Appalachian Mountain Club Closes White Mountains Huts for 2020

The Appalachian Mountain Club has closed its huts in the White Mountains for the rest of 2020, a decision the AMC called painful but necessary because of the spread of COVID-19.

The closings, along with shutdowns of backcountry sites by the White Mountain National Forest, severely limit options for camping on the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire.

The AMC’s announcement is here.

An estimated 30,000 people stay at the huts annually. The huts provide lodging and meals to hikers from spring to fall, with a few open year-round. Thru-hikers and day hikers use them for rest stops to fill up on water or buy a hot bowl of soup and bread cooked by the huts’ croo, as seasonal works are called.

The huts also offer limited overnight space to thru-hikers to do a work for stay, which can range from light to major cleaning or other projects the croo wants done. The hikers sometimes get leftover food from the meals cooked for paying hut guests.

Madison Spring Hut, built in a col between the summits of Mount Adams and Madison in 1888, was the first building constructed by the club as well as the first high mountain hut. Lake of the Clouds hut followed in 1915.

Since then the AMC built Lonesome Lake, Greenleaf, Galehead, Zealand Falls, Mizpah Spring, and Carter Notch huts. All the huts except Greenleaf are on the Appalachian Trail.

The White Mountain National Forest has also closed many backcountry campsites on the AT, including Gentian Pond Shelter, Imp Shelter, Osgood tent site, Rattle River Shelter, Beaver Brook Shelter, Coppermine Shelter, Eliza Brook Shelter, Ethan Pond Shelter, Garfield Ridge Shelter, Hexacuba Shelter, Jeffers Brook Shelter, Kinsman Pond Shelter, Liberty Springs tent site, Moose Mountain Shelter, Ore Hill tent site, Smarts Mountain Cabin and tent site, Three Ponds Shelter, Trapper John Shelter, Velvet Rocks Shelter, and Nauman tent site.

In addition, the Randolph Mountain Club, which has shelters on feeder trails to the AT in the White Mountains, has asked hikers not to stay at their camps until further notice. Read the RMC’s request here.

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Comments 3

  • Clay Bonnyman Evans : May 1st

    Man, I really, really dislike the “hut system” in the Whites. I recognize that the goal is to minimize hiker impacts on a fragile ecosystem, but banning camping and pushing long-distance hikers into the slave — excuse me, work-for-stay — deal at the huts stinks.

    Traveling SOBO on my ’16 flip-flop, I excitedly stopped in at Madison Hut (I’d slackpacked the Wildcats, Carter, Moriah etc. back to what was then White Mountains Hostel, now Rattle River Hostel, and skipped Carter Hut). The person there was sullen, the soup sucked, and the cookies were overpriced. I managed to score a work-for-stay at Lakes of the Clouds, thanks to the pleading of some people I’d met. We waited and waited and waited while the paying guests were entertained, and finally, at 9:30 p.m., got our work assignments, which, in addition to sensible dishwashing, including some serious busy-work.

    It was pretty late for this old man when I finally hit the floor of the dining room at 10:30, glad not to be enduring the madly whistling wind outside. But next morning, I declined the offer of breakfast for more work on the hut’s timetable, and mosied on down the mountain.

    I dropped into a couple of other huts, but honestly, the staff was surly and the soup was lousy. I decided I was done with huts, and was grateful to have escaped the Whites with only one night of servitude.

    It’s a weird system, a classist system, and I don’t think it works.

    Reply
    • J : May 2nd

      Sorry Clay for your bad experience at the huts. On my thru hike last summer I could not have made it without the hut system. I’m an old man as well, but I was fed to the full every night and didn’t mind the work for stay. I can honestly say that I had a lot of fun with the croo and they noticed my pleasant and friendly attitude at every chance I had to thank them for serving us and being there for us. Yes, it does seem that hikers are treated as second class citizens, but I got off my high horse and enjoyed the system and I never touched my food bag the whole time in the Whites, except for vitamins and drink mix packets. Again, sorry for your unfortunate experience, but I am very grateful for showing and receiving love in the Whites.

      Reply
  • Michael : May 2nd

    I thru-hiked the AT in 1993 and over the ensuing years did various 1-3 day hikes in the Whites. The last 2 years I did week-long hut-to-hut hikes with my 12 year-old daughter and her cousin. It was great to be out there and introduce 2 youngsters to the joys of hiking and back-to-nature exercise, with the added benefit of the amenities provided by the AMC huts (lodging, food, good company, great scenery, and environmental ethic). We met lots of thru-hikers and it was really cool to talk to them about their experiences. Compared to 1993, I think that today’s thru-hikers travel lighter, farther, and impressively faster. The ultra-light gear movement seems to have really taken hold. I’ve probably averaged 2 weeks of lodging at AMC facilities for the last 2 years in communal bunkrooms. I was just recently thinking about this and hoping that we aren’t entering the beginning of the end of communal lodging. I don’t think this is the case. In light of our present public health crisis, I definitely respect AMC’s decision to suspend hut and other backcountry operations. Additionally I’m really appreciative of the hard work done by the AMC employees and other organizations’ backcountry trail maintenance crews who have done so much work constructing and maintaining the trails, shelters, tent sites, huts, etc. over the years, and maintaining a safety presence as emergency first responders. I try to keep that overall thought of gratitude in mind whenever I hike, with every step I take.

    Reply

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