Trail Management

Our management efforts are cooperative, and we have many partners that help us do the work we do, including federal, state, and local agencies and Trail maintaining clubs.


Trail management encompasses the on–the-ground stewardship performed by volunteers and agency partners to maintain the Trail, its structures, and its natural and cultural resources. It includes keeping the footpath clear of natural overgrowth and blowdowns; building and relocating sections of the footpath; building and repairing shelters and other structures; and caring for overnight sites. We coordinate this work, provide training, help set policy parameters, supply funding and other assistance to 31 Trail clubs, and recruit and manage volunteer Trail Crews. 

Our stewardship efforts include educating and supporting A.T. users to adopt hiking and camping techniques that minimize damage to the natural environment. We promote Leave No Trace principles and deploy ridgerunners and caretakers along high-use sections of the Trail to help hikers and other visitors understand those principles and avoid unnecessary resource damage. 

To help ensure consistent management practices along the roughly 2,190 miles of the Trail, we provide a number of resources for volunteer leaders, agencies and others, including a library of A.T. management policies and other reference materials.

the appalachian trail crews

Six ​volunteer Trail Crews tackle large-scale projects such as Trail relocations and rehabilitation and bridge and shelter construction. The crews are active from May through October each year, working on projects from Maine to Georgia. Trail Crew projects—which may last for a week or more—are planned and completed in cooperation with A.T. maintaining clubs and agency partners such as the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service.  


Crew Life

All crew members must be able to live and work cooperatively and in close proximity with fellow volunteers of all genders, ages, and nationalities. All crew members are expected to participate equally in routine tasks, including cooking, cleaning, and tool care, both at base camp and the project site. 

Konnarock 2014: Week 3, Crew 2 at New River Relocation

Working Conditions

TRAIL WORK IS HARD, PHYSICAL LABOR. It involves working with hand tools, and getting dirty is guaranteed. The crews work eight- or nine-hour days, rain or shine, hot or cold, regardless of black flies, mosquitoes, and other insects. During the course of the crew season, the weather can vary from sweaty, summertime heat to freezing, winter-like cold.


On the Site

Crews gather at base camp for introductions and orientation the day before departing to spend the work week at the project location. Accommodations at the project sites vary, ranging from primitive backcountry tent camps to tenting in developed campgrounds to cabins accessible by vehicle. On crews working at remote backcountry locations, participants may have a lengthy and strenuous full-day backpack with significant elevation gain to their field campsite, and a primitive backcountry experience without showers, bathrooms, or running water for the duration of their week. These crews carry in food, tools, and group gear in addition to their personal equipment. Most crews can expect a hike to the work site each morning.



Crews are led by experienced, professional crew leaders eager to pass along Trail work and backcountry skills. Camp coordinators supervise life at base camp and provide administrative and logistical support. Some camp coordinators serve as assistant crew leaders in the field. Applications for seasonal Trail crew staff are available in the winter under Job Opportunities. The application deadline is Jan. 31. Trail club members may join the crews in the field and may be involved in project administration. 

Crews 1 & 2 working on the Rocky Fork Relocation south of Erwin, TN.

What We Provide

Once you arrive at the base camp, shelter, food, transportation to and from project sites, tools, safety equipment, and group camping gear (as available) are provided. Crew members need to bring work clothing, sturdy boots, and their own basic camping gear.

which crew fits you?

Click the links below to learn more about each crew and take this quick quiz to determine which crew is best for your skill level.

Trail Crew Meter

learn more about each crew

Rocky Top Trail Crew Logo

Rocky Top Trail Crew


Konnarock Trail Crew Logo

Konnarock Trail Crew


Smokies Wilderness Elite Appalachian Trail Crew Logo

S.W.E.A.T Crew


Maine State Icon Larger

Maine Trail Crew


Vermont State Icon Larger

Vermont Long Trail Patrol


Mid-Atlantic Trail Crew

Mid-Atlantic Trail Crew


Ridgerunner Patch Logo

ridgerunners and caretakers

Ridgerunners and caretakers are seasonal employees assigned to hike and camp along high-use sections of the A.T. and at heavily used overnight sites. The ridgerunner and caretaker program helps promote a quality recreational experience for all.

Ridgerunners are assigned to work on specific sections of the Trail, which can be up to 70 miles long. They spend most of their work day on the Trail, talking to hikers and other Trail visitors. At trailheads they may discuss hikers’ itineraries, potential campsites and the importance of using already impacted campsites in heavily used areas. At campsites and shelters they might talk about effective food storage in bear country or area campfire policy.

These trail stewards make note of the condition of the Trail itself, campsites, shelters or other built structures and report any conditions that need immediate attention to maintaining clubs and agency partners. While infrequent, ridgerunners occasionally become involved in emergency responses, including searches for lost hikers or efforts to provide emergency medical treatment to ill or injured hikers.

We recruit for the upcoming season during November or December of the prior year. Information and applications are found in the Job Opportunities section.  Applications are usually accepted until Jan. 31. More information can also be obtained by calling the ATC’s Ridgerunner Coordinator at 717.258.5771 x203.


trail management policies

We adopt policies in order to state ATC’s position on issues affecting the Trail and to facilitate consistent management of the Trail through 8 national forests, 6 national parks, 14 states and numerous state and local jurisdictions. Policies are developed in consultation with agency partners and the Trail clubs, whose members volunteer more than 200,000 hours annually to the Trail. This diagram depicts the ATC Policy Development Process (pdf).