Trail Skills College is back!

With input from Training Coordinator Landon Welsh.

Trail Skills College is back in session!  

It’s finally summer, and field season is well underway across the Pacific Crest Trail—check our Project Schedule for a long list of upcoming volunteer opportunities.  

Two people use a crosscut saw while others observe

Trail Skills College events offer great learning opportunities like crosscut saw training! Photo courtesy of Aaron Christensen.

Whether you’re brand new to trail work, or a seasoned volunteer looking to learn some advanced techniques, our annual Trail Skills College program is an excellent opportunity to meet other volunteers and improve your skillset. Each event includes a wide variety of classes, such as saw certifications, introductions to trailwork, and advanced rock work construction.  

Outside of the classroom, these events are a way for volunteers in each region to connect in-person and celebrate their achievements from the past year. Each event takes place over several days—camping and meals* are included, and participants often find themselves staying up late around the campfire, enjoying the company and “talking trail”.  

Volunteers wearing hard hats gather on a dirt trail in the forest

Small class sizes offer an opportunity for personalized instruction at Trail Skills College events. Mt. Hood Chapter crew leader Susan Tracy leads a treadwork course at Columbia Cascades Trail Skills College. Photo courtesy of Eric Zimmerman.

“This is a highlight of the year for me.” 

After two years of cancelled or online Trails Skills College events, we’re really excited that this summer’s programming will be in-person again. We’re keeping a close eye on community COVID-19 levels, and continue to evaluate and update our volunteer protocols. All events are hosted outside. As always, if you test positive or experience symptoms, please stay home.  

Volunteers have come together for two Trail Skills College events so far this year – Columbia Cascades Trail Skills College at the Columbia River Gorge and Allingham Trail Skills College near Sisters, OR – and over a hundred people have participated, with more than three hundred registrations collected so far for this year’s events. Despite the numbers, participants reported opportunities for personalized instruction, getting to know other volunteers and feeling a sense of camaraderie at the event. 

A person fixes a trail marker to a tree while another observes

Volunteers who attend Trail Skills College can learn about a wide range of topics, including inventorying and installing signage along the PCT. Photo courtesy of Landon Welsh.

“In-person instruction and small classes made this a very personal experience,” remarked Mt. Hood Chapter crew leader Susan Tracy, who instructed several courses at the Columbia Cascades event. “I was able to teach 2-3 people at a time (of 6-12 total) in breakout groups, so they received a lot of personal attention.” 

“Great conversation, great participation. Truly a marvel of conversational instruction informed by every participant,” reported an Allingham Trail Skills College participant. 

Eric Zimmerman, a new volunteer, was excited to learn alongside a group of people who were passionate about giving back to the trails that they love, and to combine and build upon skills as the weekend progressed. “Everyone is super-nice and willing to help you learn and grow,” said Eric. “Building relationships and skills together is wonderful.” 

Two people stand on a dirt trail in the forest, one holds a trail tool

Two volunteers assess their work along a section of trail. Photo courtesy of Eric Zimmerman.

Trail Skills College events are not just about learning skills and trail work techniques, they help build a stronger trail work community and create opportunities for mentorship and shared learning. Whether you can come and camp out for the entire weekend or join for a day, Trail Skills College is a great way to learn skills in the field, meet the PCT volunteer community, and try something new. 

“Trail Skills College made me feel firmly nestled within the PCTA community and set a strong foundation for our season,” commented Jeanine Russell, PCTA’s Columbia Cascades Regional Representative, “I know how talented and hardworking our volunteers are, but I never get tired of seeing them in action!” 

Register now!

North Cascades

This year’s event will be hosted at Snoqualmie Pass– participants are invited to stay in the Washington Alpine Club’s Guye Cabin for the weekend, and take classes such as Turnpike Construction, Saw Crew Training, and Trail Design.

Eastern Sierra

This brand new trail skills college is taking place at the beautiful Horsehoe Meadows, near Mt. Whitney in the Southern Sierra. Volunteers can choose one of several two-day classes, including Crosscut saw certification, Rock Step construction, and introductory trail maintenance.

Southern Oregon

Returning to the Hyatt Lake, just off the PCT near Ashland, OR, this year’s event includes Crosscut Saw Certification, introductory classes, and an advanced class in reconstructing damaged trail.

Author: Hazel Platt

Hazel Platt is PCTA's Volunteer Engagement Associate, working to support the PCTA volunteer community and connect prospective volunteers with opportunities to get involved. Hazel is a self-proclaimed nature nerd, and loves long-distance hiking.