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Backcountry Trails Program

2009 Kings Canyon Crew.  Photo by David Muraki.


For this program only: you do NOT need to be a Calif. resident.

 The Backcountry Trails Program is now accepting application packets. Click on the "How to Apply" menu below.

Please email us at if you have any other questions.  Thank you for your interest.

The Backcountry Trails Program was established in 1979, as a special program within the California Conservation Corps, the oldest and largest conservation corps program in the world. The Backcountry Trails Program is also part of AmeriCorps and thus our members are part of a national service movement that focuses on environmental conservation.

A proud tradition of excellence and conservation has been forged by the many members who have played a vital role helping to build, maintain and repair trails in some of California's most magnificent wilderness areas.

Each spring, the Backcountry Trails Program assembles six crews of men and women, from widely diverse backgrounds, who leave behind the conveniences and luxuries of modern life and venture into the mountains to spend five exhausting months doing some of the most challenging and ultimately rewarding work of their lives. The members who comprise each of these crews learn through experience the skills of trail maintenance, construction, and the process of building healthy productive communities.

The Backcountry Trails Program is dedicated to preserving our remaining wilderness areas, making them safer and more accessible to the public through hard work and national service.

We are committed to building strong functional communities based on respect, sobriety, cooperation, and the tireless effort of each member.

The Backcountry experience is credited by most of its participants to be the most challenging and rewarding endeavor of their lives. It is a 5+ month commitment to intense work in miserable living conditions for minimal pay. Make no mistake - THIS IS NOT A PAID VACATION.

Participants are offered an intense adventure with unique learning experiences in a truly spectacular environment. Those who complete the program will leave with renewed vigor, optimal fitness, augmented work ethic, and will be better able to live and work cooperatively with others.

Highly regarded in the National Park Service, Forest Service and trails community, the Backcountry program has also offered a path for those interested in pursuing jobs and careers in such fields. Over 600 former Backcountry Trail corpsmembers have been hired to work in Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, various State Parks and other parks & forests.

It is not a prerequisite that you know how to do trail work or that you are exceptionally strong. It is essential that you are willing to work very hard, safely, with minimal direct supervision, and produce quality work.

Backcountry Trails Program (BCTP) corpsmembers spend 5+ months based at remote wilderness locations throughout California, perform physically demanding manual labor in a variety of intense conditions, and live as an active part of a tight-knit and diverse community.  In addition to trail work, corpsmembers participate in regular camp chores, position-related trainings, physical training, daily curriculum and education, environmental awareness, cooperative living skills and exploration of surrounding wilderness areas.

Past Backcountry Corpsmembers cite the following as the three essential ingredients for success:

1.         Enthusiasm for hard work
2.         Ability to get along and work cooperatively with others
3.         Desire, Self-Motivation
Essential Functions:
  • Perform Trail Work (30%):  Corpsmembers are required to safely perform extremely physically demanding and repetitive trail work 40+ hours a week for 5.5 months.  This work consists of trail maintenance and/or trail construction.  Trail maintenance consists of brushing and/or logging trails, cleaning trail drainages, trail tread repair, and environmental rehabilitation.  Trail construction consists of building new trail, repairing damaged trail, building stone and/or wood structures designed to mitigate soil erosion and/or stabilize trail.  Trail work requires the following tasks:  hiking 3-20 miles daily at a minimum of 3m.p.h. over steep, rugged terrain while carrying 40-60lbs;  safe and proper use and maintenance of a variety of hand and power tools associated with trail work; use of tools weighing up to 20lbs; moving objects weighing 50-1,000lbs; working with and around stock animals; attending and participating in work trainings, daily safety meetings and job hazard analyses; and follow all rules, policies and guidelines set forth by the BC Trails Program and land management agencies pertaining to the performance of the above. 


  • Engage in Crew Community Development and Personal Development (30%):  Corpsmembers are required to perform the following tasks:  actively participate in the development of a safe, inclusive, well-functioning crew community; participate fully in the program curriculum, community meetings and activities designed to facilitate crew and personal development; write in a personal journal daily; engage in activities designed for personal reflection; prepare and teach one or more classes to the crew; participate in an ongoing individual development plan (IDP); and follow all rules, policies and guidelines set forth by the BC Trails Program pertaining to the performance of the above.


  • Manage and Maintain a Backcountry Camp (15%):  Corpsmembers are required to perform the following tasks on a daily/weekly basis:  set up & break down of backcountry camps; daily camp and personal chores outside of regular  hours; manage & maintain camp gear and equipment, personal gear (uniforms, backpacking gear, etc.); maintain personal hygiene and sanitation safeguards (daily bathing, laundry, etc.);  perform Kitchen Patrol duties on a rotating basis that include but are not limited to food preparation, assisting the staff cook with meals, additional camp chores, and assisting with weekly resupplies; adhere to all “Leave No Trace” wilderness ethic guidelines; and follow all rules, policies and guidelines set forth by the BC Trails Program and land management agencies pertaining to the performance of the above.

