A huge year for Trail Skills College

Trail work isn’t just moving rocks. It’s a surprisingly complex engineering challenge designed to maximize the safety and enjoyment of trails users, while minimizing their impacts. What’s more surprising is that crews of dedicated volunteers who give their time and expertise conduct the vast majority of trail work on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Pacific Crest Trail Association’s Trail Skills College series provides training to empower our volunteers to work safely and maintain the most enjoyable, sustainable trail possible. The series is for new and seasoned volunteers alike, with topics ranging from basic hand tool use and managing water flow on trails, to cutting brush, running chainsaws and leading crews. PCTA invites our agency partners, such as the U.S. Forest Service, to the events, too, allowing training opportunities for our on-the-ground partners.


In 2015, PCTA’s Trail Skills College series brought together and trained more than 450 volunteers in weekend events throughout California, Oregon, and Washington. The year kicked off with Estacada crosscut and chainsaw training in March, followed by Columbia Cascades Trail Skills College and Wind River saw training in April. In May and June, our High Cascade Forest Volunteer partners co-hosted Westfir and Allingham Trail Skills Colleges, with PCTA’s Big Bend Trail Skills College in between. Forty volunteers joined us in July for Tahoe Trail Skills College, while a series of smaller Trail Skills College courses took place in PCTA’s North Cascades region throughout July, August, and September. The final training event of the year, Southern California Trail Skills College, was held in October and was sponsored by our partners at Riverside County Parks.

Alice Su’s first experience as a PCTA volunteer was at the 2015 Tahoe Trail Skills College; “My favorite moment from TSC was Saturday night, after the last ‘good nights’ were thrown into the darkness, and I was snuggled deep in my sleeping bag. My body was tired from a day of applying the trail maintenance skills I had learned but it was the good kind of tired. I went to sleep with a smile and eager to see what the next day was going to bring.”


Training this volume of volunteers is a huge and worthy challenge – and a variety of generous corporate partners support this program. Mountain Khakis is one of our long-time corporate partners and has a special interest in our work with volunteers. According to Erin Hoffarth, Mountain Khakis Marketing Manager: “Through the MK Fund, we are a proud to be a supporter of the PCTA who works to get folks outside in addition to protecting and preserving the great outdoors. For many outdoor and mountain enthusiasts, pure freedom and rugged adventure has become a way of life. Mountain Khakis were developed specifically for this lifestyle and the PCTA is a great extension of this mission.”


Are you curious about how your company can support the Pacific Crest Trail Association’s hard-working volunteers? Contact Angie Williamson and ask about joining PCTA’s team of awesome corporate partners.

PCTA’s Trail Skills College series has become a crucial component of building sustainable regional volunteer groups along the PCT. In 2015, Trail Skills Colleges resulted in stronger leadership skills among volunteer section adopters and stewards, new and stronger partnerships between agencies and local volunteer chapters, and first time volunteers joining the ranks of our skilled and seasoned trail maintainers. Ready to join us in 2016? Find out more about next year’s Trail Skills College series on our website.

One of my favorite memories from the 2015 Trail Skills College series? Overseeing the make-your-own lunch station each morning. You’d be surprised what people come up with! Apple slices on a sandwich, you say?


Author: Ellen Ginda

Ellen is PCTA’s Volunteer Programs Coordinator. She works in PCTA’s Sacramento office, supporting the volunteers who dedicate their time, energy and passion to the trail.