Green Mountain Club Operational Profile

Green Mountain Club — Long Trail Shelter System


  1. Overview: (mission, purpose, programs, etc.)
  2. Huts and shelters
  3. Trails
  4. Data, policies and practices relating to environmental impact of hikers and of huts?
  5. Governance, Staff and Management
  6. Reservations, Marketing, Memberships
  7. Transportation
  8. Safety
  9. Insurance
  10. Use of hut system: capacity, demographics, survey data, trends over time, etc.
  11. Economics
  12. Partnerships
  13. Educational programs
  14. Founding/origin stories
  15. Some important lessons learned by the managers of the system
  16. Observations by Sam
  17. Challenges and opportunities
  18. Additional Resources
  19. Document written by

  1. Overview: (mission, purpose, programs, etc.)

Founded in 1910, the Green Mountain Club (GMC) operates the oldest long-distance walking trail in the USA. A non-profit organization with over 10,000 members, the GMC has a very strong volunteer program. The trail is maintained in large part through the efforts of 14 regional Sections, comprised of member volunteers who perform trail and shelter maintenance annually. In addition to maintaining a “primitive footpath” and a system of backcountry shelters, GMC and has evolved a strong educational and stewardship mission.

The mission of the Green Mountain Club is to make the Vermont Mountains play a larger part in the life of the people by protecting and maintaining the Long Trail System and fostering, through education, the stewardship of Vermont’s hiking trails and mountains.

Through its Land Protection Program GMC advances its stewardship and conservation mission by acting in part as a land trust. The 270 mile Long Trail is located on state, federal, and private lands. GMC’s “Cooperative Management System” is a highly effective model of public/private partnership in trail management based on a clear delineation of responsibilities and multiple inter-locking cooperative agreements. This is outlined in the very useful Long Trail System Management Plan (2002) {provide a link here}. Under a cooperative agreement with the Appalachian Trail Conference, GMC maintains the Appalachian Trail in Vermont.

The approximately 65 backcountry-style shelters are operated for backpackers on a first come, first serve basis, and are self-serve, i.e. they do not provide food, cooking facilities or beds. The trail is not built or maintained for winter use.

“Over the years, as use of the trail has risen and outside pressures such as development have increased, management of the Long Trail has evolved from merely trail building and maintenance into a comprehensive program focused on:

  • trail building and maintenance
  • protecting natural resources from overuse
  • upholding landowner rights
  • protecting the trail from development
  • safeguarding special natural areas
  • backcountry sanitation – GMC Backcountry Sanitation Manual
  • educating hikers and
  • publishing guidebooks and maps.” –Quoted from GMC web site.
  1. Huts and shelters:

2.1 Description, location, capacity

GMC maintains about 65 shelters along 272 miles of the Long Trail (with some along the side trails). About 2/3 of these are three sided buildings and the rest, called lodges, are four sided structures with a door. Lodges are located at the most heavily visited sites. A list of the shelters — with information on capacity, location, distance and elevation and location — is at:

Most shelters accommodate 8-12 sleepers (some less). The largest is Taft Lodge, with a capacity of 24 (can hold more if necessary). Spruce Peak, Buchanan, Taylor, Butler and Sutton can hold 16 – 20 people.

2.2 Amenities

These are backcountry shelters much in the style of those on the Appalachian Trail. None are staffed or provide cooking or food services or facilities. The do include:

  • Shelter from rain;
  • A wooden platform or bunks to sleep on (no mattresses provided);
  • [In the old days people would cut spruce boughs to lay on wire bunks, but this systems was eliminated.]
  • A nearby water source;
  • Composting privy nearby;
  • Camp sites nearby for use if shelter is full.
  • Many shelters have fire rings; better to install than allow people to site them wherever they want.
  • Some shelters have picnic tables and built-in tables.

2.3 Policies and hut ethics

Access to huts is first-come, first-served. The ethic of sharing space and welcoming late arrivals seems to prevail. Hikers are advised to bring along tents in case shelters are full. There are problems with graffiti, which is more commonly with magic markers than with knives these days.