Secondary Functions:

  • Engage in Wilderness Exploration(15%):  Corpsmembers explore the surrounding wilderness areas in groups through planned backpacking trips in accordance with all rules, policies and guidelines set forth by the BC Trails Program and land management agencies.


  • Development of and Participation in Extracurricular Activities Outside of Program Curriculum (5%):  Corpsmembers are required to participate in the planning of crew events and games and participate in them as well.


  • Engage with Members of the general public as well as land management officials to develop good public relations and promote the Backcountry Trails Program (5%):  Requires representing the program in a positive and professional manner.  Work with volunteers from the public on Public Service Projects/Event.



Physical Requirements:

  • Take a physical fitness test at program orientation consisting of the following:  hiking three miles in one hour with a minimum of 40lbs of gear in your backpack, 25 push-ups in two minutes, and 50 sit-ups in four minutes.
  • Hike up to 20 miles a day at 3mph over steep, uneven, rugged terrain in adverse weather conditions while carrying 40-60lbs on your back.
  • Work and hike at elevations ranging from 2,000-14,000ft.
  • Perform the Essential Functions of the position listed above, as well as perform the activities as detailed on the BC CM Position Analysis on the BC Program Website.
Mental Requirements:
  • Follow all rules, policies and guidelines set forth by the BC Trails Program and partnering land management agencies pertaining to program participation, work performance, off-work activities, and personal conduct.
  • Understand and apply the training you receive regarding the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to safely live and function in a remote, backcountry setting.
  • Understand and apply the training you receive regarding the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to safely respond to emergency situations if they arise.
  • Understand and apply the training you receive regarding the knowledge, skills and abilities associated with performing trail work and living in the backcountry.
  • Follow complex oral and/or written instructions.
  • Understand and meet all program standards and expectations regarding the performance of all essential and secondary functions of the position and regarding personal conduct.
  • Manage time well and take care personal chores/responsibilities.  Multi-task and balance personal chores/responsibilities with work project and program requirements.
  • Prioritize and complete tasks and work projects effectively while dealing with deadlines and minimal supervision.
  • Be effective at problem solving and be adaptable to rapidly or abruptly changing circumstances or plans.
  • Listen to and engage with other crew members to facilitate teamwork and a cooperative work and living environment.
  • Communicate well with others, resolve conflicts effectively, and understand group dynamics and interpersonal relationships.
  • Fulfill all position requirements while working and living in remote, isolated backcountry setting without access to and/or being distracted by non-program related responsibilities such as pet care, storage and/or maintenance of personal belongings (furniture, cars, etc.), and financial or other personal obligations (i.e., paying rent, mortgage, bills, etc.).
Emotional Requirements:
  • Strong work ethic and high level of personal integrity.
  • Cope with and thrive in a remote, isolated backcountry setting where you are far from immediate medical services.
  • Cope with having extremely limited and infrequent personal communication with people outside of the program (friends, family, spouses/partners, etc.) and being away from home for the duration of the program.
  • Perform effectively in high pressure, stressful situations involving potentially dangerous situations and conditions in remote, wilderness settings.
  • Cope with and function well in primitive, backcountry conditions with no modern conveniences or luxuries (e.g. warm showers, personal electronics/music players, cell phones, etc.).
  • Cope with extreme physical fatigue and physical discomfort such as being wet, cold, hot, dirty, etc. and be able to maintain a positive, helpful attitude.
  • Cope with and function well in a highly social setting with up to 20 other crew/community members, and be a positive, engaged crewmember.
  • Live and work with a group of people who may be diverse in the following areas:  race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, education level, political views, work experience, life experience, financially, personal taste, maturity level and personality.
  • Maintain self-control, be disciplined, control emotions, deal with others in highly intense, stressful situations that can be emotionally charged.
  • Live, work and learn in a very regimented and strict setting with many rules and policies governing personal conduct and deal with very little personal free time and alone time.
  • Have the desire and ability to remain sober while in the program.
  • Have a desire and ability to learn and grow in an environment of constructive criticism with fellow corpsmembers and supervisors.



While in the BC Trails Program members will live and work in remote, isolated backcountry settings where you are far from immediate medical services, and where emergency communications can be limited, delayed, and contingent upon getting to a physical location to receive signal.  Personal communication with people outside of the program (friends, family, spouses/partners, etc.) is extremely limited and infrequent.  Mail is the only means of personal communication with those on the outside and it is received and delivered on an irregular basis.


