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This Summer: Volunteer on the Mountain Loop Highway

Posted by Anna Roth at Jun 22, 2022 10:38 AM |

Spread knowledge about Leave No Trace and responsible recreation by volunteering as a trailhead ambassador on the Mountain Loop Highway this summer.

This summer, Glacier Peak Institute (GPI), in collaboration with the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and Washington Trails Association (WTA) are leading a pilot volunteer trailhead ambassador program at Barlow Pass as part of WTA's Trails Rebooted efforts on the Mountain Loop Highway. Now, we're looking for volunteers who want to spread knowledge about Leave No Trace and responsible recreation on the Mountain Loop Highway.

Hikers head down the trail to Monte Cristo, passing the turnoff to Gothic Basin. Photo by doristheexplorist.
Hikers head down the trail towards the Monte Cristo Ghost Town, passing the turnoff for the trail to Gothic Basin, all destinations accessible from Barlow Pass. Photo by doristheexplorist.

Be the change you wish to see - Volunteer!

If you are a friendly, professional and outgoing person who enjoys helping others and possesses knowledge of best practices for hiking in Washington, join the volunteer team! The pilot program begins July 4th weekend and will conclude after Labor Day weekend. Volunteers will be present — in pairs — at Barlow Pass on weekends, when the area sees the most visitor traffic.

Volunteers will answer hiking-related questions, promote responsible stewardship ethics, communicate about trail conditions, and offer alternate hike information if needed.

Why Barlow Pass? Because it appeals to people seeking a wide variety of recreation experiences. People visit the area for a low-key road walk to Monte Cristo Ghost Town, a moderate hike to Barlow Point, or a steeper and more challenging ascent to Gothic Basin, either for the day or overnight. Climbers use the area to reach nearby summits, and bikers ride the road to Monte Cristo, so we'll have a chance to discuss biking etiquette as well as hiking.

Volunteers will take an online training and have a virtual orientation with the volunteer ambassador coordinator, Steven Colson, before their first volunteer day. To volunteer, email Steven at:

A mushroom and bike rack in the Monte Cristo Ghost Town. Photo by MeLuckyTarns.
A mushroom bursts from the ground in front of the bike rack at Monte Cristo. The road to this area is bikeable, meaning volunteer ambassadors this summer will have the chance to discuss bike etiquette as well as best hiking practices at this trailhead. Photo by MeLuckyTarns.


In a 2020 survey of residents and recreators on the Mountain Loop, a top concern for the area was increased human impact on the landscape. One way to counter that impact is by spreading awareness of how to hike responsibly, leaving trails as good or better than you find them. Outreach programs to educate hikers about  responsible recreation principles and Leave No Trace practices are key to achieving this.

In-person, on-the-ground ambassador programs exist in other parts of Washington, including the Columbia River Gorge thanks to Trailkeepers of Oregon, where they've found that chatting with hikers before they head out helps remind folks about the role they play on-trail, and how they can make a difference on the landscape and in other hikers' days.

Last summer WTA had on-the-ground volunteer ambassadors doing outreach and surveys in Gothic Basin. This year, thanks to a grant from the National Forest Foundation, Glacier Peak Institute (an environmental nonprofit based in Darrington) was able to hire a volunteer coordinator to build out a pilot volunteer trailhead ambassador program with help from WTA.


Muledeer on This Summer: Volunteer on the Mountain Loop Highway

Is this a commitment for every weekend during the summer?

Posted by:

Muledeer on Jun 24, 2022 01:18 PM

Washington Trails Association on This Summer: Volunteer on the Mountain Loop Highway

Good question - you do not have to commit to every weekend. Each volunteer is asked to commit to just one day of the summer. If you can do multiple days, that is great and we'd love to have you as much as you can join.

Posted by:

Washington Trails Association on Jun 27, 2022 09:19 AM

MeLuckyTarns on This Summer: Volunteer on the Mountain Loop Highway

Oh, I'm so down to volunteer! Cool to see one of my pics made it into the article! That was a fun trip to Twin Lakes.

Posted by:

MeLuckyTarns on Jun 27, 2022 10:41 PM