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Upper Arkansas Wilderness Volunteers

Protecting Wilderness and Back Country Areas

Photo Credit: Brianna Myers

GARNA’s Upper Arkansas Wilderness Volunteer’s mission is to assist the Leadville and Salida Ranger Districts in managing and protecting wilderness and back country areas. Among other tasks, UAWV volunteers hike trails, engage visitors and report trail problems, check and maintain trail and trail head signs, locate, inventory and, where appropriate, eliminate backcountry campsites, assist with special U.S.F.S. projects and do trail clearing and tread maintenance.

Program Overview

Protecting Wilderness and Back Country Areas

Upper Arkansas Wilderness Volunteers was formed in response to an initiative of the Leadville District of the San Isabel National Forest, which has lead responsibility for managing some 250,000 acres of designated wilderness within three districts of the San Isabel: Leadville, Salida and South Park. Faced with a mandate to increase its level of management with fewer resources, Leadville District officials recognized that involving volunteers was a good option since their own staff and budget for wilderness work are stretched thin.


Among other tasks, UAWV volunteers:

  • Hike trails, engage visitors and report trail problems
  • Check and maintain trail and trail head signs
  • Locate, inventory and, where appropriate, eliminate backcountry campsites
  • Assist with special U.S.F.S. projects
  • Trail clearing and tread maintenance


  • 378 miles of trails
  • 111 trails
  • 200,329 acres of Wilderness
  • 5 wilderness areas: Collegiate Peaks, Buffalo Peaks, Sangre de Cristo, Mount Massive and Holy Cross
  • 783,000 acres total Forest Service land to be monitored

How We Work

Volunteers, after proper training on standardized approaches and under the direction of Forest Service staff, will spend time hiking trails and reporting trail conditions, providing information to hikers, inventorying campsites and consolidating or eliminating certain sites, mapping the extent of invading plant species, installing or maintaining trailhead and directional signs, and performing minor trail maintenance. This is not a trail building or litter clean up or regulation enforcement group, nor is it a lobby group for expanded wilderness; it is a service group helping the Forest Service meet its challenges.

Chapter Organization

In Spring 2012, U.S. Forest Service representatives and GARNA worked together to form the UAWV, building on the foundation of the former Arkansas Headwaters Wilderness Partners organization. The group meets regularly, has a Board of Directors and originally received organizational advice and training from a long-established wilderness service group – the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers.


As the summer season begins, UAWV will be busy hiking as many trails as possible to inventory the work that needs to be done. This is an important project where all members can collect valuable information by just hiking and logging their findings. After that, work projects can be developed. Because the 14’ers and lake trails are so popular, we try to get them cleared first.

In 2018, UAWV assisted the Leadville Ranger District with the Solitude Monitoring project. Solitude is an important quality of wilderness, so monitoring it is a measure of how well particular wilderness areas are coping with the outside world. This summer, UAWV will again be assisting with Solitude Monitoring in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.

Upper Arkansas Valley Wilderness Volunteers was represented by Dan Murray and Mal Sillars at the Central Colorado Wilderness Workshop in Fort Collins in April. Dan participated in a panel discussion and presented a look at how trail agencies worked together to fund a trail program.

UAWV members assisted the USFS in creating the Lost Lake trail and trailhead.
UAWV members assisted the USFS in creating the Lost Lake trail and trailhead.

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