How to Volunteer at State Parks
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.
Check out parks within driving distance.
But you don’t have to limit your search to your own state: if you live near a state line, you’re probably close to parks in your neighboring state, too. You can start your search at the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD) website.
Visit state park systems’ websites.
The NASPD Find A Park map will take you directly to the park system website for each state. Sites are set up differently, but all have volunteer information available. If you don't see it, you can always enter "volunteer" into the site's search bar.
Look for special events or day-long volunteer opportunities.
If you have limited time but still want to make a difference, these allow you to drop in and help out without making a big commitment.
Get together with a group of friends, family members, or coworkers.
Lots of state parks can use help from groups to accomplish bigger projects in a shorter amount of time. Plus, you’ll be making memories at the same time you make a difference.
Benefits of Volunteering
Choosing Your Park
Franconia Notch State Park
Location: New Hampshire
Region: New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont)
With a bike path, a beach, an aerial tramway, fly fishing, awesome hiking and more, Franconia Notch State Park is a popular destination. Many volunteer opportunities at Franconia Notch are organized by a partner agency, the Appalachian Mountain Club. You’ll want to fill out an application to volunteer on the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation’s website, too.Visit Park Website
Ohiopyle State Park
Region: Mid-Atlantic (New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania)
Attracting millions of visitors each year, Ohiopyle State Park features waterfalls, whitewater boating, hiking, rock climbing and more. Search for volunteer opportunities at the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website, check out the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, or contact the Friends of Ohiopyle.Visit Park Website
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Region: East North Central (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin)
The largest state park in Michigan, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – affectionately known as the “Porkies” – is located on the shore of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula. With nearly 60,000 acres of untouched wilderness, it offers a true get-away-from-it-all experience. Look for volunteer opportunities at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website, or contact Friends of the Porkies.Visit Park Website
Custer State Park
Location: South Dakota
Region: West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota)
Nearly 1,300 bison roam freely through Custer State Park, South Dakota’s first and largest state park. Visitors also enjoy scenic drives with amazing views (especially the granite spires), hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, an annual buffalo roundup and more. Browse open volunteer positions at the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks website.Visit Park Volunteer Page
Hunting Island State Park
Location: South Carolina
Region: South Atlantic (Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, District of Columbia, and West Virginia)
Hunting Island State Park, situated on five miles of beachfront, is the most visited park in South Carolina. Visitors can camp, swim, hike, fish, boat, play volleyball on the beach, go geocaching, and take advantage of biking and equestrian trails. Learn how to volunteer at the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism website, or get in touch with Friends of Hunting Island State Park.Visit Park Website
Fall Creek Falls State Park
Region: East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee)
This state park is home to several gorgeous waterfalls, including its namesake, the 256-foot Fall Creek Falls – one of the highest in the eastern U.S. But it also draws visitors with its nature center, golf course, hiking trails, treetop obstacle course and more. View volunteer listings at the Tennessee State Parks website, or contact Friends of Fall Creek Falls State Park.Visit Park Website
Garner State Park
Region: West South Central (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas)
Garner State Park’s location on the Frio River makes it ideal for swimming, paddle boating, canoeing, fishing, and float trips. Visitors can also hike, geocache, ride bikes, play mini-golf, and camp – the park offers both cabins and campsites. And on summer evenings, it hosts Summer Dances, a tradition dating back to the 1940s. Find out more about volunteering at the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, or connect with Friends of Garner State Park.Visit Park Website
Dead Horse Point State Park
Region: Mountain (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming)
Located 2,000 feet above a bend in the Colorado River, Dead Horse Point offers miles of truly incredible views – it’s one of the most photographed places in the world – and gives this park its name. Hiking, geocaching, stargazing, camping, and mountain biking are some of the park’s most popular activities. Get details about volunteering and view open positions at the Utah State Parks website.Visit Park Website
Cape Lookout State Park
Region: Pacific (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington)
Campsites, deluxe cabins, and even yurts await visitors at Cape Lookout State Park, a popular spot for both day visits and overnight stays. The park, located in a coastal forest on a sand split, offers beautiful ocean views, miles of hiking and walking trails, and easy beach access. Find out more and browse volunteer openings at the Oregon State Parks website.Visit Park Website
What to Expect
RV campground hosting gigs
If you own an RV, look for state parks with RV campgrounds. These parks often seek out volunteers to act as campground hosts, who help visitors get settled in, answer questions, assist with campground maintenance, and more – all while living in your RV.
Live in a state with warm temps year-round? There’s practically no limit to the volunteer opportunities you’ll find, no matter when you’re looking. In colder-weather states, you may have fewer positions to choose from in the winter, so plan on scheduling most of your volunteer time while it’s still warm out.
A little bit of legwork
Not every state park's website will have every detail about how to volunteer. You may need to contact parks directly, via phone or email, to find out what opportunities are available and how you can apply. Don't be discouraged - it's just a little extra effort, and it's worth it!
Connecting with partner agencies
You'll notice that many state parks have partner agencies - often "friends of" groups - that help coordinate volunteer activities. Try contacting these partner organizations for more information about volunteering, especially if you're having trouble finding the right opportunity.
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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