The policy of “carry in/carry/out” has been superseded by “Leave No Trace” principles because LNT is consistent with a national messaging program. However, some feel the reduced emphasis on the “carry out” part of the message has resulted in greater damage (i.e. by burying trash).

2.4 Water 

As much as possible, shelters are located near a reliable spring, creek or pond. However, some water sources are unreliable in the dry season. Water sources are not improved or tested. Walkers responsible for water treatment to avoid giardia.

2.5 Waste management

GMC is a leader in innovative approaches to backcountry waste management. They have experimented with different designs and have been active in national conversations about backcountry waste management (yes, there are such conversations!), including Exit Strategies: Managing Human Waste In the Wild, a 2010 Conference sponsored by the American Alpine Club, and the development of the Backcountry Sanitation Manual, by GMC’s Pete Antos-Ketcham.

After a brief experiment with the Clivus Multrum composting toilet (which is designed for sheltered and heated indoor spaces), GMC is currently employing the following variations on the composting privy. These require packing in tons of wood shavings (for mouldering privies) and bark mulch (for Batch Bin privies). The following descriptions are abbreviated from Dick Andrews (inventor of mouldering privy) and Pete Antos-Ketcham’s articles (on Batch Bin privies) in Long Trail News, Fall 2013, p. 10:

2.5.1 Mouldering privies: Mouldering is the slow decomposition –generating lower temperatures than rapid decomposition — of organic material in the presence of air. Worms and micro-organisms help to eliminate pathogens in the resulting compost. Waste accumulates in a screened, ventilated chamber beneath the toilet seat. Thus mouldering privies are generally raised “thrones” above ground level. Users are asked to add wood shavings (to add carbon and organic material) and their urine (to add water) to aid in composting.

When the chamber is full, which can take a long time in low-use sites, the privy shelter is moved on top of another, empty chamber. The full chamber is topped with a layer of shavings, screened to keep rodents out, and allowed to mellow while the new chamber fills. At that point the compost is ready to spread on the forest floor.

2.5.2 Batch-Bin composting privies: Used in high use sites to promote more rapid decomposition, each privy site has both a steel or a plastic collecting bin and wooden drying racks. Hikers are asked not to pee in these privies (they pee in the woods instead) because the additional liquid causes unpleasant odors and hampers the composting process. Users are also asked to drop a handful of hardwood bark mulch into the toilet after each use to promote composting and reduce odors.

 The Batch Bin system requires a caretaker to empty the under-seat collector into storage cans periodically. When the storage cans are full, the waste is mixed with more bark mulch. After 4 – 6 weeks, with periodic turning by the caretaker, the compost is moved to a drying rack, where it cures for up to a year. It can then be spread on the forest floor or used to help absorb water in future composting runs.

2.5.3  Beyond the Bin (BTB) composting privies: An upgraded version of the Batch-Bin, BTB systems which is used in sites heavily used by day hikers who are primarily peeing. The modification adds a strainer in the collector under the seat to separate liquid, which flows through a hose to a filter barrel, substantially reducing the amount of bark mulch required.

2.6  Heat – At one time many shelters included wood stoves, however these have been eliminated in all but two shelters. They were eliminated due to:

  1. environmental damage (people cutting down trees);
  2. huts burning down (fewer people today know how to operate wood stoves and many huts burned). Incidence of shelter fires has been dramatically reduced since stoves were removed.

The two remaining shelters with wood stoves retain them at insistence of local section stewards.

2.7 Electricity – None

2.8  Cooking and eating – Walkers bring their food, own fuel and stoves.

2.9  Sleeping – Walkers bring their own sleeping bags and, if desired, mats. Sleeping platforms and, in some lodges, bunks are available.

