Garna Greater Arkansas River Nature Association - Education, stewardship, river ecosystem volunteering - garna logo

Upper Arkansas Wilderness Volunteers

Protecting Wilderness and Back Country Areas

Photo Credit: Diane Falconer

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 2023, UAWV took on the task of clearing the Stout Lakes Trail in the northern Sangre De Cristo Wilderness area. This work was performed at the request of the Salida Ranger District. The effort required 4 full days of work performed by multiple 2-person crosscut saw teams. UAWV removed 91 downed trees from the more than 4 miles of trail spanning close to 3,700 feet of elevation gain. This work has to be performed by skilled sawyers certified by the USFS in the use of manual crosscut saws.

For the past several years UAWV has conducted the Wilderness Trail Monitoring Program. At the request of the Leadville Ranger District, hiker traffic on trail entry points of the Collegiate Peaks, Mt Massive and Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Areas is tracked. The effort entails the use of infrared counters. The counters are deployed, monitored and removed each season. The data collected is compiled into a report that summarizes and compares the data year to year.

Many members of UAWV are trained sawyers and help clear USFS trails.

Latest GARNA News

Now Hiring: Programs Director

GARNA Programs Director Job Opening Announcement – June 2024 Are you passionate about teaching and learning about the natural world, especially in the...

Interpretive Signage on the Salida River Trails

Have you wondered what songbirds live along the river, or how the Arkansas River is managed? Have you considered that while only 2% of our landscape...

Podcast Episode – The Eager Beaver

In this episode, we sit down at a beaver lodge with local author Ben Goldfarb, and his dog, Kit, to gab about beavers, mule deer, road kill and more!...
Garna Greater Arkansas River Nature Association - Education, stewardship, volunteering Salida - Plants alonside the riverbank
Gone to Seed by Kari Vanderburg
Translate »