Volunteers in the National Forests

Volunteers are the heartbeat of the Forest Service. The types of work a volunteer can perform are many and varied; the only tasks a volunteer cannot carry out are those associated with law enforcement. Your talents and skills are matched with your work preference to obtain a role that satisfies you and best fulfills the mission of the Forest Service/USDA. You may work on a part-time or full-time basis. You can participate in a one-time project or serve over several months, seasons, or year-round. The commitment you make is up to you. Training may be provided to you if your job requires it. If you are retired or have summers free, you may wish to live on a national forest while you work as a volunteer. College students may perform volunteer service related to their coursework for college credit. A variety of jobs are available if you prefer the office environment. There are also numerous opportunities to perform vigorous but satisfying physical labor outdoors.

Volunteers are an integral component in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests' recreation program. There are opportunities for both campground and visitor center host positions as well as more specialized work such as trail maintenance.

Current Opportunity:

Volunteer as a Campground Host in Hidden Valley Campground near Warm Springs, VA! As a volunteer you would provide information and assistance to campers, monitor the campground, and perform light maintenance duties. Water and sewer hook-ups, generator and fuel, and Forest Service radio are provided. Position Availability: May 1 through November 1; Position Duration: Minimum 3 months. For more information contact Emily Ellis at the Warm Springs Ranger District, 422 Forestry Road, Hot Springs, Virginia 24445. (540) 839-2521

Volunteer Opportunities

Please contact the Ranger District Offices for more specific information.

Clinch Ranger District Contact: (276) 679-8370

North River Ranger Districts Contact: (540) 432-0187

Volunteering opportunities include campground hosts and maintaining trails.

The North River Ranger District is seeking applications for a campground host at Brandywine. If you are interested in this position, please contact the district for more information.

Glenwood/Pedlar Ranger District Contact: (540) 291-2188

Sherando Lake Recreation Area

Looking for a cool place to spend some time during the heat of the summer months? Come volunteer at Sherando Lake Recreation Area, situated at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, near Waynesboro, Virginia. We need volunteers to host a camping loop; staff a small visitor center; or assist at the entrance station beginning April through October.

Sherando Lake Recreation Area is a moderately-sized area with 65 family camping sites, a group area for 100 people, picnic sites, picnic shelter, a 25 acre lake with sand beach for swimming, fishing, boating, a 7 acre lake for fishing, and numerous hiking trails.

In exchange for approximately 20 hours of volunteer effort per week, per person, volunteers are provided a campsite with water, electric, and sewer hook-ups. Laundry facilities are available on site. Come join our team of volunteers!

Duties will vary depending on volunteer assignment.

Cave Mountain Lake Recreation Area

Looking for a smaller area? Check out the volunteer opportunities at Cave Mountain Lake Recreation Area, located at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Natural Bridge, Virginia. We have 2 host campsites available where water, electric, sewer, and telephone service is provided.

Have your own trailer, but looking for somewhere different to visit? We also have volunteer camping sites available May through October. Water, electric, and sewer hook-ups are available.

Cave Mountain Lake is a moderately sized recreation area with 42 campsites, a small group camping area, picnic sites, a picnic shelter, a small lake with a sand beach for swimming, and trails nearby.

Volunteers are asked to contribute approximately 20 hours per week, per person which includes assisting visitors to the area, performing light cleaning of the restrooms, preparing campsites for the next visitors, and helping out at the entrance station.

North Creek Campground

Maybe an area with a little more solitude and less development is more your style? Check out the opportunities at North Creek Campground, nestled in the mountains along North Creek, a popular trout stream. We have a space available for a campground host beginning May through October.

North Creek Campground has 16 camping sites, vault toilets, and numerous nearby hiking trails. In exchange for volunteer effort, we provide a free campsite with water, electric, and telephone hook-ups. Volunteers are involved in assisting visitors to the area, performing light cleaning of the restrooms, and preparing the campsites for the next visitors.

James River Ranger DistrictContact: (540) 962-2214


Lee Ranger District Contact: (540) 984-4101

Volunteer Job Duties

The primary responsibilities of a Forest Service volunteer are to serve as a good host to forest visitors. This entails meeting and greeting forest visitors, helping them get oriented to the area, find a campsite and or appropriate activities during their visit or purchase maps or field guides if desired. Other duties may include light maintenance, cleaning, opening/closing campground gates, staffing a visitor center or smaller information station, running a cash register, or providing interpretive walks and talks to school children or other forest visitors.


