Smokies Wilderness Elite A.T. Crew (SWEAT)

“Elite” is the operative word. This A.T. crew is arguably the most challenging since it addresses the most difficult challenges within the deepest backcountry areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The crew backpacks in 6 – 11 miles over terrain with several thousand feet in elevation change to reach their variable work sites; this vivacious corps carry everything they need for their six-day hitch in the field – from gear, tools, and safety equipment to shelter and sustenance. Pack weight can be as much as 55-65 lbs. and hand-carrying tools may also be required. Experienced backpackers with recent trip reports are welcome to apply for this strenuous crew. Volunteers with interest but lacking extensive backcountry experience are encouraged to apply for Konnarock Trail Crew.

Base Camp

The ATC Crew Basecamp is located near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Volunteers are asked to arrive no later than 2 p.m. the day before their session start date for introduction, orientation, volunteer readiness assessment, dinner, and a safety talk. The bunkrooms have bed linens and pillows, but you’ll need to bring your towel, washcloth, soap or shampoo. Crew members with an interest in joining more than one session of crew are invited to stay at basecamp and are asked to consider it a work-for-stay opportunity.

Crew Week

Six days in the field start with a long, strenuous hike with considerable elevation change. Field camp and work site locations are variable from session to session, so returning volunteers rarely see the same parts of the Park twice. From the spike camp in the field, volunteers will have long day hikes to reach the project areas where they will trim the Trail of annual growth, clean drains or water bars, repair sidehill, and rely on resourceful application of found materials to build steps, water bars, or other erosion control features. On the sixth day, the crew hikes out from the field, cleans gear and tools, and has dinner followed by a recognition ceremony.

Essential Volunteer Functions

Volunteers spend six consecutive days and five nights working in remote backcountry locations, far from medical facilities, performing physically demanding manual labor in a variety of intense weather conditions. In addition to trail work activities, volunteers also actively contribute to community chores and always practice Leave No Trace.

Essential functions include:
  • Backpacking and hiking long distances on challenging terrain carrying required personal and group gear, tools and safety equipment (40%). Hiking pace should be 2 mph in this strenuous mountainous terrain.
    • The hike in will be between 6-11 miles over challenging terrain with thousands of feet of elevation change, carrying as much as 55-65 lbs. along with tools.
    • Daily hikes to and from worksite can be up to 8 miles, in addition to the performance of trail work.
  • Performing trail work (45%),
    • Tasks include cutting annual growth, raking or digging out drains, installing erosion control features, or moving heavy logs or rocks.
  • Managing backcountry camp (15%), including sharing in duties associated with preparing, cooking, and cleaning up from meals, maintaining sanitation at camp and worksite, cleaning and storing group tools and gear, and other tasks to cooperatively share in work of the entire crew.
  • Concurrent to those functions, volunteers who see the greatest success have
    • an enthusiasm for the experience,
    • an ability to get along with and work cooperatively with others,
    • keep safety top of mind,
    • have a desire to work hard, and
    • arrive with a level of fitness commiserate with the volunteer job functions. See “Are you Crew Fit?” below.

QUALIFICATIONS & REQUIREMENTS

Volunteers must be physically and mentally ready for the challenges of crew life.
  • Demonstrate fitness level upon arrival at basecamp by taking a physical assessment consisting of the following: hiking with a 30 lb. backpack 1.5 miles in 30 minutes or less, a five minute step test at a rate of 96 beats per minute on a 12’’ step, a minimum of 15 push-ups in 1 minute, two core exercises that consist of one-minute of plank and/or boat pose, and balance exhibited through 20 standing on each foot for 20 seconds.

    NOTE: An inability to complete any portion of this fitness assessment will result in your inability to participate on crew.

  • Recent backpacking experience and trip report(s) that document distance, location, elevation change, difficulty, and trip length.
  • Ability to perform essential functions of the position listed above.
  • Respect and follow instructions from crew leaders.
  • Understand and apply the training you receive for associated trail work and safety practices.
  • Communicate well with others, resolve conflicts effectively, and promote positive interpersonal relationships.

Are you crew fit?

It’s not advisable to participate on a Trail Crew to “get fit.” However, ATC worked with a Kinesiology student at Lynchburg College to develop a training program to ensure volunteers who opt for this recommended training program arrive fit for the demands of crew life. The final touches are under development and will be posted here by February 10, 2015. Please check back here for details.

THE ATC WILL PROVIDE

  • All necessary tools and training on their use
  • Loaner gear
  • Professional Trail crew leaders
  • Plenty of high-energy food
  • Off-day housing for multi-week volunteers
  • Transportation to and from the Trailhead

For more information visit the SWEAT Crew's official blog.

CONTACT US

Give us a call at (828) 254-3708 or e-mail [email protected] with any questions.  

The Smokies Wilderness A.T. Crew schedule is flexible and varies due to water availability, bear activity, and spring blowdowns. Crew leaders will determine the locations as close to the departure date as feasible. Be prepared for long hikes in, hot temperatures, and an unrivaled wilderness experience. 



The 2015 Smokies Wilderness Elite Trail Crew Schedule
Will be Posted in January

Volunteer today

Do you have what it takes to be an Appalachian Trail Crew Volunteer?


  • Are you at least 18 years of age?
  • Do you like a physical challenge?
  • Can you volunteer for a Full Crew Session** on the A.T.?
  • Do you enjoy spending time with like-minded people?

Konnarock Crew PictureIf so, we’d like to hear from you!  On a Trail Crew, you can count on getting very dirty and sweaty while doing some of the hardest and most rewarding work of your life! 

A full crew session is a week to ten days, depending on the Crew, during which you will be living with your fellow crew members, led by experienced crew leaders, while learning Trail or shelter maintenance. Depending on the project, you may hike several miles every day while carrying a backpack and hefty tools. 

The pace is slower, your Crew leaders and co-volunteers are friendly and diverse, but share one important common trait: they all love the Appalachian Trail!  Plus, your hard work will last for years to come to be enjoyed by future generations.

Volunteer today

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