For the 50+ Traveler

Volunteering at a National Park can be both fun and rewarding, and you'll get to visit the park for free! There are many opportunities for Americans to pitch in at a National Park, ranging from short one-time projects to longer commitments where you might work alongside permanent employees. Here are ten ways you can volunteer at a National Park, and give back while you take in the majesty of the wild.

1. Artist-In-Residence Programs

If you're an artist and you'd like to contribute to the natural beauty of a our communal outdoor spaces, you can do so. National Park Services offer artists, photographers, writers, and musicians the chance to work outdoors or in a studio at the park for 2-4 weeks. You may be asked to host workshops or create sculptures or paintings that will remain inside the park. If this sounds like something that would interest you, there is a full list of parks that offer artist-in-residence programs. It's a great way to spend some time creating in inspiring natural surroundings.

2. Volunteer At A Campground For The Season

Becoming a campground host is a great way to spend the Summer camping for free! Volunteer on your own or as a couple, and you can bring your camper or RV, and you can typically take advantage of full hook-ups, sewage, water, and postcard views. As a volunteer, your job may require engaging with guests, monitoring fees, patrolling the campground, stocking bathrooms, and keeping the campground presentable. It's sort of like being a superintendent.


3. Assist With A Bird Survey

Parks will sometimes need assistance with scouting the ground for nesting birds. The purpose of this is usually to make sure nests don't get disturbed before an event or large gathering of people that may be planned. This work could include walking the area and scanning for nests and then flagging them to make sure foot traffic doesn't harm them during the event.

If you're an avid birdwatcher, this could be a perfectly lovely way to help both the birds and the rangers.

4. Greet Guests At The Visitor's Center

If you're outgoing and enjoy answering questions, then working at a front desk or visitors center may be perfect for you! Your responsibilities may include greeting visitors, answering phones, stocking brochures, handling money, and keeping computer records. Volunteering at a visitors center is a great way to meet new people and learn all there is to know about the park.

visitors center

5. Be An Archeology Assistant

As an archeology assistant, you'll deputize for a park archeologist in field and office work. You could be relocating, mapping and documenting archeological sites at the park. This is an exciting opportunity if you've always been interested in discovering new places, or using a map and compass to find your way to remote areas of a National Park. Sounds like a pretty sweet gig, doesn't it?

6. Test Your Hiking Skills As A Trail Steward

Being a Trail Steward means being the "eyes and ears" of the park's trails. You will patrol paths and campsites to remove all signs of human occupation (like garbage and fire rings). You'll replace signs found on trails; report needed maintenance, listen to and answer visitors' suggestions and questions, and promote wilderness ethics. If you love to hike, explore, and preserve nature, this is an excellent opportunity to let your adventurous side make a difference.

Paved roadway in forest

7. Become A Trained Weed Warrior

If you love to garden, now is your chance to get rid of pesky non-native species and help maintain park aesthetics. You'll learn how to identify invasive non-native plant species and techniques for removing them. You'll get to spend plenty of time outside and have the opportunity to beautify your local park and community.

8. Assist With Special Events

National Parks are often a favorite spot to hold local events. Parks often seek volunteers to help set up, break down, and work during concerts, jamborees and the like. This is a great way to get involved with your community and promote your local National Park. You'll also get to meet new people and help put with a successful event.

9. Volunteer Your Trade Skills

If you're a jack or jill of all trades, you can use your skills to help repair water or sewer lines, make electrical improvements, or perform general carpentry and building tasks around the park. By improving the quality and safety of the park's facilities, you'll help attract tourists to enjoy the beautiful facilities you worked to repair, and preserve our National Park network for future generations.

10. Be A Tour Guide

Many parks offer guided tours through trails or wetlands. If you aren't afraid of talking in front of a group, you can lead a gaggle of visitors through paths as you explain the natural history of how they came to be, pointing out the wildlife. You'll get to spend lots of time outdoors while you explore trails and make friends along the way.

Volunteering at a National Park is a fantastic way to get involved in your community, and make a difference in the quality of life across America. There are hundreds of opportunities for you to volunteer year-round. If you already volunteer at National Parks and have over 250 volunteer hours, National Park Services offers free passes to over 2,000 national parks and wildlife refuges. What are you waiting for? See you out there.