hunting on the appalachian trail

Hunting safety gear

Hunting season safety gear

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The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) traverses many different types of public lands, including parks, forests, refuges, and game lands. It is ​not always easy while on the footpath to know which jurisdiction you are walking through, except at boundary signs. A concerted effort is made to identify land types on official A.T. maps, but hikers and hunters are advised to "know before you go."

Hunting is permitted along approximately 1,250 miles of the A.T. through national forest lands, national recreation areas, and on state forests and game lands.

Hunting is prohibited along approximately 900 miles of the Trail through national parks (like Shenandoah and the Great Smoky Mountains), most state parks, and on lands acquired by the National Park Service exclusively for the Trail and still under National Park Service administration, including the outside edges by A.T. corridor boundary signs.

Hikers should be aware that the protected corridor is often narrow, averaging about 1,000 feet wide. Even in areas where hunting is prohibited, hunters on adjacent lands may not know that they are near the Trail. Hunters may inadvertently cross onto Trail lands or unknowingly fire toward the Trail.

tips for hikers during hunting season

Know Before You Go

Specific dates for hunting seasons vary year to year and also by type of game hunted and weapon used. Small-game seasons (turkey, rabbit) stretch from fall through the end of May; ​big-game seasons (deer, bear, moose) generally occur October through January. In Loudoun County, Virginia, deer season now extends through March. Learn the regulations and hunting seasons for the areas where you will be hiking before you go. Hunting on Sundays is prohibited in some states.
A.T. Hunting Seasons Table 2017-18.doc


Wear Blaze Orange

Wear a fluorescent or "blaze" orange hat and vest (and pack cover if backpacking), or hooded outerwear when hiking in fall, winter or spring. Blaze orange will help distinguish you from wild game. If you hike with a dog, it should also wear blaze orange visible from all sides. We recommend that pets be leashed at all times while hiking.

A special note about Pennsylvania: On state game lands in Pennsylvania, all hunters and non-hunters are required to wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined, or a fluorescent orange hat, from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15 (except on Sundays). The orange material must be visible from all angles (360 degrees).



Use Extra Caution at Dawn and Dusk

Hunting activity may increase at dawn and dusk, when animals are feeding and visibility is poor. Wear reflective vests or use a headlamp or flashlight for extra visibility.



​Use Extra Caution Near Roads and in Valleys

Be especially cautious within 1/2 mile of road crossings (both approaching and leaving) and in valley areas.



​Avoid Hunter Interference

Hikers should be aware that interference or harassment of hunters in the lawful pursuit of game is a violation of law in all 14 A.T. states. This includes interference or tampering with dogs used in the pursuit of game where allowed by law. Sportsmen are our partners in conservation, and encounters between hunters and hikers are opportunities to raise the awareness of both groups.



During Deer Firearm Season

You can avoid areas where hunting is legal during deer firearm season, which varies by state, but typically occurs during parts of the months of October, November, December, and January. During those months, you may want to hike in one of the five national parks crossed by the A.T. (note that hunting is allowed in Delaware Gap National Recreation Area, another NPS unit):



​Be Heard

Make sure you are heard before you are seen by whistling, singing,​ or talking while you hike.



tips for hunters during hunting season

​Follow All Hunting Regulations

  • It is the responsibility of the sportsman to know where the landownership and boundaries for the area where he or she wishes to hunt and to contact the landowner regarding the rules and regulations governing hunting at that location.
  • The act of hunting and the discharging of weapons remains prohibited on National Park Service lands managed by the ​A.T. Park Office.
  • The use of off-road vehicles, including ATVs, is prohibited along the entire length of the ​A.T.


​​Know Where the Trail Is

  • A.T. maps can be purchased from the ATC and at local outfitters. Contact the nearest ATC office for more information.
  • Do not shoot toward the Trail or the Trail corridor.
  • A special note about Pennsylvania: Those hunting in Pennsylvania, where land hunting boundaries can be especially confusing, are encouraged to contact our Mid-Atlantic Regional Office for assistance in determining where hunting is permitted. The Trail is often located on the height of the land.


​Be Sure of Your Target

  • On National Forest lands in 2002 and 2003, two ​A.T. hikers were shot by hunters who thought they were shooting at deer. Both hikers suffered serious injuries, and both hunters were prosecuted.


​​Make Your Presence Known to ​Hikers

  • Many hikers are from urban or suburban areas and are unfamiliar with hunting. Hikers may not be aware of hunting seasons, or that they are in or near areas open to hunting.
  • Hikers may not be wearing blaze orange. Please use appropriate caution.


​Hunting is Prohibited on Lands Acquired by the National Park Service for the Trail

  • Be aware that, although the protected National Park Service Trail corridor is marked with yellow blazes and U.S. Boundary signs, corridor-boundary monitors cannot post (and maintain) signs every year along all of the more 1,200 miles of boundary where hunters might cross onto A.T. lands.
  • The Trail itself is marked by 2" by 6" vertical white rectangles painted on trees. Less familiar are the boundary blazes and signs on NPS corridor lands. Here, white 3" x 12" U.S. Boundary signs are placed facing out from the boundary with A.T. lands behind them. Trees on (or within a few feet of) the boundary are blazed with irregular yellow paint marks.
  • Keep in mind that about 75 miles of the boundary of Pennsylvania State Game lands are marked with white paint, which occasionally causes confusion with white A.T. blazes.