2.10  Maintenance – GMC staff develops an annual maintenance plan. With the help of seasonal staff and volunteers, the maintenance plan is implemented by GMC staff. Volunteers include trail sponsors and Section Volunteers (see section 5 below). The most important maintenance tasks are maintaining a solid foundation and roof. Steel roofs require periodic replacement of fasteners on nails. Basic shelter maintenance also includes (quoted from GMC Section Leaders Handbook):

  • Inspecting, cleaning, and performing minor repairs on the shelter and outhouse.
  • Cleaning and maintaining the shelter water supply and wash pit.
  • Inspecting the outhouse or composter.
  • Removing trash from the shelter and surrounding area.
  • Keeping paths clear of vegetation.
  • Making an assessment of the condition of the structures and repairing or reporting problems that need additional attention.
  • Reporting on signs that are missing, inaccurate or damaged.
  • Look overhead for hazard trees and potential deadfalls above the campsite. Report them to GMC as soon as possible, if you cannot safely remove them.

2.11 Capital projects and repairs

GMC staff annually identify and prioritize capital project needs. They budget by the project and GMC fundraises to hire construction crews by the project. They have been repairing, restoring, and rebuilding shelters steadily for the past 20 years. A fully renovated shelter should be good for another 50 years with only periodic maintenance.

The estimated cost of building a Nantahala-style post and beam shelter is about $40,000.

2.12  Hut design 

Before the 1970’s shelters were designed and built by individuals and the GMC Sections volunteers. Since then design has become more standardized. However, the shelters are quite various in their design, and there are still examples in use of many different styles built over the years.

Along the Northern quarter of the trail most of the shelters are three sided. Along the southern end of the trail the USFS, clapboard-style design has been used predominantly.

Roofs have a minimum 12” overhang; 18” is preferred to prevent a destructive wet/dry cycle on the siding. Staining of siding is often used, but is not a substitute for overhang.

When renovating and restoring shelters the crews try to recreate the original design. One challenge is that Historic Preservation guidelines emphasize maintaining the exterior appearance of structures, which limits GMC’s ability to increase the number or size of windows to let more light into lodges that are rather dark.

The shelters in the far North are based on old timber camp kitchen designs; Journey’s End Camp is a surviving example of this design. See photo gallery on for a representative sample of pictures. The original Journey’s End Camp was re-built on the Short Trail at GMC Headquarters as a

2.13 Permitting process 

Periodically, new Environmental Impact Statements are required by Green Mountain National forest, and State Parks. These include analysis of: rare and endangered species, archaeology, water quality, ADA compliance.

Vermont’s Land Use Law 250 takes the place of Zoning in backcountry, i.e. throughout much of the state.

2.14 Hut supply: how do you get supplies in and waste out? 

Bark for composting of human waste is packed in. Construction materials are brought in by snowmobile, horse, bulldozer, or helicopter as required.

  1. Trails:

3.1 Connectivity among shelters

The 65 GMC shelters are connected by the 272 mile Long Trail and are spaced 4.5 miles apart on average.

3.2 Trail building, maintenance and protection

GMC is responsible for maintenance of about 500 miles of hiking trails in Vermont. This includes 272 miles of the Long Trail itself (blazed in white); 185 miles of side trails (blazed in blue); a 40 mile, non-overlapping stretch of the Appalachian Trail (blazed in the AT’s white); and some short trails in the Northeast Kingdom.

The GMC is a member of the Appalachian Trails Conference and is responsible for 105 miles of the Appalachian Trail that overlaps the Long Trail from the Massachusetts border to Maine Junction, VT. The GMC maintains an additional 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Maine Junction to the Connecticut River (NH border), which does not overlap the Long Trail. Responsibility for this non-Long Trail portion of the AT was assumed from the Dartmouth Outing Club in recent years.

At the heart of GMC’s approach to trail management and protection, for its Long Trail and for its portions of the Appalachian Trail, are:

  • a very strong reliance on volunteers; and
  • a “Cooperative Management System” that carefully defines the roles of GMC’s many partner organizations.

