Learn more about those working to keep Utah Forever Mighty

Learn more about those working to keep Utah Forever Mighty

(Courtesy of Southern Utah Climbers Alliance)

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Utah's diverse wealth of public lands — from serene red rock deserts and frothy rivers to verdant forests and rugged mountains — attract recreationalists from all over the world. Visitors are lured by the opportunity to pedal, paddle, hike, climb and camp in picturesque and pristine landscapes.

But taking care of these amazing resources is a job much too large for state and federal agencies. They rely on locals and returning visitors to volunteer time and donations.

Here's a selected list of Utah's recreational stewards, the mostly nonprofit organizations that provide vital educational resources as well 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.

Weeds and wildflowers

Millcreek, Big and Little Cottonwood canyons — collectively referred to as the tri-canyon area — are one of the most-visited portions of United States Forest Service lands in the nation. These canyons, located just a stone's throw from the Salt Lake City metro area, are also replete 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 U.S.F.S. and the four tri-canyon ski resorts — Alta, Brighton, Snowbird and Solitude — to build and maintain trails and offer canyon ecosystems education. They also present the Wasatch Wildflower Festival, held annually in mid-July. Volunteer opportunities: invasive weed removal, trail building and wildflower tour guiding. (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 taken to that area's 500-plus miles of singletrack, you'll understand why. This feat (shared by only five other locales in the world) is partly due to the Mountain Trails Foundation, a member-driven nonprofit dedicated to building, maintaining and protecting trails for non-motorized, year-round use. (Read: "7 Must-Ride Mountain Biking Trails in Utah.")

The foundation hosts running and mountain biking events throughout the year. Volunteer opportunities: working events or being an MTF Ambassador. Other Utah trails stewards who need volunteers include: Trails Foundation of Northern Utah, Corner Canyon Trails Foundation, South Summit Trails Foundation, Wasatch Trails Foundation and the Grand County Trail Mix Committee.

Learn more about those working to keep Utah Forever Mighty
Photo: Andrew Burr

Adopt your own peak

Whether you prefer Indian Creek's world-class crack climbing, Little Cottonwood Canyon's traditional granite routes or the High Uintas Wilderness' sport climbing mecca, if you've rock climbed in Utah, you've benefited from the efforts of 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 also educating their climbing communities through annual events. (SLCA's Climbing Festival is in late-August; SUCA's Craggin' Classic is in late October.) Volunteer opportunities: Adopt-a-Crag and trail building. (Read: "Utah's Best Rock Climbing and Bouldering.")

Learn more about those working to keep Utah Forever Mighty
Photo: Courtesy of Salt Lake Climbers Alliance

Weathering avalanche season

While 15 ski and snowboard resorts dot Utah mountains, more of the state's mountainous terrain is open to backcountry skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers. But going out into avalanche-prone terrain (slopes steeper than 30 degrees) requires preparation and knowledge, which is where the Utah Avalanche Center (UAC) comes in. Every morning of the winter season, UAC posts a weather report and avalanche danger rating for eight mountain areas throughout the state. The center hosts multiple workshops and classes throughout the fall and winter, including its popular annual fundraiser in mid-September. Volunteer opportunities: submitting an observation on its crowd-sourced platform. (Read: "Why You Should Hire a Backcountry Guide.")

Safeguarding Utah's rock writing

The mission of the Utah Public Archeology Network (UPAN) is to protect Utah's archeological sites. (The state's interactive archeological sites map can be found here.) UPAN partners with the federal and state agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations — such as Friends of Cedar Mesa and Utah Rock Art Research Association — to offer educational programs aimed at stopping vandalism. Volunteer opportunities: The state's innovative Cultural Site Stewardship Program, launched in May 2021, offers training workshops then matches volunteers with their own site to watch over (they've even got their own app for site reporting). (Learn more by listening to the Utah Division of State History's Speak Your Piece podcast.)

Learn more about those working to keep Utah Forever Mighty
Photo: Cody Ross

Fall in love with wilderness

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) has worked to protect Utah's wilderness areas, along the Colorado Plateau and elsewhere, since 1983. SUWA is well-regarded for its administrative and legislative advocacy, but its boots-on-the-ground stewardship programs are also valuable. Annual projects include installing signage, trail maintenance, remediating unpermitted land use and much more. Volunteer opportunities: multi-day, in-the-field stewardship projects catering to a variety of fitness levels.

Water your volunteer work

While Utah's mountains and deserts are known and beloved worldwide, this diverse state also claims hundreds of waterways that are not only coveted places to paddle, fish and float, but serve as vital wildlife habitat, irrigation for agriculture and drinking water. Since 1994, Utah Rivers Council has advocated for Utah's rivers and waterways, on the legislative level and through hands-on programs. Volunteer opportunities: waterway cleanups and advocacy. (Read: "In Search of the Yellowstone Cutthroat" and "The Most Scenic Trophy Trout Destination.")

Read more responsible recreation tips and stories about keeping Utah Forever Mighty at visitutah.com/forever.

Learn more about those working to keep Utah Forever Mighty
Photo: Hannah Meenach

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Melissa Fields for Utah Office of Tourism


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