The diverse wealth of Utah’s public lands – from serene red rock deserts and frothy rivers to lush green forests and rugged mountains – draw recreation enthusiasts from around the world. Visitors are drawn to the possibility of pedaling, paddling, hiking, rock climbing, and camping in scenic, pristine landscapes.
But caring for these incredible resources is far too important a job for state and federal agencies. They rely on locals and returning visitors to volunteer and donate.
Here is a selected list of Utah’s Recreation Stewards, the primarily nonprofit organizations that provide vital educational resources and help maintain the state’s trails, waterways and open spaces. Use these resources to learn more, deepen your engagement, and give back to the communities and places where you recreate yourself.
Weeds and wild flowers
Millcreek, Big, and Little Cottonwood Canyons – collectively referred to as the Three Canyons Area – are one of the most visited parts of U.S. Forest Service land in the country. These canyons, located a stone’s throw from the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, are also teeming with fragile ecosystems and provide drinking water to hundreds of thousands of people. (Read: “How to visit Utah’s most visited forest.”)
The Cottonwood Canyons Foundation works with the USFS and the four three canyon ski resorts – Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude – to build and maintain trails and provide education in canyon ecosystems. They also present the Wasatch Wildflower Festival, which takes place every year in mid-July. Volunteer opportunities: removing invasive weeds, creating trails and wildflower tours. (Read: “Things to do: Wildflowers.”)
Trails this way
In 2012, Park City was named the world’s first Gold Ride Center by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) – and if you’ve ever done the region’s 500 plus miles of singletrack, you’ll understand why. This feat (shared by just five other localities in the world) is in part due to the Mountain Trails Foundation, a nonprofit organization run by its members and dedicated to the construction, maintenance and protection of trails for non-motorized use all year round. (Read: “7 Must-See Mountain Bike Trails In Utah.”)
The foundation organizes running and mountain biking events throughout the year. Volunteering opportunities: work events or being an MTF ambassador. Other Utah trail stewards who need volunteers include: Trails Foundation of Northern Utah, Corner Canyon Trails Foundation, South Summit Trails Foundation, Wasatch Trails Foundation, and Grand County Trail Mix Committee.
Adopt your own pic
Whether you prefer the world-class crack climbing of Indian Creek, the traditional granite roads of Little Cottonwood Canyon, or the sport climbing mecca of High Uintas Wilderness, if you’ve been rock climbing in Utah , you have benefited from the efforts of the Salt Lake Climber’s Alliance (SLCA) or the Southern Utah Climber’s Alliance (SUCA). Both organizations work with land managers to keep climbing areas open and accessible, while educating their climbing communities through annual events. (SLCA’s Climbing Festival is late August; SUCA’s Craggin ‘Classic is late October.) Volunteer Opportunities: Adopt-a-Crag and trail building. (Read: “Utah’s best for rock climbing and bouldering.”)
Bad weather avalanche season
While 15 ski and snowboard resorts dot Utah’s mountains, more of the state’s mountainous terrain is open to cross-country skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers. But getting out on avalanche-prone terrain (slopes over 30 degrees) requires preparation and knowledge, which is where the Utah Avalanche Center (UAC) comes in. eight mountain areas across the state. The center holds several workshops and classes throughout the fall and winter, including its popular annual fundraiser in mid-September. Volunteering opportunities: submit an observation on its crowdsourcing platform. (Read: ‘Why should you hire a backcountry guide.’)
Saving Utah Rock Writing
The mission of the Utah Public Archeology Network (UPAN) is to protect archaeological sites in Utah. (The interactive map of the state’s archaeological sites can be viewed here.) UPAN partners with federal and state agencies, as well as nonprofits, such as Friends of Cedar Mesa and Utah Rock Art Research Association, to provide educational programs aimed at stopping vandalism. Volunteering opportunities: The state’s innovative cultural site stewardship program, launched in May 2021, offers training workshops and then pairs volunteers with their own site to monitor (they even have their own app for site reporting. ). (For more, listen to the Utah History Division’s Speak Your Piece podcast.)
Fall in love with wild nature
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) has worked to protect the wilderness areas of Utah, along the Colorado Plateau and elsewhere, since 1983. SUWA is known for its administrative and legislative advocacy, but its stewardship programs in the field are also valuable. Annual projects include the installation of signage, trail maintenance, remediation of unauthorized land and much more. Volunteer Opportunities: Multi-day field stewardship projects that meet a variety of fitness levels.
Water your volunteer work
While Utah’s mountains and deserts are known and loved around the world, this diverse state also boasts hundreds of waterways that are not only coveted places for paddling, fishing, and floating, but also serve vital habitat for wildlife, irrigation for agriculture and drinking water. Since 1994, the Utah Rivers Council has advocated for the rivers and streams of Utah, at the legislative level and through practical programs. Volunteer opportunities: waterway cleaning and advocacy. (Read: “In Search of Yellowstone’s Cutthroat” and “Trophy Trout’s Most Scenic Destination.”)
Read more responsible recreation tips and stories to keep Utah Forever Mighty at visitutah.com/forever.