homemade cookies and sells soda, Klondike bars, and you can pick your own blueberries from her farm! *Hint: If you’re traveling SOBO, pick some blueberries and carry them about 10 miles to Upper Goose Pond Cabin for blueberry pancakes in the morning!  The Cookie Lady allows camping on her lawn.

camping icon Mr. Tom Levarti’s home – Dalton, MA – At 83 Depot Street, which you will pass as you follow the white blazes, resides Mr. Tom Levardi, a trail angel for 36 years. Not only does he allow hikers to camp in his flat, grassy yard, he provides bikes to borrow so you can get yourself into Dalton more easily. Being in a residential area, he understandably has strict noise level rules.  Respect them.

Beer  In Dalton there is Jacob’s Pub with a pretty good beer selection and pool tables.


hostel icon Bascom Lodge – This hidden jewel was an awesome find directly on top of Mount Greylock, Massachusetts’ highest peak! Be forewarned, with a road nearby, this area can be pretty tourist heavy at times.  My $37 bunk included a shower, a continental muffin breakfast and an amazing view! My bunkmates were a fun group of ladies who hiked up for a night.  Local beer is also found at the lodge.  The restaurant on site serves all three meals but is a bit expensive. The staff here is great and very friendly toward thru-hikers. I’d call this a must-stop spot!

My fun bunk mates at Bascom Lodge!


Vermont Splurges

hostel icon Green Mountain House Manchester Center, VT – Jeff, the hostel’s owner, is a really laid back guy. He runs a comfortably pristine, clean hostel.  For a very reasonable $30, you get a bunk with clean sheets, shower, laundry, computer, sodas, breakfast, and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.  In addition, you have access to free breakfast supplies to cook your own meal and shuttles back to the A.T. What a treat! Be sure to call first for a reservation as this place tends to be a popular landing spot and space is limited. Local beer and food specials in Manchester Center at Firefly in town.  If you go, tell bartender Tom that Clarity said hello!

Lounging inside Green Mountain House with Shortbus, Papa Al, and Jeff. Cozy!
Outside of Green Mountain House hostel


milkshakeQu’s Whistle Stop Restaurant – Only a half mile road walk or hitch on VT Hwy 103 is this delicious bit of heaven during a long hike.  Hiker specials plus delicious handmade milkshakes live here.  Beer will be available as of May 2016. I met a few cool locals around here and scored a ride into Rutland!

hostel icon The Yellow Deli – Rutland, VT – For a small donation, you can spend a night or two at “The Yellow Deli”, a hostel maintained by a hospitable, religious group named the Twelve Tribes.  Roi, Fish, and Aish were so helpful!  The hostel sits on the upper level of “The Yellow Deli” restaurant. Staying at this hostel is a very unique experience, but it’s worth a visit for the experience alone. That’s what this whole thru-hike thing’s about, right? They welcome you to join them for a work day at their farm, and my friends who did it thoroughly enjoyed themselves! But I never felt pressured by anyone there to do so.  Just be prepared to separate from your partner for the night because men and women aren’t allowed in each others’ rooms.   The hostel only charges a donation. Please be sure to leave one.  This hostel does a LOT for hikers.  There is easy access to a bus line that allows for a very cheap slackpacking day from Rutland where you hitch your way back into town. I highly recommend stopping at the Yellow Deli for the experience alone.

Beer Hop’n Moose Brewery and Pub 42 are both a very short walk from The Yellow Deli. Hop’n Moose brewed some awesome beers and offered a varied menu of deliciousness! It is a bit pricey, so enjoy in moderation. Cheers!

hostel iconMountain Meadows Lodge – Killington, VT– After lounging in the sun on the stunningly gorgeous lawn of this lodge, I found myself feeling a bit too lazy to walk farther.  I inquired about a “work for stay” and after about an hour of yard work, was granted this little shed in the backyard that had power outlets as well as earned a full plate at the dinner table. Holy moly,  the cooking staff is top notch! This was a fun, improm ptu stop for the night! Relaxation is paramount with the sunshine and lake views offered here.


hostel icon Daniel’s Home – Look for the big red barn and white house directly across the street on Hwy 12/VT 100 at 2015 NOBO mile marker 1724.2. Daniel, who’s not listed in the AT guide but only discovered via word of mouth, permits hikers to stay in his barn hostel across the street or pitch a tent in his flat, grassy streamside yard!  Soak your feet and sit in the stream with a nice cold drink in hand. There’s a little country store, On The Edge Farm, 0.2 miles down the road that sells ice cream and random snacks and food options.


hostel icon Randy and Linda’s Pancake Hostel – Only 12.5 miles from yesterday’s cool landing spot at Daniel’s lies this equally cool spot that is only discovered by word of mouth or by hearing the bell Randy and Linda ring from their front porch, beckoning weary hikers to come take a rest, drink a soda, and eat pancakes. There is a 30-foot river jump from the bridge over the White River located in front of Randy’s home. He’ll take you, show you where it’s safe to jump, and will even demonstrate it for you!  His barn hostel includes bunks, tv, and lots of good movies. Thank him by helping him out with a task around his house or hostel.

Randy's Pancake House

videocamera_2-512***Check out the 30 foot bridge jump in action!  Yes, we measured! 😉


Welcome to New Hampshire!

Hanover, New Hampshire – Before you even enter the downtown area of Hanover, the magic begins! You walk right down Elm Street where neighbors sometimes have friendly competitions with one another on who offers the best trail magic.  Sweet deal for us! 🙂 Hanover is one of the most fun trail towns on the A.T., and you walk right through the heart of town following the white blazes. Several businesses offer thru-hikers special freebies.  Receive a free house made donut at Lou’s and a free piece of pizza at Ramuntos. There is a list of trail angels in the area that offer free shelter for a night.  Alternatively, free camping can be found in the woods near the trailhead north of town.

camping icon Ice Cream Man’s house (Bill Ackerly), Lyme Center, NH – WOW! Mr. Ackerly is soooo sweet! You’ll see the sign below on the A.T. which guides you right to his door. Plan to spend some time talking to this incredible Harvard retiree.  He plays a mean game of croquet and may challenge you to a round or two!  He offers hikers a free ice cream and allows us to tent in his yard.  A down-to-earth, humorous man, he’s part of the A.T. experience. Don’t miss him!


hostel icon Hikers Welcome Hostel, Glen Cliff, NH – This pet friendly hostel is worth a stop. Bunking and camping options both include a nice hot shower and a huge DVD library. The owner, Legion, is a super chill guy who likes hanging with hikers around a fire at his backyard fire pit.

North Woodstock/Lincoln, NH –  Chet’s Place, not listed in the A.T. guide, is where most hikers land while passing through Lincoln, NH. You’ll hear about him ahead of time, and all the locals know him, so he’s easy to find. Be ready though. He’ll test you to make sure you’re actually a thru-hiker before he’ll let you stay.  Fun spot, cool dude!

BeerWoodstock Inn and Brewery North Woodstock, NH – This place is a bit pricey but it’s worth stopping in for a pint or two of fresh brew. Thru-hikers get a 10% discount. Truant’s Tavern is a more low-key place to chill with a cold one.

hostel icon Lake of the Clouds Hut – In the White Mountains, A.T. shelters are replaced by huts that charge coin for a night’s stay.  Fortunately, thru-hikers can ask for a “work for stay” which usually involves cleaning up after the guests eat their dinner which is exactly what I did to afford a night at this lovely hut at the base of Mount Washington. Another benefit is thru-hikers often have the opportunity to enjoy the leftovers from dinner.

hostel icon
White Mountains Lodge and Hostel , Gorham, NH
– This all-inclusive hostel tends to have a vortex effect thanks to the relaxed and comfortable atmosphere and likable work staff. Marni, Mellow, and Guardian are incredibly accommodating! With all the free shuttling they do, remember to throw them a tip as a thank you. Slackpacking over a VERY difficult stretch of trail (the Wildcats) is free with a two-night stay. A gourmet breakfast, cozy sheets, outdoor and indoor relaxation areas, wifi, computer, shuttles into Gorham included. Some munchie food is on hand at the hostel for sale.  Pretty grounds and perfect location! The best part? The A.T. takes you right up to the front door of this place.  Take advantage!

videocamera_2-512 Take a virtual tour of this one of a kind hostel! 

