Springer Mountain is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and is the starting point for a grand majority of AT thru-hikers. Compared to its surroundings, the 3,782’ peak is not remarkable, but it holds great significance for many generations of aspirant thru-hikers. The terminus is located within Chattahoochee National Forest roughly two hours north of Atlanta.
In 2018 nearly 4,000 hikers began at Springer, and trends indicate 2019 to be no different. With such a high volume of prospective thru-hikers, it’s important to book your travels as soon as possible to ensure your journey starts off on the right foot. Here’s what you need to know to get it done.
This guide allows you to work by your intended method of travel. Most options will require getting a shuttle or a hitch to the trail.
The AT attracts hikers from around the world, so many hikers fly to Georgia. Luckily, one of the largest international airports in the US is located two hours south of the trail in Atlanta . Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) sees flights from many domestic and international airlines including:
Once you’ve arrived at the airport, you have a few options:
Amtrak can be a cost-effective alternative to flying for those from the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. The Crescent Line runs from New York to New Orleans and stops at both Atlanta, GA and Gainesville, GA along the way. You can hire a shuttle for either location to take you where you need to go, however, Gainesville will be closer to the trail.
MARTA is Atlanta's light rail system, and its Red Line will get you from the airport to the shuttle accessible North Springs Station. Sandy Springs, the stop before the North Springs Station is nearby a shopping complex that features restaurants and places to stock up including a Walmart and the Perimeter REI.
If you need to make some stops on your way to the trail, a rental vehicle may be the way to go. Enterprise and Hertz both have facilities in Gainesville, GA , a common town for shuttle pickups due to its proximity to the trail and its Amtrak and Greyhound stations.
Unless you have friends or family willing to drop you off at Amicalola Falls or Springer , you will likely need to hire a paid shuttle to get you to trail. The key here is planning ahead and contacting your driver before you need them. Depending on the time of season and shuttle driver, some shuttles may only serve Gainesville, GA , MARTA's North Springs Station , or the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport .
Shuttles will be useful in getting to the trail, but they can also help out with last minute outfitter stops, food stops (restaurant and grocery), and getting you to lodging if it's too late in the day to start your trek. Once again, make sure to coordinate with your shuttle driver ahead of time.
Many shuttle drivers will also accommodate thru-hikers at road crossings throughout Georgia and even into North Carolina. This can be valuable information in case of emergency, so make sure to ask your shuttle driver about their range of service and projected availability.
Here is a listing of shuttle services available to hikers starting the AT. Most are paid or by-donation services. These services are randomly ordered on this site to reduce bias and spread service evenly, so make sure to remember the name of the service you contacted.
More shuttles will soon be added.
|Richard Anderson||404.408.2524||Airport, Gainesville||Dogs allowed, will shuttle up to Fontana Hilton.|
|AT Hiker Shuttle - Bret 'Suches' Eady||404.569.8776 Email||North Springs/Sandy Springs MARTA, Gainesville||Dogs allowed, will shuttle up as far as Fontana Hilton for section hikers, fuel canisters available at cost, will accept packages for those traveling long distances to start the trail.|
|Survivor Dave||678.469.0978 Website||North Springs MARTA||No texts. Serves as far north as Fontana Dam, further on special trips.|
|Dave Keller||770.993.5583||Preferred pickup at North Springs Marta station. Train and bus stations and hotels also possibilities.||Call ahead for scheduling. Drop off at Amicalola or Springer Mountain parking lot.|
|REI Perimeter Store||770.901.9200 Website||Atlanta||Get a shuttle from our Perimeter store to Springer Mountain, Pick the brain of our backpacking experts, Grab last-minute supplies at the store or ship some gear.|
|Ron Brown||706.669.0919 Email||Atlanta, Gainesville||Dogs allowed, will shuttle up to Fontana Hilton, fuel on request.|
|Barefoot Hills||770.312.7342 Website||North Springs MARTA, Gainesville||Shuttles available for guests of Barefoot Hills Hotel/Hostel, will shuttle up until Neel Gap|
This table is shuffled randomly as to avoid favoring any particular shuttle.
Additionally, you might only need a taxi. Here are some taxis serving the north Georgia area:
Paddy's Taxi - 706.300.7143 - Paddystaxi.com
Uni Taxi - 770.297.0255 - Serves Gainesville
Some of us get lucky and can swing a ride to the trail free of charge. For those who will be depending on friends or family to drive you to the trailhead, you have two options. The first option is to get dropped off at the visitor's center at Amicalola Falls State Park and hike the approach trail to Springer. The second option is to park at the Springer Mountain parking area at AT mile one. To get there, the driver will need to take a dirt/gravel road that could be washed out and difficult to drive depending on weather conditions and road maintenance. The road may be accessible to low-set vehicles such as cars and mini-vans, but it certainly is a gamble and bottoming-out is a real possibility. Both drop off locations are indicated on the Google Map towards the beginning of the article, and navigation and/or directions can be generated for both.
Many hikers take their journey to Springer through Atlanta due to the numerous transportation hubs located there. In addition to being a gateway to the AT, Atlanta features many amenities that can help you on your way.
If taking a late flight, it's likely you'll want to stay near the airport so you can recharge before tackling your first day on the trail. There are plenty of hotels surrounding the airport:
Many shuttles are willing to pick up hikers at the North Springs MARTA Station. The stop prior, Sandy Springs Station, is located next to a shopping complex housing many restaurants and shops. The following are within walking distance of the station and should allow you to fill up on food, fuel, and any last minute gear needs:
Gainesville is the closest town to the trail with access to bus and train lines. It has a number of hotels, grocery stores, and restaurants in case you need one more zero-day before starting on your adventure.
If you find your way by Dahlonega (dah-LAWN-ih-guh) before hitting the trail, there are places to stay and resupply.
Amicalola Falls State Park is home to the start of the 8-mile AT approach trail, a visitor's center and lodging options. Hiking the approach trail is the more common option for hikers to reach Springer and allows for a more scenic departure at the archway. While the approach trail is not technically part of the AT, many NOBOs opt to hike it. If you arrive late in the day or eight miles is outside of your comfort zone, there are shelters along the approach trail to help you break up your hike to the summit of Springer.
Springer Mountain can also be accessed from a parking lot at mile one of the AT. To get to this lot, vehicles will need to drive a dirt/gravel road and may bottom out if low to the ground. Hikers will need to hike SOBO one mile up Springer to reach the start and then hike the same mile NOBO back to the parking lot in order to continue.
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