Job Summary:   

Live and work in the backcountry this summer in some of the wildest places in Colorado! The Backcountry Youth Trail Crew Leader is a position offered in partnership with the US Forest Service Paonia Ranger District. Crew leaders will train and supervise the Backcountry Youth Trail Crew made up of high school students (16-18 year olds) in maintaining Forest Service trails in the Kebler Pass area of the Gunnison National Forest outside Paonia, Colorado. You will work in the rugged West Elk Wilderness and the Raggeds Wilderness, clearing downed timber, supervising youth and making trails accessible to the public. This position can open many doors working for land management agencies. 


  • Ensure the success of trail construction and maintenance projects on backcountry and wilderness trails in the Gunnison National Forest
  • Responsible for decision-making and risk management for up to four high school-aged youth during overnight hitches
  • Represent the U.S. Forest Service and positively interact with the public at trailhead and backcountry campsites
  • Manage pre- and post-trip logistics for all overnight hitches with the crew including food, route planning, tool/gear checkout and inventory
  • Mentor diverse youth in a dynamic outdoor setting
  • Safely operate hand tools including crosscut saws, axes, pulaskis, shovels and pick mattocks
  • Drive a loaded 4×4 truck on remote mountain roads in varying conditions 
  • Perform manual labor in alpine weather conditions (temperatures above 90+ degrees, frequent thunderstorms, wind, hail and rain)
  • Other duties as assigned
  • Position reports directly to the USFS Paonia Ranger District Recreation Manager

Minimum Requirements:

  • 18 and older
  • Drivers license with clean record
  • Prior trail construction or maintenance experience (2 seasons preferred)
  • Demonstrated experience in backcountry travel and outdoor leadership skills 
  • Ability to carry 50+ lbs while hiking 5-10 miles a day in high altitude environments
  • Ability to lift 50 lbs unassisted and 100 lbs assisted
  • 1-2 years working/teaching youth in an outdoor environment
  • Familiarity with the West Elks or other alpine Colorado Rocky Mountain ecosystems

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Wilderness First Responder, CPR or other medical training. Opportunity for paid medical training May 14th-15th, 2022
  • Experience working with the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or National Park Service, Youth Conservation Corps or other relevant outdoor stewardship experience
  • Familiarity with tool and equipment maintenance (sharpening, sanding, oiling, re-handling)
  • Background leading, coaching, or mentoring youth

Openings: 2 positions available


  • $13-$16 per hour depending on experience and qualifications
  • Training and certification in chainsaw use, crosscut saw use, government vehicle operation and horse and mule use
  • Food stipend will be provided for backcountry hitches
  • Shared bunkhouse in Paonia available

Location: Report to Paonia Ranger District Office in Paonia, CO

Effective Date: Open until filled; Priority given to applications received by March 15th; Paid-training will start tentatively May 14th, 2022


  • Season dates tentatively May 14 – August 12, 2022
  • Typical schedule is four days/week; Thursday-Sunday including overnights 

Please Submit:

  1. Resume with cover letter submitted to
  2. Three professional references
  3. Top candidates will be selected for an interview by Paonia Ranger District Staff and the Nature Connection