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Frequently Asked Questions About Youth Vacations

Get answers to all your Youth Volunteer Vacation questions.

Who are the leaders?

On youth volunteer vacations, crew leaders are Wilderness First Responder (or Wilderness First Aid) and CPR certified and well trained to ensure a fun, safe work environment for the duration of trip.

What is the age limit?

The age range is between 14 - 18 years. Volunteers on backcountry trips must be at least 15 years old.

What is WTA looking for in a Youth Vacation volunteer?

An applicant should fit the following criteria:

  • Able to commit to stay for the entire week (All WTA frontcountry trips run from Sunday afternoon to Friday afternoon unless otherwise indicated)
  • A great attitude, desire to work with Washington Trails Association and be a part of a team
  • The ability to hike to and from the work site, and the ability to work at a moderate pace throughout the day
  • Ability and desire to adhere to the rules
  • Must be age 14 - 18

On a Youth Volunteer Vacation, you give back in some of Washington's most stunning locations. Photo by WTA Staff.

What is wta looking for in a backcountry trip volunteer?

An applicant should fit the above criteria, as well as the following criteria:

  • A minimum of 5 days of trail maintenance experience
  • Able to commit to stay for the entire week (All backcountry trips run from Saturday morning to the following Saturday unless otherwise indicated)
  • Desire to gain trail crew leadership and backcountry camping skills
  • Must be age 15 - 18
  • The necessary gear for the trip (WTA may be able to lend out gear depending on the trip) 

How do I apply for a vacation?

  • Parent/Guardian accounts are required for all youth volunteer vacation applicants. Parent/Guardian must create a My Backpack account and add a dependent account for the youth applicant. It's not required to add an email for the applicant, but if you do, make sure it is unique from the parent's. If both the parent and the youth already have separate My Backpack accounts, please email us at volunteer@wta.org or give us a call at 206-625-1367 and we can link your two accounts before you apply for a youth volunteer vacation.
  • To apply and register for a youth volunteer vacation, you must complete all required forms and a youth volunteer vacation application. You may submit your application and forms electronically through your My Backpack account, or send them to the WTA office by mail.
  • Find a trip. Our list of 2021 trips will be available on April 1, but you can complete your required forms in advance. Priority will be given to applications received by April 15.
  • Indicate on your application which trip(s) you would like to attend. If you submit your application by the priority registration deadline you will be notified by email which trips you are on by April 28. Applications submitted after April 15 will be reviewed and placed on trips on a rolling basis.

Check out How to Apply to get all the details about joining a youth volunteer vacation.

If cost is a barrier to your participation, please complete a scholarship application (if applicable) at the same time as your Youth Vacation Application. You'll be informed if you were awarded a scholarship when you are placed on a trip.

My child is a returning volunteer, do they need to reapply?

Yes, all volunteers, new or returning, must apply each year.


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Some backcountry trips have llama visitors to pack in food. Photo by Isabel Shinnick-Gordon.

Is there a cost?

Yes. There are costs associated with running this type of program. Your trip fee helps to cover a portion of our field staffing, food, equipment and transportation. Grants, government agreements, and individual donations from WTA supporters provide the rest of the funding needed.

In 2021, the trip fee for WTA members is $250, and $300 for non-members. 

What is the cancellation policy? 

There is a $30 cancellation fee for cancellations more than 30 days prior to the trip, and no refund for cancellations within 30 days of the trip. Please only sign up for a trip if you are sure you will be able to attend. 

Can I attend more than one trip?

Maybe - depends on number of youth applicants and total number of slots available each year. Please indicate what your top choices are on your youth volunteer vacation application form. We will not place youth on back to back trips. 

We believe that youth who volunteer on a week-long trip with WTA enjoy learning new skills, experiencing the outdoors in a new way, and meet other teens with similar interests. We want to make sure that all interested youth have this opportunity. If you are hoping to go on more than two trips, you will need to wait until May to see if there are more available spots. WTA staff will contact you about room on trips as space becomes available.

