There are so many important logistics to consider when planning a big thru-hike that it can be easy to forget some of the smaller ones – like just how you’re going to get there! If you’re planning a northbound thru-hike on the AT, you will be starting at Springer Mountain, Georgia. So how are you going to get there?
AT thru-hikers typically use the small town of Gainesville, Georgia, as their jumping off point before heading off into the wilderness. Gainesville is a couple hours by car from Springer Mountain, where the AT begins. AT thru-hikers have two main logistics to figure out to get the start of the trail: how to get to Gainesville and how to get from Gainesville to the start of the AT.
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Getting to Gainesville:
Flying is certainly the fastest way to move around the country but it does mean that you’ll have to pick up your fuel when you land in Georgia. Having said that, it’s still an easy way to get to Springer Mountain. Atlanta has a major international airport with many flights coming and going every single day. Fly into the Atlanta airport and then take public transportation (shuttle or bus) to Gainesville.
While air may be the fastest way to get to the start of your thru-hike, rail might be the easiest (and most romantic!). You won’t have to worry about checking a bag or buying fuel when you arrive and you’ll get to see the countryside along the way! Amtrak runs passenger trains through Gainesville.
Getting to the trailhead:
Once you’ve arrived in Gainesville, you still need to get to the trailhead. Fortunately for you, you have some choices:
By Taxi:This is a great option for those that don’t mind spending some extra money to gain a little bit of convenience. Uni Taxi (770-534-5355) offers taxi service from Gainesville to Amicalola State Park.
By Shuttle:Many companies and private individuals offer shuttle service from various locations in the area to the trailhead. Check the A.T. Shuttle List for details.
If you get to Gainesville and don’t want to hit the trail right away, you have some really great options for lodging:
Amicalola State Park: Amicalola State Park offers campsites, a lodge, and individual cabins at reasonable rates. Because Amicalola is the jumping off point for most northbound thru hikers, you’ll be right where you need to be to hit the ground running in the morning.
Hiker Hostel: The Hiker Hostel is a full service hostel catering to the area’s outdoorsy set and it’s a very popular way for people to begin their AT adventures. It’s worth noting that the good folks at the Hiker Hostel offer a package which includes pickup in either Gainesville or at the North Springs MARTA Station, transportation to the hostel, an overnight bunk room, and a shuttle the next morning to the trailhead. And they do this all for the exceptionally reasonable price of $80 per person.