GMC’s trail systems’ philosophy, policies and guidelines are articulated in the Long Trail System Management Plan — the local management plan for the Appalachian Trail (Second Edition, GMC, 2002). {Can we link to this document?} The Long Trail System Management Plan (LTSMP)in combination with two other documents, guide GMC trail management, maintenance and protection. The two companion documents are: The Trail Assessment Inventory, and the Long Trail Protection Plan.

The first paragraph of the Long Trail System Management Plan encapsulates the management philosophy as:

The Long Trail is a primitive footpath, continuous from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border, providing people the opportunity to enjoy the Green Mountains in their varied natural and cultural conditions, under their own effort and in a degree of solitude that insures maximum contact with the environment.

As a “primitive footpath” walking, skiing and showshoeing are allowed; horses and bikes are not allowed on the Long Trail. Protecting the natural beauty and solitude of the trail corridor are key GMC values.

The Long Trail System Management Plan outlines the Cooperative Management System (CMS), the pubic/private cooperation among the five key partners: National Park Service, Green Mountain National Forest, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, The Appalachian Trail Conference, and the GMC. Formal agreements exist among all the partners. Other parties to the CMS include private landowners (individuals and corporations) allowing public use of their land, several colleges and universities, and several municipalities. The roles and responsibilities of the five key partners are described.

According to the LTSMP, corridor protection standards “are designed to maintain and promote the experience of hiking in a natural, wild, or rural setting, and to enhance scenic beauty, solitude, and contact with nature, while preventing degradation of the environment….a corridor width of 1,000 feet (500 feet on both sides of the foot path) is usually necessary to adequately buffer the trail from incompatible activities on adjacent lands.” Each partner is responsible for corridor protection on its lands, with GMC taking responsibility for the approximately 10% of trail on private lands.

The GMC initiated a Long Trail Protection Program in 1986. Acting in the mode of a land trust, GMC has acquired about 25,000 acres and secured over 91 easements, protecting all but 6 miles of the Long Trail corridor.

The balance of the LTSMP document is an explication of the Issues and Policies treated in the management plan. These include discussion of:

  • Footpaths and facilities
  • Public use, public information and emergency response
  • Conflicting and competing uses
  • Resource management

This is an outstanding presentation of the issues faced by trail managers and sensible policy responses.

The final section of LTSMP describes planning processes for updating of the document, and for annual work plans.

The appendices of LTSMP include valuable information on topics such as:

  • Optimal location of trails (the “Appalachian Trail Optimal Location Review”),
  • The Appalachian Trail Conference’s Stewardship Series 1989 booklet “Checklist for the Location, Construction, and Maintenance of Campsites and Shelters on the AT” by the incomparable Robert Proudman.
  • ATC Shelter Approval Checklist, and
  • GMC Land Stewardship Program Policies

The GMC trails are built and maintained to the standards and using the methods in the AMC Field Guide to Trail Building and Maintenance by Robert Proudman, and its successor: AMC’s Complete Guide to Trail Building and Maintenance (Fourth edition, 2008).

GMC’s Trail Management Committee — comprising GMC staff, board members and volunteers — establishes maintenance priorities, policies and procedures. There are, of course, the normal tensions in a large volunteer-driven organization. But the high standards of trail and shelter management in GMC are testament to the efficacy of this model, and GMC is unwavering in its commitment to this grass roots approach to trail management.

A quote from the “Appalachian Trail Management Principles” cited in the introduction to the LTSMP sates that: “The body of the Trail is provided by the lands it traverses, and its soul is the living stewardship of the volunteers and workers of the Appalachian Trail community.” This encapsulates the longstanding ethos of volunteerism of the GMC as well. As described in the Long Trail Guide:

Volunteers are the backbone of the GMC. Without them the Long Trail would never have been built and nor would it be managed the way it is today. Volunteers serve as board members, on committees as section officers, leaders of maintenance outings and other trips, trail and shelter adopters, and corridor monitors. Maintenance of the Long Trail is an annual miracle of volunteer generosity.

