The Support System Behind the Pacific Crest Trail

Hiker wearing the PCT socks and hanging out around some Joshua trees

A lot of folks call the Pacific Crest Trail a home away from home. Every year, thousands of eager hikers set their sights on the path ahead, soaking up sunshine, taking on rainstorms, enjoying the unparalleled viewsheds, and inevitably encountering a few hurdles along the way.

Of course, any well-kept home requires maintenance, and this is where the Pacific Crest Trail Association comes in. With the generous aid of donors, volunteers, staff, and dedicated community members, we care for the trail the way a bird might tend to its nest. Our work ensures that those who wish to soar across the PCT’s 2,650-mile stretch may do so safely and comfortably.

The trail calls to people for different reasons. For some, it’s an opportunity to escape the noise and distractions of everyday life, to be amongst nature and to recenter. For others, it’s motivation to challenge themselves to a degree they never have before. For many, the trail represents the magic that our earth offers us to enjoy, humbly.

This feeling inspires our communities to give back to the trail through donations, stewardship, land protection advocacy, volunteering, and partnerships like Darn Tough socks.

Maintaining Trails Through Camaraderie & Community

The PCT transforms over time and climate change poses challenges to our work. Extreme weather patterns like flooding, wildfires, and record snowfall damage the trail and our need for volunteers and support is more important than ever.

What does this look like? On trail, it means removing fallen trees, retaining walls to keep the trail intact, building bridges for hikers to safely cross streams, or general tread-work.

Volunteer crew doing trail maintenance on the Nannie Ridge trail
Volunteer crew doing trail maintenance on the Nannie Ridge Trail. Photo by Rosemary Garcia

Off trail, volunteers and staff host tabling events, attend interagency conferences with our federal partners like the United States Forest Service, National Parks Service, and Bureau of Land Management, and advocate for land protection legislation.

The PCTA supports a variety of projects that tackle these issues, ranging from single-day projects to multi-day trips that might require overnight backpacking into remote wilderness areas. There’s a project for everyone, regardless of skill level!

Getting involved with a local volunteer project is also an amazing chance for people to socialize and join a community of others who share a passion for the great outdoors. On the trail, camaraderie is everything. Having a support system of fellow volunteers means lighter work, safer work, and for some, lifelong connections and friendships! In fact, some of our volunteer crews have existed for decades.

The PCTA also creates opportunities to form new connections through the Trail Skills College (TSC) program, a recurring series of weekend training events in different regions along the PCT. PCTA’s Trails Skills Colleges are a great way to get started volunteering in a communal, fun, and educational setting. Whether you’re new to trail maintenance or not, the courses offered through the program are some of the best in the country and entirely free to those who participate.

During a TSC weekend, participants learn skills like wilderness first aid, drainage design, and trail scouting from experienced trail crew leaders. It’s a chance to meet new people, explore nature, and, perhaps, reveal undiscovered interests and abilities. For those interested in attending a Trails Skills College, information about upcoming events can be found on the PCTA website.

Woman smiling as she does work as part of Trails Skill College
North Cascades Trail Skills College

Casting a Vision to Preserve the Outdoors We Love

Volunteer projects, trainings, and events all contributes to our shared mission to advocate for the Pacific Crest Trail as an inspirational outdoor experience, to create belonging and access, and to care for and conserve the trail and the lands through which it passes.

However, lugging logs and rocks out of the woods might not pique your interest the same way ascending to the top of a mountain peak might. Maybe you’d rather help in the PCTA offices, volunteer at an outreach event, or work alongside our communications team to write a piece for our membership magazine, blog, or social media.

A work crew taking a break in the Goat Rocks Wilderness
Old Snowy Blast Crew in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Photo by Brianna Leahy

The options are abundant, and the PCTA encourages people to explore volunteer options that meet them where they are. To start volunteering with PCTA and sign up for an upcoming project be sure to check out our volunteer registration and project schedule on our website or email us directly at

Thank You

There is an undeniable sense of love and loyalty that volunteers have to this trail. Without their help and the generosity of our donors and members this work would not be possible, and the Pacific Crest Trail would not be the awe-inspiring experience we know it as. We are forever thankful for them.

It is also made possible thanks to the generosity and collaborative spirit of Darn Tough Vermont and the PCT Sock, which contributes 5% of sales to the PCTA and our mission.

About the Author

Peyton Hamblin (she/they) is the Volunteer Engagement Associate at the Pacific Crest Trail Association, working closely with the superstars who make the trail beautiful to celebrate their accomplishments. She is continuously awestruck by the wonders of this earth and by the passionate folks who work fiercely to conserve them.

Off trail, Peyton bakes like they’re in the final throwdown on a competition show and enjoys clumsily roller skating around her home base in Sacramento, California with headphones blasting psychedelic funk bands like Khruangbin and Chicano Batman.