General Information

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Program Overview

Volunteer Vacations are a series of trail building projects on America’s public lands. Each crew consists of 6-15 volunteers accompanied by a crew leader. Trips involve backpacking or day hiking and accommodations vary from primitive campsites to bunkhouses or cabins. Tools and supervision are provided by the host agency or organization. More than a program that rehabilitates trails, Volunteer Vacations fosters public land stewardship and provides volunteers the opportunity to give back to the trails they love, meet new people, and have a great time doing it!

To see the recent successes of our stewardship programs, view the 2016 Volunteer Vacations Year in Review.

2017 Registration Fees
  • $275: American Hiking Society Members, First Trip per Calendar Year
  • $330: Non-Member, First Trip per Calendar Year
  • $195: Additional Trips per Calendar Year
  • $195: Youth Registration, Under 18 Years of Age (Must be accompanied by legal guardian on trip)
  • $195: Group Rate, Minimum of 4  (All must be members)

 

*The registration fee and travel associated with your volunteer trip is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.  Find out how you can get earn a comped Volunteer Vacation registration, HERE.

Registration Fees Include
  • Food during the week (with the exception of meals out)
  • Entrance to park/forest, backcountry permits, campground fees, cabin or lodging fees (These fees could run upwards of $100 for a typical week in a U.S. National Park/Forest)
  • Use of tools and safety equipment
  • Group supervision, logistics planning, and meal planning from experienced Crew Leaders
  • Exclusive American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacations t-shirt
  • If you are a non-member signing up for the first time, you also get the full benefits of membership.

* American Hiking is a non-profit organization. In addition to the inclusions listed above, the registration fee helps offset the costs associated with coordinating the logistics and marketing of more than 60 different projects in 30 states every year.

Fundraising

Do you want to know how you could get your Volunteer Vacation fee comped and win some sweet outdoor SWAG in the process?!win-these

We are providing our dedicated trail stewards the opportunity to make an even bigger impact on trails beyond their week of service by fundraising for American Hiking Society.  We’ve set up a Team fundraising page on behalf of American Hiking Society and invite you to join us by setting up your own individual fundraising page.  It’s easy to do and takes just 5-10 minutes.  Then tap into your network of friends and family to help us in our mission to protect the places you love to hike.

In addition to helping us get more “boots-on-the-ground”, raising funds for Volunteer Vacations can get you some really awesome gear to take on your next adventure.  We’ve curated an extensive list of some of the best outdoor gear and equipment in the industry to reward you for your fundraising efforts.  Find out how you can save more trails and get your Volunteer Vacation registration fee comped, HERE.

Our Volunteers
Our volunteers come from all walks of life and from across the country. Age ranges from 15 to 80. Volunteers under the age of 18 are welcome on certain trips if accompanied by a legal guardian. Each trip lists the minimum age allowed on the project details page. While each trip usually has a couple or two, or friends traveling together, many participants travel alone. If you have never done trail maintenance before, we welcome you! While we do ask that volunteers are in good physical condition, prior trail maintenance experience is not necessary on any of our trips. There is a wide variety of tasks on each trip and there is always something for everyone to do. (We do strongly recommend prior backpacking experience for trips designated with backpacking to a remote location.) If you are interested in our Alternative Break Program, please visit our Alternative Break page.
Choosing the Right Trip
Trips are rated to help you find a project that suits your needs and physical ability. While trips do not require prior trail maintenance experience, all of our projects require participants to be in good physical condition and will involve 30-40 hours of physical labor during the week.  Projects are rated from ‘easy’ to ‘very strenuous’.  Please read the project descriptions carefully, honestly assess your physical capabilities, and choose one that fits your experience level and current health. Read more information about our project ratings and how to choose a trip that is right for you in our Project Guide.
Travel

The start date listed for each project is the travel/meeting date.  The meeting time will generally be in the late afternoon of the start date to allow morning and early afternoon travel.  The project work will begin the following day.  For backpacking trips, the crew will generally camp at the trailhead or other temporary accommodations for the first night, and then hike into basecamp the following morning.  The end date listed for each project is used as a camp cleanup/travel day.  Generally no work will be done of this date.

Volunteers are responsible for all travel costs to and from the site. Many hosts offer an airport pickup. When we confirm the project, we will provide you with the travel instructions including airport pickup and departure times and the designated meeting place. Do not make non-refundable travel arrangements until you have received a project confirmation. If the project is cancelled due to low attendance or unforeseen circumstances, American Hiking cannot be held responsible for loss of funds due to cancelled or changed travel itineraries.

If the host cannot provide an airport pickup, it is the responsibility of the volunteer to get to the site. We provide a list of participants in the confirmation email and you might coordinate with some of your fellow crew members to carpool. Airport shuttles, renting a car, or driving your personal vehicle are all options if the host cannot provide an airport pickup.

