A Guide to the Great Outdoors

Paddling on Long Pond with the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Gorman Chairback Lodge in the background

Return to main article:

For outdoor adventures in New England, the nonprofit Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) is the place to go. The organization offers recreational and educational activities for all ages and abilities throughout the region—including a new emphasis on urban escapes for young people.

“We run more than 7,000 activities throughout our 12 regional chapters, stretching from Washington, D.C., to Maine,” says AMC’s new president, John D. Judge, M.P.A. ’01. “There is something here for everyone.” (Judge succeeded Andrew J. Falender, M.B.A. ’71, who expanded and strengthened the organization during his 23-year tenure.) From moderate weekend hiking in the Berkshires and rock climbing in Rhode Island, to backcountry skiing in northern Maine and paddling on New Hampshire’s countless lakes, AMC aims to provide trips and lodging to meet any budget. (See the many activities listed by region and age groups at www.outdoors.org/recreation/activities/index.cfm.)

The group’s oldest trail (established in 1879 in Tuckerman Ravine, on the southeast face of Mount Washington) and first hut site (Madison Spring) are in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the original focus of AMC’s co-founder, Harvard astronomer and physicist Edward Pickering, S.B.1865. New Hampshire now boasts a series of European-style, hut-to-hut hiking options (eight huts in all), also in the White Mountains. Lodges elsewhere in New Hampshire include a popular family destination in the Lakes Region at the base of Cardigan Mountain. Set on a 1,200-acre reservation, Cardigan Lodge (www.outdoors.org/lodging/cardigan) has trails rated at all levels of difficulty, a swimming pond, home-cooked meals, and kid-friendly events that include educational films, games, and evening campfires. “What we love about getting people outside,” Judge says, “is that it’s great for their health and personal enjoyment and it is terrific in terms of the bonding that goes on with nature” and among fellow travelers.

In 2003, AMC launched its Maine Woods Initiative, which has targeted conservation and recreation lands. In 2009 it completed the purchase of the 29,500-acre Roach Ponds Tract near Baxter State Park in northern Maine, adding to a hundred-mile wilderness corridor. A trip exploring this region is offered in late May. Also in Maine is one of AMC’s newest accommodations, opened last year: Gorman Chairback Lodge and Cabins on Long Pond, near Greenville, in the Moosehead Lake Region. Surrounded by 66,000 acres of AMC-owned conservation land, Gorman Chairback is part of a lodge-to-lodge ski route and also a wilderness destination open year-round. Individual and guided activities there include hiking, paddling, skiing, snowshoeing, fly-fishing, swimming, mountain biking, and even dogsledding (with local guides).

AMC recognizes the need to expose more city dwellers, including at-risk kids and teens, to nature, and plans “to get 500,000 kids into the outdoors” in the next decade, Judge says, through initiatives such as the Youth Opportunities Program, Outdoor Leadership Training, and Teen Trail Maintenance Program. In the Boston area, for example, AMC and the Trustees of Reservations (www.thetrustees.org) are entering into a partnership with the Bay Circuit Alliance (www.baycircuit.org) to assist with stewardship and land protection of the alliance’s 200-mile trail and greenway. The organization’s Boston chapter is active as well with the trails and events at the Blue Hills Reservation (in neighboring Milton) that also help draw city kids outside. In addition, AMC has joined forces with other environmental and youth-focused groups to target kids in Springfield (Massachusetts), Hartford, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

 “We want people everywhere to power down the electronics, the iPads and iPods, that are sucking us indoors and cutting us off from the outside, and power up in the outdoors,” Judge says. “We’re hearing that loud and clear from parents—and adults who are overly focused on their digital worlds. With the childhood obesity rate at 17 percent—almost triple what it was in 1980—there is really an urgency around this issue.”

Along the way, of course, the hope is also that these kids will develop a lifelong love of and appreciation for nature. “One of the unique things about us is that there is an educational component to everything we do,” Judge explains. “Kids will learn about mountain ecosystems, trail maintenance, groundwater run-off. This is the only way we are going to educate the next generation—and get them active in conservation.”



Appalachian Mountain Club (trips, lodging, training, and education)


Jumptown (skydiving)
800-890-JUMP (5867)
Orange, Mass.


Metro Rock (indoor and outdoor climbing courses) 
617-387-ROCK (7625)
Everett and Newburyport, Mass.


Nahmakanta Lake Wilderness Camps (dogsledding, fishing,
canoeing, and hiking)
Millinocket, Me.


Zoar Outdoor (rafting, kayaking, canoeing, ziplining, and rock climbing) 
Charlemont, Mass.

Read more articles by Nell Porter Brown

You might also like

“Edifying and Beautiful”

Botanical illustrations on display at Harvard’s rare book library

Sarah Ganz Blythe New Art Museums Director

Assumes Harvard post in August

Taking Climate Action at Harvard

Focusing on prime polluting industries, plus politics and policy

Most popular

Crimson En Garde

Eight Olympics-bound Harvard fencers

Taking Climate Action at Harvard

Focusing on prime polluting industries, plus politics and policy

Sarah Ganz Blythe New Art Museums Director

Assumes Harvard post in August

More to explore

Architect Kimberly Dowell is Changing Her Profession

Kimberly Dowdell influences her profession—and the built environment.

Harvard Professor on Printmaking

An art historian analyzes an overlooked medium.

Dream Renovations to Harvard Yard Libraries

An ambitious plan for the next century of learning