When most outdoor travelers think of the famed Appalachian Trail, their first association is with long-distance backpacking.
And it’s true.
Many hikers spend months traveling the trail from its start in Georgia to its finish atop a mountain in Maine.
But what if you’re not quite ready to hit the trail for weeks at a time?
Learn about the best Appalachian Trail lodges, and enjoy access to some of the trail’s most beautiful sections without the hardship of blistered toes and grimy clothes.
Set along the Appalachian Trail’s northern section from New Jersey to Maine, the seven Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) Lodges sit like a string of pearls along the path of the trail.
How do you pick the best Appalachian Trail lodge?
Each location is distinct and enjoys its own personality.
At all of the locations, travelers will find comfortable (if sometimes basic) accommodations in a rustic setting.
Many include nature programs, eco-outdoors programs, and optional tours into the backcountry via snowshoe, paddling, or hiking.
All are centers for eco-friendly education and meeting places for backpackers hiking the trail.
The atmosphere is friendly, enthusiastic, and casual.
Guests can find almost all types of accommodations, from hostel-style lodging to family suites.
Best Appalachian Trail lodges for families:
AMC’s Highland Center is located at Crawford Notch, New Hampshire, and is an epicenter for family-friendly outdoor activities.
The lodge boasts a gear center where kids can be outfitted in appropriate L.L. Bean wear and gear for outdoor adventures.
Environmental responsibility is taught by lodge staff. Families sleep in comfortable suites and eat family style in the lodge dining room.
Right from the Highland Center grounds, families can hike, snowshoe, or backpack without the need for multi-night camping.
The lodge is located next to Bretton Woods, which allows for even more seasonal fun for kids on nordic trails, hiking trails, and biking trails.
Indoors, kids can take sessions from AMC staff on everything from snow shelter building in winter to backpacking essentials in summer.
Best AMC lodges for hikers:
AMC is well-known for their hut-to-hut lodging along the Appalachian Trail.
AMC offers the oldest hut-to-hut network in the United States, over 125 years old.
Hut reservations include a hearty dinner and breakfast and bunkhouse (co-ed) sleeping arrangements.
Lodge-to-hut stays are ideal for solo adults or couples who want a taste of the Appalachian Trail without spending the time and effort to hike all summer.
Itineraries can be adapted as needed, allowing for weekend to week-long trips.
If you have kids in the group, simply opt for lower elevation huts.
Expert hikers and those wanting a challenge can try the alpine huts.
Best Appalachian Trail lodging lakeside:
If you’re looking to spend more time relaxing by the lake shore and less time hiking (hut-to-hut or otherwise), AMC’s Maine lodges on the Appalachian Trail are a great option.
Located in the Moosehead Lake Region, these lodges are a great fit for couples or families wanting a remote location for summer play.
Choose from cabins to lodge rooms, or opt to backpack the trail a few days then retire in comfort!
Whether you’re a hardcore hiker or a casual camper, there’s a place for you to stay on the Appalachian Trail.
Pick the lodge that’s right for you from our list of the best Appalachian Trail lodges.
Have you hiked or vacationed on the northern section of the Appalachian Trail?
Did you sample an AMC lodge or hut?
What was your best Appalachian Trail lodges experience?
Photo credit: Outdoors.org