Meet the six hard-working trail crews that spend the summer working on the Pacific Northwest Trail. Our Performance Trail Crews are seasonal trail maintenance and construction teams that keep the Pacific Northwest Trail open for everyone to enjoy. Each season, we train youth and young adults from trailside communities to tend trails and camp out in the backcountry. The experience, is challenging, rewarding, and can even be life-changing.
Who works on PNTA Performance Trail Crews?
As one crew member from Sequim, Washington put it, “the PNT and Olympic National Park are in my backyard.” Over 80% of our crew members come from gateway communities near the trail which have a strong sense of shared stewardship in our scenic public lands.
In the field, our experienced crew leaders prepare their crews for a variety of challenging projects on the trail, serving as mentors and guides.
Where are the crews working?
Each summer, they travel to work wherever they are needed most, restoring the PNT from nature’s toll and working to improve the trail system. Some projects take them deep in to the backcountry to tend remote wilderness trails that may be a full day’s walk from the nearest trailhead.
This year, our crews are working across the trail corridor in Washington State from the Idaho border to the Olympic Mountains. Learn more and meet our crews at the links below!
What is it like?
The experience is challenging and rewarding too. Performance Trail Crews work and live together at remote spike camps for up to ten days at a time. They learn to overcome challenges, cope with weather and to cooperate. Teamwork and experienced leadership makes it all possible. In the backcountry, they spend long days working on the trail together where the tools and primitive construction methods used are still powered the old-fashioned way – with sweat, skill and perseverance.
North Cascades Trail Crew
Meet our North Cascades Trail Crew: Cat, Thomas, Erica, Nate, Jake and Chris! This crew has had a busy season with projects that took them high along the Cascade Crest, where they worked to repair damage from the Holman Fire — and to the lush temperate rainforests of the North Cascades.
Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
If you have explored the lush temperate rainforests on our public lands around Mount Baker, you can appreciate that trees can grow to an enormous size in this climate, and fast-growing brush can quickly overtake trails if not for regular maintenance.
At the season’s start, these folks endured heavy rain and persistent mosquitoes during a week-long trip to restore the Baker River and Baker Lake Trails for the prime hiking season.
This hard-working crew also spent eight days in the backcountry taming devil’s club and clearing tangles of downed trees trees from the Elbow Lake and Bell Pass Trails south of Park Butte. In all, they cleared 50 trees and serviced 6 miles of the PNT with treadwork, brushing, turnpike and drainage feature restoration to protect the trail from nature’s toll.
Pasayten Wilderness, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
Their last hitch took them to a special stretch of the Pacific Northwest Trail that needed some extra help this year. Between Castle and Holman Pass, the PNT shares thirteen unforgettable miles with the Pacific Crest Trail.
At Holman Pass, the trails were damaged by lightning-caused wildfire last year, and many visitors have had to detour around the area until it could be repaired this summer. Thanks to a team effort, visitors to the PNT in the Pasayten Wilderness can take a break from the rugged trails that characterize it, and take in majestic views of the North Cascades.
Get to know crew leaders: Cat Sullivan and Thomas Gingrich
Eastern Pasayten Trail Crew
Meet our Eastern Pasayten Trail Crew: Sean, Carly, Jacob and Adonis. This crew of young adults from Tonasket High School has a big job to do this summer; to work their way west on the PNT across the remote Pasayten Wilderness until they reach the Pacific Crest Trail, or when autumn’s early storms snow them out.
Each hitch takes them further into the wild. The PNT meanders through 95 of the most scenic miles of the rugged Wilderness, including the legendary Boundary Trail. While tending remote trails like this, our Performance Crews can spend up to ten days in the field.
Loomis State Forest, Washington DNR
Their summer started at the Cold Springs Campground, six miles outside of the Pasayten Wilderness under some tough conditions. Despite some rough weather, including a snow storm, they were able to log-out, brush and restore the PNT to the eastern Wilderness boundary with the Loomis State Forest.
Pasayten Wilderness, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest
With over 1,000 trees knocked down by winter storms and damage caused by a series of wildfires in recent years, keeping the 95 mile stretch of the PNT open across the Wilderness is a big job, and it has to be done the old-fashioned way. Chainsaws and other mechanized equipment are not permitted in designated Wilderness areas, and trail crews must use laborsome crosscut saws to remove fallen trees.
