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U.S. volunteer vacations, $275

/ Source: ARTHUR FROMMER'S BUDGET TRAVEL

The AHS's Volunteer Vacations typically involve backpacking into the wilderness for a week of working on trails (programs are rated anywhere from easy to very strenuous).

Participants, who range from 18 to 80 years old, can choose from cabin stays, car camping, or camping. The relatively short time period and affordability can make the AHS's Volunteer Vacations a family-friendly option.

You have to pay your way to the area (transportation is tax-deductible), but the host will usually arrange a pickup at the airport. You must bring your own camping equipment, though food is normally included.

We're spotlighting a few new and notable programs below, but you can download the complete catalog of programs at .

Paria Canyon, Ariz.
One of the AHS's new offerings for 2008, the Paria trip focuses on removing invasive plants in the canyon. It calls for five miles of backpacking and is categorized as very strenuous.

When: April 20-26, Apr. 27-May 3

Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, Maine
Participants on this moderate-to-difficult daypacking trip will help clear and maintain 10 to 15 miles of trails in the refuge, home to more than 30,000 acres of spruce-fir and northern hardwood forests in southern Maine. Act fast for this trip, as it's filling up.

When: Sept. 21-27

Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area, Tenn.
Two miles of backpacking and work clearing vegetation in a rugged gorge area, part of the John Muir National Recreation Trail, qualify this trip as difficult. It's also beautiful, as you'll be surrounded by wildflowers and sandstone bluffs.

When: June 1-7

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Wash.
Repair storm damage and clear overgrowth along the lovely Iron Goat Trail, a rails-to-trails conversion that runs through the Cascade Mountains. The trip is classified as moderate to difficult and includes lodge accommodations and daypacking.

When: July 12-19

Details: The $275 per person rate includes a one-year society membership fee of $30 per household, so if you book with a companion, one person will pay $275 and the other $245 (for those who are already members, the trip cost is $245 each). All meals are included. Participants must supply their own tents, sleeping bags, pads, and all personal gear including eating utensils. Group size is limited, and trips often run with 10 people or less.

Contact: American Hiking Society, 800/972-8608, .

Before you go, check the at . And read these before you book any Real Deal.