Volunteer at National Parks

Getting Started

The kinds of volunteer opportunities you'll find at national parks are almost endless, from assisting at visitor centers to clean-up projects to scientific research – and that's just scratching the surface.

Some positions require certain expertise or experience, while others just ask that you have a willingness to give of yourself. No matter what you're interested in, you can find a volunteer opportunity that speaks to you. Here's how to get started with your search.

Think about where you want to volunteer.

There are 59 national parks in the U.S., and they’re located all over the country – even in Alaska and Hawaii. Start your search by checking out a map of all the parks, and identify a few you’re interested in.

Visit the websites of the parks you've picked out.

Take a look at the services and activities they offer, and be sure to get an idea of their unique wildlife, scenery, and terrain. It's worth giving their social media channels a follow, too.

Check out Volunteer.gov for the most current information about open positions.

At Volunteer.gov, you can browse all available national parks opportunities at once, or search by park name. You can also search by state, park name, type of work, amenities provided, and keywords.

Look for partner agencies that assist national parks with coordinating volunteer work.

Some programs even offer their own volunteer opportunities, which can be different from what you'll find on parks' websites.

Benefits of Volunteering

Whether you have a few hours, a few days, or a few months to give, there are plenty of perks that go along with volunteering at our national parks – including some you might not have expected.

Help Sustain the National Park Service

Help Sustain the
National Park Service

340,000+ people volunteered their time with the National Park Service in 2016. By comparison, there only are around 20,000 full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees in the NPS system. Our national parks rely on volunteers!

Broaden Your Horizons

Broaden Your Horizons

Do something you’ve never done before, or go somewhere you’ve never been. Or, capitalize on skills or knowledge you already have. Either way, you’ll learn some new things about yourself in the process.

See the Best of America

See the Best of America

Our national parks preserve some of our country’s greatest natural treasures, set aside for anyone to visit, any time they want. Past generations have been inspired and moved by the same landscapes that will one day speak to future generations.

Earn a Volunteer Pass

Earn a Volunteer Pass

Volunteer for more than 250 hours, and you’ll qualify for a Volunteer Pass, which lets you visit all 59 national parks (and other qualifying spots) for one year without paying the entrance fee. You can accrue your 250 hours over any amount of time – they don’t expire.

Meet New People

Meet New People

National parks attract visitors and volunteers from near and far. You’re as likely to meet someone who lives near the park as you are to meet someone from across the country, or even the world. And you’ll get to serve alongside a diverse group of people who are interested in the same things as you.

Be a Healthier You

Be a Healthier You

Study after study shows that going outside is good for both your physical and mental health. Being outdoors has been shown to reduce stress, improve concentration, and make you feel happier.

Choosing Your Park

We've picked some of the most-visited national parks in the country to give you an idea of their annual volunteer needs and the types of opportunities they offer. Keep in mind that these are only a few examples – with 59 national parks to choose from, you'll find so many more kinds of volunteer positions and needs. And don't forget to check out park partner agencies' websites to discover even more ways you can give back.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Location: North Carolina and Tennessee

Number of visitors in 2016: 11,312,786

Number of volunteers in 2014: 2,560

At Great Smoky Mountains National Park, volunteers help with all kinds of needs. You could assist with special events, host cultural demonstrations, become a campground host, participate in adopt-a-trail programs, monitor wildlife populations, and so much more. Opportunites are available for both individuals and groups, and lots of positions don’t require any special experience or training. The park also has an artist-in-residence program.

Visit Park Volunteer PageVisit Partner Agency

Yosemite National Park

Location: California

Number of visitors in 2016: 5,028,868

Number of volunteers in 2015: 10,600

Yosemite National Park offers individual, group, and event-based or drop-in volunteer opportunities. Volunteers at Yosemite help out in a variety of ways, from assisting at the visitor centers and building trails to studying wildlife populations and planting or tending vegetation. Special events and drop-in days are hosted throughout the year, giving short-term visitors a chance to make an impact, too.