Members will be exposed to the following adverse environmental conditions while living and working:  rain, snow, extreme heat (90+ degrees Fahrenheit), extreme cold (32 degrees Fahrenheit and colder), dry weather, lightning, high amounts of dust, camp and forest fire smoke, elevations ranging from 2,000-14,000ft.  Work is extremely physically demanding and requires members to hike 3-20miles daily over rugged, steep, uneven terrain while carrying 40-60lbs in their backpack at a minimum pace of 3mph.

Members will live and work around stock animals (horses and mules) and can be exposed to environmental hazards such as wildfires, avalanches, falling trees, etc. and wildlife hazards such as deer, poisonous insects and snakes, bears, mountain lions, etc.  Tools and equipment for work projects, education components, and crew camp gear and equipment will be provided, but members will be required to bring their own personal backpacking gear as listed on the Personal Equipment List.
Members will live in backcountry camps with 13-20 other people in spartan conditions.  There are no modern conveniences or luxuries (e.g. warm showers, beds, laundry machines, indoor bathrooms and plumbing, etc.).  Personal electronics such as music/video players, cell phones, etc. are not permitted while in the program.  Members will sleep in a personal tent on the ground except when performing Kitchen Patrol; they will sleep in a large kitchen tent.  Members will sometime be required to sleep in a community tent with the entire crew.  Daily bathing and adhering to other personal hygiene standards are required. All food will be provided, but members may be required to cook for their crew for long periods of time and will be required to cook for themselves on the weekend.
Members will live and work under very regimented and structured conditions with many rules and policies that regulate personal conduct, work performance, personal development.  Members will have very little personal free time and alone time to themselves throughout the season.  They will be required to follow a very strict “buddy system” at all times.
Daily work hours can vary between eight and ten hours, weekly work schedules can vary between any days of the week, and members will be required to perform tasks/chores outside of their normal project work hours as well as participate in curriculum, crew activities and events after and before project work hours.
Consequences Of Error/Responsibility For Decisions:
Errors in judgment and/or failure to comply with the safety regulations and rules/policies of the Backcountry Trails Program and partner land management agencies could lead to:  injury of individuals; damage to state or federal property; negative impact of the public opinion and reputation of the CCC, Backcountry Trails Program, and Land Management Agencies; or financial loss or penalty to the program.
Corpsmembers found in violation of the Backcountry Trails Program rules and regulations are subject to a system of disciplinary action that can lead up to and include termination from the program and/or from the CCC.

Backcountry corpsmembers will work, learn, and live alongside their crew of fellow corpsmembers under the supervision and guidance of a Backcountry Supervisor, Land Management Agency Trail Foreman, professional trail workers and backcountry cook. Corpsmembers will interact with land management employees, including but not limited to rangers, packers, professionals in other job fields as well as the general public, including volunteers, hikers and tourists.




In addition to the daily work requirements of each crew member there is an extensive curriculum that each crew will undertake during their five-month season. Participation in the curriculum is mandatory for our members and is part of the requirements to receive the AmeriCorps Education Award.  The curriculum takes the form of evening classes and training sessions. Curriculum topics include native fauna and flora identification, natural history classes, wilderness survival training, career development training, community development meetings, and health and safety meetings. Crew members are encouraged to leave camps in groups of three or more on weekends to explore the rivers, lakes, peaks, forests and canyons that surround them and have become their "backyard."

Crew members are paid a taxable, monthly stipend of $1,800. There is a Standard Maintenance Deduction of $325/month that is taken from all crew members checks for the cost of food. Both the stipend and maintenance deduction are subject to change.  Direct deposit is not available.
Health insurance is provided for all crew members during the season.
Backcountry crew members who have not already received an equivalent of two full-time AmeriCorps Education Awards will receive a $2,887.50 Education Award upon successfully completing the Backcountry Trails Program.
The Backcountry Trails Program provides all non-CCC members with safety gear (hard hat, safety glasses, gloves), three sets of uniforms, as well as rain gear. In addition to this equipment members must supply their own backpacks, sleeping bags, daypacks and other personal items as outlined in our Personal Equipment List.

In order to be eligible to join the Backcountry Trails Program individuals must meet all the below requirements:

  • Be a US Citizen, Permanent Resident, US National, or have a green card.


  • Be between the ages of 18 and 26 by the start of the program.


  • Not on probation or parole at the start of the program.


  • Be able to pass a background and drug test before being enrolled into program.


  • Pass a Pre-employment physical demonstrating you are physically able to perform the essential duties of the position.


