Volunteer Guide 2022

Every year hundreds of people like you volunteer to keep the PNT in shape

Maintaining the 1,200 mile trail system is a big job and its season is short. It takes dedicated teams of professional, student, and volunteer crews, coordinated by the PNTA, to prepare the trail for visitors each summer.

That work wouldn’t be possible without volunteers like you! Each season PNTA hosts dozens of events that range from front country projects that last only a few hours, to week-long backpacking trips into remote wilderness areas.

Whether you’re new to trail work or a seasoned volunteer, you’re invited! Our staff will be with you and your crew every step of the way to ensure you have fun and stay safe while making meaningful contributions to the trail.

Ways to Get Involved

volunteer
Trail Work Parties

2 or more hours (plus travel time)

Volunteer trail work parties offer something for everyone. These events are ideal for new volunteers or those who are able to help out for one day or less. Most projects are located in frontcountry work sites within a short drive from a trailside community.

Drop-in Work Parties

2 or more hours (plus travel time)

Drop-in work parties give experienced volunteers an opportunity to work alongside PNTA Performance Trail Crews on intermediate or difficult projects. These work parties are usually time-flexible for volunteers, who can arrange to join our crews for only a few hours, or to camp out and volunteer for a few days.

Backcountry Trips

2 or more days (plus travel time)

These overnight trail work parties provide opportunities for backcountry camping on the trail for one or more nights. Volunteers will need backpacking skills and equipment, and be able to hike long distances to help us service hard-to-reach parts of the trail in more remote backcountry areas.

Best Events for New Volunteers

If you like being outdoors and using trails, chances are you’ll love working on them too. 

Beginners are welcome at almost all of our events — yes, really! Our staff and seasoned volunteers love to see fresh faces at the trailhead, because they represent the next generation of trail stewards. 

We love working with folks at every skill level and provide hands-on training and protective equipment so that everyone can work safely, have fun and feel good about what they accomplish. 

This winter was hard on the much-loved Baker River and Baker Lake Trails. At our next volunteer event of the season we’ll work on the short section of Baker River Trail before crossing the bridge and continue our mission to log out the Baker River Trail from the north end using crosscut and hand saws to clear fallen trees as well as loppers and other hand tools to brush back vegetation.

Participants will meet at the end of Baker Lake Road, where flooding washed out some of the road last winter. We’ll then walk the last little bit of road (less than half a mile) to the Baker River Trailhead and begin working. They must have a daypack, lunch, water, long pants, long sleeves and boots.

We will meet at the washout on Baker Lake Road at 9:00am, have a quick safety chat and then get to work clearing the trail of logs both large and small. Take lunch on the banks of beautiful Baker Lake and then work until about 3:00pm.

This event is great for both seasoned trail stewards and folks with minimal experience!

Learn more

Working Landscapes in the Okanogan Highlands

Not every mile of a young National Scenic Trail is literally on a trail; sometimes you have to walk on the roads between trailheads.  Fortunately, the quiet country roads of the Okanogan offer a scenic ramble of their own— except for that roadside litter!

Spend a morning with a PNTA work party beautifying the trail corridor and getting rubbish out of our waterways and wildlife habitats on a roughly three-mile stretch of the PNT on Toroda Creek Road— between Cougar Creek and Bunch Roads.

No trail crew experience necessary: the PNTA provides bags and personal protective equipment, and we’ll haul the trash to the landfill. Just bring yourself, your daypack, and a thirst for a rewarding day on the trail!

Learn more

At this volunteer event we will work on logging out the Gold Creek Trail segment of the PNT on the scenic Olympic National Forest!

This winter was hard on the much-loved trails across the peninsula and Gold Creek is an essential section of the PNT as hikers climb from the Hood Canal towards the Buckhorn Wilderness. We’ll be using crosscut and hand saws to clear the logs and cutting back any of the fast growing vegetation that tries to impede hikers and riders.

