Make time for wilderness this year with volunteer vacations

Explore stunning valleys, waterfalls, subalpine wildflower meadows, old growth forests and more than two dozen glaciers on the Wilderness Volunteers Mt. Rainier trip!

Dahemody, flickr

Volunteer vacations are the best way to discover or give back to America's wild places.

Before you plan a getaway to some tropical island this summer, consider another option. The volunteer vacations organized by Wilderness Volunteers offer you a fun and fulfilling way to unwind and recharge in some of America’s most beautiful landscapes.

What is a volunteer vacation?

A Wilderness Volunteers vacation is a six-day group trip to a national forest, national park or wilderness area in which trip participants work together on projects to protect and restore these wild places. Projects typically include constructing and maintaining foot trails, removing unwanted fences and unauthorized campsites, controlling non-native invasive plants and doing other valuable restoration work. Wilderness Volunteers provides the meals, tools and experienced trip leaders. Volunteer participants bring their own camping equipment, an enthusiasm for working as a team and a willingness to get dirty!

Each year, Wilderness Volunteers offers service trips to more than fifty of the most beautiful places in the U.S. This year's trips will work on wilderness quality lands in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. Visit the Wilderness Volunteers project page to learn more about where Wilderness Volunteers will be working this year. You might discover they're planning a trip to a place you always wanted to go!

Photo: Volunteers on a visit to California's San Gabriel Mountains. Majestic Condor Peak is pictured in the background, John Monsen

Opportunities for everyone

If you have never done volunteer trail work yourself, you might think that a typical volunteer looks like Paul Bunyan, or maybe his stout sister Pauline. Not so. As the Wilderness Volunteers photo gallery demonstrates, most volunteers are just regular people, volunteering their time to take care of the wilderness they love. Some of the work can be physically demanding. However, there are jobs for people of most ages and abilities. As the video above shows, many volunteers consider their trips to be one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. Many of them come back year after year.

Hear the story of Katy Giorgio, a Boston professional whose 'ultimate vacation' is being a Wilderness Volunteer in New Hampshire's Pemigewassett Wilderness:

Why wild lands need volunteers

Volunteers play a critical role in protecting America's wild places. Shrinking budgets make it impossible for agencies to do all the maintenance that our public lands need, so they rely on volunteers to fill the gap. Without these stalwart volunteers, our favorite trails would often be impassable, blocked by downed trees and overgrown with weeds.

Wilderness Volunteers offers you the chance to be part of the solution. As you make your travel plans for this year, consider giving back to America's wild places. Sign up for a volunteer vacation and spend a week working in wilderness. If you do, you’ll bring back memories that last a lifetime.

Photo: John Muir Wilderness, SteveD, flickr

Some upcoming volunteer trips

Explore the spectacular mountain scenery of the John Muir Wilderness, Sierra National Forest, CAon this service project focused on rehabilitating impacts from excessive camping in sensitive areas around alpine lakes. To rehabilitate impacted camp sites, you'll be moving boulders, burying some, removing burnt wood and ash and eliminating unwanted fire rings. 

Discover wildlife in part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by signing up for the Jedediah Smith Wilderness, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, WY, volunteer trip. You'll be working in maintaining trails in need of rebuilding erosion control structures and rerouting short sections. Its broad open vistas provide extraordinary views of the entire Teton Range and you're likely to at least see tracks of grizzly bear and moose!

Admire the rich and colorful valley wilderness of Mt. Rainier National Park, WA, on this service project to restore wilderness conditions near a popular area in the Park. You will be transplanting native plant seedlings in subalpine meadows near Sunrise on the northeast flanks of Mt. Rainier. You'll camp at White River Campground, the highest elevation campsite in the park known for its breathtaking scenery.

Traverse one of the few remaining open space areas in southern California—the San Gabriel Mountains Proposed Wilderness—on this trip dedicated to removing invasive Spanish broom plants in a proposed wilderness area. This species out-competes native vegetation and you'll be volunteering to help the biology team on the Angeles NF eradicate them. On your day off, you may hike up to nearby Mount Gleason to experience magestic views over the area!

See all of Wilderness Volunteers' upcoming trips

Photo: Jedediah Smith Wilderness, jermyP, flickr