*Travel expenses for public service projects are considered charitable contributions and may be tax deductible.

Food

Food is included in your registration fee for all Volunteer Vacations.  The American Hiking crew leader or project host will coordinate the menu for the week based on the dietary restrictions/preferences you list on your registration forms. If possible, the crew leader will shop in advance of the trip for groceries.

  • Dietary Restrictions/Needs: We will try to accommodate dietary restrictions and needs within reason.  Please be sure to list any dietary restrictions on your registration form and reiterate them to the crew leader. If your needs are extensive or expensive, you may be asked to bring some of your own food. We ask that all volunteers be flexible. 
  • Group Meals and Chores: Food preparation, meal clean-up, and other camp chores (firewood collection, cleaning tools, etc.) are split between the crew. The crew leader or host will delegate these duties to the crew upon arrival. ALL volunteers are expected to pitch into the efforts on the trail, as well as at camp.
  • Meals outside of the scheduled menu: Volunteers cover the cost of meals eaten out or any personal additions that were not planned by the crew leader or host.
Accommodations
Accommodations will be arranged in advance at either an indoor cabin or dormitory, car camping front country campsite, or a backcountry primitive location. Campsites range from developed campgrounds with bathroom/shower facilities to primitive backcountry sites. Volunteers are required to bring their own tent, sleeping bag, and pad for trips that involve camping. Projects that provide indoor accommodations usually will require volunteers to bring their own sleeping bag.  Each project description includes a description of the accommodations provided and what gear is required for the participant.
Day in the Life of a Volunteer Vacation
Each Volunteer Vacation’s itinerary will vary based on location, weather, project rating, and crew participants.  Typically, you’ll enjoy a hearty breakfast at camp and be on the trail between 8AM and 9AM. Crews will generally work 6-8 hours each working day.  Everyone will pack their lunches to eat on the trail (you can expect a to be surrounded by beautiful scenery and the sounds of nature as you enjoy your sandwich!) Plenty of other breaks will be included. Most projects will wrap up the work day in the late afternoon, to hike back to camp and enjoy a few hours of daylight for free recreation. The crew will reconvene at a chosen time for dinner- a just reward for a hard days work.  After dinner has been cleaned up, evenings offer plenty of free time to relax, sit around the campfire, and get to know your fellow crew members. Most trips give a full day off during the work week to explore the area, take a recreational hike, or take a tour of local attractions. 
Trip Resources
If you have signed up for a Volunteer Vacation and you are wondering what you can do to prepare, visit our Trip Resources page to familiarize yourself with trail maintenance terms, start your packing, and find out how you can get your registration fee comped!
Gear and Equipment

Your gear needs will vary greatly based on your trip, project location, and accommodations. To get you started with packing, we have included suggested equipment checklists that should cover your basic needs. Volunteers provide their own tent, sleeping bag, pad, and all personal gear, including eating utensils for trips designated as camping trips. Tools, camp cook gear, and First-Aid equipment will be provided by the host. Detailed gear needs will be communicated in the project confirmation and from your crew leader in advance of your trip. More details about Gear and Equipment can be found on the Trip Resources page.

Project Confirmation

If you submit your registration online, you should receive an automatic confirmation that your registration has been submitted and received.  Once the minimum number of volunteers has been met and all details have been confirmed with the project, we will send you a project confirmation, via email. These are generally sent out 6-8 weeks in advance of the project start. Project confirmations include local travel instructions, airport pickup times, and other project details.

  • Do not book non-refundable transportation until receiving the project confirmation. AHS is not responsible for lost funds due to cancelled or modified travel itineraries.
Cancellation Policy
  • Cancellations received at least 8 weeks prior to the start date of the project will receive a 50% refund of the original registration fee paid. The membership fee is non-refundable.
  • No refund will be made if cancellation is made less than 8 weeks prior to the start date or if the participant fails to show up for the project. This includes instances of injury or illness.
  • If notice is received at least 8 weeks prior to the start date of the project, participants may switch to another project during the same calendar year, subject to an additional $50 administrative fee.
  • We understand that things might come up that would prevent you from participating in your scheduled trip.  If you are unable to take part in your assigned project for any reason, please let us know immediately so we can notify the project host and crew leader.
Project Cancellations
Although rare, project cancellations may occur due to unforeseen circumstances on behalf of the host, inclement weather, natural disasters, unsafe working conditions, or if the project minimum is not met. If the project you signed up for is canceled, we will refund the entire registration fee. (The membership fee is non-refundable.) We are also happy to transfer the registration fee to another trip in the same calendar year.

If you would like assistance selecting a trip or have additional questions, please contact Libby Wile, at LWile@AmericanHiking.org or call 1-800-972-8608 ext. 704.