Wednesday October 17, 2018

Summer is peak season for most outdoor activities. And peak season does its damage.

Many outdoor adventurers may not realize it, but autumn is the time of year when the professionals who make the wilderness accessible to us do their hardest work. The professionals, and the volunteers.

Through the summer season, trails have been eroded by thousands of boots, and need restoration. Trail edges must be recarved carefully, to encourage hikers to stick to prepared routes, protecting delicate plant life off the path. Blazes must be repainted, to keep hikers on safe routes. Bridges and walkways must be repaired or rebuilt.

This work can be light – pulling invasive weeds when they are at their weakest. It can be heavy — carting treated wood deep into the wilderness to repair footbridges that keep hikers off sensitive flora and help them safely cross streams. It can be wet and messy – stream cleanups to ensure that watersheds drain properly and don’t clog with litter as winter snows are coming.It can even be dry and indoors, coordinating schedules and making phone calls to arrange projects.

But it’s always rewarding. And we find that the nature lovers who make their way to us are more than willing to give back to the places and experiences that add so much to our lives.

With that in mind, here are some of our favorite organizations that are looking for volunteers to help winterize America’s outdoor adventure facilities.

If you don’t see an organization in your area, contact your state or local park service about volunteer opportunities. And feel free to let us know of any new opportunities you find, you can just email us at [email protected]

We’ll add them to the list.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy– One of America’s oldest volunteer groups, the ATC organizes work hikes and maintenance weekends on the longest hiking-only trail in the world.

Sierra Club Service Trips– This environmental group also coordinates service trips to assist with repairs and restorations all over the United States. You’ll have to pay for the privilege, but these experiences are unforgettable, involving fantastic learning opportunities and a sense of bonding with people from all walks of life as you assist with recovery projects in beautiful places.

U.S. Forest Service Volunteer Opportunities– The Forest Service has identified 15 priority areas in need of volunteers, spread across the country. Contact information for each gives you more details on what you can contribute.

Pacific Crest Trail Association– The Appalachian Trail’s lesser-known western cousin stretches more than 2,600 miles through California, Oregon and Washington. These passionate people maintain it, and are always looking for extra hands.

American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacations– This group not only represents America’s hikers, but also organizes week-long service trips to repair trails and wilderness resources all over the United States. No experience is required, and they’ll provide the gear and companionship.

Continental Divide Trail Coalition– The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is a 3,100-mile route that traverses five U.S. states and parts of Canada and Mexico. It needs constant maintenance, and these volunteers work with federal and state officials to get willing hands to the necessary sites.

Adirondack Mountain Club– The club provides leadership, group camping gear, tools, transportation from base camp, and food for multi-day projects in the Adirondack mountains. All you need to provide is a few days of your time, and some muscle.

North Country Trail Association– The North Country Scenic Trail is the longest trail in the National Trails System, at over 4,600 miles, from North Dakota to Vermont. That’s a lot of mileage. The NCTA will be happy to help you find a few miles of it you can help maintain.

Potomac Heritage Trail Association– This group maintains a scenic and historical trail along the Potomac river entirely with volunteer sweat. Trail Maintenance– Don’t see your area listed? Meetup maintains a nationwide listing of trail maintenance projects.