Volunteer with Trails Forever Crew on Alum Cave Trail

June 26, 2016

  • Trails Forever volunteers, June 22, 2016

by Julie Dodd

Locust log staircase at Alum Cave Bluff

The Trails Forever crew make progress in May on a locust log staircase at Alum Cave Bluff. Photos by Josh Shapiro

Being a Trails Forever crew volunteer is a great way to be a part of restoring some of the  popular trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Trails Forever crew is on its second year of working on the Alum Cave Trail. The Forney Ridge Trail and the Chimney Tops Trail were previous trail restoration projects.

Volunteer work days for Trails Forever are every Wednesday through Sept. 13. [The photo at the top of the post is of the trail volunteers on June 22.]

GSMNP Arch Rock - cutting stone step

A Trails Forever crew member shapes a stone to become part of the staircase in Arch Rock. The staircase work was completed during the 2015-phase of the trail restoration.

If you are interested in volunteering, you must contact Josh Shapiro in advance — josh_shapiro@nps.gov or call 828-497-1937.

Shapiro shared this information about being a volunteer.

Every Wednesday volunteers and Trails Forever crew members meet at 9 a.m. at the Alum Cave Parking Area. (Parking is available for volunteers in the parking lot.)

Volunteers participate in a safety briefing, receive safety gear (gloves, glasses, hard hats), and then hike with one of the NPS crew members to the work site.

The work sites have ranged from 1 mile up the trail to Alum Cave Bluff, which is about 2.5 miles up the trail. The typical hiking distance volunteers can expect during the day is now 5 miles.

Arch Rock Staircase

For those of us who have hiked through Arch Rock, we can see what a major improvement this stone staircase is.

Shapiro said that all volunteers have the option to hike up to the Bluff area to meet the crew and see the ongoing and past projects.  The work day ends at 3:30 p.m.

Work ranges between digging up roots and rocks from the trail surface, cutting back vegetation to widen the trail corridor, rehabilitating social trails (shortcut trails), and digging drainages.

Volunteers are responsible for bringing their own food and water and must wear close-toed shoes (preferable boots) and long pants.

You can learn more about volunteering at the Friends of the Smokies Trails Forever volunteer website.

Friends of the Smokies established the Trails Forever endowment in 2012, thanks to a matching gift from the Aslan Foundation in Knoxville. Today, the $5 million endowment funds a full-time trail crew in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to reconstruct and rehabilitate some of the park’s most impacted trails. Learn more about contributing to the Trails Forever endowment by clicking below: