Southern California Trail Skills College

Volunteers install a new check step at a 2019 Trail Skills College near Idyllwild, CA. Photo by Landon Welsh

2022 Southern California Trail Skills College

The Southern California Trail Skills College is a free weekend event for volunteers to learn about trail maintenance and stewardship. Beginners and experts alike can benefit from Trail Skills College courses like Intro to Trail Maintenance, Waterbars & Checks and more.

Trail Skills College will be offered free of charge in an effort to inspire stewardship of trails. In exchange for attending the training, we encourage you to volunteer at least 16 hours of work on trail projects in the coming year.

Registration for the 2022 Southern California Trail Skills College has closed. Check back soon for details about 2023! 

Remember, Trail Skills College is offered free of charge in an effort to inspire volunteer maintenance of trails. In exchange for attending a day-long training, we encourage you to volunteer at least 8 hours of work on trail projects in the coming year. Visit the online volunteer schedule to learn more.

When is it?

The 2022 Southern California Trail Skills College was held October 13th-16th, 2022.

Where is it?

The 2022 Southern California Trail Skills College was hosted at Ribbonwood Equestrian Campground, near Idyllwild, CA.

Are meals and lodging provided?

Camping was available from 10/12 through 10/16 at Ribbonwood Equestrian Campground. This campground has flush toilets, running water (potable), and showers.

Meals were provided from Friday 10/14 evening (dinner) to Sunday 10/16 (lunch).

Can I volunteer at the event?

Yes! When registering, select that you would like to volunteer on the first page. You can register as both a volunteer and as a student! If you select “volunteer”, we’ll reach out at a later date with more details. Typically we need volunteers to help with set-up, take-down, meal prep and cooking, and photography.

What classes are being offered?

Limited spots available! This is a two-day Wilderness First Aid class (October 13th and 14th) with Adventure Risk Management. Please be aware that this class will require coursework and reading to be completed prior to the class start date, along with additional registration on their website. If you sign up for this class and need to cancel, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can give your spot to someone on the waitlist. 

This introductory sampler class is intended for people brand new to trail work who want an overview. One quarter of the class covers “how trails work,” i.e. basic trail design concepts; one quarter covers trail work safety protocols; one quarter covers hands-on brushing and handsaw clearing; and one quarter covers hands-on drainage cleaning. This sampler class does not prepare students to work independently. Instead students will understand a range of trail work tasks and have a good idea of what they want to do under a crew leader, or what class they want to take next.

We rely on hand tools to lop branches, dig drain dips, remove slough and berm, construct waterbars and check steps, and much more. As a result, hand tools receive a great deal of wear and tear. Learn about the most common tool problems that are encountered during trail work (dull blades, loose handles) and how to address them in the field. 

Where earthen rolling drain dips are not feasible, drainage features are sometimes armored using rock or log. Learn contemporary techniques to build water bars. The class will include a review of “old school” waterbars, and how to convert “old school” waterbars to a more effective design. Furthermore, learn how to install rock and log checks where tread is gullied and cannot be drained, or in other situations requiring tread armoring. This class is a great introduction to Rock Work! 

For students with moderate to extensive trail building experience who want to lead trail crews and work parties. Not a construction techniques class; this is about effective leadership. Students will have classroom and field work in the following topics: work day responsibilities, risk assessment and safety, tool safety and tool talk, inclusive leadership and team building, and practical experience leading volunteers. Day 1 of the class will take place in a classroom setting, and Day 2 will involve leading small groups of volunteers out on the trail. 

This session covers the fundamentals of Crosscut Saw use. It focuses on hazard assessment, safety procedures, saw selection and tooth patterns, the importance of axes and wedges, and the best practices for clearing trail effectively in challenging and potentially hazardous situations. This course consists of one classroom day and one field day clearing trail. The instructor will determine the certification level. Long-sleeve shirt, pants, leather boots, eye protection, gloves and hard hats are required. Gloves and hard hats will be available for those who don’t have them. Bring a saw if you have one.  A current CPR and 1st Aid card are required to take Saw certification classes.

What should I bring?

  • Layers work best as outdoor temperatures, weather, and your activity level will vary through the day. Follow
    the layering system for your work and camp clothes. Long pants are required to conduct trail work. Long
    sleeve shirts are recommended for sun and insect protection and in some areas are required for trail work.

    • Layer 1: Long underwear tops, bottoms, and socks; made of lightweight wool or synthetic material.
    • Layer 2: Mid-weight wool or synthetic pants and shirt. Can be more than one layer; bring additional
      layers if you get cold easily. Cotton is not advised.
    • Layer 3: Rain coat or other water/wind resistant coat or poncho and rain pants.
  • Sturdy boots with slip-resistant tread that offer firm and flexible support. No sandals or sneakers
    while working on the trail but you may want these in camp. Saw students have specific footwear
    requirements. See the Crosscut & Chainsaw Training page.
  • Warm hat and warm gloves while at camp.

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • Pillow

  • Sealable plastic container to pack lunch in
  • Plate / bowl for breakfast and dinner
  • Silverware
  • Cup / insulated drinking mug
  • Water bottles / hydration pack

  • Sun protection: sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, lip balm
  • Insect repellant
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Daypack
  • Alarm clock

  • Camp chair (compact)
  • Supplemental snacks
  • Camera
  • Bandana
  • Safety gear (i.e. hard hats, gloves) will be provided throughout the weekend. However, if you have safety gear that you would prefer to use, please bring it with you.

What should I leave at home?

Please do not bring pets to Trail Skills College.

As with any camp, please do not leave valuables in your tent during the day. Plan on either storing your valuables on you, in your vehicle, or leave them at home

Can’t wait?

You can learn new trail maintenance skills by volunteering on a PCTA trail crew any time. Most crews don’t require any previous trail maintenance experience. Knowledgeable and experienced crew leaders are on site to teach you the necessary skills. Visit the online volunteer schedule and Trail Gorillas Facebook to find trail projects near you.

If you have questions about Trail Skills College, contact PCTA’s Volunteer Training Program at [email protected]


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