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Volunteer Wilderness Rangers (VWRs) have 2 roles. They serve as: 


     Both go through the same training program and pursue the same objectives. In both of these roles, they are official representatives of the United States Forest Service, meeting the public and encouraging them to follow Leave No Trace principles. The difference is mobility: as Trailhead Hosts they are stationed at a trailhead, while as Patrollers they hike the trails. On any given day, a VWR can choose to play either role, or even do both - spending time alternately as Patroller and Trailhead Host. The credit is the same, as is the value to the Wilderness. VWRs record information about hikers and trailhead/trail conditions, and submit a report at the end of the day.


Sign In

(Trail Patrol &

Trailhead Host)

Sign Out  


Trail Patrol &

Trailhead Host)


VWR PATROLLERS: What do they do?

VWR Patrollers hike Wilderness trails, usually covering 4 or more miles in a day. They meet and greet hikers, pointing them towards their destination and encouraging them to follow Leave No Trace principles. The biggest problems typically are dogs improperly leashed and hikers unsure of a route. In addition, VWRs may help clear the trail, pick up trash, and, if they get to a lake, obliterate campfire rings and campsites too close to water.

VWR TRAILHEAD HOSTS: What do they do?

TrailHead Hosts set up a station at the trailhead, comprising a table, banner, and small sandwich board, provided by ESWA. They encounter virtually everyone heading into and returning from the Wilderness. Their detailed maps are popular with hikers, who often fail to appreciate that Wilderness signage is deliberately minimized, and never displays mileages, the better to keep Wilderness wild.


Can I volunteer for both roles? Yes! Training Day will prepare you for both roles, and you are free to choose to pursue either one - or both - on any given day. Some people spend time at the trailhead and time on the trail in a kind of hybrid day, often partnering with another VWR. We encourage all VWRs to work in pairs if they can.


Can I take a friend with me, even if not a certified ranger? Yes! Non-VWRs are welcome to accompany a VWR.


Can I bring my dog? No, never. And if you bring a friend, they can't bring a dog, either.

Am I assigned to a particular day or trail? No. When you sign up for each Trail Patrol or TrailHead Host session, you can choose your own date and trail from an extensive list of trails, each of which leads into a Wilderness Area that ESWA helps look after. 

Do we have to write tickets?  I’d hate to do that!! Not to worry, even though VWRs represent the US Forest Service, we cannot write tickets. We have no real authority, beyond the power of friendly persuasion. We pack deet, not heat.

How many hours do I have to commit to? VWRs commit to at least 4 outings per season (through mid-October) on trails leading into the Wilderness. Each TrailHead Host session (3 or more hours) and Trail Patrol or Hybrid (4 or more hours) counts as one outing. 

 Do VWRs educate? Yes, indeed. VWRs educate hikers regarding Wilderness natural history (flora, fauna, terrain), rules and regulations, "Leave No Trace" wilderness ethics, the danger of falling trees, what to do when encountering potentially dangerous wildlife such as moose, bears, mountain lions and mountain goats, where campsites and campfires are allowed and not allowed, and why dogs should be kept on a leash. 

• Do VWRs pass out swag? Yes. Each VWR is provided with a kit containing educational literature, including Leave No Trace cards, Wilderness regulation cards, dog control cards, and ESWA information. They also pack dog poop bags and leashes, and "wag bags" (for human waste disposal) for backpackers who commit to using them.

• Do VWRs promote ESWA and its programs? Yes! VWRs inform interested hikers about Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance (ESWA), how and why we help the Forest Service and provide them with information on how to get involved with us if they wish to do so.

 Do VWRs advocate for environmental or political causes? No. VWRs wear the same patch on their left sleeve that real Forest Service employees wear, and thus, in accordance with federal regulations, are not allowed to advocate for environmental or other causes while in uniform.

 Do VWRs keep a record of their activities? Yes. VWRs record the number of hikers and backpackers encountered (and group sizes) and number of dogs on & off leash. Trail patrollers also assess trail conditions, count trees across the trail, estimate miles hiked, and assess campsite conditions (including campfire rings).

• Do VWRs file reports? Yes, at end of the day, VWRs file a report, which enables ESWA to calculate, among other things, the number of Wilderness visitors encountered, miles hiked and hours on the job of our VWRs, and trail and campsite work that they perform. We also solicit novel, fun, scary, or weird encounters with people or animals. ​​​



Download the VWR Training & Resource Manual HERE  (pdf - 1.4MB)


The Leave No Trace principles in 7 words.

Click HERE

Introductory VWR Training videos HERE

NOTE: The 2024 training for new VWRs will be held on June 1 from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm at the Eagles Nest HOA Pavilion just north of Silverthorne


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