Trail Ambassadors

Helping Gorge hikers on trails

Trail Ambassadors
2019 Trail Ambassadors end of season celebration. (photo courtesy of Trail Ambassadors)

Educating Hikers on the Trails

Trail Ambassadors places volunteers at popular trailheads in the Columbia Gorge and around Mt. Hood. Volunteers come from around the region to give back to the trails they love by engaging with visitors around safety, ethical use of public lands, and Leave No Trace practices, as well as sharing opportunities for visitors to engage with local communities.

Efforts in the Gorge and Mt. Hood are part of a larger, state and regional initiative led by Trailkeepers of Oregon to establish a new collaborative network of nonprofit partners working hand-in-hand with regional land managers to keep ecologically sensitive areas from being permanently damaged from tourism pressures. Friends of the Columbia Gorge is a regional partner nonprofit in the Trail Ambassador Network focused on needs in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Small Start, Big Impact

Sometimes big ideas start small. In 2016, the U.S. Forest Service asked Friends of the Columbia Gorge to help manage the growing pressures of hikers each spring at Dog Mountain. But even then there was an idea that the effort could be bigger.

Positive responses to the 2016 volunteer effort led the Forest Service, Friends, Oregon State Parks, and the Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge Regional Tourism Alliance to come together to create the Trail Ambassador program (then called Trailhead Ambassadors) that served over a dozen recreation sites in 2019, with 106 volunteers connecting with 18,928 hikers.

In the fall of 2019, key stakeholders convened to start a series of discussions on how to expand the effort's capacity and allow other nonprofits to participate. In February 2020, Trailkeepers of Oregon was announced as the new program administrator and launched an ambitious effort to expand Trail Ambassador opportunities to new areas across Oregon. This effort would benefit from ambassadors at trails, beaches, and other public places under many pressures from increasing visitor impacts.

Watch a KATU News video about Trail Ambassadors

Friends joined as the new network as the first regional partner nonprofit with a special focus on ensuring that ambassadors could be placed at needed trailheads on both the Washington and Oregon sides of the Gorge.

How Can I Get Involved?

Anyone can be a Trail Ambassador. There are opportunities for both ambassador leads (responsible for a site) and regular volunteers. More about ambassador lead trainings, volunteering opportunities, and available shifts please visit the new Trail Ambassador homepage at trailkeepersoforegon.org/trailambassadors.

For more information about trails, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, and ways you can volunteer with Friends please contact Natasha Stone at natasha@gorgefriends.org, our community engagement specialist and Trailhead Ambassador network liaison.

How Can My Organization Join the Network?

Trail Ambassadors has been a collaborative effort from the start. This program is built on the foundational idea that nonprofit partners, agencies, and the public are more powerful together than apart. This program is the result of many years of hard work from the partners listed above.

If you are involved with a nonprofit, agency, or business interested in becoming a part of the trail ambassador network, please email: natalie.ferraro@trailkeepersoforegon.org.