12 Job Ideas For Thru Hikers

Summit Season is ramping up as northbound thru hikers are reaching the end of their journeys. Every hiker knows the grim reality behind that glorious moment on top of Katahdin. Once the photos have been snapped and descent has been made, there is only one place to go for most hikers: Home. This is wonderful at first (not at all the grim part!) Sleeping in a bed, eating all the foods you missed and, maybe best of all, returning to friends and family. But for most, after a short time of rest this leads to the necessity of finding a job.

Employment, also know as hiker trash heartbreak, quickly replaces fresh air and rushes of adrenaline with schedules and routines. It is tough enough to leave behind the life and the trail family you knew so single-mindedly for half a year. It is even tougher to be immediately thrown back into the monotony of a job. But not every job out there has to create a chasm between your shiny new thru hiker life style and the necessity to make a living! Here is a list of twelve job ideas that keep a dirty little hiker immersed in the outdoors and adventure!

 12 Job Ideas For Thru Hikers

1. Outfitter


There is nothing better for an Outfitter than first hand knowledge within its staff. Whether you look into REI, Eastern Mountain Sports, or a local outfitter, I assure you that you will find great joy in talking about the AT, backpacking, and gear all day, every day, and getting paid to do it! Other perks include ProDeals. Gear companies want the people selling their gear to use it and recommend it to buyers so they offer incredible deals to retailer employees.

2. Gear/Equipment Company


Much like working for an outfitter but heading directly to the source! In this environment you are promised an incredible batch of fascinating co-workers. Many gear companies are smaller in size and therefore offer perks beyond those of a seemingly soulless big company. Many are big on free time to get out and revel in the outdoors and can offer great benefits, all while being mindful of and stewards to the beautiful places in the world that keep them inspired.

3. Outdoor Guide


Literally getting paid to hike!  (Or bike, or climb, or kayak!) Many folks out there need a little bit of guidance to be able to comfortably and confidently step out of their daily routines and into the great, wide world around them. For those that lead them there, little else is as great as sharing their own love for an activity and seeing it take hold in another person. This career path requires more than just a solid resume. In order to safely take out groups of people into the wilderness, much training is needed. There are entire degrees in what is termed Outdoor Education. Though this may not be required for getting your foot in the door, at least having your Wilderness First Responder Certification will help immensely.

4. Camp Counselor


Okay, so you’d love to be outdoors as much as possible and really love the idea of spreading your love of the wilderness to others, but you’re not so sure about that that intensive training to keep people safe when things go wrong. Look into being a camp counselor! The intensity level drops dramatically and the fun level rises even more when kids are involved. It is massively important to inspire the younger generations to get out and explore the world around them and not to rely solely on TV and computers for entertainment in their lives!

5. Wilderness Therapy


Like camp, but with all the intensity and more. Wilderness Therapy is an incredible opportunity for healing to take place in one of the most rejuvenating places in the world, the outdoors. Patient ages range between pre-teens to young adults and they come seeking help with anything from behavioral issues, drug abuse, to depression. Programs can span anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks in length and focus on better communication with others and expressing oneself, fostering self respect, and making better life choices. Working in this field requires a love of people as strong as your love for the outdoors and in many cases requires a bit more training than the Wilderness First Responder Certification needed in recreational guiding.

6. Ridge Runner

5Trail Art - Ridgerunner official patch, Rhea Patrick, Near Bly Gap, GA

Every year the Appalachian Trail Conservancy looks for new Ridge Runners to protect and patrol our beloved AT. These are the people who are good to stop and ask about the weather report or the terrain up ahead. They are also the people who will tell you off for throwing your Mountain House trash into the fire. (Even if that wasn’t a stupid and lazy idea in the first place, the aluminum lining won’t burn!) It is an honorable job of traversing and maintaining up to a 70 mile long stretch of trail, while educating others in hope of winning them over to a mindset of preservation.

7. Park Ranger


The National and State Parks in the country cover such a wide breadth of opportunities that you could work anywhere from the backcountry of Yosemite to New York City doing anything from creating art to doing scientific research. It is an incredibly completive field to break into but once in, many people spend their entire career bouncing around from one beautiful location to another working to education the public and preserve the natural beauty of America.

8. Wildland Firefighter


Whether you want to jump into the heat and help maintain and end forest fires or you want to be on the coordinating side of the action, Wildland Firefighters are becoming increasingly important in a time when the wild fire prone parts of the country are becoming increasingly arid. Becoming a Wildland Firefighter takes a very specific set of skills that can take a good amount of time to build and requires lots of perseverance. The end result is being a protector of both the local communities in the path of wild fires and the affected wilderness areas.

9. Farmer


Farming is a quiet life of uncelebrated glory, much like thru hiking, except for the fact that farmers have our futures in their hands and thru hikers just make public places smell bad. After walking from Georgia to Maine it is hard to go back to the life of disconnected excess; cars to move us around and refrigerators to keep our food cold. We lived so simply so long ago and thru hiking reminds you that it is still possible. While farming doesn’t mean going off the grid, it does mean retuning to a time when we were tied to the land and produced foods our bodies needed. (It is not a coincidence that Snickers bars don’t grow in the ground.)

10. English Teacher Abroad


For those who are classroom inclined, teaching English abroad can be a fulfilling job that allows for new adventures in life. Most programs require either a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification in order to get started. In our current age of globalization, nearly any country to could want to be in is a candidate for find a school in which you can be placed.

11. Bring The Outdoors Online


Websites such as AllTrails, HipCamp, RootsRated, and for that matter, AppalachianTrails, were all imagined and brought to life by ambitious outdoorsy folk who got sick of their 9 to 5 jobs. For those who haven’t caught on “ambitious outdoorsy folk who got sick of their 9 to 5 jobs” is pretty much the definition of a thru hiker! You just walked almost 2,200 miles through 14 states, you CAN take that crazy sounding idea for a website (or whatever it was) you came up with while sitting out a thunderstorm in a shelter somewhere in Virginia and make it into a reality!

12. Travel/Outdoor Magazine Writer/Photographer


This is a great way to keep getting out and seeing new places. If you blogged or took photographs throughout your thru hike, you’ve probably already got a pretty strong body of work.  If you’re looking to further (or start) your writing career, look no further than to writer right here- for your favorite Appalachian Trail website. Apply Here!

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Comments 5

  • frankie baatz : Mar 26th

    I’m heading out in 32weeks love to work the trail from Harper’s ferry to north Carolina

  • Shawn Hudson : Mar 26th

    In many Wilderness Therapy outlets, you can get training on the job, as I did. It’s very difficult work, and the turnover rate is very high because of it, but it is also rewarding, and the 8 days on/6 days off schedule is nice for those who want to take a mini-adventure in between shifts. North Carolina’s your hotbed for these kind of jobs in the east with at least three (perhaps more) year-round outfits.

    • lynn : May 25th

      shawn where did u get your on the job training?

  • RP709 : Sep 6th

    I am going to throw CDL-A driver into the mix. Even if you have to keep changing companies if you can carry the license jobs are everywhere. Not for everyone of course but its part of my new plan.

  • Laurie Potteiger : Sep 29th

    Look for A.T. ridgerunner applications on ATC’s website in late November or early December at http://www.appalachiantrail.org/jobs.

    There are some other seasonal positions too related to working on trail crews. Though the crews are primarily volunteers, ATC hires trail crew leaders and camp coordinators.


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