Area Description


  • The Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area encompasses over 1.3 million acres of varied forests and spectacular mountains.
  • Spanning the length of the Bitterroot Mountain range, the dramatic Selway-Bitterroot peaks offer rewarding views across the Idaho-Montana border to those looking for adventure.
  • Four forests: The Bitterroot National Forest, Nez Perce National Forest, Clearwater National Forest, and Lolo National Forest, together make up the third largest Wilderness area in the contiguous United States.
  • With peaks that rise up to 10,157 feet and over 1,490 miles of trails, the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area is a haven for backpackers, hikers, stock users and outdoor adventurers alike.
  • For more information: 


  • With over 2.3 million acres of mountain and forest terrain, the Frank Church Wilderness Area is the second largest unit of wildlands in the National Wilderness Preservation System and a popular destination for anyone looking to escape into a thriving natural community.
  • There are 296 maintained trails, spanning over 2,616 miles and 3 mountain ranges located within the Frank Church Wilderness Area that make it a prime location for hiking of all kinds.
  • With some of the deepest canyons in the world carved out by the Salmon River, mountains that rise above 10,000 feet, and 370 species of animals there is no shortage of topographical and ecological diversity within the region.
  • Both the Main Salmon River and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, make the Frank Church wildlands a valuable spot for river enthusiasts, from trout fisherman to whitewater rafters alike.
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What kind of work can I expect on a SBFC trip?

When you sign up to volunteer with the SBFC you are actually a Forest Service volunteer.  As such you will sign the Job Hazard Analysis and be covered under the Forest Service workers compensation program if you are injured.  As a Forest Service volunteer you're also expected to put in an 8 hour workday while on trips.  Most of our trail maintenance projects involve the use of primitive tools such as cross-cut saws, axes, Pulaskis, hand saws, shovels and loppers. Your SBFC crew-leader will show you how to properly use the tools to accomplish the work up to USFS standards.  Volunteers are also expected to help out with camp chores such as cooking and cleanup.

What kind of supervision will we have on a project?

A SBFC crew-leader will lead and train you on for the duration of your project. Sometimes, USFS personnel will assist with leading the work project as well, depending on availability.  Our crew-leaders are USFS crosscut certified and are highly experienced in trail maintenance. SBFC crew-leaders have received in-depth training in safety protocols for camping in bear country, Leave No Trace ethics, and are knowledgeable about the area that you'll be working in.

What kind of safety protocols does the Foundation have for trips?

Safety is our highest priority on our trips.  Before any work is done, volunteers will receive instruction on how to properly use tools and ergonomics to prevent injury while performing trail work. Further, each morning begins with a daily safety briefing, which includes proper use of Personal Protective Equipment, back-country safety, and tool use. 

Prior to each project, the local USFS dispatch center receives an administrative tracking form which indicates the exact location of camp, work, and a helicopter evacuation zone. SBFC crew leaders will check in via radio with the Forest Service every day, twice a day, and are in regular communication about any hazards such as weather or fire.  Crew-leaders carry satellite emergency transceivers to check in or summon help in the case of a radio malfunction.  



What fitness level should I have to safely participate in SBFC trips?


We use a 1-5 rating scale for both the hike in to the base camp and the work difficulty.  We expect that you sign up for a trip that realistically fits your abilities.  Remember, you'll be working with a team in a remote wilderness setting, where simple over use injuries and blisters can become a big deal.

Do I need backpacking or backcountry experience to participate in a SBFC trip?

No, you only need to be in good shape and bring the motivation to work.  We use a rating system to gauge the hiking and work difficulty for all the projects-- for the most difficult hiking trips you should have some some experience carrying a backpack and hiking long distances over rugged terrain.  Just choose a trip well suited for your abilities!  If you're brand new to backpacking or the backcounty, SBFC trips are a great way to gain experience!

Do I need trail maintenance experience to participate?

No! Our crew leaders will teach you everything you need to know, showing you how to use the tools and do the work. Just come ready to work, willing to learn, and motivated to make the project a success!  Check out the work difficulty rating for each trip and find one suited for your physical abilities.



  • Rain jacket and rain pants
  • Tent
  • Warm sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Full set of long underwear
  • 1 set of work clothes; pants, long-sleeved shirt, t-shirt
  • Work gloves
  • Warm pants for evening
  • 1 wool or fleece shirt/sweaters/jackets
  • Hiking socks
  • Sleeping socks (1 pair that you don't plan to hike in)
  • Underwear
  • Warm mittens or gloves, warm hat
  • Hiking boots with ankle support (no tennis shoes)
  • Creek-crossing shoes such as Chacos, Tevas (keep these handy for the hike in as you might be crossing streams. no flip flops!)
  • Kitchen kit: spoon/fork, bowl/plate (Tupperware works for meals and as a lunch box), & hot mug
  • Personal biodegradable toiletries (non-fragrant, bears are attracted to smelly stuff)
  • Water bottles/Camelback or similar bladder to carry at least 2 liters (3 recommended). Please don’t overlook this suggestion!
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Sun hat/ sunglasses
  • Personal medications (Epi-pen if you have allergies)
  • Waterproof matches/ lighter
  • Medium-Large backpack


  • Bear spray
  • Leatherman or all-purpose tool
  • Battery travel alarm clock
  • Bug repellent
  • Camera (and waterproof bag)
  • Frisbee
  • Book
  • Binoculars
  • GPS
  • Garbage bags to line your backpack.

If you do not have all of the required gear, contact the crew leader—some equipment can be shared with other participants. SBFC will provide the group gear including a stove, cookware, group water filter, camp tarp, and toilet paper. Try to “cross-use” what you are packing. For example, leave the pillow at home and stuff a sweatshirt with clothes for padding.


What about food?

We've got you covered. The SBFC project leader for your trip will take care of all of the meals. About 2 or 3 weeks before the trip, the crew leader will contact you with details and their personal contact information. This is a great opportunity to notify the project leader of any food allergies, dietary restrictions, or anything else that is important to you in regards to food and menu planning. However, if there are some food items that you just can’t live without, you may certainly bring them!


Can I bring my furry friend along?

Unfortunately, we do not allow dogs on volunteer projects.



Each SBFC Crew Leader is currently certified as a Wilderness First Responder. The crew leader carries a well stocked first aid kit and a Forest Service radio to communicate with the right people, in case a situation should arise. If you are prone to blisters, we recommend you pack a personal stash of tape and band-aids. If you enjoy some ibuprofen, bring a personal stash. 

Emergency Communication: Each crew leader carries a Forest Service radio. The Crew Leaders will ‘check in’ with the ranger station each day. In the event that a field volunteer needs to be contacted, please call the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation office. You can also try SBFC staff at any hour in event of true emergency. Phone numbers below.



Sally Ferguson

Executive Director

Mobile: 208-871-1906