: OTT Alliance

Do Good While You Have Fun Outside in Oregon

Channel your passion for the outdoors into a project that gives back to the land.
July 21, 2021 (Updated January 20, 2023)

Often our biggest sense of well-being comes from doing good for others. That’s especially easy to do in Oregon, where you can translate your passion for the forest, the rivers, the shoreline or the mountains into an hour, an afternoon or a weekend of giving back to your public lands. In fact, there’s a buzzword for it — “regenerative travel” — which simply means leaving a place better than you found it while you’re off adventuring. No matter your favorite way to enjoy the outdoors, here are several opportunities across the state that bring plenty of warm and fuzzy rewards and leave Oregon’s communities better at the same time.

A group rafting give high-fives with their paddles
Rafting on a McKenzie Regenerative Travel trip (Photo by Josh Williams / Eugene, Cascades & Coast)

Book an All-Inclusive Restoration Weekend With River Rewards

The workload is for moderate to advanced skill level volunteers only, but the payoff — hot springs, whitewater rafting, mountain biking and lounging at riverside cottages — is a sweet reward. Organizations like First Nature Tours, Global Family Travels, Cascade Volunteers, Wanderlust Tours, Go Wild USA and more offer all-inclusive adventures that combine group outdoor volunteer work with plenty of rewards like campfires, s’mores, stargazing, gourmet food and beverages and all gear and equipment needed. Not to mention the bonds you’ll make with the people on your trip.

Check organizations’ websites and social media pages to stay posted on opportunities throughout the year, and sign up for their newsletters to be the first to hear about upcoming events.

A person works on a biking trail
Mountain bike trail work (Photo courtesy of the Oregon Timber Trail Alliance)

Combine Trail Work With a Camping Adventure

Hundreds of bikepackers each year cycle a section of the Oregon Timber Trail, the epic 669-mile backcountry trail stretching from Oregon’s southern border to its northern border and divided into four distinct tiers: Fremont, Willamette, Deschutes and Hood. Parts of the trail were heavily impacted by recent wildfires, and the Oregon Timber Trail Alliance has been hosting work parties in past  years to tackle much-needed restoration work. Look for project signups partner with groups like Alpine Running, the Salem Area Trail Alliance and the Willamette National Forest for trail work — no experience needed. Look for more opportunities on the Oregon Timber Trail’s event calendar. 

Be a Hiking Scout or a Trail Ambassador

If you’ve ever spotted a downed tree, a mud bog or overgrown brush on a hiking trail and wished you could let someone know to fix it, that’s exactly what you’d be doing as a volunteer scout for Trailkeepers of Oregon. Interested volunteers can take a quick online Scout School tutorial about what hazards to look out for and how to report them. Then Trailkeepers will work with their crews of volunteers to get those neglected areas back into shape. If you’re outgoing and have knowledge of trails on the North Coast or Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge area, you may be a perfect fit for the Trailkeepers of Oregon Trail Ambassador program. These volunteers engage with visitors directly about safety, ethical use of public lands and Take Care Out There practices, as well as sharing opportunities to engage with local communities. Sign up now for the online training course. 

A purple sea star
Tidepool (Photo by Nickie Bournias)

Keep the Coast Beautiful

Ever find yourself picking up litter on the otherwise pristine shoreline of the Oregon Coast? You can sign up to be part of an organized cleanup through local organizations like Surfrider Foundation and SOLVE, which strive to keep plastic debris out of the ocean for the health of local wildlife and the ecosystem. If you’re interested in teaching others how to care for the coastal environment, consider becoming a Tidepool Ambassador at Cape Falcon or Cape Perpetua. You can also be a volunteer interpreter with the Haystack Rock Awareness Program, educating visitors about the amazing marine and bird life at Cannon Beach’s most iconic destination — no experience necessary. 

Are you a budding citizen scientist? Consider joining CoastWatch, a citizen monitoring program through Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition that engages Oregonians in stewardship over their shoreline. The organization holds free events like the marine debris survey training at Fort Stevens State Park in the summer to learn how to collect data that will help evaluate the impacts of marine debris along Oregon’s coastline.

About The

Jen Anderson
Jen Anderson is a longtime journalist and travel writer/editor who is now Travel Oregon’s Content & Community Manager, helping to align content for visitors via social media, print and web. She’s called Oregon home for 25 years and loves finding the latest places to eat, drink and play around the state with her husband and two boys. Brewpubs, beaches and bike trails top the list.

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