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Get Ready for WTA's 2021 Backcountry Trips

Posted by Anna Roth at Jan 26, 2021 12:57 PM |

Join WTA this summer. Backpack to a gorgeous place, do some trail work, and feel good about helping Washington's trail be some of the best.

It's almost time again for WTA's backcountry trip season to get underway. A lot of the process is staying the same, though there are some changes in place because of COVID.

Sunday Lake BCRT 8.21.20. Photo by LeeAnne Jensen..jpg
Volunteers on a BCRT celebrate after sawing through a couple fallen trees. Photo by LeeAnne Jensen. 

But first, what are backcountry trips? They're multi-night work parties WTA hosts in the summer months. Staying overnight and doing trail work allows us to get more work done in parts of the state that don't get as much maintenance as some of the easier-to-access trails. WTA offers three kinds of backcountry trips. 

Volunteer vacations are fairly fancy. You get a comfy campsite selected by WTA and we fuel your hard work with gourmet meals. Volunteer vacations do have a fee associated with them, largely to pay for the food we provide and the time required to pack it and the gear in. After pausing the program last year, we are thrilled to be able to return to offering volunteer vacations for 2021.

Backcountry response team trips (BCRTs) let you spend 3 - 8 days camping and doing trail work. Your crew might stay in the same campsite for the duration of the trip, or move camp each day through gorgeous high country. These vary in difficulty.

Youth-specific volunteer vacations are for 14 - 18 year olds. Volunteering and learning trail maintenance skills with a group of other teens is a great way to spend spring break or a week of your summer vacation. These also have a fee associated with them, but scholarships are available.

Photo by Emily Snyder
Spending the night in the backcountry makes it easier to address more trail maintenance needs during the summer. Photo by Emily Snyder.


Due to the ongoing pandemic, we've had to make some adjustments to business as usual. Here are the changes that we're implementing to keep you safe, give everyone who's interested a chance to get into the backcountry, and deliver some of our quality work this summer.

Same great food, now a frontcountry exclusive
We're limiting volunteer vacations to frontcountry locations this season. This is so we can provide sufficient sanitizing supplies in order to offer our normal volunteer vacation menu. Because of this, we're running fewer volunteer vacations than we usually do. 

There can only be one
Since there will be fewer volunteer vacations available overall, we're asking that you limit yourself to one volunteer vacation registration per launch (March - June, July - October). These trips are unique opportunities to experience trail work and time with other volunteers, and we're hoping to be able to offer more people the chance to spend some time outdoors learning the basics of trail work with a team.

Volunteers on a BCRT in 2020 working to improve trail near Highway 2. Photo by Jeremy Tarife.

Because land managers also rely on WTA crews to do a significant portion of their trail work, we ask you not to register for a trip unless you are certain you will be able to attend.

But wait(list)!
If the trip you are hoping to join is full, you're welcome to put yourself on a waitlist. We use registration timestamp and other criteria for moving volunteers off of the waitlist to fill a trip. Here's what we're weighing when making placement decisions:

  • Does this crew have at least one Assistant Crew Leader with extensive volunteer vacation kitchen experience?
  • Does the crew need a sawyer? 
  • Has this person had the chance to do a volunteer vacation before? (like last year, we are holding two spots on each volunteer vacation for newcomers).
  • Has this volunteer already been on a trip? Is there someone else on the list who hasn't had the chance to go out yet?

If you register for more than one trip during launch, or if you are moved onto a trip from the waitlist, we'll remove you from other waitlists in order to provide capacity for as many folks as possible.

Deep Lake BCRT  8.11.20. Photo by Owen Vogeli..jpg
One of the joys of a volunteer vacation is getting to use a variety of tools to improve trails. Photo by Owen Vogeli. 

Here's what's staying the same

Trip preview week: You'll be able to preview the available 2021 backcountry trip schedule on Feb. 5. That means you have a week to review the schedule, find a few you want to do, and most importantly, fill out your forms! These need to be complete before you can register for any trips.

Feb 13 registration: Registration for our volunteer vacations and BCRTs between March and June open at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13.

April 23 registration: For volunteer vacations and BCRTs from July to October we will open registration at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 23. 

Youth Volunteer Vacations

WTA is currently planning for a modified Youth Volunteer Vacation season in June and July, utilizing our COVID safety protocols. The modifications are primarily in trip capacity and application timeline. The Priority Application period is April 1-15, with trip placement notifications on April 28. If you'd like to sign up to receive an email notification when more information is available, you can fill out this form.