The Trails Forever volunteer program is an opportunity for you to work closely with park staff and gain experience doing a wide range of trail rehabilitation work. The following information should provide answers to most of the frequently asked questions about the Trails Forever program. Please read over all of the information thoroughly before applying as a Trails Forever volunteer.
What is Trails Forever?
Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Friends of the Smokies. The volunteer component of the Trails Forever program gives individuals the opportunity to work in conjunction with National Park Service employees and make lasting and important improvements to trails throughout the park.
How do you become a Trails Forever volunteer?
Please read over all of the information below thoroughly before applying as a Trails Forever volunteer. If you are interested in volunteering with Trails Forever, you may contact:
When can I volunteer?
Volunteer workdays for Trails Forever are from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. every Tuesday, May 11, 2021 through September 14, 2021. Prior registration is required.
What precautions are in place to address Covid 19?
Volunteers are required to pre-register for workdays. Group size will be limited to 8 volunteers per workday. Adherence to the latest CDC guidance will be followed. The scope of work will be adjusted to allow for ample spacing between workers. Masks wearing will be required if 6 ft. of distancing is not possible. Volunteers are encouraged to bring their own work gloves if possible. The Abrams Falls Trail will be closed to public foot traffic while work is underway.
Do I have to hike to be a Trails Forever volunteer?
Yes. Most of the Trails Forever projects will require at least some hiking. You must be able to hike at least 4 miles and then be able to do hard physical labor in order to participate as a Trails Forever volunteer, since many projects are at least 2 miles from a road or parking area (and 2 miles back).
Do I need experience to volunteer for Trails Forever?
The Trails Forever program provides opportunities for both skilled and non-skilled volunteers.
What kinds of work do Trails Forever volunteers do?
Trails Forever volunteers perform a wide range of trail maintenance and trail rehabilitation work. The particular jobs you are assigned will vary depending on your experience level and may include installing drainage structures (i.e. waterbars, check dams), rehabilitating trail surfaces, constructing turnpikes (raised trail segments), removing brush and vegetation, or building foot logs and bridges. While these jobs may vary in complexity, all Trails Forever volunteers must be able to hike and safely perform strenuous and often difficult manual labor. Volunteers should be able to hike at least 4 miles and be comfortable lifting heavy objects and using hand tools such as: shovels, fire rakes, Pulaski/axes, sledgehammers, etc.
How long are Trails Forever volunteers required to work?
Typically Trails Forever workdays will start at 9:00am and end at 3:00pm. If you need to leave early or arrive late, let the Trails Volunteer Coordinator know before you come out.
What do I need to bring?
Volunteers are required to provide their own backpack, food, water and clothing. All tools and necessary equipment will be provided. You must wear closed-toes shoes (preferably boots) and long pants. You may not wear sandals or other open-toed shoes. Volunteers are also responsible for cold-weather and rain gear. Weather in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is often unpredictable and volunteers must be prepared for a range of potential weather conditions.
Where do you meet for Trails Forever projects?
Volunteers will meet the Trails Forever crew at the trail head or parking area. Specific meeting places will be stated in the Current Projects section of the Trails Forever website. Volunteers are expected to be on time and prepared to begin work. The Great Smoky Mountains experiences high amounts of visitation. Most of the roads are curvy and travel is often slow, so please allow yourself extra time to reach your destination. Remember, MapQuest travel times do not account for curves, tourists or mountain weather. Be sure and pack your materials and plan your trip the night before. There is no cell phone service in many parts of the park, so there is no way to notify Park personnel if you arrive late. Tardiness will result in a wasted trip.
How do I get to the meeting place?
Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation to and from the designated meeting places.
Can children be Trails Forever volunteers?
There will be opportunities for young people to take part in some Trails Forever projects. It is important to remember that most of the project locations will be accessible only by foot and may require hiking 4 miles or more. This means that Trails Forever is not suitable for young children. Trail work also involves the use of hand tools, many of which have sharp edges not suitable for children. Any projects that can accommodate children will be advertised as such. Remember that minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
If you want to support the Trails Forever program in other ways, click below to make a donation.