SJMA Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteers are the heart of the San Juan Mountains Association. We have a wide variety of volunteer programs to meet a broad range of interests from visitor outreach to outdoor education to stewardship projects and more!

Interested in volunteering? Please complete the volunteer profile. Whether you are brand new to SJMA or you have volunteered with us for 30 years, this will help us learn about your interests and experience.

Check out calendar for any upcoming Volunteer Training Opportunities.

Questions? Contact SJMA’s Volunteer Coordinator, Marly Saunders.

Visitor Information Volunteers

Public Lands Ambassadors

Do you enjoy talking with people, promoting responsible use of our public lands, and sharing your love of the San Juan Mountains? If you answered “yes”, consider becoming a Public Lands Ambassador!

Volunteering as a Public Lands Ambassador is an exciting way to connect people to the outdoors in Southwest Colorado. We are looking for volunteers in Durango’s San Juan Public Lands Center, the Pagosa Ranger District and the Dolores Public Lands office.

As a Public Lands Ambassador, you will:

  • Answer questions about recreation and land stewardship
  • Encourage Leave No Trace principles and responsible use of our public lands
  • Offer assistance to our Visitor Front Desks and SJMA Book Stores
  • Help with information tables at special events
  • Share public lands information at local trailheads

Contact the Volunteer Coordinator, Marly Saunders at

VIS ladies
San Juan National Forest Headquarters Bookstore

Volunteer Educators

Volunteer Educators for Kid Programs
Do you love kids? Spending time in nature? Want to hone your outdoor teaching skills, all while enjoying beautiful locations at the Durango Nature Center and local National Forest land? If you answered “yes”, consider becoming a Volunteer Educator.

SJMA Volunteer Educators help us deliver experiential outdoor education programs to elementary and middle school groups. As an volunteer educator, you will help connect kids to nature while serving your community. Volunteers will lead small group activities related to various natural history and environmental science concepts. No experience or special skill sets required, other than a desire to connect kids with nature.

Contact SJMA’s Volunteer Coordinator, Marly Saunders.

San Juan Science Ramblers, After-School Program

Volunteer Naturalists

Volunteers Naturalists lead wildflower hikes, teach others about bird identification or can create unique programs of their own. Volunteers with special knowledge of the outdoors are invited to share their expertise through interpretive hikes, field seminars & other educational programs on San Juan Public Lands. Training is available. Come learn and pass on your knowledge of the area to others!

Contact SJMA’s Volunteer Coordinator, Marly Saunders.

Purgatory Nature Hike, led by Volunteer Naturalist

Stewardship Volunteers

San Juan Volunteer Program

The San Juan Volunteer Program is an expansion of SJMA’s long-running Wilderness Information Specialist (WIS) / Ghost Rider program. For over 30 years, our volunteers have had the unique opportunity to positively affect the thousands of visitors to the San Juan Mountains by providing trail information, wilderness education, recreating responsibly, and Leave No Trace ethics. 

Visitor outreach is critical for the health of the San Juan National Forest. In recent years, due to the high number of visitors to the area, popular trails have suffered a number of impacts like pet and human waste (and toilet paper), trash, trail braiding and fire scars. These impacts have affected many of the sensitive high-alpine environment.

San Juan Wilderness Volunteers, 2011
Ice Lakes Educational Basecamp 2020

ON THE TRAIL….Volunteers can hike, snowshoe, horseback ride or ski into our most popular areas and greet visitors. Trails of focus include, but are not limited to Ice Lakes, Chicago Basin (Needle Creek), Vallecito, Pine River, Lake Fork (Emerald Lake), Elk Creek, Highland Mary, Pass Creek, and Colorado Trail.

AT THE TRAILHEADS…SJMA is expanding our successful Ice Lakes Educational Basecamp to have a presence at additional wildly popular trailheads throughout the San Juan National Forest.

Each spring, SJMA conducts training for our San Juan Volunteers. View our calendar for all Volunteer Training opportunities.

ContactSJMA’s Volunteer Coordinator, Marly Saunders.

Adopt-a-Road – “Eyes and the Ears of the Forest”

Did you know that since 2000, SJMA has organized a group of dedicated volunteers to take care of Forest Service Roads? These are everyday citizens getting involved in stewarding their lands. What do they do?

  • Pick up trash from roadsides
  • Clean up dispersed campsites
  • Check culverts of debris
  • Connect with visitors while encouraging responsible behavior
  • Upgrade Forest Service signs

If you are interested in adopting a forest road, contact our founding member, Patti Brady.

Adopt-a-Road long-time volunteer, Olie Foster

Single Day Events

Each year, SJMA organizes events around days recognized for giving back to our public lands. If you are interested any of the upcoming events, contact our Volunteer Services Director, Marly Saunders.

National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the largest single day volunteer event in the nation. Since 1997, SJMA has been organizing events with public land partners. NPLD occurs the fourth Saturday in September.

Colorado Public Lands Day (CPLD) celebrates how our public lands are central to Colorado’s economy and quality of life. CPLD occurs the third weekend in May. 

National Trails Day® (NTD) features a series of outdoor activities, designed to promote and celebrate the importance of trails in the United States. NTD occurs the first weekend in June each year.

Single Day Volunteer Event

Christmas Tree Lot

Christmas Trees for Conservation Lot 

Give the gift of time to your public lands each holiday season. Improve forest health, support stewardship and conservation education programs by volunteering to help cut and gather local white fir trees, set up the tree lot or sell trees to folks in our community. The Christmas Tree sale is a terrific opportunity for service groups, social organizations and individuals to support their local public lands.

Volunteering for a 3 hour shift at the sale is a wonderful way to spend time during the special season. You’ll see people you know from around the area and help them purchase the perfect tree for their holiday.

Contact SJMA’s Volunteer Coordinator, Marly Saunders.


What: Help carry, collect, net and transport white firs from San Juan National Forest

When: November 18, 2023

Where: Beaver Meadows (more details to follow)


What: Help unload, set up both white and balsam firs

When: Nov 22-23, 2023

Where: Corner of Camino del Rio and College Avenue (Train parking lot)


What: Sign ups for a 3 hour shift to help sell our Christmas Trees.

When: Nov. 24- Dec. 15, 2023

Where: Corner of Camino del Rio and College Avenue (Train parking lot)