: Wanderlust Tours

Guide to Volunteering in Oregon

On every visit, find a way to leave the place better than you found it.
March 16, 2020 (Updated January 20, 2023)

Here in Oregon, stewardship is one of our core values. Whether it’s caring for the land, protecting local wildlife or supporting our neighbors and communities, giving back is something we do far beyond Earth Day. 

It’s easy to keep that feeling of goodwill going by combining your vacation with a volunteer opportunity. Here are several ways to give your time and help keep Oregon truly special.

Join an all-inclusive ‘regenerative travel’ trip

Regenerative travel means to leave a space better than you found it, and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing with organizations like First Nature Tours, Global Family Travels, Cascade Volunteers, Wanderlust Tours, Go Wild USA and others.

These and many other organizations offer opportunities throughout the year. Check their websites and social media pages for updates, and sign up for their newsletters to be the first to hear about upcoming events.


Help your neighbors

Healthy individuals may donate blood to the American Red Cross. Help older Americans receive food by donating money or volunteering to deliver through your local Meals On Wheels chapter. The Oregon Food Bank is asking for donations and encouraging people under the age of 60 to volunteer for individual shifts. Check with churches, county food banks and school districts in your area to see if they need an extra hand in distributing food to those in need. Purchase gift cards online for your favorite restaurants to help small business owners thrive. 

For those wanting to help the social justice movement on a local level, consider volunteering your time with the Urban League of Portland, the Portland Branch of the NAACP and the Black United Fund of Oregon or making a charitable donation to community advocacy groups. Other service-based organizations with volunteer opportunities include: Camp ELSO, which uses nature to introduce children to STEAM principles; Black Futures Farm, part of the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition; and Feed the Mass, providing free meals to Portland communities.

Kids collecting trash at the beach
SOLVE organizes various beach and river cleanup days throughout the year where volunteers can help pick up 50,000 pounds of trash in a single day. (Photo by SOLVE)

If You Have a Day

Clean up a beach

If you plan to enjoy any of Oregon’s 363 miles of Pacific coastline, why not help keep it trash-free? SOLVE organizes numerous events across the state each year including its annual spring and fall cleanups, when about thousands of volunteers typically remove tens of thousands of pounds of trash in one day. The Nature Conservancy also hosts cleanup days along waterways and in nature areas around the state.

Clean up a cave

Caves need cleaning, too … really. Don a helmet and headlamp and join Wanderlust Tours for a yearly lava tube cleanup and periodic graffiti cleanups along China Hat Road southeast of Bend. Work typically focuses on the area around cave mouths but sometimes includes the inside of caves, so dress in layers. Other opportunities in Central Oregon include Smith Rock State Park cleanup days, Central Oregon Trail Alliance work parties, Deschutes Land Trust projects and Deschutes River Cleanup day. 

Educate beachgoers

Need more flexibility? Consider volunteering a day for the Haystack Rock Awareness Program in Cannon Beach. There’s no experience necessary. Volunteers receive instruction on how to educate visitors about responsible ways to enjoy Haystack Rock and its surrounding tide pools. For more on protecting Oregon’s marine reserves, click here.

Two elderly people riding in a golf cart collecting trash
Spend time helping to clean up a part of the beautiful state. When you care and contribute to the place that you’re visiting, your time is ultimately more meaningful and memorable. (Photo by Oregon State Parks)

If You Have a Week

Work on a farm

Not afraid to get your hands dirty? Then WWOOFing may be for you. WWOOF — Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms — brings together volunteers and owners of organic farms and gardens for an educational and cultural exchange. About 125 farms across the state participate, raising everything from hazelnuts to marionberries to alpacas. Volunteers agree to work four to six hours each day; guests typically stay for five days. In return, volunteers receive free meals and accommodations. By working only half days, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the small towns and natural attractions in Oregon’s countryside. Some farms even allow children, so the entire family can experience life on the farm, getting a firsthand look at the food-to-table process. To become a WWOOF volunteer, you’ll need to sign up online and pay a yearly membership fee.

Family helping out on a farm collecting carrots
Volunteers get to experience a farm stay with WWOOF and guest typically get free meals and accommodations by working on the farm several hours a day. (Photo by Quackenbush Farms)

If You Have a Month or More

Serve as host

We can’t think of a better place to spend a month than one of Oregon’s 256 state parks. If you’re an RVer, you can volunteer as a campground host for a minimum of 30 days in exchange for a free stay and an annual state park pass. Park hosts work 20 hours per week, welcoming fellow campers, answering questions and supporting the park service — all in some of the most pristine natural settings in the country. In addition to campground hosting, there are opportunities to volunteer as a visitor center, day-use area, interpretative and kayak host.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has a similar but lesser-known program. RVers enjoy a free stay in return for work at one of 45 fish hatcheries, wildlife areas or district offices across the state. Job assignments vary from helping with fish spawning and feeding to placing nesting boxes and banding birds to greeting visitors and leading tours. You’ll be left with plenty of time to enjoy some of these more remote, less-visited but equally scenic areas of the state. Plus, you’ll have an inside track on the best angling spots to catch dinner.

About The

Shellie Bailey-Shah
Shellie Bailey-Shah is travel writer who has the distinction of having visited all seven continents, but she favors her home state of Oregon. She lives with her husband and sons in Portland and has logged thousands of miles behind the wheel of the family's RV.

Trip Ideas