The Lee Ranger District has two recreation areas-- Trout Pond and Elizabeth Furnace --and one information center -- Elizabeth Furnace Information Station--staffed primarily with volunteers. The Forest Service provides a campsite with full hookups and access to a telephone line for RV users.  Most volunteer hosts plan to stay at least 1 month. We can also make arrangements for volunteers who would like to commute.

About the Sites

Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area and Trout Pond Recreation Area offer 30-amp service.

If you are interested in applying for one of our volunteer positions,  contact the Lee Ranger District to request an application. Please fill it out and return it with the dates you are available and areas where you are interested in volunteering to:

Lee Ranger District
95 Railroad Avenue
Edinburg, VA 22824
For more information call (540) 984-4101

Information on Specific Volunteer Sites and Duties

Trout Pond

This is a very popular recreation area. It has 50 campsites, a large day-use area with a swim beach, and the only natural lake in West Virginia. It is located in Hardy County, near Wardensville, West Virginia. We ask our Hosts to spend a minimum of one month at this facility. Trout Pond has an on site washer and dryer for volunteer hosts to use. Host sites have full hook-ups.

Elizabeth Furnace

This recreation area has 32 camp sites, 2 interpretive trails that describe the turn-of-the-century iron industry, a log cabin visitor center/interpretive association outlet and a large day-use area. Hikers and fishermen frequent this area. Elizabeth Furnace is located at the northern end of the Massanutten Mountain near Front Royal. We ask our Hosts to spend a minimum of one month at this facility. Host sites have full hook-ups. You must set up your own internet service if needed.

Campground Host Duties

Forest Service campgrounds on the Lee District offer campground hosts electric, water, sewer and telephone hookups. (You must bring your own telephone and make only local calls.) Also available are flush toilets, and hot-water showers. Parking spurs that can accommodate RV's up to approximately 36 feet and a sewage dump station. Host positions are available from April through November.

Interested in spending a week volunteering to work on Lee District Trails? 

Check out the Massarock Trail Crew!  Sponsored by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, the Massarock Trail Crew performs trail work 4 weeks each year. Join us for a week or longer.

For more information contact the Lee Ranger District:  (540)984-4101

Trail Crew Application (pdf format)

Mount Rogers National Recreation Area Contact: (276) 783-5196

Mount Rogers National Recreation Area

Contact: (276) 783-5196

The Mount Rogers NRA receives many inquiries from individuals interested in internships or long-term volunteer opportunities. Currently there are several projects that the NRA has available for an intern or long-term volunteer to tackle. Some of our most essential projects for the summer include:

Backcountry Rangers

Backcountry rangers serve as wilderness specialists in the Mount Rogers crest zone, Lewis Fork & Little Wilson Creek wilderness areas. Volunteers patrol the backcountry trails, meet and talk with visitors, provide information on low-impact camping, record visitor use, and maintain the trails & trailhead facilities. Work is scheduled for ten days in the backcountry and four days off. Housing is a shared one- room, wood-heated cabin located in the backcountry with no electricity or plumbing. If interested, contact Sara Schell, Recreation Program Manager.

Mountain Bike Trail Rangers

Mountain bike trail rangers perform roving trail patrol on the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34 mile National Recreation Trail on a former railroad bed stretching from Abingdon, VA to the North Carolina state line. This trail receives more than 100,000 visitors a year. Volunteers patrol the trail by mountain bike (may be provided), talk to visitors (hikers, bikers, and equestrians) about no-trace and low impact land ethics, maintain bulletin boards, clean up trash, install trail signs, and maintain counts of visitor use. Volunteer may work alone most of the time. Volunteer housing available. If interested, contact Sara Schell, Recreation Program Manager.

Trail Crew

Volunteers are needed to assist in the operation of two Visitor Centers during the summer months at the Mount Rogers NRA. Green Cove Station is located on the scenic Virginia Creeper Trail, a popular ‘Rails To Trails’ trail used by bikers, hikers and horseback riders. The hours of operations are varied during the summer season. Volunteers at the MountRogers NRA headquarters in Marion, Virginia are needed during the summer months on Friday through Monday. Duties include greeting the public, selling interpretive books and maps, providing information and directions and assisting with telephones. Sites at Raccoon Branch and Hurricane Campground are available for housing.

