• Create an account
    Fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required.

Trail Maintenance

trail maintenance1 400Enjoying the outdoors as a family is a major section of Family Capers. Every activity listed in the Outdoor section of Family Capers involves a trail in some way. Trails provide the pathways to delight in the great outdoors. They are the facilitators of our journeys and guides to our destinations. We have a symbiotic-like relationship with trails as they provide the means for us to experience the majesty of nature while preventing us from inflicting unnecessary damage to the areas we explore. Volunteering to do a trail maintenance service project is the opportunity for a family to give back to the means of our outdoor enjoyment.

Volunteering to Do Trail Clean Up

What It Is

Pretty much everything you need to know is already in the title. However, there are some considerations for a family when volunteering to do a trail clean up service project. In its most basic form, this project can simply be a hike by the family where a trash bag is carried while walking and everyone picks up any trash that is found. At the other end of the spectrum, this volunteer activity can span several weeks where fallen trees are cleared, trails are marked and raised walking platforms are built. While a simple trash pickup project will build a sense of community spirit for children, a larger project where children physically move debris and build objects will leave a more permanent impact on their appreciation of the outdoors. Every time children pass a particular area they cleared or object that they built, it will remind them of their hardwork. Imagine the deep feeling of satisfaction that would come from knowing that countless others who pass by appreciate their efforts.


What To Do


Pick up trash every time you hike or play outdoors. Teach your family the importance of leaving nature in better condition than how we originally find it.


Clear debris by moving branches, large stones and other objects off the trail. Be cautious not to mess with the natural landscape or even disturb a possible ecosystem for wildlife.


Remove invasive plant species. Only do this when working with a local ranger, naturalist or horticulturist for a specific preserve, woods or park. This can be a little dangerous if working with harmful plants such as poison ivy.


Fix the trail markings. Since this article assumes that the trail already exists, only existing trail markers need to be revitalized. This can be by applying a fresh coat of paint to a blaze or replacing metal markers.


Update signs, descriptive kiosks or other placards used to educate along the trail. These often wear down with time and may need replaced. This should only be done at the direction of the local trail authority.


Repair trail structures such as raised walkways, benches, fences and water sluices. Again only work with a local trail authority to do this.


Tread maintenance. Grading tread, slough and slide removal, slump repair, surface replacement with similar material. Again only work with a local trail authority to do this.


Fix Drainage. Cleaning and repairing structures, culverts, underdrains, water bars, grade dips and drainage ditches.

trail maintenance4 400

Tips for Families

  •            Always wear work gloves, long sleeves and avoid sandals.
  •            Follow the same safety suggestions from the Hiking article. These include proper attire, bug spray and respecting wildlife.
  •            Subscribe to newsletters from local trail clubs, nature clubs and conservancies. Stay in touch with what is happening in your area. Sometimes events happen without much notice so pay attention.
  •            Be cautious with younger children. Picking up small trash is great for a toddler but working on a trail crew that is using chainsaws and moving boulders is not safe for that age. Many trail maintenance projects will not allow children under a certain age for insurance and liability reasons. Obviously, children should be supervised the entire time.
  •            Make it fun by adding a Nature Scavenger Hunt to the activity.
  •            Set a reward for the family upon completion. This can be a trip to the local burger hangout or ice cream sundays at the house.
  •            Take pictures to memorialize the occassion.
  •            Contact the local papers and bloggers about the service project. The publicity will help whatever orgranization you are working with. It will also help raise awareness of the issues you are addressing.
  •            Contact the local government authority about your project. Many will provide the necessary equipment and supplies free of charge.

trail maintenance5 400Variations

Stream Clean Up

We participate with a local nature conservancy to do their annual stream clean up. They coordinate with local governments to plan crews for several waterways in the area. We walk along the shore picking up any debris and trash that has landed there. It is always a muddy and fun time. Here is some information from the EPA about stream clean ups.

Park Clean Up

This is a service project that any family can do at almost any time. Go down to your local park and pick up the trash in the area. Contact your local parks and recreation department to find out if there are any specific clean up projects that your local parks might need.

Adopt A Highway

Everyone has seen the little signs along various roads announcing that a specific organization or business has adopted that road. It is a simple program where volunteers keep a roads free of litter, usually for some free promotion using the signs we see. Be careful when searching up adopt-a-highway programs as you will likely find commercial entities that make money by coordinating "sponsor" programs where they collect money from local companies and send their crews to clean up along the road. They also provide the sign giving credit to the company that paid for the service.

If you are really interested in doing this as a service project, contact your state's Department of Transportation or you local municpality roads department. Typically they have a community relations person that will guide a family through the process and make sure everyone keeps safe. Obviously, everyone needs to wear orange safety vests and gloves while working.


Trail maintenance needs along the PCT on the West Coast.

Opportunities in the Northeast region.

An excellent guide on the Science of Trail Maintenance and Reconstruction. Extremely interesting information if you are serious about trails.

REI offers volunteer vacations

USDA Forest Service Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook




You are here: Home Service Projects Trail Maintenance

Timeless Wisdom

If America is the pursuit of happiness, the best way to pursue happiness is to help other people.


- George Lucas