The 14 Sections, or stewardship chapters, form the traditional core of the GMC volunteer effort. Each Section has its own bylaws, organization and meetings. They host work parties, sponsor outings to generate interest in a section, recognize volunteers, and perform annual maintenance.

Basic trail maintenance includes (quoted from Section Leaders Handbook):

  • Cleaning out leaves and debris in existing drainage structures (waterbars, dips, and ditches) and draining areas of standing water.
  • Keeping the trail clear of blow-downs, brush and annual vegetation. Think of carrying an upright 4 by 8 plywood sheet along the trail (but trim the path a little narrower below your waist to prevent excessive trail widening).
  • A step-over blow-down across the trail less than a foot high is a good deterrent to wheeled vehicles, especially near the trailhead. Consider leaving those in place. And in a federal wilderness area, the trail should only be brushed wide enough to permit the clear passage of a fully laden linebackers sized backpacker, which is more like 2.5 feet wide.
  • Maintaining well-defined paint blazes.
  • Blocking in unofficial trails and campsites with brush, and piling brush along trails that are too wide.
  • Making an assessment of the condition of the trail and repairing or reporting problems that need additional attention. This includes reviewing and sharing information obtained from trail and shelter registers.
  • Reporting on signs that are missing, inaccurate, or damaged.
  • Report any potential proposals to relocate treadway directly to GMC director of field programs for Trail Management Committee and agency consideration.

Basic shelter maintenance — see 2.10 above for quote from GMC Section Leaders Handbook.

In addition to these maintenance tasks, the many other aspects of Section responsibilities and activities are captured in great detail in the Section Leaders Handbook (55 pages) and its appendices (51 pages):

This admirable level of documentation will be of interest to any group planning a volunteer trail maintenance program.

In addition to the trail and shelter maintenance efforts of the 14 sections, independent individual trail or shelter adopters care for specific shelters or trail sections.

  1. Data, policies and practices relating to environmental impact of hikers and of huts?

GMC advocates adherence to the “Leave No Trace” principles. There is very little data available on environmental impact of hikers and campers. Currently GMC is involved in a study photo-monitoring of impact on tundra.

  1. Governance, Staff and Management: 

5.1 Governance 

The Board of Directors of the GMC is comprised of 28 members, one for each of the 14 sections, 13 at-large, and the Executive Director is a non-voting member. The Board meets quarterly.

The Trail Management Committee comprises 24 people and meets 4 times per year. It is advisory to the staff in matters of trail management. It includes several attorneys to advise as needed on legal matters related to the trail.

5.2 Staff 

There are 9 fulltime, year-round staff and several part-time staff. These include:

I need a list of job titles and FTE to give a picture of staffing for GMC. 

5.3 Seasonal staff

Seasonal staff are made up of college students and Americorps workers (is this true?).

  • Long Trail Patrol

Quoted from GMC web site: Long Trail Patrol (LTP) is the GMC’s official trail crew. Directed by University of Vermont professor Roy O. Buchanan from its inception in 1931 until the mid-1960s, the LTP is the oldest of the GMC’s non-volunteer programs. Patrol crews concentrate on trail relocations and reconstruction projects such as installing rock waterbars and steps. Each crew lives under primitive conditions for five days a week near the work site. Last year, four Long Trail Patrols, including one ten-week volunteer crew, reconstructed thirty miles of trail.

  • Caretaker staff

GMC caretakers work from early May to early November at 20 of the most environmentally sensitive and heavily used overnight sites on the Long Trail. These include the most fragile areas, the summits and ponds. At two sites they sleep in the shelters, at the rest on tent platforms. “GMC caretakers are experienced hikers who provide backpacking suggestions and tips as well as basic information about the Trail and the Club. Through informal conversation and example, these caretakers educate hikers about leave-no-trace practices….”. Other duties include:

  • Education/interpretive activities
  • Trail and shelter maintenance
  • Assisting hikers with information and emergency help
  • Maintaining the privies and composting outhouses at high volume sites


5.4  Volunteers

As mentioned above, GMC is a volunteer-driven organization. In 2013 volunteers worked 23,956 hours in a wide range of tasks essential to the organization and its mission. The GMC staff emphasizes the critical role played by volunteers and the importance of maintaining good relations between staff and volunteers. Staff hike frequently with volunteers and talk about what is going on within GMC.