  • Must be able start and finish on the established program dates and have no reason to leave the program barring personal and family emergencies, personal resignation, or disciplinary termination.


  • Must have a current, working e-mail address to be considered.

  • CCC corpsmembers currently in their third year in the CCC cannot have a CCC end date before September 30th.  This is because no individual can serve more than 36 total months in the CCC, including time in special programs such as the Backcountry Trails Program.
  • You do NOT need to be a California resident.

  • All members selected not only become Backcountry Trails Program crew members, but they are also considered part of the CCC and AmeriCorps and thus are subject to those program policies in addition to the Backcountry Trails Program policies.


  • All members selected may be required to perform a physical fitness test at orientation that will test their ability to complete 25 pushups in 2 minutes, 50 sit-ups in 4 minutes and a 3-mile hike within 1 hour carrying a minimum of 40 pounds of your gear.


  • Thoroughly consider your ability to deal with being isolated from your friends and family for five months with having mail as your main source of contact with the outside world.  Also, consider that there may or may not be visitors allowed on your crew.


  • The cost of the gear required and recommended for the Backcountry Trails Program generally runs at least $500 to $1000.


  • The Backcountry Trails Program is an extremely structured and regimented program with many rules and policies.  There is very little unsupervised time.


  • The Backcountry Trails Program enforces a strict “Buddy System” policy, and therefore there is no hiking, exploring, swimming or backpacking alone while in our program.  The only alone time our members get is when they are in the immediate vicinity of camp.


  • Consider your ability live and work in primitive conditions and in all types of weather conditions and to live without modern technology like cell phones, computers, iPods, etc.


  • Consider your current lifestyle, physical health and your ability to perform extremely physically demanding labor for eight-plus hours a day for five months.


  • If you have any medical conditions and/or are taking medications you should consult your doctor about the rigors and conditions of our program before applying.


  • We CANNOT accommodate a vegan diet or some special needs diets that are extremely restrictive by nature due to cost, logistics and supply availability constraints.


  • Consider your desire and ability to remain sober for five months.


  • We highly recommend obtaining a U.S. Passport if you are considering applying to our Program.

February 15, 2017:  All applications and reference forms must be emailed as an attachment to by 5:00pm (Pacific Time). The subject line MUST contain the applicant’s name and whether it’s your application or reference form.  For example “John Smith Backcountry Application” and “John Smith Professional Reference Form”.  We will not accept any late applications or incomplete applications.

March 17, 2017:  All applicants will be notified of their status via email by no later than 5:00pm (Pacific Time).

April 23, 2017:  First day of the Season

September 27, 2017: Last day of Season

Download these documents:

·            2017 BCTP Application

·            2017 BCTP Professional Reference Form

·        2017 BCTP Personal Reference Form

Note: If you are using an Apple Mac to fill out the application, DO NOT use the Mac "pewview" software. Please fill out the application using Adobe Reader.


Please read the following instructions carefully before completing this application.  You will only be able to submit your application ONCE.
A complete application package consists of the following items:
1)  2017 Backcountry Trails Application
2)  Two Reference Forms (one professional and one personal)

·        If you are currently in the CCC your Professional Reference must be completed by your current direct supervisor OR, a previous supervisor you have had in the CCC, AND one additional Personal Reference of your choice.
·        All other applicants, submit two Reference Forms—one Professional and one Personal.
Late or incomplete application packages will not be considered.  All applicants must have a current, working email address to be eligible.
All information requested must be given and all questions mustbe answered completely and accurately.  You may be disqualified for any false or misleading statements or for omitting information.
During the course of the application process, you will be asked to attached certifications and documents.  Be prepared to scan and attach documents.  You may be requested to provide additional information regarding your qualifications.
Email completed applications to: with “your name, BCTP Application” in email subject line.
Instruct your chosen references to download and complete the Professional or Personal Reference Form off the Backcountry webpage found at: and email completed form to: with “Your Name, BCTP Reference” in the subject line. OR, email the Reference Forms to them directly for them to complete and email us with your name in the subject line to: You may also provide more than two references. References may be contacted for further information. References may also contact us at if they have any questions.
AGAIN, late or incomplete application packages will not be considered.  Applications and references must be sent as attachments and cannot be submitted through any kind of “Cloud” based systems e.g., Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc..  Also, remember to attach copies of any current certifications.
Once your application packet is received by us we may contact you via phone or email for a follow up interview.  You will be notified of your status on or near March 17, 2017, via email.  Unfortunately, due to the high number of applications we receive and staffing constraints, this is the best way for us to notify applicants of their status. If you have any additional questions email us at

The CCC Backcountry Trails Program is administered by CaliforniaVolunteers and sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Special Programs

BackCountry Trails


2016 Season

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