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Appalachian Mountain Club Huts

Lake of the Clouds Hut, Mt Washington
Lake of the Clouds Hut, Mt Washington

The Appalachian Mountain Club runs 8 rustic, but comparatively luxurious mountain huts in New Hampshire’s White Mountains,  all located in spectacular locations. Listed south to north, these include

  • Lonesome Lake Hut, located on a glacial lake on Canon Mountain
  • Greenleaf Hut, just above treeline on Mt. Lafayette
  • Galehead Hut, in the midst of the Pemigewasset Wilderness Area
  • Zealand Falls Hut, located next to spectacular waterfalls
  • Mizpah Spring Hut, located near Crawford Notch
  • Lakes of the Clouds Hut, located on the southern shoulder of Mt Washington
  • Madison Spring Hut, located at the base of the summit cone of Mt. Madison
  • Carter Notch Hut, located at the foot of Carter Dome and Wildcat A

All of them were constructed close to the Appalachian Trail to permit hut-to-hut traverses through the White Mountains. Inside, hikers sleep in separate male and female bunk rooms that house anywhere from 40 to 90 visitors a night. Two meals, breakfast and dinner, are served in a common dining area, and  all of the huts have been now upgraded with running water and toilets, but there are no showers or baths.

The huts are manned by workers called croo, formerly called Hut Men, back in the old days when the the huts were almost exclusively staffed by men. Each hut’s croo is responsible for taking care of guests, cooking meals and educating them about the unique environmental and natural resources in the region.

White Mountain Hut - Human Resupply

In addition, the croo is often called upon as first responders in an emergency and is responsible for carrying food and supplies up to the huts several times a week. The preferred method for hauling these loads over the years is still the packboard, with loads ranging from 85 to 100 lbs. Boxes of fruit, eggs, vegetables, flower and even an occasional six pack of beer are humped up on these packboards several times per week to feed hungry visitors. Climbing 3,000 ft with one of these loads is not for the faint-hearted, but it’s a great way for the croo, including this fellow, to stay in shape.

Greenleaf Hut below Mt Lafayette
Greenleaf Hut below Mt Lafayette

Greenleaf Hut was completed in 1930. It sits at 4,222 ft, about 1,000 ft below the summit of Mt. Lafayette, and overlooks Franconia Notch. During the day it is open to passing hikers and is a reliable place to fill up water bottles and reservoirs with potable water.

Most of the AMC huts are only open from late spring through early autumn, but several, including Lonesome Lake, Zealand Falls and Carter Notch are also open in winter. Getting to these huts in winter can be very challenging because guests need to snowshoe or ski into them. Depending on conditions, full winter gear may be required, and knowing how to traverse avalanche terrain safely is important.

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17 comments

  1. Packboards! Crazy! Great shot. Had you just said packboards and not shown us I dont think I would have know what you meant.

  2. Those packboards are pretty insane. They also don't have hip belts. I've read some historical documents from the AMC that say that the hut men used to carry up to 200 lbs a load.

  3. That looks like a very cool spot to stay. Do they charge to stay or is it all volunteer services and free to stay/eat? Either way, the concept is great.

  4. Awesome post and great pics – I can't imagine what one of the croo looks like after a summer gig like that. Not just the intense loads they hike in, but the environment and good company as well. Nice site!

  5. Will be interesting to see if they are any negative comments on this post. Some NH hikers really dislike the AMC. The AT thru hikers hate them.

    The huts were a perfect way for Adam and I to transition from day hikes to backpacking.

    I would enjoy hiking the hut system That would be a way to spend 8-10 days.

    • Tom,

      Good point.

      First I’d like to start by saying I really like the AMC and the work that they do. I have made friends with AMC staff and they are all very helpful. I occasionally stop in Pinkham Notch and the Highland Center. I’m a member and I do stop in the huts to fill my water (since its slightly easier than breaking out the drops and the huts usually monopolize a water source anyways) as I round out my 48. I’ll also add that I think the huts are ascetically pleasing, the people you meet are always nice, and if a hut is the only way you’ll do it, “tis better to have hiked and hut than to have never hiked at all.” Now that I’ve cleared the air I think it’s ok to offer some obvious criticism of the hut system.

      First of all, the huts are extremely expensive for what you’re getting. If this is the price that’s required to balance the budget, so be it and if the price-point is filling beds and that money is going to trail up-keep than that is fine. But the AMC knows that they’ve priced a lot of regulars out of the market. When you first hear “Hut” you’re thinking “Great, I’m an AMC member, probably $10 a person, maybe $20 maximum?”. Yes, its a roof and breakfast but for a lot of people $85 is a full day of work and if you regularly come to the Whites, between gas and other expenses… its just financially irresponsible for some. When you consider that a descent motel room in the middle of North Conway can be had for $55 it makes it a difficult financial justification too. If you just like hiking for hiking’s sake than the idea of descending, going out to eat, getting a good nights sleep and hiking the next day can seem more appealing than spending even more and hiking less.

