Thru-Hiking the White Mountains

Madison Hut Work for Stay
Thru-Hiking the White Mountains

Everything you need to know while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in the White Mountains

As one of the most popular hiking destinations in the Northeast, the White Mountains are stewarded by several organizations, including the US Forest Service, New Hampshire State Parks, AMC, and many other key partners. We recognize that the land-use regulations here may differ from those you have encountered previously on the trail, so we have assembled this information to make your journey through the region as seamless as possible.

 

Land Management and Camping Regulations

Most of the White Mountains is managed by the US Forest Service as the White Mountain National Forest. Please be aware of Forest Protection Areas, which are implemented to protect high-impact areas. FPAs prohibit camping, and are found around huts, shelters, trailheads, roads, and other resources. Camping is also forbidden in the alpine zone.

Franconia Notch and Crawford Notch are maintained by New Hampshire State Parks. Camping is permitted only within designated campgrounds within these areas.

AMC operates shelters, campsites, and huts on federal and state lands under special-use agreements with the USFS and NH State Parks. AMC encourages adherence with Forest Service and NH State Parks regulations.

Similar to the AMC, the Randolph Mountain Club (RMC) operates several shelters, campsites, and huts on public lands in the White Mountains.

AMC Facilities and Programs

AMC maintains 13 shelters/tentsites along the AT, which provide low or no cost camping to thru-hikers and backpackers alike. Some shelter locations regularly host large numbers of visitors, often exceeding 50 people per night. To accommodate these crowds, some locations are staffed with caretakers, who perform upkeep on the site, composting toilet systems, and nearby trails, as well as provide information and education to hikers.

Shelters with caretakers have a fee to offset costs; however, thru-hikers may use these sites at a discounted rate by purchasing a Thru-Hiker Pass (more information below).

For nearly 140 years, AMC has operated full-service backcountry huts that provide lodging, meals, and educational programming to guests. To maintain the huts as a resource to thru-hikers, a Work for Stay program has been created.

AMC also operates two frontcountry facilities, Joe Dodge Lodge and the Highland Center. Work for Stay is not available at these locations; however, all huts and lodges are offered to thru-hikers at the discounted member rate if they choose to stay.

 

What is Work for Stay?

At each hut, two thru-hikers per night may perform two hours of work in exchange for a dry place to sleep on the floor inside the hut and a hot meal. Work for Stay is primarily available during the full-service hut season, June 2 to October 15 for 2022. During the self-service season at huts, a modified Work for Stay option can be discussed with the caretaker but is not guaranteed.

Details:

  • Work for Stay is available to 2 thru-hikers per night at all huts except Lakes of the Clouds, which may accept 4 thru-hikers (due to local camping restrictions that are critical for protecting the fragile alpine environment).
  • Each hiker is expected to perform 2 full hours of work. This work is completed on a schedule that enables you to support hut operations, meaning that morning work ending as late as 10 a.m. may be required. Please coordinate with the hut staff when you arrive regarding work to be completed.
  • Work for Stay is on a first-come, first-served basis. It cannot be reserved ahead of time.
  • Please limit yourself to 1 to 2 Work for Stays as you hike this section of the AT, due to the limited number of opportunities each night (18 across the entire hut system) and large number of thru-hikers who would like to participate.
  • Lakes of the Clouds Shelter (“The Dungeon”) can sleep up to 6 thru-hikers each night at a cost of $10/bunk. This fee must be paid to hut staff upon your arrival. The Dungeon cannot be reserved in advance.
  • Always have a back-up plan for a safe and legal campsite in case Work for Stay spots and/or the Dungeon bunks have been filled.

AMC reserves the right to suspend Work for Stay should changes in the COVID-19 situation, in either the AT or White Mountain community, make it necessary. Any change will be communicated as quickly as possible via Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), AMC, and FarOut.

The AMC is pleased to support the thru-hiking community through our trail work, facility and shelter management, search and rescue operations, and Work For Stay program. With more than 3,000 AT hikers each year, Work For Stay unfortunately cannot grow to meet this ever increasing demand. Additionally, except for emergencies, lodging hikers beyond the two Work for Stays may exceed the occupancy limits of the huts as per our Special Use Permit and often violates fire codes. We encourage hikers to treat this program as a bonus on top of the other shelters and campsites maintained in the White Mountains.

Shelter Thru-Hiking Pass

The Thru-Hiker Pass is a program specifically for the thru-hiking community, which provides substantial discounts to our shelters and campsites and ensures that you have access to high-quality, low-cost camping options throughout the region.

How does it work?

As a thru-hiker, your first night at an AMC tentsite will cost $10 (33% off the standard $15 fee), and you will receive a Thru-Hiker Pass that is valid for the next 14 days. As you proceed through the White Mountains, each following shelter stay will cost only $5 per person per night (66% off) with the pass. The Thru-Hiker Pass provides additional benefits and discounts as noted below. Passes are non-transferable, non-refundable, and will not be replaced if lost.

Note: The Thru-Hiker Pass does not impact eligibility for the Work for Stay program, in which up to two thru-hikers may perform 1 hour of work in exchange for free camping. Work for Stay operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

Purchase and Use Locations:

  • Kinsman Pond Shelter
  • Liberty Springs Tentsite
  • Garfield Ridge Shelter
  • Thirteen Falls Tentsite
  • Guyot Shelter
  • Ethan Pond Shelter
  • Nauman Tentsite
  • Imp Shelter
  • Speck Pond Campsite

Thru-Hiker Pass Benefits:

  • $5 off your first tentsite stay
  • $10 off all following tentsite stays
  • Member rates at AMC’s White Mountain Huts and Lodges
  • Two free baked goods and 1 free soup (total) at AMC Huts
  • 10% off merchandise at AMC Huts, Highland Center, and Pinkham Trading Post
  • Highland Center: $6 bread, soup, and beer combo
  • Pinkham Notch Visitor Center: $2 bread and soup combo
  • Mohican Outdoors Center: discounts on lodging and camping, $6 half-sandwich, half-soup combo