On one hitch, they used hand tools, like axes and a 7-foot-long crosscut saw to remove fallen trees along 16 miles of the PNT — all the way from the Ashnola River to the Tungsten Mine — and they even worked through some surprise July snow flurries while getting the job done!
While tending remote areas of the trail like this, our Performance Trail Crews can spend up to ten days in the field. The experience is challenging — they must learn to work and live together at remote spike camps that may be a full day’s walk from the nearest trailhead. Round trip, this project required over 32 miles of hiking just to access the worksite!
For hitches like this, pack support is essential. Thanks to the experienced packers with our partners at the U.S. Forest Service – Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, a pack string did the heavy lifting this summer. They carried the crew’s tools, camping gear, and 10 days of provisions from the trailhead to backcountry spike camps.
Olympic National Forest Trail Crew
Meet our Olympic Trail Crew: Peter, William, Aubrey, Sarah, Teresa and Alec. This crew of college-aged folks from Port Townsend, Sequim, Bow and Bellingham have spent the summer restoring the PNT on all of the hard to reach parts of the scenic Olympic Mountains.
Suffering through soggy weather and climbing steep trails to remote spike camps is all in a day’s work for this crew. Thanks to our partners at the Olympic Chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen, our crew is resupplied by dedicated volunteers so that they can get more work done on the trail. Volunteers’ stock animals delivered the crew’s tools, camping gear, and 10 days of provisions from the trailhead to backcountry spike camps this season.
Olympic National Forest
Early on in their season, they endured some cold soggy weather while restoring over nine miles of the Sleepy Hollow and Lower Dungeness Trails, and rebuilt nearly a half mile of tread.
On their second backcountry trip, they were gifted with fair skies and stellar alpine views in the Buckhorn Wilderness. After ten long days of effort they were able to restore the PNT between Marmot Pass and the National Park boundary and their season isn’t over yet.
Eastern Washington Performance Crew
Meet our Eastern Washington Trail Crew: Forest, Matt, Kat, Slade and Steven! This crew has from Selkirk High School has spent the summer break working to keep the PNT in the northeast corner of Washington ready for you to explore!
Colville National Forest
Early on this season, this crew has mastered the art of teamwork. They have logged out and provided tread and corridor maintenance for trails throughout the Colville National Forest, including portions of the Shedroof Divide, and the full length of the Noisy Creek Trail. On Noisy Creek, they raised the trail above a muddy seep by constructing 70 feet of new turnpike, and restored another 65-foot-long turnpike by replacing its rotten retainer logs.
On the South Fork Silver Creek Trail, they honed advanced backcountry construction techniques as they built a pair of skookum puncheon bridges from materials harvested on site.
For their final hitch of the season, the crew endured some challenging weather starting with an oppressive, dusty heat wave, followed by heavy downpours and thunderstorms. With a big job to do on the North Fork Silver Creek Trail near Abercrombie Mountain, they teamed up with crew leaders Kameron and Zac, plus two more classmates, Ty and Samantha.
With the extra help, they split into two teams and were able to “hit the reset button” on four miles of the PNT/ North Fork Silver Creek Trail. They busted out heavily-vegetated slough and berms, restored tread width to spec, and serviced more than two dozen switchback drains so the trail can continue to drain properly in the seasons to come.
Get to know crew leaders: Forest Reeves and Matthew Stenger
PNTA – Job Corps Crew
Meet our PNTA-Job Corps Trail Crew. Since 2005, the PNTA has partnered with Job Corps, a no-cost education and vocational training program for at-risk youth and young adults.
While working with the PNTA, students from the Curlew Job Corps Campus are provided with a unique work experience, learning and applying construction trade skills, and trail-building methods to construct: bridges, puncheon walkways, trailhead kiosks, campground facilities, trails and other outdoor recreation infrastructure.
Wolf Trail System
The crew helped to improve safety on the urban Wolf Trail System in Newport, Washington. Their project focused on the Lower Wolf Trail where it crosses Highway 20. They enlarged switchback landings and installed a barrier fence to encourage bikers to slow down and dismount before crossing. Last, they worked to thin out foliage to improve visibility between the trail and the road.
Mill Pond Dam Restoration
Later this season, Job Corps students and PNTA volunteers will work to improve and extend the trail system around the Mill Pond Dam Removal & Restoration Project near Metaline Falls, and continue making improvements to safety on the Wolf Trail System.