The Best Trail Towns for Thru-Hikers

Long-trail hikers agree: These are the best places to spend a zero day.

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PCT: Stehekin, WA

This North Cascades town is accessible only by foot, floatplane, or ferry. “Plus, the ranch there has great food, the campground is nice, and the lake is amazing,” says Mark “Cuddles” Votapek (PCT ’08, ’13).

PCT: Etna, CA

Things this NorCal town has going for it: friendly locals, a grocery store, a pharmacy, and The Hiker’s Hut, which has laundry, WiFi, bunks, and bikes. “You can ride to Dotty’s—a restaurant that serves up one of the largest milkshakes on the trail,” says Amanda “Zuul” Jameson (PCT ’16).

Colorado Trail: Twin Lakes, CO 

The spin-around view of the Rockies lets you take a zero day without feeling like you’ve even left the trail.

John Muir Trail & PCT: Mammoth Lakes, CA

Carbo-load at Schat’s Bakery, refuel at the local watering hole, then kick your legs up on the gondola—in that order. Extra credit: Hitch a ride 30 minutes to hot springs.

AT: Damascus, VA

Welcome to “Trail Town, USA.” The AT takes you right through the center of this famous burg, known for the white blazes that run through it and—among thru-hikers—for being the friendliest town on the AT.

AT: Hot Springs, NC

If you’re a Nobo hiker, this is one of the first towns you pass after starting out from Springer Mountain. Fill up on homestyle meals, wash your clothes, and, yes, soak in hot springs before getting back to trail life.

From 2022