What if I have never volunteered before?

We'd prefer, but do not require, youth volunteers to go on a day trip with WTA before committing for a week-long volunteer vacation. To participate in a backcountry trip we require 5 days minimum prior trail work experience.

The frontcountry volunteer vacation trips are designed for all levels of volunteers and the experienced crew leaders are there to help you understand what is required and how it can be accomplished in the easiest way.

All volunteers are encouraged to work at their own speed, pace themselves, take breaks, and change tasks frequently. At the end of the week volunteers are amazed at how much fun they had, how hard they worked and what they accomplished.

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The crew enjoying the sunset atop Mount Constitution in Moran State Park. Photo by WTA staff.

What do past volunteers have to say?

Most volunteers come away from a week of trail work with new friends, great memories, and a greater appreciation for service. Read about one volunteer who had no prior trail work or camping experience but did two Youth Volunteer Vacations in one summer. 

can I sign up with my friends or siblings?

On your youth vacation application, you can list one other volunteer you would like to be on a trip with. We will do our best to place you with this friend or family member; however, please note that we reserve the right to limit the number of volunteers signing up together to foster a welcoming environment that encourages new friendships.

Why limit sign-ups with friends?

Having healthy group dynamics on each trip is very important for each volunteer, as well as the crew leaders of the trip. When many people on the trip already know one another, it can be difficult for volunteers who signed up alone to feel like they are a part of the group. In general, the more volunteers who don’t know one another, the better the vacation.

What if I miss the priority placement deadline?

If you miss the priority placement deadline on April 15, it isn’t too late! Submit your application materials as soon as possible. We will do our best to notify you of your placement on a trip or a waitlist within three weeks. There are often cancellations as the summer gets close, so volunteers on the waitlist have a chance of getting on a trip.

When do I need to pay?

Payment is required after you have been placed on a trip. You do not need to make payment at the time you submit your application. After you have been notified of which trip(s) you are on, you will be emailed a link prompting you to pay for your trip(s). You will have two weeks from the date you are sent the link. If you don’t pay within two weeks, you will forfeit your spot and it will go to someone on the waitlist. 

is there a waitlist?

Yes. To be placed on a waitlist, you need to fill out an application. This way, we can be sure you have the appropriate experience to join the trip(s) you want. Additionally, if a spot opens up with short notice, you will have the majority of your registration complete. We will contact you if a spot becomes available.

Do I have to stay for the entire week?

Yes! Due to safety and group dynamic considerations, you must commit for the entire week.

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On your first Youth Vacation you get your own green hard hat. Make sure to bring it with you on your next trip!. Photo by Erika Haugen-Goodman.

What is expected of me?

Other than having a good attitude, adhering to a few simple rules, and helping out with meals and the dishes from time to time, you are free to relax and enjoy your surroundings after a hard day of work.

Will I receive community service credit?

Yes. After a volunteer completes a trip they should contact the WTA office (206) 625-1367 or volunteer@wta.org) and request a letter of service hours. In the request please indicate the name of the volunteer, who the letter should be addressed to and the address you would like the letter sent. Volunteers can earn 40-56 hours during a one-week program, depending on the type of trip and their level of participation throughout the week. WTA reserves the right to reduce, or eliminate entirely, the service hours of youth who do not meet the expectations set out here (specifically around appropriate behavior, and contributing fully in camp and at the trail work site). 

What should I bring?

You MUST be properly prepared and geared up for a week in the backcountry. You must bring everything included on the packing list for the type of trip you're going on:

Are electronics allowed?

No. With the exception of digital cameras, bringing electronics is not allowed. WTA provides a chance for youth to interact with each other outdoors while enjoying the natural world. Also, electronics are sensitive to heat and moisture and the chance of them getting damaged or broken is high due to the outdoor environment. Crew leaders will have cell phones and/or radios to use in case of emergency, and will also share pictures from the week with the crew after returning home. If crew leaders find out that youth have brought other electronics such as cell phones or video games, they will confiscate the items for the duration of the trip and then return it at the end of the trip.

