The seasonal life is sweet and escapist, a respite from the long slog of 9-to-5 jobs, leases and mortgages, professional wardrobes and other “adult” drudgery. From river guiding to mountain lodge dishwashing, summer camp operations to teaching ski lessons, even waterway research in the summer to snowpack research in the winter, there’s a seasonal job out there for everyone. It’s yours for the taking, as long as you can hack it.
Nomadic lifestyles aren’t for everyone, and you’ll likely be making just enough to scrape by. If you can’t take it with you, you won’t keep it (say goodbye to your own bed, more than a few pairs of shoes, and anything resembling furniture). And, at the end of the season, you’ll likely have to start all over again. But if you’re looking to scratch that wanderlust itch, take a break from the rat race, or fill a little transition time and figure out what’s important to you, a season working with similarly adventure-minded folks in the great outdoors might be just what you need. Heed that seasonal siren call and throw your hat in the ring for some of the coolest seasonal jobs out there.
Lead bike trips in Haines and Skagway, Alaska
Bike lovers can live out of their truck, tent, or in subsidized employee housing in beautiful southwestern Alaska and guide single- and multi-day bike trips for travelers from far and wide. Qualifications include a love and knowledge of bike riding and the freedom to spend a summer of long days, short nights, and awesome weekends in Alaska. Whether you’re a road warrior or mountain biker, Sockeye Cycle is a great way to hone your bike skills, including maintenance and repair, trip planning, and overall fitness and technique. Though we can’t promise the tan lines will be pretty.
Guide whitewater rafting trips in Moab
Possibly the most classic way to spend a dirtbag summer, river guiding is a great way to get your feet wet (heh) in the world of seasonal jobs. Whether you’re new to the world of rafting or a seasoned whitewater traveler, raft companies are looking for people of all skillsets. Moab’s an incredible place to spend a summer on the river thanks to stunning canyons and rock formations and world-class climbing and mountain biking to fill your free time, but there are guiding opportunities all over the states. Check out outfitters in Upstate New York, the Carolinas, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and elsewhere in Utah if you’re keen.
Work for a Fly Fishing Outfitter in Montana
Or Wyoming, Washington, West Virginia, and just about anywhere with healthy waterways. Like rafting outfitters, fly fishing guide jobs (and other, service-oriented positions with fly fishing outfitters) exist in most of the wild and beautiful places you’d want to spend your summer. If you’ve ever helped someone catch their first fish, you know how special that moment can be—and how rewarding it is to finally get your trainee making beautiful, smooth, confident casts. Glacier Raft Company is located in West Glacier, Montana, right on the edge of Glacier National Park, and will have you fishing for trout in some of the most gorgeous spots in the Lower 48.
Become a Wildland Firefighter in Wyoming
Though most fire crews have made their hires for the upcoming summer, Wyoming’s Sweetwater County crew is still looking for strong men and women to help protect our wild lands from the ever-more-intense fire season. Fighting fire is a high-stakes job that won’t be laidback like, say, leading bike tours in Alaska, but it might be one of the most rewarding ways to spend a summer. Dropping in to hard work with real consequences in the wilderness, pushing your physical and mental limits, and learning skills that can translate to other awesome search and rescue and firefighting jobs are just a few of the benefits of a summer fighting fire. Another bonus? It pays a lot better than other, slower-paced seasonal work.
Teach sailing in Maine
If you’re looking for a true escape from the “real world,” why not live at a summer camp in Maine? Camp Arcadia and Alford Lake Camp, both all-girls camps, are looking for sailing instructors for the summer (don’t worry, guys can also apply). Though not as full-throttle as whitewater guiding or fighting fire, teaching kids to sail can be an empowering and humbling experience, one that might remind you why it is you love to sail in the first place. Housing is covered (though if you’re a woman, that probably means a lot of late-night chats with adolescent girls), and you can use your time off to take on more ambitious sailing missions off Maine’s coast and bigger water bodies.
Guide climbers up Mt. Rainier (and other awesome peaks)
Guide companies like Rainier Mountaineering Inc. offer mountaineers young and old a chance to share their love for the mountains with hundreds of clients each summer. Finding reliable, ambitious, safety-conscious climbing partners can be tough, and possibly the greatest benefit of working for RMI (or a similar outfitter) is connecting with your fellow guides and planning bigger, badder missions in the shoulder seasons and on the surrounding peaks. The Cascades are full of technical, aesthetic peaks, and moving to Washington for a summer to live and work among some of the most dialed climbers in the U.S. is a perfect way to start exploring them.
Photo by Loren Kerns.