Trail Work Projects

Since 2010, we have taught crews of volunteers how to maintain trails and have led over 300 projects make Idaho’s trails better. Many of our projects have gone on for several consecutive years allowing us to make a real impact on some of Idaho’s favorite hiking destinations.

You do not need to have any experience to sign up for a project. We will give you the training and tools you need to do the work! Whether you are looking for an easy one-day project, a weekend getaway, or a week-long work vacation, you are sure to find a project that is right for you.

FAQs and Volunteer Info

None! We welcome all volunteers from beginners to experienced trail bosses. We have trips for all experience levels and recommend if someone is feeling unsure if volunteering on a trail work project is right for them to pick a car camping or one-day project, or a project rated easy or moderate. On all projects we will provide the tools and training needed. See our project difficulty scale below to understand how our projects are rated.

All projects begin with a safety briefing, safety gear check, and trail tool introductions. Volunteers will often hike into the project, carrying day packs and trail tools. Trail maintenance projects use primitive tools such as crosscut saws, axes, Pulaskis, hand saws, shovels and loppers, on which you will be trained and supervised by an ITA crew leader. 

On one-day projects, we’ll meet at the trailhead early and work all morning, stopping for breaks as needed. Some are just half days, others we break for a half hour lunch before continuing work in the afternoon.  

On multiday supported or backpacking trips, the crew will wake up for coffee and breakfast and hit the trail at about 8am, working until about 4 (with breaks!) before heading back to camp. There is time for a snack and to relax before helping with camp chores and enjoying dinner together.  

An ITA crew leader will be with your group for the trip. ITA crew leaders are trained, certified by the Forest Service in crosscut saw use, and are experienced in trail maintenance, backcountry first aid and safety, Leave No Trace ethics, and are knowledgeable about the area you’ll be working in. They will have communication with ITA staff and a Forest Service contact throughout the trip.

Crew leaders will send out a packing list before each project. ITA provides hard hats, extra safety gear, and all tools. If the project is overnight or longer, you will need to bring all your own camping supplies. We do have limited extra equipment like tents, sleeping bags, and backpacks. Let us know if you’d like to borrow one of these well in advance! Sturdy work boots with ankle support that are also comfortable to hike in, not running shoes, are an important piece of safety gear. Please ensure all boots are broken in before a project– nothing ruins a person’s day like painful blisters! If you need help purchasing outdoor gear, check out our Splattski Fund.

ITA trips vary widely, from camping at a trailhead where volunteers have access to their cars, to backpacking in to a project carrying gear and food, to having horse or mule packers carry most of the gear and tools in. On this latter type of trip, the horse or mule string will carry in group gear (food, camp kitchen, tools). Depending on the number of stock they have, there’s a good chance they’ll also be able to carry some personal gear such as tents, but volunteers should be prepared to carry all of their personal gear. When hiking from camp to the worksite, be prepared to carry your lunch, water, rain and/or cold weather gear, personal protective equipment, and tools such as saws, axes, and shovels.

On some trips, yes. A trip description will include this information if food will be included. We sometimes also have volunteers bring their own food for most of the trip but provide a group dinner at the beginning or end. Each trip description will include information about food.

Volunteers have free time at the end of each work day to hike, fish, relax or enjoy the backcountry however they’d like. Many weeklong or longer projects include a rest day where volunteers can enjoy the backcountry all day! Check trip project descriptions to see if your trip has a rest day.

Please be familiar with these policies before your trip; they are meant to keep everyone safe and allow for a fun trip at the same time.
1. Alcohol: If you are an adult participating in a volunteer trip, you are welcome to bring a small amount of alcohol on the project ONLY if it is consumed responsibly, after work hours, and in a manner leaving you able to work the following day. No glass bottles are allowed.
2. Firearms: Firearms and other weapons are absolutely prohibited on volunteer trips. Crew leaders may carry bear spray and have some available for others. Animal packers are the exception to this rule and only carry one to respond to an injured equine.
3. Marijuana and other drugs: While marijuana is now legal in some states, it is still ILLEGAL in Idaho and on federal lands including Forest Service lands. Other illegal drugs are also prohibited on ITA trips. Anyone participating on a trip is a Forest Service volunteer under a working agreement. Drug use violates that agreement and could leave you liable for any injury, loss or other issues that occurs.

Some of our longer projects require you to pay a deposit or a fee in order to join the trip. The fees collected will help to cover the costs of providing food and other expenses related to planning a multi-day project in the backcountry. We’ve had trouble with people backing out of trips at the last minute and this can really affect the productivity of the overall project. By charging a fee, volunteers are less likely to cancel their reservation. Refunds will not be given to volunteers that do not show up or cancel their spot due to scheduling conflicts. Exceptions will be made for medical reasons or unforeseen circumstances. Please let us know if you have canceled your reservation and would like to receive a refund. If you require assistance in paying for this fee, please contact us at and we will waive the cost.

