Project overview: Improve trails in Yosemite Valley, the Hetch Hetchy area and the Yosemite Wilderness, while providing young adults from the California Conservation Corps with hands-on experience, employment and education.

The backstory: Yosemite’s 800-mile trail network offers endless opportunities for day hikers and backpackers to experience the wonders of the Sierra Nevada. Keeping those trails in good shape, however, requires regular restoration work.

For more than four decades, Yosemite has partnered with the California Conservation Corps (CCC) to engage young adults (ages 18–25) in much-needed trail projects, as they spend a season working with and learning from world-class National Park Service crews. Our donors first funded CCC crews in Yosemite in 1995 and have consistently supported the partnership in the ensuing years.

During five months of living and working in the park, corpsmembers improve dozens of miles of hiking terrain, starting in more developed frontcountry areas, then moving into the wilderness. They clear brush and fallen logs; repair damage, such as rain-carved ruts and failing tread; and construct rock walls, steps and drainage features — all while building teamwork and deep connections to nature.

CCC crews play a key role in ensuring Yosemite’s trails can provide safe, enjoyable hiking experiences. Their work also helps prevent erosion, protect trailside vegetation, and encourage people to stay on designated routes, so they don’t inadvertently trample plants and soil. Along the way, corpsmembers hone restoration skills; learn about environmental science, geology and park history; and gain valuable experience that can help them in future careers. Many CCC alumni go on to work for the NPS, either on trail crews or in other divisions.

This year: In 2021, two CCC crews are completing important restoration projects in Yosemite, one focused on southern trails and the other on northern trails. Each crew of up to 15 young adults will complete a season of trail work, skill-building and educational seminars. The two crews will improve trails in and around Yosemite Valley, in the Hetch Hetchy area, and in the Yosemite Wilderness, fostering a sense of connection to public lands that will live on well after their season in the park. Funding for the 2021 CCC crews comes from a 2020 donor-funded grant that was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Project partners: Yosemite National Park and California Conservation Corps.

Dave Kari

Trails Supervisor, Yosemite National Park

Project Notes

“The time spent maintaining and building trails in the Yosemite backcountry fosters a sense of stewardship and provides knowledge and skills for these youth to succeed in the future.”