Maine Mentionables

top_mountain_goal_flag-128 Mahoosuc Notch –
Southern Maine comes in like a lion with sections like the Mahoosuc Notch! Literally described in AWOL’s guide as “the hardest (and most fun) mile on the A.T”, this mile takes most seasoned hikers as long as 2-3 hours to complete. The challenge is the car-sized boulders that create an obstacle course like you’ve probably never seen!  Finishing this mile gives you bragging rights!  I suggest completing this section with a friend or two.  Watch each others’ backs out here.

Click here for a brief video clip taken while hiking the Mahoosic Notch.


hostel iconAndover, Maine – Pine Ellis Hostel is a popular hiker stop in Andover. Unbelievable brick oven pizza at Andover General Store is an easy walk from the hostel. Paul’s Cabin is also owned by the folks at Pine Ellis if you have a group to split cost or prefer a more solitary location.


hostel icon Rangeley, Maine – Most thru-hikers stop in Rangeley for a meal or a night. Located halfway between the equator and the north pole, Rangeley offers the Hiker Hut, a hostel a few miles south of town with a massage therapist on site, comfortable bunks, and a meal is included with the $25 cost of a night. If you prefer to stay closer to town, check out the Farmhouse Inn. The owner is known for trail magicking hikers without asking anything in return. I speak from personal experience.  There are some decent campsites just south of the trailhead near Rangeley. Uplifting people reside in this town in the middle of a mentally challenging section of trail. Keep up the cheerleading, Rangeley!

Beer Sarge’s Pub in Rangely – This was a fun place that didn’t complain when my friends and I quietly took over the bar.  🙂  Satisfyingly scrumptious burgers and solid beer selection.

Our packs covered a large section of Sarge’s pub.

top_mountain_goal_flag-128 You will LOVE the Saddleback Mountains just outside of Rangeley. Enrapturing 360 degree views.  Heaven. Also look forward to Baldpate, Bemis, and the Bigelows! Maine is absolutely breathtaking in its beauty!

videocamera_2-512top_mountain_goal_flag-128Virtual tours of some of Maine’s Mountains!
Click here for a view from Baldpate Mountain
Click here for a view of Bemis Mountain
Click here for a view of the Bigelows, the last big climb before the 100 Mile Wilderness!
Click here for a view of the climb up Saddleback Mountain

…and Saddleback Junior!

Beer Stratton, Maine – General stores in town have adequate resupplies.  The library is nice and in the center of the tiny town.  White Wolf Inn has a HUGE wolf burger that hikers take on like a challenge.  Yep, my little 120 pound self ate the whole thing! Maine trail will make you hungry! The beer selection there isn’t widely varied, but you’ve got a couple of crafty choices on the menu.

camping icon Flagstaff Lake sits 17.9 miles from the road leading into Stratton, ME 27.  Don’t miss this campsite! There are tentpads, 2 firepits, 2 beaches, and a privy. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to camp on a Maine beach! You’ll have peaceful animal songs in the evening from the haunting, wolf-like cry of loons to the closely residing owl calling to his mate in the distance. This spot offers swimming, campfires, and a clear view of the speckled stars with a vast canvas above.

hostel icon
 Caratunk, ME
– As you near the town of Caratunk, you get to experience a white blaze section like no other! The official A.T. takes you on a ferry ride across the Kennebec River guided by “Hillbilly Dave”.  Fording the Kennebec is unnecessarily risky and not advised because of dam controlled, unannounced flash-flooding that occurs intermittently. After the river crossing, you hit US 201. From there you have two pretty awesome options.  The Sterling Inn offers reasonably priced bunks or rooms to split with friends.  Their prices include a breakfast buffet! My choice was two miles in the opposite direction, Northern Outdoors. It’s a very active spot tailoring to rafters and hikers alike! What I appreciate about this business is their attention and generosity toward hikers. They offer free shuttles, free use of shower and pool with or without stay.  There’s food, laundry, and a hot tub on site! Bedding options are regular tent spots or these nifty little cabin tents with electricity as shown in the last picture below.

