Christine Hoyer

Backcountry Management Specialist (Ranger)
Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Responsibilities: Hoyer manages the entire backcountry program in Great Smokey Mountains National Park, including permitting, recreational use, and partnerships with trail organizations. She provides information to visitors before they arrive, looks at use patterns, manages Leave No Trace initiatives at the park, and trains volunteers. (The average backcountry workforce in the park includes 320 volunteers.)

Years in current position: 3

Years with the Park Service: 8

Christine Hoyer_NPSCareer path: As a college student, Hoyer volunteered on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s trail crew and became crew leader on a section of the trail that runs through Great Smokey Mountains National Park. She had an early post-college career in psychology then earned a graduate degree in wilderness management. She joined the National Park Service as a trail volunteer manager in Great Smokey Mountains National Park, then worked as the park-wide volunteer manager before taking on her current role. “This is my dream gig! Great Smokey Mountains National Park has 848 miles of maintained trails and 104 backcountry shelters and campsites. I thought trail crew leader was ‘it.’ I wanted to be outdoors. I got paid. I wore the green and gray. I didn’t see the bigger role at first, but now all of my passions converge.”

What makes my park special: “Whether you want historic sites or nature, a short day hike or an overnighter, waterfalls — it’s all here. Each part of the park has a different character.”

Typical day: “To be atypical. I might have the best plan, then there’s a bear closure.”

Biggest challenge: “The backcountry here already had high use and it’s even greater for the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. We’re trying to connect to more people, but more people have more impact. We need to get out the right information so that visitors can have a sense of discovery but also allow the next 10 million visitors to have the same experience. And there’s never enough time to get everything done that I want to accomplish!”

Best part of the job: “I like being directly linked to both sides of the NPS mission — the preservation of resources and the enjoyment and education of visitors.”

Advice for visitors: “Plan what you want to do before you come. There’s more here than you can see in one visit. I’ve been here eight years and still haven’t done it all. The Smokeys are big enough that if I blindfolded you in Cades Cove then took it off at Cataloochee, you would think it’s a different park.”

Favorite national park: “Great Smokey Mountains National Park — home is where the heart is! After that, Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It’s separated from the rest of the world. I love that. The lesser-known parks are higher on my list than the ‘big jewels’.”

Learn more about our national parks! View historic photos, listen to audio on how the film, "Our National Parks: America's Best Idea," was created, and learn about activities and events the park system offers.