The 14 Sections are run by volunteers and constitute the major concentration of volunteer labor on behalf of GMC. See 3.2 above for more detail on Sections.

In addition, some of the other key areas in which volunteers work to advance GMC’s aims are (following are quoted from the GMC website):

Trail and Shelter Adopter Program – Last year 150 volunteers — sections and at-large members and nonmembers alike — adopted 112 miles of trail and 49 shelters as part of the GMC Trail and Shelter Adopter Program. Volunteer adopters work independently to do inspections, basic maintenance, and cleanup.

Volunteer Long Trail Patrol – This crew, modeled after the Long Trail Patrol, works for ten weeks each hiking season. Each volunteer signs up to work for one week. Many stay longer. Sponsored by the GMC, the Appalachian Trail Conference, and the Green Mountain National Forest, the crew draws participants from all walks of life including mothers, grandfathers, truck drivers and foreign exchange students.

  1. Reservations, Marketing, Memberships: 
    • Reservations – GMC does not take reservations for its shelters.
    • Rates – All shelters are open to the public, and most are free. However, those shelters located in areas with GMC caretakers charge a $5 fee for overnight stays. These fees help offset the cost of the caretaker program.
    • Marketing – GMC does not have a staff member dedicated to marketing; responsibilities are divided among staff. Most of the marketing is done via the web site and printed promotional materials.
    • Fundraising – GMC has a robust fundraising program that includes all the usual options for donor contributions.
    • Membership – GMC made a big push on membership about five years ago and met its goal to exceed 10,000 members and retain that number after the membership campaign. There are annual membership activities including, volunteer events, hikes, annual meeting, annual volunteer appreciation picnic, and a mud season egg hunt.
  1. Transportation: 

7.1 To the trailheads – Bus service goes by trail heads in some areas, but there is no organized public or private transportation service to and from trail heads.

Trailhead parking is available at many points along the trail. The Long Trail Guide warns of occasional vandalism (break-ins and thefts) at parking lots, and mentions that some folks leave their glove compartments open to show its not worth breaking in (while unscrewing the glove compartment light bulb to avoid draining the battery!).

7.2 Catered trips

  • Guiding services – The Long Trail is set up as self-service and its approach is to maintain the trail to provide access without need of guide services. The Long Trail Guide, published since 1917, is a thorough and detailed guide to trail information. There are some guide services operating on the Long Trail. They need permits from GMC (and/or other agencies?) to operate.
  • Snowmobiles – Not allowed; however there are trail crossings, which are tolerated.

7.3 Horses and pack animals – Not allowed — except for occasional trail management work uses, and then off the foot path.

7.4 Motorized access to shelters – None allowed, except occasionally for shelter maintenance work.

  1. Safety: 

Search and rescue is managed by State Police in Vermont. GMC staff provides assistance, including litter carries, as needed. There are occasional incidents of hikers getting lost; usually inexperienced hikers without proper gear.

The GMC web site has information for hikers on what to wear, wildlife, weather and water.

  1. Insurance – no information received.
  1. Use of hut system: capacity, demographics, survey data, trends over time, etc.: 

Determining the actual number of trail and shelter users is challenging. People can get on an off the trail at many different points and do not have to register. There are no reservations or other check-points to gather reliable data. The best indicators of use are:

  • Summit counts on Stratton Mountain
  • Number of AT though hikers (definitely increasing)
  • Number of compost runs.
  • Caretaker sites:
    • Overnight fees
    • Counts of number of hikers they meet daily.

In 2014 the backcountry caretakers guided and educated more than 41,500 visitors on Mount Mansfield and 21,300 visitors on Camels Hump. They provided Leave No Trace information to about 8,800 hikers. What else is known about use?

