Trail Building Jobs

When was the last time you got outdoors and used a trail? Did you go biking or hiking? Did you know that someone builds and maintains that trail for your pleasure? Trail builders work hard so you can enjoy the backcountry.

Trail builders, or trail maintenance workers, build and maintain trails that lead us on fantastic adventures through the wilderness. They are designed for hikers, bikers, backpackers, climbers, dogs, ATVs, horseback riders, and any other outdoor enthusiasts.

Trail builders create trails to take people to new and exciting scenic places – lakes, cabins, mountains, ghost towns, rivers, and glaciers.

Trails crisscross our country’s mountains, valleys, and forests. They can be nice loops where mountain bikers cruise through wildflower filled meadows, one-way scrambles over boulder fields to reach 14,000-foot peaks, or ones that meander for 100’s of miles. Every trail must be maintained. Typically trail work is a seasonal job that is done when there is little snow and the weather is nicer.

A trail builder’s goal is to reduce the overall impact on environment. Trails eventually get rutted out, overgrown, washed out, eroded away, or covered up. The impact of people, rock slides, erosion, downed trees, and other forces of nature keep trail builders busy. There is always work to be done.

It may be very difficult to get to a new peak or alpine lake before a trail is built. Impenetrable forests, rugged terrain, or deep gorges may block the way. Trails help people find their way around obstacles and terrain. When people use trails, they are less likely to get lost and less likely to cause damage to the ecosystem.

Trail workers may work a few 100 yards from a major highway repairing erosion or they may be days deep into the backcountry clearing trail-blocking deadfall. Work is always outdoors. Changing weather, hunger, wildlife, accidents – everything must be dealt with at the site. Safety is always a concern.

It’s wild out there.

Trail building has many aspects – design, routing, construction, building materials, marking, and maintaining. Trail maintenance workers are involved in the hand-on side of things. They need gloves, goggles, buddies, hard hats, radios, heavy duty clothes, boots, water, and food. They use chain saws, hammers, shovels, machetes, axes, hooks, sledgehammers, drills, weed cutters, pack animals, and manpower to clear the way. They may have to chop through a thick forest, move a giant log, or build a trail marking rock cairn.

Trail work is physically demanding just to get to the “office” each day. Lugging heavy chainsaws, axes, water, snacks, and safety equipment miles up the trail is tiring. If the trail is deep in the wilderness the workers must camp for extended periods of time.

They must always work in teams for safety and ease. Besides a lets get-it-done attitude, every trail worker loves nature.

There are many jobs with the National Parks, Forest Service, recreation districts, and trail conservancies. The Professional Trail Builders Association is a great place to start the job search. There are usually no formal requirements, but employers always look for a positive attitude and a true desire to help.

Trail builders may volunteer in an attempt to give back to the wilderness they love. They may get lucky and find a job that pays $8 to $20 per hour. Trail builders can sometimes work into full time employment with the Forest Service or join a professional trail design team.

Trail maintenance is physically demanding work in remote places, but it’s the type of job that makes you feel good at the end of the day. Trails need people like you to survive.

Quick Facts About Trail Maintenance Jobs

Job Title: Trail Maintenance Worker, Trail Builder
Office: Trails nationwide
Description: Build and maintain trails
Certifications/Education: No formal education required
Necessary Skills: Love for outdoors, Able to lift heavy objects and hike long distances
Potential Employers: National Parks, Forest Service, Trail Conservation Associations
Pay: Volunteer or $8 to $20 per hour

Helpful Links:
Professional Trail Builders Association
Student Conservation Association
American Trails
International Mountain Bicycling Association
National Trails System

 

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