General Information – Alternative Break

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Northeastern University at Santa Clara Parks, CA

1. How is the Alternative Break program different than the Volunteer Vacations program?

While the mission of Alternative Breaks and Volunteer Vacations with American Hiking is the same, giving back to the trails we love, Alternative Breaks are geared specifically towards college student groups and young professional groups (such as AmeriCorps). Alternative Breakers will spend the week working, relaxing, and giving back to the trails with their peers!

2. What if I have never worked on a trail before? How much experience is necessary?

We welcome you! Our Alternative Breaks are a fun way to learn new things and most do not require any prior experience. All of our projects do require participants to be in good physical condition and will involve 1-6 miles of hiking each day while performing trail maintenance. Please read the project descriptions carefully and choose one that fits your group’s experience level and physical abilities.

3. How much does an Alternative Break cost and what is included?

Alternative Break registration is $215 per participant and includes:

  • 1-Year Membership with American Hiking (See the benefits of a membership, here)
  • Exclusive Volunteer T-Shirt
  • Indoor lodging or campsite reservation
  • Trip Planning Guidance
  • Meal Planning Guidance (see below for meal planning information)
  • Project supervision
  • Use of tools and safety equipment
  • Earn additional outdoor gear to take on your trip, here.


Alternative Break crews are responsible for paying for travel to and from the project location and for food.  Registration fees are the same for every location offered.  Registration fees are due 1-month before the start of your project.  (see information below about reserving your desired week/location)  American Hiking is a non-profit organization. The registration fee helps offset the costs associated with coordinating our alternative break trips and ensures that we can recruit and send hardworking groups to assist our project hosts with their trail needs. Our volunteers also are exempt from paying park entrance fees, campground fees and backcountry permit fees, which for a typical week in a U.S. National Park could run upwards of $100. The registration fee is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

4. How large are the groups (or crew)?

Alternative Break crews are 8 to 15 volunteers. Groups must have a minimum of 8 people to participate in an Alternative Break. If you would like to share the Alternative Break experience with others, feel free to download and distribute this flyer: American Hiking Society Alternative Break

5. I am not part of a group, can I participate in an Alternative Break as an individual?

Each Alternative Break has a group minimum of 8 participants that must be met to secure your group’s week. If you want to volunteer over your break as an individual or with a friend or two, visit here to see all the trips we are offering as part of our year-round Volunteer Vacations program.  (The 2018 Volunteer Vacations schedule will be coming out in December, 2017) Volunteer Vacations are open for people of all ages and available for individual registration.  We often times have Volunteer Vacations that coincide with your spring and summer breaks.  Please note that Volunteer Vacations are not planned specifically for college groups – participants will vary in age from 18-80.

6. What is the basic itinerary for an Alternative Break?

Most trips last one week with weekends used for travel. A typical day will include a hearty breakfast, trail work for 5-7 hours (enjoy lunch on the trail!) and a return to camp for a well-deserved dinner and evening of relaxing around the campfire or cabin. All trips will include free time to hike, get to know your fellow crew members, and explore the area.  Each trip will include one “free-day”, where you will not be working on the trail.  Many hosts will have a special outing planned for the group for the free day or will provide the group with information on local attractions that you can visit on your own.

7. What types of accommodations are available?

Accommodations vary, depending on the trip you choose. Options include car-camping campsites, bunkhouses,  cabins, or dormitories.  Most Alternative Breaks will offer indoor lodging either in a cabin, lodge, or dormitory.  Typically these facilities will include a cots/bunk beds, full kitchen, bathroom(s),  and running water.  Please read the accommodations description for the trip location you are interested in to see what is provided.

8. How are meals handled?

Most Alternative Break groups have a designated student leader or adviser who oversees the meal planning and food shopping when they arrive to the project site.  American Hiking will provide the trip leader with sample menu options, sample shopping lists, a meal planning guide, and budgeting guidance to aid in food planning.   American Hiking or the project host will let your group know what grocery store is recommended to use and what amenities are available at the lodging.  Most Alternative Break groups prepare meals together or set up a meal preparation schedule.  Group cooking gear will be provided for the crew by the host.  The purchase and payment of food is the responsibility of the volunteer group- food is not included in the registration fee.

9. How does my group get to the project site?

Most Alternative Break groups drive to their project location. If you are interested in a trip that would require your group to fly, please contact us at 1-800-972-8608 ext. 704 to see if there is an airport pick-up available for your desired project. If the host cannot provide airport pickup, it is the responsibility of the group to get to the site. You may have to carpool, or there might be an airport shuttle that will get you to the site.

10. What projects and locations are you offering in 2018?

We are thrilled to offer more than a dozen locations to choose from in 2018!  Some locations will be familiar favorites, while others offer student groups new places to explore.  View the 2018 Alternative Break project schedule for availability, project descriptions, accommodations, and more detailed information about each experience.

11. How do I sign my group up for an Alternative Break?

Thank you for considering giving back during your school break!  The process to confirm a project location is easy and we will walk you through the steps.  We require a $500 deposit to reserve the location and week that your group wants.  This deposit will secure that particular week and location for your group as we get a lot of inquiries from other groups for specific locations.  Registration fees will be due 1-month from the project start.  The paid deposit will be subtracted from the total registration fees.  For example, if your group has 10 participants, your group would pay the $500 deposit to secure your chosen week/location.  The registration fees would total $2,150 ($215 X 10).  Since you already paid the deposit to secure your week- $1,650 would be due to us one-month before the project starts to cover the remaining registration fees. We also offer fundraising opportunities for participants to earn awesome outdoor gear to use for all their future outdoor adventures. Visit, HERE, for more details.

For additional questions about the Alternative Break program, contact Libby Wile at or 1-800-972-8608 ext. 704.