The number of hikers on the trail annually and the number of overnight stays in the shelters is not known with any precision. Anecdotally, use is growing.

  1. Economics: 

GMC is a non-profit organization. It is financially stable and finished the 2013/14 fiscal year with an operational surplus for the sixth year in a row. Each year in its Annual Report GMC presents a financial report for the organization as a whole. The Financial Report for the year ending April 30, 2014 follows:

Green Mountain Club Hut Operational Profile, hut2hut

Some specific aspects of GMC finances worth noting:

  • The GMC does have a Trails and Shelters Endowment with annual income earmarked for maintenance and re-building.
  • The caretakers on the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline are paid for by the broadcasters utilizing telecommunications towers on the mountain. This arrangement is handled by the Mt. Mansfield Colocation Association.
  • About 15-20% of the cost of the caretaker program is offset by user fees collected at caretaker sites.
  • GMC receives about $40,000 per year for trail maintenance from the Green Mountain National Forest as part of the cooperative agreement. This allocation is being squeezed in the USFS budget cuts.

It is not possible to break out the costs of specific components, such as maintenance of shelters, but this provides a good overall picture of GMC finances.

An economic impact study is in process; this may result in a template hut managers can use to determine economic impact.

  1. Partnerships 

The management of the Long Trail is described as a “public/private partnership”. Over the past century GMC has developed strong working relationships with partners. The key partners in the Cooperative Management System are listed below. They have cooperative agreements with each other, coordinate their work on the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail, and offer mutual support as appropriate:

  • GMC volunteers and staff – GMC has 10,000 members and a very high level of volunteerism. It plays the lead role in day-to-day management of the Long Trail and side trails.
  • S.D.A. National Forest Service – Green Mountain National Forest – Manages the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail within the “proclamation boundary” of the Green Mountain National Forest.
  • S. National Park Service – Responsible for management of the Appalachian Trail. Continues a program of land acquisition for trail sections as needed outside the Green Mountain National Forest.
  • Vermont Agency of Natural Resources – Responsible for stewardship of all state-owned lands crossed by the trail.
  • Appalachian Trail Conference – Responsible for ensuring that the trail is satisfactorily operated and maintained. Has been delegated responsibility for all National Parks Service acquired land in Vermont.

Other partners include:

  • Ski areas
  • Business members
  • Private land holders
  • Schools and other educational programs
  • Vermont Land Trust
  1. Educational programs:

Fostering stewardship through education programs is an important part of the GMC mission. The focus is on hard skills such as camping and backpacking. Ongoing programs include:

  • Long Trail Bound – Fosters use of the trail as a classroom environment for school groups, summer camps, and other gatherings. Reaches about 1,500 people per year. Teaching outdoor skills and environmental education, this program is run by staff and volunteers. It has a website showcasing activity lessons.
  • AmeriCorp, through the VT Housing and Conservation Board, supports a Group Outreach Program, funding a Coordinator who works with a range of groups and assists with GMC education programming.
  • Staff offer workshops (e.g. wilderness first aid, map and compass training, corridor monitoring, cold weather trekking, plant identification, and end-to-end panel discussions, & Leave No Trace principles).
  • A lecture series, the James P. Taylor Outdoor Adventure Series, provides varied presentations. Proceeds are used to the support the work of Sections and also GMC education programs.
  • Some individual sections have created youth education programs, such as the Young Adventurers Club of the Montpelier Section.
  • Occasional video productions to promote hiker safety and trail use.
  1. Founding/origin stories:

Due to its age and critical role in long distance walking in America, there is considerable material on the history of the GMC. The most recent and apparently comprehensive book-length treatment is A Century in the Mountains (edited by Tom Slayton) was published by GMC in 2010. The GMC website contains a capsule history, as does the Long Trail Guide.