Hurricane Campground Host

Hurricane Campground is a great place to spend the summer. It is a small 24 site campground located adjacent to a beautiful trout stream and there are several hiking trails right from the campground - including the Appalachian Trail. Full hookups are available for the two host sites. The primary responsibilities of the Forest Service Volunteer Host are to serve as a good host to forest visitors; greet them and help them get oriented to the area; inform them of campground rules and regulations; ash removal from grills; cleaning picnic tables; and maintain the two bathhouses in the campground. Other duties include light maintenance and opening and closing the gate each day. Hosts are expected to be on site 4 to 5 days per week, including weekends and holidays. The campground is open from April 15 to October 31. A minimum commitment of two months is requested.

Wilderness Boundary Maintenance

The Mount Rogers NRA is seeking one or two volunteers with exceptional backcountry orienteering skills to locate boundary lines and update signs in our three designated Wilderness Areas. This will be a physically demanding task on steep slopes and possibly in thick understory vegetation. This is a great opportunity for someone who wants to play a significant role in Wilderness resource and values protection. Volunteer will be paired with another volunteer or employee to accomplish this work. If interested, contact Sara Schell, Recreation Program Manager.

Events Planning

Work with the Forest Service and one or more partner organizations to plan and implement an event to celebrate the cultural and/or natural treasures of the Mount Rogers NRA. Possible events include:

  • Winter festival at Whitetop Station (promote year-round use of the site & trail)
  • Harvest festival at Settlers Museum (fall harvest at the 1790's working farm.
  • History Field Day at Settlers Museum (migration of settlers to area)
  • Spring Thaw festival at Grindstone Campground (spring wildflowers)
  • Camping Workshop at Beartree Campground (invite outfitters to showcase products available?)
  • Music Festival at Grindstone or Whitetop Station (traditional music, storytelling)

If interested, contact Sara Schell, Recreation Program Manager.

Trail Crew

Trail crew volunteers work together to perform general trail maintenance on a variety of trails throughout the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Volunteers learn how to construct and maintain various types of trails. They build trail drainage structures, construct tread, use primitive tools in wilderness areas, clear vegetation and get in great shape! A skilled supervisor will assist the crew. Volunteer housing available. If interested, contact Sara Schell, Recreation Program Manager.

G.P.S. Data Collectors

G.P.S. data collectors must have some previous G.P.S experience or knowledge of the Global Positioning System. Volunteers collect G.P.S. data on the 400-mile trail system throughout the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Data may also be collected for various wildlife & range management projects. Volunteers may be involved with data management and map production. Volunteer housing available. If interested, contact Sara Schell, Recreation Program Manager.


Seasonal photographs around the Mount Rogers NRA are needed for this webpage, brochures, bulletin boards, interpretive displays, tourism promotion, etc. If interested, contact Sara Schell, Recreation Program Manager.

Litter Removal

Roadside and trailside litter significantly mar the beauty of the Mount Rogers NRA, as well as cause resource damage to the wildlife habitat including streams. If you're interested in adopting a Forest Service road or trail, contact Sara Schell, Recreation Program Manager.

View these and other volunteer opportunities

These positions are unpaid. When available the NRA can provide housing to full-time interns and volunteers.

Past and current interns and volunteers have found their experience on Mount Rogers to be rewarding and beneficial to their career goals or for their personal growth. The accomplishments of our volunteers are very important to our day-to-day operations.

Contact us by e-mail or at the street address or phone number provided for more information about intern and volunteer opportunities.

Volunteer Application Form

Volunteer safety and security are of utmost importance to us at Mt. Rogers NRA. All volunteers are given an orientation with emphasis on how to conduct volunteer work in a safe manner. No matter what the position, from office to field work, safe work practices are critical to an enjoyable and successful volunteer experience.

Eastern Divide Ranger District Contact: (540)552-4641

Warm Springs Ranger District Contact: (540) 839-2521

Positions include campground host, fee collection, interpretation and maintenance.  Volunteers at the Bolar Mountain Recreation Area enjoy full hook-ups in a spectacular setting.  Other less developed host opportunities include the Hidden Valley and Blowing Springs Campgrounds.

Contact the Warm Springs Ranger District for other volunteer opportunities available on the district.


Photo of volunteers working on the PIT project on the Lee Ranger District.

The George Washington/Jefferson’s National Forests Passport in Time Program.

Passport in Time is a national program for public archaeology sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service. The George Washington/Jefferson National Forests host a PIT project every year, usually held in July. We take volunteers from all over the country and Canada, many with no previous experience, and teach them the science of archaeology. Over the past several years, we have excavated two Native American village sites, lithic quarry sites and prehistoric camp sites to learn more about the Native American settlement patterns of the past several thousand years. Volunteers are our lifeline. During the 2003 field school, volunteers contributed over 4000 hours in a two week period! We often have repeat volunteers, and we make every attempt to pair inexperienced folks with those who have worked on previous projects with us.

