Volunteer vacations in wilderness: Spend a week helping wilderness

A volunteer in the Cohutta Wilderness in the Chattahoochee National Forest.

flickr, Wanda Brown/USDA Forest Service

Volunteer Vacations: Spend a Week Helping Wilderness

Before you plan a getaway to some tropical island this summer, consider another option. The volunteer vacations offered 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, a willingness to work 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 that they are planning a trip to a place you always wanted to go.

Hear a story of one Boston professional's 'ultimate vacation' as a Wilderness Volunteer in New Hampshire's Pemigewassett Wilderness:

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 WV photo gallery demonstrates, most volunteers are regular people just like you and me, 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.

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.