For new volunteers

Pacific Crest Trail Association volunteer.New to volunteering on a PCT trail crew? We’re here to help. To give you a better idea of what it’s like be a Pacific Crest Trail volunteer, check out the answers to our most frequently asked questions. Have a moment? View the U.S. Forest Service introductory video to see volunteer trail crews in action and take a look at our volunteer guidebooks for day-long and overnight projects!

What is the cost to join a Pacific Crest Trail volunteer project?

It’s free! For all projects the PCTA provides tools and safety gear (including a hard hat and gloves). For overnight or extended projects, PCTA will provide food, drinking water or water filters, kitchen gear, and camping fees. International applicants are responsible for obtaining the necessary visas required for participation. The PCTA is one of the few organizations that is able to provide volunteer trail crew opportunities without charging fees. Of course, we welcome and rely upon your donations to help pay for our programs. Please considering donating and supporting our crews.

What do I need to bring?

For all projects you will need to bring a day pack, boots, and appropriate clothing. Long pants are required to do trail work and long-sleeved shirts are recommended or required in some areas. For day projects, you will also need to bring a lunch and water. For extended projects you will need to provide your own camping gear, this includes a tent, sleeping bag, eating utensils, and personal items.

Do I need to have prior experience?

Nope! Most PCTA projects do not require prior trail maintenance experience, and we encourage all levels of experience to get involved. You will receive a training session by the trail crew leaders before you begin working on a project, including proper techniques and appropriate tool use. If prior experience is required, this will be listed in the project description.

What does a trail crew do?

Trail crews are a vital component in building, maintaining, and protecting the PCT. Each year these crews, along with PCTA staff, take out new and seasoned volunteers to conduct trail work. Projects are dependent on the needs of the trail in that area. Trail work may include:

  • Cutting and removing fallen trees to clear the trail corridor
  • Maintaining and constructing structures such as rock walls, steps, or bridges
  • Clearing overgrown vegetation on the trail
  • Maintaining and improving the trail tread (tread is the area where people and stock walk on the trail)

Trail crew provide amazing and invaluable assistance to make the PCT the great trail that it is today!

Why are there different volunteer groups?

As you are looking through the volunteer project schedule you may see the projects are put on by different PCTA groups. Our volunteer groups are categorized as:

Regional Groups: PCTA Regional Groups are volunteers who have adopted sections of the PCT. They hold volunteer projects periodically throughout the year to maintain their sections. These projects are led by experienced and knowledgeable PCTA volunteers.

Skyline and Sasquatch Crews: These crews offer week-long volunteer vacations in the high Cascades, led by PCTA staff.  Pack in to a backcountry campsite with the assistance of pack animals, and enjoy some time off in the middle of the seven day tour to lounge around camp or explore the beautiful area on your own. These crews supplement the work of our regional maintainers by tackling major tread erosion problems on the PCT.

Corps or Youth Crews: The PCTA works with various corps and youth crews on the trail including the American Conservation Experience (ACE). Volunteers join these corps crews to conduct trail maintenance throughout the PCT.

These groups are composed of young adults, ages 18-25. They enroll in an intensive 3-12 month training program that unites young adults from across the United States and around the world to learn skills in community building, habitat restoration, environmental conservation, and leadership. Three to four volunteers will join forces with five to six young adults from the corps crew. The corps crew has a crew leader that oversees the project and the group. The entire group will work on a prearranged trail maintenance project together. The group will also work together to prepare all of the meals and perform all of the camp chores like getting water and washing dishes.

Meet some of the crew members that might be on your project or see what the American Conservation Experience is all about.

How do I sign up for a project?

There are three simple steps to register for a project. First, submit an online volunteer application if you have not filled one out before. Next, check out the project schedule and find a project that you would like to attend. Third, register for the project! The person to contact will vary between projects. Check out the project description to determine who to contact.

How do I get to the project?

You will need to arrange transportation to and from the project. The meeting location is typically a trailhead or campground. After you register for a project you will receive directions to the meeting location. You can request to set up a carpool with the other registered volunteers.

Can I volunteer on the trail all summer?

Our longest volunteer projects typically last ten days. If you’d like to spend more time on a crew, see if there are trips on our project schedule that you can participate in back-to-back. (Don’t forget you’ll need to arrange housing and transportation in between projects.) You can find out more about long-term trail maintenance opportunities through many of our partner corps programs, like American Conservation Experience.

Do I have to stay for the entire project?

You are welcome to participate in part of a project, however, we ask volunteers to attend the first day of the project period. On the first day, crew leaders present safety information and a project overview to the entire group. On some of the extended projects, our crew leaders may allow volunteers to join for just the weekend. Check with the project’s registrar to learn if this option is available. First priority is given to volunteers who can participate in the entire duration of the project.

Is working on a trail crew hard work?

Tasks will vary in their degree of intensity but it can be demanding work. Volunteers need to be prepared to hike to and from a project site while carrying tools and their personal gear. Some projects may take place at a trailhead but other frontcountry projects may require volunteers to hike up to 5 miles or more each day. Each project description lists the tasks and the fitness level required. If you are unsure or concerned about the fitness level required, please contact us and we can help direct you to an appropriate project that fits your needs and abilities.

Do I need backpacking experience for the backcountry projects?

Yes. Volunteers are required to have backpacking experience to participate in the backcountry projects. While many of the backcountry projects are pack stock supported, stock typically assist with the food, kitchen gear, and tools. Volunteers need to be prepared to carry in their own personal gear to base camp. Camp is generally 3-8 miles from the trailhead.

Will there be a camp host or chef on the project?

It depends. Some projects will have volunteers who are there solely to cook, host camp and do other camp chores. Other projects will require the trail crew members to split up and perform the cooking and camp chores.

What are the age requirements?

In general, we accept volunteers that are 14 years of age or older. Youth ages 14-15 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. If you are a part of a youth group that is younger than 14, then we may be able to set up a special project for your group. We also will consider those under 14 on a case to case basis. Those that are good listeners and easily occupied may be able to participate, while others may not be a good fit due to safety concerns. Please contact the PCTA to learn more.

Can I bring my dog?

Due to safety reasons and concern for the animal’s well-being we recommend not bringing your pet to a project work site. Please keep in mind there are swinging tools and moving objects at our work sites, which could be potentially hazardous. In addition, while your pet may be adorable and well-behaved, not everyone is comfortable around dogs.

What is the alcohol and marijuana policy?

PCTA does not provide alcohol on projects. If a volunteer decides to bring and consume alcohol, they need to so in moderation and outside the designated work hours. Volunteers are not allowed to bring alcohol when projects led by corps crew partners.

Possession or use of marijuana is prohibited at all times on PCTA volunteer projects. Although certain states have legalized the medical and/or recreational use of marijuana, it remains illegal to possess marijuana on all federal lands ­– even within states that allow it; the federal government can prosecute people who are otherwise protected under state laws.

Read the entire alcohol and marijuana policy.

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Photo by: Nathaniel Middleton