Is there any time off?

The days are full of hard work on the trail, but there is time in the evening to participate in recreational activities, learn about the natural history of the area or hang out with your crew. Activities vary site by site. On backcountry trips, Wednesday is an off day to explore the beautiful surroundings. Volunteers can read a book, play games, or go for a hike with a crew leader.

What is the housing like?

Frontcountry volunteers will be staying in tents at campsites within state parks, national forests, and national parks. Backcountry volunteers hike into a camp where they will stay in tents for the duration of the trip. All volunteers will help to prepare group meals and clean up. Each volunteer will pack their own lunch daily to take to the work site.

How hard is a youth vacation?

Trail work can be strenuous and difficult if you are not accustomed to it. We encourage you to join us on a regular one-day work party to see if you would enjoy it for a full week.  We also encourage all volunteers to work at their own speed, pace themselves, take breaks, and change tasks frequently.

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Photo by Isabel Shinnick-Gordon.

The crew leaders are there to help you understand what is required and how it can be accomplished in the easiest way. (If you are have any type of health problem(s) that might be aggravated by physical exertion and that cannot be controlled at a safe level while in the field, a week-long vacation is not right for you.)

What is a typical day like?

The general difficulty of the trip is determined by the type of trip, so check the description before signing up. Depending on the project and the weather, the hike to the work site will vary, but a typical day of trail work looks like this: 

6:30–7:00 a.m. - Wake up and pack a lunch
7:00 a.m. – Breakfast is served
7:30–8:00 a.m. - Clean up from breakfast (wash dishes, put food away, etc)
8:00–8:30 a.m. - Leave for the work site
8:30–9:00 a.m. - Begin work on the project
9:00–noon - Continue work, stopping periodically for breaks
Noon - Break for lunch, rest and enjoy the fresh air!
After lunch - Continue working, stopping periodically for breaks. Depending on the difficulty of the project and the weather, the end time may vary from day to day.
After work - Unwind and freshen up; take a short nap; find a tree to read a book under; or eat some snacks.
6:00–7:00 p.m. - The cooking crew begins prepping dinner an hour before it is served. Everyone sits down to eat.
After dinner - The clean-up crew helps finish dishes. After that, it's free time, although some nights there may be an informational session provided by the crew leaders before you set off for a good nights sleep in your tent.

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Work and play in beautiful locations on a Youth Volunteer Vacation. Photo by Austin Easter.

What is the food like?

There is some variation based on the crew leader and/or designated needs for the trip, but this article gives you a pretty good idea of what you’ll have.

WTA's #1 priority is providing a safe environment for all crew members. We are able to accommodate many common dietary restrictions. Youth with severe food allergies may be able to attend a WTA trip with proper planning, but may be limited to specific trips. Be very specific in your medical form when applying if you have food allergies. You can also reach out to the Youth Trail Program Manager, Clarissa Allen, before applying if you have questions about whether WTA can safely accommodate your food allergy. Although WTA is working towards systems that enable us to safely support all volunteers, we may not be able to accommodate youth volunteers with severe food allergies.

Is transportation provided to the meeting point?

WTA does not provide transportation to the meeting point, but we strongly encourage volunteers to arrange carpooling. When you apply for a youth vacation, let us know if you want to carpool (you can always change your mind as your plans change). Simply choose one of these options: Willing to drive; Needs a ride; Willing to drive or ride. Then, give a brief description of your ideal meeting point in the space provided. This information will be sent to all people who sign up for your trip, along with your email address (we do not send out your phone number - so please provide a valid e-mail). You will then be able to coordinate with others interested in carpooling. 

What else should I know?

Visit our general Frequently Asked Questions for a day on trail – most of these still apply to our week-long trips. Our Guide to Trailwork is also a good reference for the technical side of things. Most importantly, if you still have questions, please e-mail volunteer@wta.org or call (206) 625-1367.