All those spectacular hiking trails that wind across acres of seemingly untouched Canadian wilderness certainly didn’t manifest themselves, even though it may seem that way by how well they integrate with the natural landscape. Chances are, park workers and lots of volunteers spent many backbreaking hours shoveling, chopping, pulling, pushing and stacking to create those trails we all enjoy. Next spring, why not give back a little to the trails that have given you so much by doing some volunteer trail maintenance?

Why you should do it?

Aside from helping to maintain the trails so they’re in good shape for your own use, spending a few hours on the weekend outside volunteering is good for the body and soul. You’ll get a good workout by moving fallen branches and rocks, shoveling dirt and clearing out overgrowth; fresh air from being outside in the wilderness; camaraderie by working alongside other trail lovers; and the satisfaction of contributing to something your passionate about for your community to enjoy.

What does it involve?

General trail building and maintenance needs will vary from trail to trail, but there’s a good chance you’ll be shoveling dirt, unloading fresh gravel or woodchips, rebuilding bridges, clearing branches and cutting back overgrowth on the trail. If you’re unable to do strenuous work, there are usually some lighter tasks available such as picking up litter along the trail.

What to bring?

Although the regional parks operators, local mountain bike societies and hiking clubs that hold regular trail maintenance days will provide you with specific instructions about what is required during a day of trail work, there’s a good chance you’ll need to bring comfortable outdoor clothes you can get sweaty in, work boots or shoes and work gloves, as well as snacks and water. Although tools and equipment (and sometimes lunch!) are often provided, most trail maintenance organizers welcome to you bring your own.

Where you can volunteer?

Check out the websites of your local hiking clubs to see if they hold regular trail maintenance days, or visit the website of a park you frequent to see how you can get involved. Here are a few such organizations and opportunities on popular trails across Canada: