Volunteer Vacations

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Volunteer Vacations – Do Good on These 5 Utah Trips

Utah’s impressive array of national parks, national forests, state parks, and other public lands means there’s no shortage of outdoor adventure vacation options. But what if you want to be more than a tourist? Use some of your vacation time to better your home state by spending time outdoors volunteering with these five organizations.

1. Southern Utah + Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

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Heading to southern Utah to explore Zion National Park, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, or Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument? While in the area, volunteer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab: the largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals in the country.

For nearly 35 years, this unique shelter has saved animals that might otherwise be considered unadoptable, and providing them with a place to heal and find forever homes. Dogs, cats, birds, horse, pigs, and other barnyard animals come from all over to this sanctuary, and you can help with their care.

Sign up in advance and come build enclosures, clean pens, and love on rescue animals. Spend a few days feeding, walking, grooming, and socializing with these animals in need, and your vacation will feel more meaningful – and fuzzy.

2. Moab + Moab Solutions

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Nearby Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and La Sal National Forest, make Moab a mecca for hiking, biking, climbing, and numerous other outdoor activities. But ever-growing crowds can have a negative impact on the land and natural resources.

Moab Solutions aims to reduce the damage by cleaning public spaces and helping others that might be down on their luck. The organization also helps Moab locals who are experiencing homelessness by connecting them with volunteers. Sign up to volunteer and find yourself enjoying public lands while helping protect them. Clear trash from red rock desert, trails, and streams, or assist in trail restoration work.

Volunteers helping man ride a horse

Equestrian Adventure – Courtesy of NAC Splore

3. All Over Utah + National Ability Center’s Splore Outdoor Adventures

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Help people with different abilities experience outdoor activities that may otherwise seem inaccessible to them while enjoy an adventure yourself. Team up with an organization determined to prove that people of all abilities are able to enjoy the outdoors. The Splore Outdoor Adventures Program of the National Ability Center designs and guides trips for families and individuals that need special considerations to enjoy the outdoors.

Be a cook for a river trip, set up camp in the desert, or simply carry a pack on a hike for someone who can’t. These trips take you all around Utah from rafting on the Colorado River in Moab to yurt camping and stand up paddleboarding in the Uintas. For a shorter time commitment, join in on 4-6-hour Salt Lake adventures.

4. Uinta and Fishlake National Forests + U.S. Forest Service

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Partner with thousands of volunteers around the country to preserve our public lands by building trails, managing a campground, taking inventory of wildlife and plants with field researchers, or repairing bridges, footpaths, or signage.

Join forces in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest to restore timberland, or head to Fishlake National Forest to help protect the habitat of the native sage grouse. Projects with the Forest Service can be vast and far-reaching, but you can join the efforts for just a day on your own, or bring some friends and make a weeklong trip of helping out and enjoying public spaces.

5. San Rafael Swell, Zion, Dark Canyon + Wilderness Volunteers

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For a do-good trip requiring little planning on your part, join up with Wilderness Volunteers. This organization makes planning and executing your volunteer vacation a breeze.
Wilderness Volunteers teams up with the National Park Service, BLM, Forest Service, and US Fish and Wildlife Service on special projects. For $299, you can go on a weeklong trip to improve wild lands that includes food, guides, and supplies for the volunteer project. Group size is limited to 12, so you can go alone and make new friends, or form your own group for one of the projects.

Current projects include removing invasive plants in the San Rafael Swell or Zion National Park, restoring Escalante River tributaries, surveying remote parts of the Dark Canyon Wilderness, and assisting the BLM with a variety of tasks on the Grand Gulch-Cedar Mesa Plateau.

Whether you clean up the forest or cuddle a pup, these five volunteer vacations are sure to make you feel good about doing good—while still enjoy the outdoor adventures you love.

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About Author

Heather was born and raised in northern Utah, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Utah. Currently, Heather is a Strategy Writer for the University of Utah Health Sciences. She also teaches Italian language courses and manages the social media presence for the non-profit Italian Club of Salt Lake. When she does have free time, you can find her cooking, doing yoga, rock climbing, or exploring the hiking trails and ski runs in her native state.

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