Why did I choose Northern Outdoors over the Sterling Inn? Duh, there’s a beer brewery on site! The fun environment offers a swimming pool, pool tables, corn hole, brewery, wifi, hot tub. The beer prices aren’t cheap, but the pub offers food specials nightly. Thursday’s special rocks! Twelve dollars buys you a pitcher of good beer and twelve hot wings!


Monson , Maine– Maine is a popular trail town as it’s the last town you’ll near before hiking into the Hundred Mile Wilderness. Lakeshore House Lodging and Pub is a super hiker-friendly full-service hostel. Rebecca, the owner, is patient and will do anything for hikers.  She loves us! Shaw’s Lodging is probably the most popular landing spot in Monson with perks such as a laid-back atmosphere, resupply store on site, meals, and shuttle to and from trail. Some friends and I hitched into nearby Greenville, ME for a larger grocery store to resupply and found ourselves dining at the Stress Free Moose with quality food, drink, and people.  Ask for Olivia as your server and tell her Clarity sent you. 🙂 She and her husband thru-hiked a few years ago and offered us priceless trail magic!  They were two of the most awesome people I met!   Best breakfast on trail was in Monson at Pete’s.  You could create your own combo. Every single thing I ate, all the way down to the slice of toast, was the best I had ever tasted.  Highly recommend!


Beer The pub patio at Lakeshore Lodge and Pub was an incredible place to hang out and chill on a zero mile day. The patio overlooks the lake.

Lakeshore Lodge and Pub patio
Getting ready for the Hundred Mile Wilderness


top_mountain_goal_flag-128 The Hundred Mile Wilderness – This stretch of trail often evokes anxiety of the unknown in hikers.  It shouldn’t! The terrain is nothing new and not as difficult as other parts of Maine. There is actually an “easy” stretch of trail about 40 miles long The river fordings and lack of towns are what make the Hundred Mile Wilderness a bit different. Hikers either have to carry more food than normal (5-7 days worth for most thru-hikers) or you can work out a food drop with Shaw’s or Lakeshore House Lodging and Pub.  As someone who went in with a group and ordered a food drop, I’d recommend bucking up and simply carrying your own food. The drop was two hours late, it was cold and rainy, and we suffered quite a chill standing on an old logging road waiting on the food for which we depended to get through the rest of the wilderness. This penultimate stretch of trail is awesome, and as a NOBO thru-hiker, you’ve probably made quite a few friends by now with whom you can venture through the wilderness if you prefer. Note: It is recommended to watch each others’ backs at river crossings.  Try to make an effort to ford when others are around.  Wait and make sure everyone crosses safely.

videocamera_2-512 Watch “Welcome to the Hundred Mile Wilderness!”
Click here for part 1.

Click here for part 2.

Millinocket, Maine – After the Hundred Mile Wilderness, you’ll probably want to resupply, spend a night in town, and find some good food and beer! The quaint trail town of Millinocket offers all of the above!  There are many cheap lodging options with the Appalachian Trail Lodge being a favorite.  The same people own the Appalachian Trail Cafe serving all three meals and happy hour specials. This town offers incredible levels of hospitality to hikers.

Beer In case you missed the “happy hour specials” blurb above, the A.T. Cafe has a few local beer choices. 

top_mountain_goal_flag-128 Katahdin! And finally, you’ve made it. Welcome to Katahdin,the most exhilarating, breathtaking climb of all! Congratulations!

videocamera_2-512 Below are four very short video clips to give you a virtual tour of Katahdin from the ground up!

Watch a brief clip of the climb in action! Exhilarating!

Watch part two – Katahdin kicks butt!

This is SO MUCH FUN! (Sorry for the wind noise, but expect it up there!)

Part 4, party on the summit!

2 thoughts on “Cool Places to See on the Northern A.T.

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