The Waterman’s Forest and Crag: a history of hiking, trail blazing, and adventure in the Northeast mountains puts the development of the Long Trail in useful historical context. Chapter 35 in particular recounts the story of founder James P. Taylor’s campaign to establish the club and the trail. Perhaps because the Green Mountains are comparatively low, the craze for mountain walking did not seize Vermont as early as it did other North-east states. However, particularly interesting in the Waterman’s account is the combination of a central organizing force in the form of Taylor, with the energies of many others who worked through a network of “Sections”, and the attendant politics, resulting in completion of the trail in a remarkably short 20 years.

Sources of the oft-cited influence of the Long Trail on Benton Mackaye inspiration to propose an Appalachian Trail is treated in Larry Anderson’s short piece “A “Classic of the Green Mountains” Benton Mackaye’s 1900 hike Inspires the Appalachian Trail” (Long Trail News, Spring 2013, p. 8-10.

Other interesting historical connections to explore might include:

  • The evolution of the relationship between GMC and Dartmouth Outdoor Club in sharing responsibility for AT trail maintenance in VT.
  • The fact that the Long Trail pre-dated most of the agencies that are now partners in maintaining it, and their ready embrace of the trail.
  • Farm lodging and meals were a primary means of shelter support for walkers in the early days of the Long Trail; these are antecedents of the more genteel B&B to B&B system that apparently still exist here and there along the trail today.
  • The early relationship between the AMC, the GMC, and other alpine/mountain clubs and how the decisions made among them may have affected the development of alpine/mountain clubs in the USA (compared, for example, with those in Europe).
  1. Some important lessons learned by the managers of the system:

Discussion with the managers of the Long Trail emphasized:

  • The value of starting small and working steadily towards long range aspirations.
  • The importance of continually working to maintain good partnerships with land managers (i.e. those involved in the Cooperative Management System).
    • Need for patience and perseverance as contacts you have worked with and educated over the years inevitably move up or out, providing new opportunities to educate new liaisons in the day-to-day and long term implementation and evolution of the partnership.
  • Importance of the volunteer program and identifying and cultivating people who really can help and who work well with others.
  • Importance of being open to change.
  1. Observations by Sam: 
  • The GMC staff is very impressive: highly professional but friendly and relaxed; aware of current trends, issues and practices nationally, but always attuned to local realities; very willing to share information and perspective; and interested in national information exchange and cooperation.
  • The very strong volunteer program seems to be genuinely valued and carefully stewarded by the staff.
  1. Challenges and opportunities:
  • Challenges:
    • Key challenges
    • Use is increasing faster than the budget; may need to cut back on the number of shelters for financial reasons.
    • Growing and embracing the next phase of Long Trail and GMC without losing traditional values and mission.
    • While the mission stays the same, GMC may be transitioning beyond a membership-based hiking club to a greater emphasis on education and stewardship more broadly.
    • Working with increasing numbers and types of partners to advance the mission.
  • Other challenges
    • Annual operating budget is strained to accomplish the scope of work of GMC.
    • Historic preservation guidelines prevent making some important practical improvements to shelters.
  • Opportunities:
    • Expanding the locus of GMC activities beyond the Long Trail corridor.
    • Rental cabins could generate income to help with GMC budgetary needs and also provide alternative ways for families to spend time outdoors.
    • Creating more entry points, e.g. in educational programming, to connect people to the mountains.
    • Connecting the trail and hiking to values such as healthy families and communities.
    • Expanding demographics to involve more school, community and other groups.
    • The potential expansion of the North Country Trail into Vermont to connect with the Long Trail could offer new possibilities.
  1. Additional Resources:
    • Web site: http://
    • Contacts: 
      • Mike DeBonis, Executive Director:
      • Dave Hardy, Director of Trail Programs:
      • Pete Antos-Ketcham, Director of Land and Facilities Management:
  1. Document written by:

Sam Demas with invaluable input from many members of the GMC staff on a site visit January 2015 and subsequent email and phone review of the document. Published on site July 2015. Still awaiting some information from GMC.