      Then there are the other good points I hear people make. For one, the huts limit your camping options since you’re not suppose to camp within a 1/4 mile radius. Second, a lot of people go hiking to get away from people and connect with nature. I know some people enjoy outings with their friends or a hiking group and I think that’s great. I live in Boston behind a fast food restaurant, across from 4 night clubs, and hiking on the weekends is about getting away from society, not recreating it at 3,500 feet. There are others who feel the same. The solitude in nature is part of the magic of hiking. This is why hiking in winter, before the mobs of fare weather trekkers hit the scene, is so special. So not only do I find the idea of sleeping with a ton of strangers unappealing for the simple fact that its the kind of environment I’m trying to get away from, but also the huts draw a lot of traffic during day hikes and since a lot of trails intersect with them… you’re going to be brought into the fold no matter what.

      I’ve also heard the point that huts don’t really serve regular hikers. Rather, they are an easy way for affluent hikers from far away places like New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, to have strategic break-points and easy accommodations while they finish a hiking goal. I never use this term myself but a common term I’ve heard used among avid hikers and locals is “Appalachian Money Club” which pokes fun at the fact that some of the AMC offerings like the huts and classes are financially out of reach for a lot folks.

      In other words, a retired couple from New Jersey who’s spent 10 years working on their 48 may have no problem spending any kind of money on their annual trip to the Whites because its more of a vacation. They don’t need to carry tents, they can gain the ridge and bag a few peaks in a long weekend without having much vertical gain, and they can use the hut as a strategic drop-off to make their load next-to-nothing. I completely understand this mentality, when I go on trips outside the Whites I inherently have a larger budget and expect to spend more. I find seasonal enthusiasts, boyscouts, and college groups to account for a lot of the hut lovers; the ones you see walking around eating pancakes in their pajamas at 10AM when you stop to fill-up after gaining the ridge.

      Then there’s obviously an environmental impact as well since I often find myself picking up more trail garbage the closer I get to the huts.

      • Chris – I think the closer you live to NH, the more ambivalent you are to the price of the huts. Most locals would never pay that amount, although staying in the huts in winter when they are self-service is far more affordable, less crowded and pleasant. The way I figure it, if people from out of state want to come to the White Mountains and stay in the huts, let them. There are plenty of alternatives, many not managed by the AMC which are less expensive, and provide just as much convenience (consider the RMC huts) to mountains and alpine zones.

        As for the benefits of the huts, which I think you’ve overlooked: they prevent a lot more damage to delicate areas of the whites than they foster; they provide a ready supply of search and rescue volunteers when people need help; and they provide many educational opportunities for people to learn how to behave in the wilderness “correctly”, in a low impact manner.

        Finally, the garbage near the huts (and any forest protection area (FPA) in the whites) is not caused by huts, by but by people who believe they’ll be fined if they litter inside FPA boundaries.

      • Those are good points I did not consider. I also agree with you about the huts being more appealing in winter. As for litter, I think its mostly accidental regardless of the political boundaries. However, its usually things like plastic juice box straws and skittles bags.

        Time to bag some peaks. Happy hiking ;)

  6. At $84/night, they are not thru hiker friendly. But there are 2 spots open for thru-hikers each night that are free for work exchange, and they get to eat leftovers if there are any.

  7. The bunkrooms in the huts are now coed. Also Greenleaf, Galehead, and Mizpah are open in May on caretaker basis. In late May (this year), I spent a very windy and rainy day at Flea waiting out a bad storm. Staying at a hut open on caretaker basis is an enjoyable experience.

  8. We leave tomorrow to do a Hut traverse and we are looking forward to it. it will stand in this year as our "big" vacation. we did however pay significantly less than 84$ a night except for our saturday stay!

  9. It looks like you and Sherpa will have great weather this weekend. I'll be in the southern Presidentials on Saturday hiking from Eisenhower to Boot Spur. It doesn't sound like you'll be at Lake of the Clouds hut by then, but who knows. Maybe her royal highness will let me go back on Sunday for a short hike near Zealand on the AT and I'll run into you.

    Our "big" summer vacation this year is a trip to southern Scotland in a few weeks. Much cheaper than our usual Catskills holidays.

    Enjoy your hike and get an early start. Thunderstorms in the Whites start to build around 2-3 PM. I can't wait to see your photos on Facebook and tag you!

  10. While they are very expensive for thru hikers, they don't hate them. The amc has some options for such hikers. While I was Lonesome Lake this past summer, a thru hiker walked into the hut. The croo allowed the man to wash the dishes, and as payment gave him a full meal for dinner. Basically, this man was Extremely happy, as he just recieved the best meal he had eaten in months.

  11. In July do I need to bring a sleeping bag to stay in the GREENLEAF hut?

  12. I have spent many nights at these huts in the last 5 years or so, and have yet to see separate men’s/women’s dorms. Maybe it was once the case?

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