How to start


It feels good to give something back to the outdoors.

Step 1

There are lots of ways to volunteer: trash pickups, trail work, weed pulls, tree planting. Start by identifying a place you'd like to volunteer.

Step 2

If you're not sure where to start, visit or search online for "friends" groups associated with the park or forest you selected.

Step 3

Ask your park or forest contact what you need. Most parks or forests will provide supplies and equipment, but a pair of work gloves is always helpful.

Step 4

Older kids can get involved in more rigorous work like trail work, repairing cabins and outbuildings, and stream restoration. If you're able to volunteer through different seasons, it builds connection to the land.

Step 5

Make a volunteering poster at home to keep track of the work you do. Let the kids add a sticker for each bag of trash they collect. While you’re out volunteering, you can keep track of your progress using a notepad or on your phone.

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Exploration Ideas

  • Make your own trash picker

    A pair of kitchen or BBQ tongs can be a perfect kid-sized trash picker. Grab an old pair from around the house or pick one up at your local thrift store. Try decorating the handles with colorful duct tape, stickers, fabric, or yarn.

  • Asking for help

    Make a list of the things that need maintenance at your favorite outdoor space. Bring your list home and talk about who is the right person to tell about the problems. Call, email, or even write a letter to that person to let them know what needs to be fixed, and to offer your help.

    Visit for more information about volunteering on National Forests.

What to Bring

  • Plenty of water, even for short hikes — a gallon per person per day is a good guide
  • Snacks such as fruit or trail mix and empty bags to collect any garbage
  • Sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Lightweight rain jacket


Safety Tips

  • Before you get on the trail make sure you have the local Forest Service Ranger District’s or Supervisor’s Office phone number with you. If someone gets hurt this should be the first number you call.
  • Always let someone know where you're going and what time you expect to be back.
  • Avoid going if a thunderstorm is in the forecast. Seek shelter in a car or house if you’re caught in a thunderstorm. If you're caught outside, the safest place to be is crouching in a cluster of trees — not in a clearing, out on water, or next to a lone tree.
  • Be mindful of the sun. Use sunscreen, seek shade, and drink plenty of water — even in the winter.
  • Animals have their own natural food supply so please don’t feed them.
  • Fruits and mushrooms can look tasty, but some are poisonous. To be safe, do not eat anything you find growing in the forest.
  • Railroad tracks are for trains only. Keep to the side and stay off the tracks.
  • Set a turnaround time when heading out that gives you plenty of time to get back before it gets dark. Expect to spend at least the same amount of time hiking back as you did hiking out.
  • Bring a small flashlight or another source of light with you if you'll be out close to sunset.
  • Animals have their own natural food supply so please don’t feed them.
  • Remember to be mindful of cars when you’re in a park near a road. Wear bright colors for extra visibility.