Dealing With The AMC Huts In The Whites

Before starting the trail I had never heard of the AMC, but from the moment I hit Connecticut I was constantly bombarded with reports of them being a horrible, nasty group.  “They’re not your friends” and “they hate thru hikers!” is all anybody could say about them. I began to form opinions about the AMC based only on hearsay and spread the word to others about how big of a butthole the AMC was. I was fully prepared to stand my ground against this wicked monster as soon as we hit the Whites.

Then I actually entered my first hut, Zealand Falls, and realized that I had judged a book by its cover. We experienced nothing but great things at that hut and every single hut we stopped at afterwards. They provided us left overs for lunch, water, a place to rest, a place to sleep one night, and on top of it all the croo members at each hut were incredibly nice to us.

Stopping looking for handouts. There's no such thing as a free lunch

Stop looking for handouts. There’s no such thing as a free lunch

I was utterly confused as to why the AMC had such a bad wrap with thru hikers. I expected to be treated like an animal, but instead found incredible generosity. So why was there so much resentment towards the huts? I had to know, so I did some digging around. I talked to other thru hikers, past and present, about it and watched their interactions with the croo members. Immediately two things stood out to me that I believe is the catalyst to this animosity. They are as follows:

1. Lack of respect/compassion from croo members

A lot of thru hikers mentioned that they didn’t feel welcome at the huts. They received water from them and that was essentially it. Well news flash, the huts don’t owe thru hikers a damn thing. The fact that they provide water to us is more than enough; it’s definitely better than walking down the side trails in the Whites to get a refill.

I also noticed that the approach some people took when communicating with the croo members was all wrong. The person who is in charge of the hut for the day is also the person doing the cooking for the day, and they wake up at 4 am and are cooking literally all day. It is a non-stop job for them and their top priority is attending to the paying guests, not the mountain hobos looking for handouts. It should come as no surprise that if you walk into a hut and the first thing you ask is if they have any food for you that you get treated with contempt. We took the more sensible approach and, instead of asking for anything that benefited us, we asked how they were doing and if they needed help with any chores. We did anything  provided and didn’t ask for a single thing in return. What we found was that they began offering us things, from food and drinks to a place to sleep for a night. It didn’t matter that we were a group of 4 and they already had their quota for work for stay, they found a place for us to sleep. All it takes is the proper approach and they will welcome you with open arms.

2. Commercialization of the trail

It is an odd thing to have walked hundreds and thousands of miles on the trail, sleeping wherever you want for free, and then all of a sudden there is a section of trail where you have to pay exhorbant prices to sleep, and even if you have the money you can’t stay because yuppies have booked it way in advance. On top of this, there are thousands of people clogging up the trails because of the ease of access.

Well tough titty. The AMC owns the huts and are entitled to charge whatever they want. Until one of us buys them out there isn’t anything we can do. Also, even though most of us feel like we do, we do not own the trail. There are many people out there who don’t have the ability to thru hike, so their next best option is section or day hiking. We were all in the same position at one point in time, so why get all bent out of shape just because there are a lot of non thru hikers on the trail.

You're going to have to wait in line for 20 min to get this picture, but its not the end of the world

You’re going to have to wait in line for 20 min to get this picture, but it’s not the end of the world

Now I know there is certainly more to the issue, but these were the biggest take always I got from my stint through the Whites. Just bear in mind that anybody and everybody has a right to use the trail, and that you aren’t entitled to anything.

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Comments 6

  • Lillie Stack : Aug 7th

    I truly loved this piece! I like the way you don’t hold back, go get em tiger!!
    Though I will never thru hike, and I will never hike PA or the Whites, (too many rocks and too big) respectively. I do long section hike. I believe there a few hikers out there that believe they should have first dibs on things, but the majority are pretty good eggs.

  • Marci Weber (Mariposa) : Aug 8th

    Really great post! Hut crews do not receive the respect and gratitude they deserve.

    To anyone who is frustrated about paying fees in The Whites, it’s important to remember that they are a national FOREST, not a national park or national recreation area. The other high-traffic sections of the AT (Smokies, Shennies, and Grayson Highlands/Mt. Rogers) receive funding from the federal government specifically to accommodate hordes of people. Unfortunately, despite being one of the most popular sections of the AT, The Whites don’t have nearly the same budget for recreational use. This is why they have to charge visitors. Baxter State Park is in a similar position, and also has an unfair reputation for grumpy staff.

    It would literally take an act of Congress and approval from the president to stop paying fees at AMC huts and campsites. So if you really have that much hatred for small fees offset by free lasagna, go contact your state representative, and leave the hut crews alone.

  • Putt-Putt : Aug 8th

    We only had positive interactions with the croos during our thru-hike in 2015. We were happy to purchase some snacks, refill water and twice work for food. We were lucky and were at the huts during their anniversaries.

  • Caitlin : Aug 9th

    I find this article rude and uninformative. I expected an article that actually looked at the commercialization of the trail, not just “stop complaining”. There is usually better researched articles on this website, that include wit.

  • Hundredmill thru hikers 2016 : Sep 6th

    The huts are on USFS land, I’m not sure of anyone that would be able to have the same access to ownership on such lands as the AMC. My problem with the AMC is that they have monetized the mountains, and are not just charging some money but an exorbitant amount even to tent at a campsite. That is what I think the problem is. Welcome to the Appalachian money club.

  • Brian Doyle : Dec 10th

    Agreed. We had this discussion years ago and it is well within doing to have AT-Only huts or lean-tos intelligently placed to get through-hikers through the Whites cheaply. Myself, I went to the Perch lean-to on my 1985 flop and got through the Presidentials the next day. All AMC saw were my boot prints.


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