Idaho seasons can be fickle and full of surprises. We watch weather forecasts and plan ahead, but volunteers should come prepared for heat, cold, wind…even snow in July! (It’s happened before).

A volunteer trail project is much more fun when you are prepared physically. If you are not used to backpacking or it’s been a long time, we suggest preparing by hiking with a weighted pack starting 6-8 weeks ahead of the project. Hiking a local trail or even paved streets (hills are best) wearing a simple day pack with 20-30 pounds can work wonders getting all those hiking muscles in shape. Be sure to wear the boots you plan to wear on the trip and get your feet in shape too!

When we say car camping, we mean the volunteer crew will be camping where they park, usually at the trailhead of the trail they are working. Backpacking or being packed in means volunteers will carry– or have a pack string of mules or horses carry– their camping gear up the trail. Some trips make one base camp for the week, and others move camp as trail work progresses.

Unfortunately, ITA is unable to provide transportation for liability reasons. However, when you register for a trail project, please tell us if you are interested in carpooling with other participating volunteers and we will put you in touch by email to organize meeting times, meeting locations, and other transportation logistics. We will only share your e-mail address if you indicate in your registration that you agree. We never share your phone number with anyone without your permission. Remember, if you are a rider, please be courteous and offer to chip in on the cost of gas! If you do not wish to carpool, we will provide you with directions to the project work site.

Please coordinate with us first by sending an email. For many of our backpacking trips, we require the group stays together the entire project but it depends on the project.

Depending on the project, we’d love to see your kids join us in keeping Idaho’s trails open! Please check with us before signing up your child as a volunteer to see if the crew leader feels the project is safe for younger participants. Volunteers under the age of 18 must be registered by their parent or guardian. Participants under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult. For our Youth projects, volunteers ages 14-18 may participate and do not need to be accompanied by an adult.

Sorry, please do not bring any pets. We have found that pets can be a significant distraction and in some rare cases, a safety hazard. Even if you are confident in your own pet’s behavior, we must apply the rules fairly to everyone.

Difficulty Ratings

We have two difficulty ratings on every project: one for the difficulty of the hike and another for the difficulty of the trail work. Please consider each of these ratings and your fitness level when deciding which project is right for you!

Hike Difficulty Rating     

The hike rating was determined with the distance, elevation gain, and pack weight all taken into consideration. The project descriptions often have a linked GAIA map, where you can see the elevation profile of the hike. 3/5 is the average, or what is considered a “typical hike” on an ITA project.  

1/5- Easy
Typically the hike is less than three miles with little to no elevation gain (less than 500 feet). Generally suitable for beginner hikers. 

2/5- Moderate
Typically less than four miles, with some elevation gain (less than 1,000 feet). Generally suitable for beginner hikers with a bit of a challenge. 

3/5- Moderately Strenuous
Typically less than six miles, but with noted elevation gain (less than 2,000 feet). Generally suitable for beginner to moderately experienced hikers looking for a bit of a challenge and who are well-prepared (e.g., have worked out or hiked with a pack to prepare for the trip).

4/5- Strenuous
Typically less than eight miles, with challenging elevation gain (less than 3,000 feet). Generally suitable for experienced and well-prepared hikers (e.g., those who have practiced this type of hike with a pack of similar weight). 

5/5- Very Strenuous
Typically eight or more miles long with extreme elevation gain. Generally suitable only for experienced hikers with conditioning.

Project Difficulty Rating  

This rating is based on the type of project work, and where the work is relative to camp or the trailhead- please see the Hike Difficulty Rating in addition to this scale, and consider both together when evaluating a trip. On most projects, there are a variety for trail duties and volunteers can try new tasks based on comfort and ability level. Everyone is encouraged to work at a safe pace. 3/5 is the average, or what is considered a “typical ITA project”  

1/5- Easy
Little to no digging or swinging of tools. Work could involve bending or kneeling for planting or brushing with loppers or hand saws.

2/5- Moderate
Infrequent digging or swinging tools. Bending or kneeling for light saw work or brushing. Carrying tools and day packs short distances.

3/5- Moderately Strenuous
Repeated digging or sawing, the potential for some heavy lifting. Carrying tools and packs up to five miles each day.

4/5- Strenuous
Consistent and repetitive digging, swinging, and/or saw work. A high potential for heavy lifting. May be hiking longer distances (more than six miles) with gear and tools. 

5/5- Very Strenuous
Hard, continuous, digging, swinging tools, and heavy saw work. Consistent heavy lifting. Carrying heavy packs and tools, traveling long distances potentially over difficult terrain.   


More Volunteer Opportunities

Not only do we need folks to join us as part of our trail crews, but also volunteers to help with administrative and IT tasks, fundraising, recruitment, tool maintenance, logistics, cooking for trail crews, promoting ITA at events, and many other things. Fill out our volunteer form to let us know how you’d like to help!