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8 Things That Will Convince You To Join A Trail Crew This Summer

"When you feel ownership over an area, you will work harder to protect and conserve it."

By: Aidan Shafland + Save to a List

Have you ever been hiking and thought to yourself, “Man, it would be amazing if I my job was to go hiking.” Well, your dream can become a reality if you join a trail crew this summer. Still not convinced? Read on:

1. Live, work, and play outside all summer.

When you work on a trail crew you get to live in some of our nation’s most beautiful places, including our national parks, forests and reserves. If you get onto a backcountry trail crew then you’ll spend the majority of your time in the backcountry in places where most people feel lucky to spend a weekend. You’ll get to spend weeks and months there. When you’re not working, you live with or near your best friends who all share a similar love and passion for the outdoors and will be excited to go on adventures with you.

2. Help protect and conserve our national heritage.

Working on a trail crew includes a bunch of different tasks, but the main ones are improving access to parks and forests, working to reduce environmental impact of increased visitation and conserving areas for future generations by building long lasting, well built trail systems to beautiful parts of our country.

3. Learn new skills.

Ever wanted to learn how to operate a chainsaw? Or a cross-cut saw? What about swinging a pulaski? Or building a Stringer Bridge? If you’ve spent time walking on trails, you may or may not have noticed all the work that goes into maintaining and building them, but I am sure you’ve noticed the beautiful wooden bridges, intricately laid rock staircases, and conveniently placed water bars. You will learn how to use all types of tools, and pick up a whole new set of skills, or refine some you already have. Either way, you’ll leave a season of trail work with real world knowledge, and who knows, maybe you’ll find your passion while doing it.

Photo: Gregg Boydston

4. Be part of a hard working team.

Some of the most dedicated, hard working people I have had the pleasure to work with I met while on a crew. They love to work, and see a project through from start to finish. It’s incredibly satisfying to come across a section of trail that is pretty much impassable and a week later take some photos of a beautiful turnpike or rock steps. Trail workers get the job done, and have a lot of fun doing it.

5. Develop your connection to our public lands.

Our public lands are our heritage, and yet so many people in the our nation feel so disconnected from the environment. Working on a trail crew rekindles that connection and gives you a sense of ownership over your work, and the land. I can, and have, gone back to visit rock staircases and areas of trail saying to myself, “I laid these rocks here” or “I built this bridge three years ago.” It’s an incredible feeling, and when you feel ownership over an area, you will work harder to protect and conserve it.

6. Get into incredible shape.

If you thought backpacking got you into good shape, imagine doing that same trail but this time with heavy tools in addition to your normal backpacking gear. Then imagine before getting to relax and watch the sunset you get to haul rocks from out of the woods, fell a few trees, and roll/carry/push/stomp big logs. It makes the relaxing at the end of the day all the more sweet.

Photo: Gregg Boydston

7. Get paid!

As if all of the above reasons weren’t enough to get you excited about trail work, there are hundreds of paid positions with Conservation Corps, the Forest Service and the Park Service. It can be hard to get onto those crews without prior experience, but luckily there are a ton of Conservation Corps and Americorps positions across the country, all you have to do is search the internet for conservation corps and the state you would like to work in! Once you have a summer under your belt, you can get into the professional crews, and who knows maybe eventually get on a motorized crew (driving around on motorbikes and ATVs with a chainsaw and a axe? Yes, please!).

8. It’s addicting!

Once you start working on trails it will become an addiction. Even on your time off when just hiking around your park you will see drains that need unclogging, trees that need moving or any number of other small details that most people wouldn’t notice. You’ll never look at trails the same again. You’ll develop great respect for the trail crews who take care of any place where you spend time outside.

Cover photo: Gregg Boydston

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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