Millions of hikers each year take advantage of hiking trails all over the Northwest, yet few put much thought into the maintenance required to keep these trails safe and preserve the surrounding ecosystems.
Although National Trails Day, a nationwide effort to help maintain and celebrate hiking trails, took place earlier this month, there are plenty of things you can do throughout the summer to help ensure hiking trails remain safe and accessible for everyone. Here are a few suggestions; as always, don’t forget to bring along an LED flashlight and a sturdy multi-tool whenever you venture out into the wilderness.
1. Take a Volunteer Vacation. Hikers who want to give back to the trails can sign up for a Volunteer Vacation with the American Hiking Society. During these trips, volunteer crews enjoy camping, backpacking or day hiking while participating in trail building projects on public lands. Tools and supervision are provided, but you should still keep your own multi-tool and LED flashlight on hand.
2. Help out a local parks organization. Many local and state parks routinely seek volunteers for trail maintenance or rehabilitation programs. Check with your state Parks & Recreation department, or contact the organization that manages your favorite trail to find out about any upcoming projects.
3. Adopt a trail. Many organizations will allow you to adopt a trail, or a segment of a trail, on which you are responsible for performing maintenance work and helping to identify and complete trail improvement projects. For example, the Oregon Department of Forestry offers an adopt-a-trail program for the Tillamook State Forest.
4. Tread lightly. The best thing you can do for any hiking trail is to develop responsible hiking habits. Walking along trail edges and cutting switchbacks contributes to erosion, trail widening and damage to wildlife. Responsible hiking is mostly common sense; avoid actions that cause harm to your surroundings, such as using your multi-tool to carve your initials into a tree.
Now grab your LED flashlight and multi-tool or survival knife, and hit the trails!