It would be awesome if we could just endlessly hike trail after trail and never worry about money, but someday you’re going to reach Katahdin and it will be time to get a job and save for the next adventure. Work doesn’t have to be boring though!
I’ve done several of these jobs below, and a few more I aspire to do. If you’re not quite sure what kind of job you want, start by browsing openings. I’ve found quite a few gigs from BackdoorJobs.com and CoolWorks.com.
Having “Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker” on your resume is a big bonus when applying to jobs in the outdoor industry. Anytime I interview for an outdoor job, they always ask me about my thru-hike and I usually get a job offer.
You don’t have to limit yourself to any one of these jobs. Many people make a lifestyle out of jumping from seasonal job to seasonal job.
I worked on a conservation corp in the Colorado mountains for a few months. This is a great job for former thru-hikers because it’s a chance to give back and help maintain the trails that you love. You can stay close to home or travel across the country for this job because there are trails everywhere. The corp I worked for was very community oriented and my schedule was 9 days on (all camping) and 5 days off. I worked for Southwest Conservation Corps. Also start by checking out EarthCorps in Washington. There’s quite a few different organizations that are in charge of maintaining the AT. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s job page is a good place to look.
Ski resorts are great because you can finish your thru-hike then start applying for jobs. It’s also a fun way to get outside during the long winter months. You don’t necessarily need to know how to ski or snowboard to land a job at a resort. I worked at a pizza shop in Telluride, Colorado the winter after I hiked the AT. I got a free season pass and free snowboarding lessons. There’s plenty of resort jobs you can do that don’t require being good at skiing, such as restaurant jobs, child care, reservations, ticket checker positions, hotel front desk jobs, and housekeeping. You could even work at one of the mountains you hiked over, like Mt. Killington or Saddleback.
With wilderness therapy jobs, you act as a mentor and wilderness guide for teenagers and young adults. Most wilderness therapy positions want employees who have college degrees, although you can find organizations that don’t require degrees. You can improve your chances of getting a position in this field by getting a Wilderness First Responder certificate. The certificate will cost you upwards of $600. The pay tends to be slightly better than jobs with less rigorous requirements. Utah is a very popular place for wilderness therapy, as is Colorado, Hawaii, and California.
Being a river guide is another fun, summer job. You get to take groups of people over rapids in a raft. Increase your chances of getting a job by completing guide school, which usually costs about $400. As far as jobs close to the A.T. go, there’s Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina and Three Rivers Rafting in Maine.
This isn’t an actual job, is more of a work-for-stay opportunity. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms connects volunteers with farms. The idea is that you can travel on a low budget by working on farms in exchange for a place to stay and meals. You would still be paying for travel between the farms and any activities you might want to do along the way. Not having to pay for a hostel every night and three meals a day will greatly extend the amount of time you can travel for.
Getting a job with an Americorp affiliated organization can be a great way to go because, in addition to getting a living stipend, you generally get an education award at the end. When I worked on a conservation corp, I received a $1200 education award for 2 months of service. They can be put towards repaying student loans or furthering your education.
There are Americorp programs all over the country, so you can probably find something in the location you want or the field you want. The website is very unorganized and frustrating to use. They sometimes have programs listed that aren’t even available anymore. However, there are good jobs listed within the weird website. You just have to spend some extra time searching.
Teaching English as a Second Language
This is a great job for those who are trying to get out of the country. The highest paying jobs usually require a college degree and a TEFL or CELTA certification. Those jobs will sometimes even pay for your visa, plane ticket, and apartment. However, if you don’t have a degree or certificate it is still possible to get a job. You can literally go anywhere in the world, so start by researching regions that you might like to go to. Dave’s ESL Cafe is a good resource. Matador Network also has lots of articles on teaching English abroad; start with Top 10 Places for Teaching English.
For anyone who wants to become a writer, having a blog is a good place to start. While you most likely won’t make any money for the first year or so, you will be building your portfolio. Having a website with well written articles will help you when you want to send pitches to magazines or online publications. Not to mention, you can sell an ebook or make commission from products you link to.
A job in an Alaskan cannery would be great for anyone who wants to put in a lot of hours over just a few months. You would work at least 12 hours a day, probably 7 days a week. You would make a lot of money all at once and have almost no time to spend it. Sure, being in Alaska and not having an opportunity to explore would suck, but you can always do a bit of traveling after your contract ends and you have a pile of money. Many companies also provide free housing for their employees along with three meals a day. Alaskan General Seafoods and Trident Seafoods are companies to check out.
Get paid to hike all day. As a ridge runner, you are assigned a section of trail that you hiked up and down. You are responsible for a variety of duties. You might pick up trash on the trail, report any sections that need maintenance, and warn hikers about upcoming storms. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy hires ridge runners, but you can also find jobs on other long trails.
If you want to forget about your tree hugger side, working in the oil industry could be a great way to make a lot of money. There are jobs not only all over the United States, but all over the world. Oftentimes, you’ll work during the warm months then get laid off during the winters. Oh yeah, and you’ll have a giant pile of money to travel with during the months that you aren’t working. Start by searching Rigzone for jobs.