Photo of a view of an excavated portion of a site.

The main focus for the Passport in Time program is to allow interested members of the public an opportunity to participate in a scientific excavation, including learning excavation methodology, artifact identification and processing, map making, photography and even some surveying or GPS experience.

No prior experience is required to participate, however, certain fragile archaeological features may require experienced archaeologists or volunteers to excavate them. The forest archaeologists move the project location every year or two to explore a diverse region of western Virginia.

Children, with a responsible adult, are encouraged to participate in the GW/Jeff PIT program. However, they should come with a clear understanding that this is serious, scientific work that can lead to expanding our knowledge of past lifeways. Some children find the experience fascinating, while others learn that archaeology is hard work and too much like school for their tastes!
Interested people can learn more about Passport in Time, and sign up for the project, by visiting www.passportintime.com or by calling either Mike Barber or Mark Martin of the Heritage Staff of the George Washington/Jefferson National Forests at (540) 265-5212.
Photo of excavation during a PIT project.

Passport In Time Project July, 2005
Keyser Farm Site, Lee Ranger District

With an average of 34 volunteers a day for 3 weeks for a total of over 4,500 volunteer hours donated, this archeological project was a phenomenal success! Read comments from participants!

"I have always appreciated the natural beauty of our national forests, but the Passport In Time program has given me new respect for our cultural resources. It is an excellent educational program for me as a citizen and a teacher. My experiences at Keyser Farm have provided a highly motivating fascinating resource for my own elementary students."

"Thanks for the opportunity to participate in a wonderful experience that welcomes both experienced and inexperienced . It is a great site for the whole family to about the prehistory of the area. Great Experience!"

"I've met so many interesting people to share my archeological interests with. The professionals have provided patient guidance as I learned mapping, field techniques, working with features. The Keyser Farm has it all!"

"Passport In Time has provided professional and avocational archeologists the opportunity to not only work together and learn from each others experiences, but also to generate an opportunity for the interested laypersons to learn and experience life in the field. This has in turn enabled many to develop avocational career goals. It's great!!!!"

"I've really appreciated the opportunity to participate in the dig along the Shenandoah. The non-sanitized experience in archeology has taught me a lot about both the scientific method involved and history of the area."

"Keyser Farm is a great outdoor classroom. The students from Radford's Archeology Field School have had a chance to improve and diversity their archeological field methods while interacting with the diverse crowd associated with the ASU Fieldschool and the PIT program. The students have learned as much from their interactions with these folks and the Forest Service Archeologists as they have from me. " Josh Duncan, Graduate Student William & Mary & Teacher of Radford 2005 Field School

"Passport In Time brought the field experience to the text information. That experience to me was the most important to fully understand archeology."



The Forest Service Volunteer

The objective of the volunteer program, as authorized by law, is to provide a means whereby the Forest Service may legally accept and use the service of volunteers, either individuals or groups in the important conservation work of the Forest Service.

A volunteer is a non-paid person who gives his or her time and talent to further the mission of the Forest Service. Volunteers are recruited, trained, and accepted without regard to Office of Personnel Management laws, rules, or regulation, and do not have the status of a Federal employee with respect to provisions of law relating to recruitment, employment, compensation, and employee benefits. Volunteers are covered by Workmen's Compensation and protected under Title 36 against personal attack.The volunteer's health and physical condition must be sufficient to permit the use of the volunteered services without undue hazard to the volunteer or to others. Volunteers shall receive at least minimum training needed to enhance their services. Safety planning shall be a prerequisite, and training in safe practices shall be accomplished for each volunteer before and during assigned tasks. The U. S. Government is not responsible for a volunteer’s personal property if lost or stolen, even if used in the line of duty. Therefore, a volunteer should use Forest Service tools and equipment, as provided. As in most campgrounds, camping equipment left unattended is subject to theft, so a volunteer would be well advised to secure his gear as much as possible. Only persons with valid U. S. Government driver's license may operate government vehicles.  If it is determined that your services as a vehicle operator are needed, you will be tested and licensed appropriately. Volunteers normally serve on a regular basis and receive supervision in the manner of paid employees. Their conduct will be governed by the regulations governing responsibilities and conduct of paid employees.

When properly reported, the volunteer can count his time as legitimate job experience just as if it were a paid position. Certain income tax benefits may also accrue to volunteers. Obtain Publication #524, "Income Tax Deduction for Contributions" from the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Service for a complete description of federal tax deduction for volunteers. Volunteers are also provided free campsites with full hookups.