Visit Park Volunteer PageVisit Partner Agency

Rocky Mountain National Park

Location: Colorado

Number of visitors in 2016: 4,517,585

Number of volunteers in 2015: 2,200

Volunteers at Rocky Mountain National Park can help with just about everything. Work in the visitor centers, assist with research, host a campsite, help with fire prevention, and more. There are opportunities for all skill and experience levels. Groups are welcome, and they’re often asked to help with one-day projects in the summer. If you’ll only be in the park for a day, check out drop-in opportunities, which typically last about an hour.

Visit Park Volunteer PageVisit Partner Agency

Yellowstone National Park

Location: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming

Number of visitors in 2016: 4,257,177

Number of volunteers in 2017: 2,691

Whether you have specialized knowledge and skills or just want to spend your time helping out, there are opportunities for you at Yellowstone, America’s very first national park. Help with visitor services in visitor centers. Contribute to the preservation and protection of the park’s natural resources. Serve as a campground host. During the summer, volunteer opportunities are nearly endless.

Visit Park Volunteer PageVisit Partner Agency

Olympic National Park

Location: Washington

Number of visitors in 2016: 3,390,221

Number of volunteers annually: 970

Olympic National Park offers general and specialized volunteer opportunities, so anyone who’s interested can find a way to give back. Help with coastal cleanups, become a campground host, monitor the local marmot population, adopt a trail, assist with upkeep at the visitor center, work to restore and protect native plants, and more. Long-term volunteer assignments are available, and group projects are welcome with advance planning.

Visit Park Volunteer PageVisit Partner Agency

Acadia National Park

Location: Maine

Number of visitors in 2016: 3,303,393

Number of volunteers in 2017: 3,056

In addition to an artist-in-residence program and special annual events, Acadia National Park offers lots of individual and group volunteer opportunities. You can work at the welcome center, and assist with maintenance and clean-up at campgrounds, roads, and shorelines. Clerical positions are also available. Volunteers who can give a month or more of their time are preferred, but shorter-term opportunities exist as well.

Visit Park Volunteer PageVisit Partner Agency

What to Expect

 Varying levels of information

Some parks' websites offer a thorough overview of their volunteer positions, while others don't tell you much at all. And some information isn't current. Don't be discouraged! Call or email a park directly to find the information you're looking for, and check Volunteer.gov for the latest listings.

Short-term/drop-in opportunities

Many of the national parks offer lots of short-term options for volunteering, so even if you'll only be there for a day or two, you can still make a difference. Volunteer on a drop-in basis, or check out special volunteering events. Contact parks directly to find the best opportunities for your visit.

 Long-term/live-in opportunities

If you have lots of time to commit, search for volunteer positions that let you live in a park: some parks offer long-term volunteers their own housing. Minimum time commitments are often required, and these positions are often the most limited, so start your search early and apply as soon as possible.

 RV campground opportunities

Have your own RV? Seek out parks with RV campgrounds. Many of these parks need volunteers to serve as campground hosts, assist visitors, help with campground upkeep, and act as liaisons to park rangers and other employees. Needs differ from park to park, so contact parks of interest directly.

 Internship opportunities

Volunteer internships can help you build professional experience at the same time you're making an impact. The lengths vary from park to park - some are around 30 days, while others can last 6 months. Check with individual parks or visit Volunteer.gov to see what opportunities are available.

Trial and error

Maybe you work on a drop-in clean-up project and realize you'd rather be talking with people at the visitor centers. Or maybe you sign up to monitor wildlife and find yourself wishing you were improving the trails instead. It may take a couple of tries to find the projects that really speak to you. Our advice? Keep trying until you get there.

Thor Industries provides this information for entertainment and inspiration. Things may have changed since we posted this. Thor Industries is not affiliated with, endorsed by, or paid by any of the state parks, places, brands, merchants, attractions, organizations, or websites mentioned in this post. Participation as a volunteer is at your own risk and Thor Industries will not be liable for injuries or damages sustained. You should check ahead of your trip to confirm availability, hours of operation, pricing, and the like. Safe travels!

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