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Backpacking areas accesible by General Aviation
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Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Backpacking areas accesible by General Aviation on 02/15/2013 22:11:34 MST Print View

Strange question but figured it would get the most views in the Gear section.

For those aviation gurus and other pilots out there, what are some good backpacking locations east of the Mississippi river accessible by small aircraft?

For example, a grass/dirt airstrip located at a large park or forest or paved runway within walking distance of a good hiking destination for 1-3 night trips. I know they exist all over out west and up north but I am looking for places to escape to by air for a few days that are within a few hundred miles of boring SW Ohio.

Any ideas?

diego dean
courtesy car on 02/16/2013 05:43:38 MST Print View

Havnt done any fly in camping in the east, but I always had great success using the fbo's courtesy car to get be from the air field to the trail head when I was instructing in the Northwest. Most times someone would just drive me over and id set up a pickup time.

Definitely would like to hear about some trailheads within walking distance of remote fields.

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Black Forest Trail in PA on 02/16/2013 06:41:27 MST Print View

It's really funny that you asked this because I was looking at my TOPO! software for my upcoming hike of the 42-mile Black Forest Trail in PA and I noticed a landing strip marked on the map...

BFT Near Landing Strip

The approximate waypoint of the strip is 41 30.033 N and 77 34.953 W.

Here's a view of it in Google Maps:

BFT Landing Strip from Google Maps

The BFT is marked in red on the first map above. From the southern end of the landing strip you're within a mile of the trail (to the waypoint marked "ASPENMDWS"). It's a loop trail which would also meet your needs.

Please note that I am not a pilot and cannot tell you anything about the landing strip, its length, condition, or services available there. It looks like, from Google Maps, that there might be something called the "Black Forest Inn Airport" there, but you'll have to do some digging on your own.

Andy Anderson
(ianders) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Backpacking areas accesible by General Aviation on 02/16/2013 09:14:46 MST Print View

We frequently fly into Ashville,NC but we have to rent a car. I have flown into Brevard, NC a couple of times. The staff is pretty helpful and is willing to take you into town. The Davidson River campground is only a couple of miles away. The Art Loeb trail runs right through there. It's a cool little airport, the runway is only about 3,000 if I recall correctly. You have to fly a valley to get out. If you find anymore, let me know. I've been looking for a while too. What kind of plane are you flying?

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Backpacking areas accesible by General Aviation on 02/16/2013 11:07:07 MST Print View

Places such as the Black Forest Trail are exactly what I was looking for. I called the Black Forest Inn to inquire about the airstrip. They don't maintain it anymore and it has obstructions now. Only suitable for helicopters. Oh well.

I would prefer not to use courtesy cars, ideally we would want to land and secure the aircraft very near trail access. For the cost of AvGas, we may as well drive if a car is needed once we get there. Just thought flying in somewhere would be a fun change.

We fly small 4 seat single engine aircraft with about a 300mi range (with fuel reserve) and need at least a 2000' airstrip (assuming it is not sloped and the density altitude is not too bad).

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Couple ideas on 02/16/2013 11:31:16 MST Print View

Not being a pilot I'm no expert but I can think of two towns with airports near trails.

1. Roanoke VA - The AT goes right past the edge of town. Might be able to bike to the TH if bikes fit in the plane.

2. Ashville, NC - Really pretty area with lots of outdoor activities. You'll need a car or a ride but the Shining Rock Wilderness is amazing. I imagine you could arrange some kind of shuttle with an outfitter.

Andy Anderson
(ianders) - F

Locale: Southeast
Aviation on 02/16/2013 11:35:29 MST Print View

Here is a link to the same question when I asked it back a year or so ago. There is a link to a pretty good website. So what kind of airplane are you flying?

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Aviation on 02/16/2013 11:54:24 MST Print View

The link mentions an airstrip near where the AT crosses I-81 near Roanoke. If you go their you can head south and hit McAfee Knob (most photographed spot on the AT). I did a quick check of my digital mapping program and it showed another trail branching off and heading back north (along the North Mountain Ridge). With a more detailed map you might be able to connect the two trails and create a loop hike. Be careful though if you can't identify a real trail or dirt road to hike its not worth trying. There might be patches of private land in the valley that would block bushwacking and at any rate the area has lots of thick brush and poison ivy.

Damascus VA is a great town to start a hike from but there are no airports. However there are some close by and biking the Virginia Creeper Trail is popular. My guess is you could find a bike rental place that would give you a shuttle. It might be worth the money. You can make a very nice 50-60 mile loop by hiking up the AT (through Grayson Highlands) and back on the Iron Mountain Trail (old AT). Hiking in the southeast doesn't get much better then that area.

The Roanoke option might be the simplest so far but I think the Damascus area hike would be much more scenic.

Mark Wilkison
(RyanW) - F
Re: Aviation on 02/16/2013 13:03:39 MST Print View

I can't help you with ideas in the Midwest as my experience is limited to the West coast.

However, you might consider using Craigslist for arranging a ride between the trailhead and FBO. Often easier and less of an imposition than a courtesy car, and certainly cheaper than a rental.

When I was instructing several of my students had good luck with this approach, often hiring a local highschool student for a very reasonable amount of cash.

Good luck. Let us know if you find anything.

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Aviation and the Black Forest Trail on 02/16/2013 15:30:52 MST Print View


Sorry if I got your hopes up, even temporarily. Another option might be the Wellsboro Johnston Airport near Wellsboro, PA. There's a really nice 30-mile trail along the west rim of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon (cooincidentally named the West Rim Trail). There's an outfitter (Pine Creek Outfitters) near the northern trailhead that offers a shuttle service. I'm sure you could have them pick you up at the airport and take you to the southern terminus of the trail to start your hike. At the northern end you can walk right to their office and they could give you a ride back to the airport.

If you want to do a chunk of the AT in PA I'd be happy to help with the shuttle service.

Jackson Letts
(jackletts) - F
General Aviation Hiking destionations on 02/16/2013 16:46:23 MST Print View

It’s good to know that there is another Pilot/Backpacker out there. Living in Kansas City, we have flown all over the place in our Bonanza on backpacking and camping trips. We have been to Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Escalante Ut, Moab, Durango, Pagosa Springs, Aspen (actually lots of places in Colorado), Badlands NP, Guadalupe Mountains NP, I’m sure there are more if it thought about it for a minute. Unfortunately all those trips needed ground transportation, mostly rental cars. I have never found a fly in and hike airport... but I’m looking.

We also fly to Northern Michigan several times each summer (Parents have a cottage up there.) I have been scouting for a place to fly and backpack in the area and bought a book called “Backpacking in Michigan”. I've been reading the descriptions then looking for an airport nearby. Here is what I have come up with.

St Ignace, Mackinac County Airport K83D

Looks like it’s only a mile or two hike to the trailhead for the Horseshoe Bay Wilderness area. Another mile and a half and you are on the beach where camping is allowed. The beach is 2-3 miles long I’ve seen the beach from Mackinac Island and it looks beautiful.

Another Possibility is Big Sable Point. Fly into Ludington KDLM

Looks like a 2-3 mile hike to Lake Michigan. From there hike North towards Big Sable Point. Another Mile and you will be in Ludington State Park, if you keep going North you will enter the Manastee National Forest. It’s 15 miles along the beach to Manastee. I have not done this hike but I’ve flown over it many times and it’s beautiful.

It also looks possible to get to Pictures Rocks National Seashore by air. There are airports at both ends, but neither of them look all that great as they are turf runways.
Grand Marais is on the east end. Airnav says the runway is turf in “poor condition”

Hanley Field is on the West end of the trail. Airnav says it’s turf in “good condition”

There are lots of trip reports on BPL for Pictured Rocks. Sounds like a fantastic place. Again I have flown down the coast and it looks amazing from the air, but I have not done the hike.

I hope that helps. If you do any of these hike or you find any other Airport/Back Pack opportunities I’d like to hear about them.


Edited by jackletts on 02/16/2013 16:49:34 MST.

Richard Reno
(scubahhh) - M

Locale: White Mountains, mostly.
Franconia or Mt. Washington Airport, NH? on 02/16/2013 20:07:32 MST Print View

Franconia isn't much if an airport, but is close to great trails and right across the road from TheFranconia Inn, where you can find some great local knowledge. Mt Washington in Whitefield is walking distance from the Cohos Trail.

Hope this helps!

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Backpacking areas accesible by General Aviation on 02/17/2013 13:56:34 MST Print View

Thanks for the suggestions. Many of these options will require some sort of shuttle, lots of planning, and extra expense. Does not look like the quick and easy long weekend backpacking trip by air is as easy to do. I only get to take one big trip a year, others have to be within a day's drive of Ohio for time sake.

I will be sure to update the thread if anything else comes up though.

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Backpacking Accessible by General Aviation - Allegheny Front Trail on 10/03/2013 08:31:36 MDT Print View

I was lucky enough to hike the Allegheny Front Trail this past weekend with some good friends and was reminded of this thread as we hiked past the Mid-State Airport near Philipsburg, PA. There's even a connector trail to the airport!

Ryan - I think this is exactly what you wanted...Here's how close the airport is to the trail:

Mid-State Airport near Philipsburg, PA

The Allegheny Front Trail is a 40-mile loop around Black Moshannon State Park in Pennsylvania. It can also be broken up into two 27-mile loops by using connector trails that take you right through the middle of the main loop and through the State Park. This can be nice if you want to spend a night in a campground with flush toilets and clean hot showers.

I did the "Eastern Loop" this weekend and it was spectacular. It's one of my favorite hikes in Pennsylvania - amazing diversity along the trail (hardwood forests with ferns to evergreen glades to boardwalks above bogs to rhododendron tunnels along streams) and the hills are pretty mild.

PM me if you have any further questions, but I know this airport (unlike the one near the Black Forest Trail) is still active.

Edited to add map image.

Edited by KBabione on 10/03/2013 08:33:25 MDT.

Lapsley Hope
KMKJ on 10/03/2013 10:17:06 MDT Print View

Mountain Empire Airport, is within about 5 miles of the AT where it crosses underneath I 81 in Virginia.
I can vouch for it being a very friendly airport.