We will meet at the Tubal Cain Trailhead at 9:00am, have a quick safety chat and then work our way north improving the trail, working until mid-afternoon.

This event is great for both seasoned trail stewards and folks with minimal experience!

Learn more

The North Cascades Region

The PNT climbs to dramatic vistas as it works against the grain of the steep Cascade Mountains. Here, the trail spans the rainshadow of the Cascades, wending across the Cascade Crest, from the dry Pasayten Wilderness, to the lush temperate rainforests west of the massive range.

Known to some as the “American Alps,” a seemingly endless horizon of majestic peaks define this breathtaking landscape. At lower elevations, the trail explores ancient forests along river valleys. At higher altitudes, heather meadows surround postcard perfect alpine lakes.

Portions of the Pacific Northwest Trail remain snowbound for most of the year in this region. Higher elevations in the North Cascades are prone to world-record setting snowfall. 

How You Can Help

In temperate rainforests, like those found in the Cascades, the PNT needs annual maintenance to stay protected from nature’s toll. One of the biggest priorities in this area is logging out hundreds of trees that fall across the PNT each year.

Protecting our natural resources is another important aspect of our work in this region. Building crossing structures can spare fragile alpine meadows from visitor use impacts. Maintaining the trail’s tread and drainage features protects the PNT from heavy rain and snowmelt which can damage the trail bed and cause erosion that can impact sensitive streams and other riparian habitat. 

With volunteers’ help, we can take advantage of the short weather-window to keep this majestic section of the Pacific Northwest Trail open and safe.

Ancient Forests

Northeast Washington Region

Spanning between the Washington-Idaho border and the Okanogan, this undiscovered region of the Pacific Northwest Trail explores a diversity of environments. From lush temperate rainforests, to rolling grasslands, subalpine meadows, pine forests, granite gardens and volcanic rock cliffs, this 200-mile stretch of the PNT boasts an extraordinary amount of variety and natural beauty.

Visiting this remote corner of Washington can make for an unforgettable visit. Its wild, uncrowded character and scenic beauty make it worth the trip. These remote landscapes offer quiet, star-filled nights and some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities found on the PNT.

How You Can Help

The trail’s maintenance needs vary across the region too. Trail work parties in this area offer something for nearly anyone who is interested in the many facets of trail stewardship.

With your help, we can make the most of our short season in this special place and keep the Pacific Northwest Trail open for everyone to enjoy!

In temperate rainforests, like those found in the Selkirk Mountains, the PNT needs annual maintenance to stay protected from nature’s toll. One of the biggest priorities in this area is logging out hundreds of trees that fall across the PNT each year. Regular tread and drainage work is also important because it helps shield the trail from damage caused by heavy annual rainfall, and helps protect our natural resources.

Volunteer Work Parties

Most work parties in this region are great for beginners and for volunteers that have only a few hours to contribute. The most challenging and rewarding part of servicing this region of the PNT is getting there. Some worksites take a few hours of hardy PNW hiking to reach. 

Backcountry Trips

Because of its great length, servicing the PNT in remote areas in the Selkirk Mountains requires a bigger time commitment. Our Backcountry Trip Work Parties are ideal for volunteers with prior backpacking experience that enjoy hiking long distances and spending a few days camping out on the trail with their crew.

Drop-In Work Parties

Our Drop-in Work Parties give experienced volunteers an opportunity to work alongside PNTA Performance Trail Crews on intermediate or difficult projects. These work parties are usually time-flexible for volunteers, who can arrange to join our crews for the day, or for a multi-day adventure.

Abercrombie Mountain

Okanogan Highlands Region

Surrounding the midpoint of the Pacific Northwest Trail, the Okanogan Highlands defy visitors’ expectations of the Northwest with an arid climate that nears desert conditions. 

Stretching roughly between the Okanogan and Kettle Rivers, this complex high country landscape is characterized by rolling parklands, large rounded mountains (up to 8,000 feet tall) and deep narrow valleys. 

