Volunteer with Montana Wilderness Association
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: May 15, 2017

The beautiful trails of Montana aren’t gorgeous by accident. Many many volunteers help keep the sacred places in good shape. The Montana Wilderness Association has many volunteer opportunities available to help keep Montana’s pretty places accessible to the public.


From their website:


Trail Crew Volunteer

Join us in the field to swing a tool, move dirt, or build a new structure. MWA projects range from moderate to very strenuous, from one day to 10 days, staying anywhere from car campsites to primitive sites in the backcountry.

Give us a call if we can offer more details. We can help you choose the volunteer project that is right for you. It’s important that you pull your weight, but learning new skills and having new experiences are what MWA volunteer projects are all about.

Camp Cook

We need camp cooks for car camping and backcountry projects. MWA provides the budget, menu suggestions, kitchen gear, and hungry volunteers. You help with the food shopping, menu planning, and on-site chef skills. Two cooks are often better than one, so bring a friend! Check out our Camp Cook page for more details.

Volunteer Packer

The Backcountry Horseman and its various clubs have given us amazing pack support over the years. If you’re interested in packing, we’d love to chat with you! We schedule most of our packing trips in February and March, well before the summer projects. All packers must be currently certified in USFS Defensive Horsemenship Training. For more information, check out our Packer Page here. 

Nearly half of our trail projects take place in the backcountry, anywhere from four to 18 miles from the nearest trailhead. We are therefore very grateful for our packing friends.We are used to working with horse and mule strings, but we’re not opposed to llamas, goats, or big dogs that can pack our gear into the backcountry.


MWA’s Madison-Gallatin Chapter helps clean a section of Highway 191, a road many people use to travel to and from the Gallatin Canyon and the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Volunteering to help clean up summer litter along the highway is a great way to give back without commiting to a weeklong outing.


Project Deposits

What? I have to pay to volunteer?

Yes. Well, kind of.

A great deal of logistical work goes into each of our projects, and we are counting on our volunteers to show up. This deposit helps ensure that they do. For 2017, a project deposit is $50.

Please remember that project deposits are refundable. Once you complete your volunteer MWA project, your account will automatically be refunded.


If you cancel less than one month before the project start date, your deposit will be considered a donation to the Stewardship program and will be used to offset the expense we will have to incur to find your replacement on the crew. Thank you for your understanding.

Waiting Lists 

Those projects listed as “Waitlist” means they are at capacity, but you can still register and be added to the wait list. You’ll still have to provide a refundable project deposit. In the event of a cancellation, we will begin calling everyone on the wait list. The first to respond and accept the position will be added to the confirmed list. MWA will refund your project deposit if you aren’t added to the confirmed list. We will also gladly accept deposits as donations to the Stewardship program. At this point, for projects listed as “FULL”, we are no longer accepting applications, as our waitlist is also quite full.

Physical Ability – Please Be Honest

It’s extremely important that you select a project that is aligned with your physical ability. It’s also important that you read our online FAQs section before registering. To ensure your safety and the safety of the entire crew, you must be prepared for the level of difficulty of the project you select. Keep in mind that you’ll be working full days in the field, and you must be able to work for the duration of the project. All volunteer registrations will be reviewed in detail, and we’ll be giving special attention to those who sign up for projects that are “strenuous” and “very strenuous.” MWA Staff will, if need be, kindly recommend that you sign up for another project that is better suited to your experience and physical ability. Please call us if you’re unsure how your skills might align with our project work. Thank you in advance for your understanding.

Here is what you can expect from projects with these levels of difficulty:

  • Moderate: Day hikes covering 2-5 miles on moderate terrain and 1000 feet gain in elevation, carrying a day pack weighing 10 to 15 pounds.
  • Moderate/Strenuous: Weekend car-camping with day hikes covering 4-8 miles on varied terrain, carrying packs weighing 20 pounds.
  • Strenuous: Weekend backcountry trips covering 6-12 miles a day on rough terrain, carrying “fullish” pack weighing 30-50 pounds
  • Very Strenuous: Weeklong backcountry trip covering 15 miles a day with large gains in elevation and carrying full packs weighing 50-60 pounds.