For New Volunteers

New to volunteering on a trail crew? We’re here to help. To give you a better idea of what it’s like being on a trail crew, check out our answers to our most frequently asked questions. Have a moment? View the U.S. Forest Service introductory video to see volunteer trail crews in action!

What is the cost to join a project?

It’s free! For all projects tools and safety gear (including a hard hat and gloves) are typically available. A bicycle helmet is a good alternative for a hard hat and you are welcome to bring your own tools.

For overnight or extended projects, the Trails Council or sponsoring organization will typically provide food, drinking water or water filters, and kitchen gear. If the crew is camping at a developed campground, camp fees are also covered. We try to provide volunteer trail crew opportunities without charging fees. Of course, we welcome and rely upon your donations to help pay for our programs. Please considering donating and supporting our crews.

What do I need to bring?

For all projects you will need to bring a day pack, boots, and appropriate clothing. Long pants are required to do trail work and long-sleeved shirts are recommended or required in some areas. For day projects, you will also need to bring a lunch* and water. For extended projects you will need to provide your own camping gear, this includes a tent, sleeping bag, eating utensils, and personal items (*Lunch is often provided. Check project description for details). Scroll down to see a list of items needed for most projects.

Do I need to have prior experience?

Most Trails Council projects do not require prior trail maintenance experience. You will receive a training session by the trail crew leaders before you begin working on a project. Training will include proper techniques and appropriate tool use. If prior experience is required, this will be listed in the project description.

What does a volunteer trail crew do?

Trail crews are a vital component in the building, maintenance, and protection of the recreational trails in Santa Barbara County. Each year volunteer crew leasers take out new and seasoned volunteers to conduct trail work. Projects are dependent on the needs of the trail in that area. This may include:

  • Clearing vegetation that has started growing on to the trail
  • Maintaining and improving the trail tread (tread is the area where people and stock walk on the trail)
  • Cutting and removing fallen trees to clear the trail corridor
  • Maintaining and constructing structures such as rock walls, steps, or bridges

Why are there different volunteer groups?

As you are looking through the volunteer project schedule you may see the projects are put on by different groups. Volunteer projects are organized by Santa Barbara County Trails Council (, Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers (, and Los Padres Forest Association ( and other community organizations.

Though the founding members are primary trail oriented, the purpose of the group is to support all kinds of projects that benefit our local outdoor environment — beach cleanups, habitat restoration projects, open space events — anywhere in the County.

How do I sign up for a project?

Check out the project schedule and find a project that you would like to attend. If you are not a member of the "meet-up site" please register and then you can register for the event. As a member you will be notified about new outdoor projects and you can rsvp via email. If you would like to contact the project leader, check out the project description to determine who to contact.

How do I get to the project?

You will need to arrange transportation to and from the project. The meeting location is typically a trailhead or campground. After you register for a project you will receive directions to the meeting location. You can request to set up a carpool with the other registered volunteers.

Do I have to stay for the entire project?

Most trail maintenance projects are less than a full day. You are welcome to participate in part of a project.

However, for multi-day projects, we ask volunteers to attend the first day of the project period. On the first day, crew leaders present safety information and a project overview to the entire group. On some of the extended projects, our crew leaders may allow volunteers to join for just the weekend. Check with the project’s leader to learn if this option is available. First priority is given to volunteers who can participate in the entire duration of the project.

Is working on a trail crew hard work?

Tasks will vary in their degree of intensity, but it can be demanding work. Volunteers need to be prepared to hike to and from a project site while carrying tools and their personal gear. Some projects may take place at a trailhead, but other front country projects may require volunteers to hike up to 5 miles or more each day. Each project description lists the tasks and the fitness level required. If you are unsure or concerned about the fitness level required, please contact us and we can help direct you to an appropriate project that fits your needs and abilities.

Do I need backpacking experience for the backcountry projects?

Yes. Volunteers are required to have backpacking experience to participate in the backcountry projects. While many of the backcountry projects are pack stock supported, stock typically assist with the food, kitchen gear, and tools. Volunteers need to be prepared to carry in their own personal gear to base camp. Camp is generally 3-8 miles from the trailhead.

Will there be a camp host or chef on the project?

It depends. Some projects will have volunteers who are there solely to cook, host camp and do other camp chores. Other projects will require the trail crew members to split up and perform the cooking and camp chores.

What are the age requirements?

We accept volunteers that are 18 years of age or older.

Can I bring my dog?

Due to safety reasons and concern for the animal’s well-being we recommend not bringing your pet to a project work site. Please keep in mind there are swinging tools and moving objects at our work sites. Most pets do not understand these as being dangerous or hazardous. In addition, while your pet may be adorable and well-behaved, not everyone prefers to be around pets.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Check List

This list is designed as a general reference for staff and volunteers.

  1. Hard Hat (bike helmets are acceptable)
  2. Eye protection
  3. Long-sleeved shirt and pants
  4. Gloves
  5. Non-skid boots
  6. Basic first aid kit
  7. Lots of water
  8. Insect repellant
  9. Sunscreen lotion