Wide open spaces in the Highlands add to the diversity of environments found along the PNT as do fragrant sagebrush shrub-steppes, sweeping grasslands, marshy aspen groves, and shady forests of pine, fir, larch and spruce.

How You Can Help

New Tread — Exciting progress has been made in recent years to realign sections of the PNT in the Okanogan. Moving sections of trail from open roads to trails and other non-motorized routes in this area is among the PNTA’s foremost goals.

Brushing — In the Okanogan, the PNTneeds regular maintenance to stay in good condition. Aromatic sage brush and other woody plants can thrive in this sunny climate and will overtake exposed sections of trail without regular brushing. 

Logout — The ponderosa pine forests that characterize the area can reach towering heights. In recent years, severe storms have caused considerable damage in a short amount of time in places like Clackamas Mountain. Volunteer sawyers and swampers can help by joining work parties to keep forested trails clear of downed trees. 

 In 2022, lucky volunteers may be able to join work parties around Swan Lake, Corner Butte and Cougar Creek to help improve the route of the PNT in the Highlands.

Bonaparte Lake

Olympic Peninsula Region

On the Olympic Peninsula, the Pacific Northwest Trail crosses the largest wilderness in Washington and traverses the rugged Olympic Mountains. In the National Park, visitors share berry-filled meadows with black bears beneath glacier-clad Mount Olympus and follow roaring rivers through ancient forests dripping with moss.

Portions of the PNT pass through jungle-like, temperate rain forests. Fueled by 12 feet of annual rainfall these forests are home to massive Sitka spruce and mountain hemlock.

How You Can Help

In these temperate rainforests, the PNT needs regular maintenance to stay clear of downed trees and fast-growing vegetation, like devil’s club, thimbleberry and rhododendron. One of the biggest priorities in this area is logging out trails with very large trees that can leave trails impassable to many visitors.

In 2021, with the help of volunteers, PNTA restored the 24-mile Bogachiel Trail segment that spans between the Seven Lakes Basin in Olympic National Park and Bogachiel State Park!

Protecting our natural resources is also an important aspect of our work in the Olympics. Well maintained trails can spare sensitive mountain meadows and streams from visitor use impacts. Maintaining the trail’s tread and drainage features protects the PNT from heavy rain which can damage the trail bed and cause erosion that can impact sensitive streams and other riparian habitat. 

Temperate Rainforest

Pasayten Wilderness Region

With 150 miles between resupply points in Oroville and Ross Lake, the Pasayten Wilderness is the longest roadless section of the Pacific Northwest Trail. For 95 unforgettable miles, the PNT traverses the untrammeled heart of the designated wilderness area. The outstanding scenery and immersive experience it provides places the Pasayten Wilderness near the top of every backpacker’s life list.

Yet, the qualities that make this part of the PNT so special also make it a real adventure for volunteers and trail crews to access and work in.

Many worksites in this remote, roadless area take one full day of hiking to reach. This makes them best suited for multi-day backcountry trip volunteer events. These work parties are ideal for volunteers with prior backpacking experience that enjoy hiking long distances and camping out on the trail with their crew.

How You Can Help

Every season, there is a lot of work to do in the Pasayten Wilderness and only a short time to get the job done. 

Logout — The first priority is logging out hundreds of trees that fall across the PNT each year. Volunteers and Performance Trail Crews will spend the summer clearing the trail the old fashioned way using crosscut saws and other muscle-powered hand tools as wilderness regulations require.

Pack SupportWhether they’re carrying a backpack or leading a pack string of stock animals, pack support volunteers help move tools and supplies in and out of our backcountry “spike camps” so crews can direct more of their energy towards trail work. 

With your help, we can make the most of our short season in this special place and keep the Pacific Northwest Trail open for everyone to enjoy.

PNT-Pasayten-Wilderness
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