Immersion Travel: Volunteer on the Appalachian Trail

By Sheryl Kayne

appalachian trailIf you’re anything like me, you love to travel. But to people like us, and to single women all over the world, traveling means more than visiting the hot spots. We like to meet the people, get to know the history of the place we are visiting, and enjoy where we go like a local rather than a tourist. That’s what immersion and volunteer travel are all about – connecting with the people, community, culture, habits and traditions of each place you visit.

Volunteer travel is the best of everything, and can rejuvenate a single woman’s soul. Volunteer travel is a combination of visiting new places, getting involved and giving back. Many of the trips are fee-free, like this absolutely amazing volunteer vacation to the Appalachian Travel. Join in and be part of a working trail crew for a week or more with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, where you will help build and protect the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, a marked hiking trail from Maine to Georgia, stretching 2,175 miles through 14 eastern states.

Projects vary and may include trail relocation and rehabilitation, rock work, maintenance, and bridge and shelter construction. Volunteers must be 18 years or older—no experience is necessary. The great part about a group activity like this is that if you are single, there’s no single housing charge. You simply join the group and make new like-minded friends.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is a private non-profit organization, tax-exempt since 1950. Program options include the Konnarock Crew, which covers the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) from Rockfish Gap, Virginia, to Springer Mountain, Georgia; the Maine Trail Crew, with projects along 280 miles of scenic woods; the Vermont Long Trail Patrol, which does heavy construction projects on the co-aligned Appalachian and Long Trails; the Mid-Atlantic Crew, which works on the trail from Virginia to the New York/Connecticut line; and the Rocky Top Crew, which works on the portion of the A.T. that passes through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. It’s quite empowering to contribute to a publicly owned, historically significant land, and it is quite important to know your own comfort zone.

Call and ask questions before signing up. Each trip is specific about the skill level needed and type of work that will be done. If you are not up to “heavy construction,” then stick to the Vermont Long Trail Patrol. Personally, I’m up to light trail work, planting, and clean-up for about four hours a day. That’s my limit and there are plenty of crews that I can help out on.

Ask questions:

  • What are the working conditions like?
  • What could the temperatures be?
  • How long is the work day?
  • How much down time is there and what is there to do? Depending upon where you volunteer, there might be kayaking, canoeing, swimming, singing around the bonfire, and other interesting places to visit.

The housing differs according to location and campsite accessibility. Cooks and meals are often provided. A complete list of what to bring and what will be provided will be sent to you following registration. The views are amazing, the wildlife is awesome, and the people you meet will be fascinating and could become friends forever.

And if you’re in the market for a family trail work weekend, with children over age six, the Appalachian Mountain Club (;; no fees but a $6 contribution for some meals) sponsors a fun weekend with activities and housing at The Mohican Outdoor Center (MOC) in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Blairstown, New Jersey, every second Saturday and Sunday from April to November. You’ll find more information on a variety of trips for teens, singles, seniors, and families at

Happy Trails.

Check out Sheryl’s website and her new book VOLUNTEER VACATIONS ACROSS AMERICA (Countryman Press, 2009). Send her a note to to receive free, personalized autographed stickers for any of her books that you purchase.


More Immersion Traveler articles:
Immersion Traveler: Leave No Trace Behind
Immersion Travel: Learn How to Mush
Become an Immersion Traveler