Wildlife conservation and community volunteer projects and internships worldwide

California Conservation Volunteer Project

8 - 12 weeks from

minimum age

  • An opportunity to volunteer across the National Parks and Nature Reserves of California
  • Spend 8 to 12 weeks working in some of the most stunning scenery in the world
  • Live and work with volunteers from all across the globe
  • Gain hands on ecological and restoration experience

Volunteer base in California

Food, Lodging and Travel

Volunteers stay in the volunteer house on days when you are not taking part in projects.  There are multiple buildings and cabins that included several bedrooms, several bathrooms, a large living room/dining area, washer/dryer, WI-FI, and a full sized kitchen with cookware, utensils, and basic appliances including refrigerators, coffeemaker, and toasters. We offer a landline phone, however cell phone service is limited or not available.

Bedroom configurations vary from two twin beds to two sets of bunkbeds with two twin beds, and rooms will often include a dresser and/or a closet. Linens and a towel will be provided, but please bring a pillow! Cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and hand soap are provided but you will be required to purchase your own toiletries.  Please note that you will be sharing a room with one or more of your fellow volunteers and the bedrooms do have limited space, so be mindful of how much you pack. There is a small reading and movie library but please feel free bring supplemental entertainment. There is extensive outdoor space and nearby hiking trails.

The property is a 20-minute drive from the nearest grocery store, restaurants, movie theatre, and other resources in town. You will be expected to participate in maintaining a clean, safe living and working environment at the volunteer house.

The houses have a washer/dryer, and the houses have a laundromat just a few blocks away. Housing is communal, with 2-3 bunk beds per room and shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. You can store the luggage you’re not bringing on projects there, such as suitcases and sport bags. There are also other secure locations for valuables such as lockers and a safe in the office for passports, tickets, and other smaller valuables.

Whilst on a “hitch” in the field, you are provided with tents to use for the duration of your camping trips. Every hitch would be expected to be outdoors and will involve camping for the duration of the trip.  About 75% of the locations we visit are going to be considered front country. This is when we use an existing campground that is used by other visitors of the park. It would have facilities like bathrooms, picnic tables, running water, and a fire pit etc. The other 20-25% of projects would be backcountry. These are more remote, a longer hike to get there, and no facilities or roads nearby. We take special preparation and bring in all supplies to sustain us. We have special procedures like filtering water and storing food. It is a lot to learn and some volunteers really desire this type of camping. It’s not for everyone so you can simply request if you are not ready for this type of camping. We try our best to meet personal requests of all types, but you should be prepared for more camping than you’ve done for recreation back home.

Volunteers cooking by fire in CaliforniaFood

Food is provided on project days only.   We provide food by sending a food supply with each crew. You will have independently chosen breakfast, lunch, and snacks, and then everyone works together to cook and share a communal dinner. It’s a nice social activity to finish up each day. We shop at regular supermarkets, so all the food is familiar. We cook from scratch and you can make requests and give feedback to our food shoppers. We can support most dietary restrictions and food allergies.

During off-work days (in between “hitches”), you are responsible for your food costs – and shared kitchen is provided at the project base for preparing food.  If you plan to cook in the house, don’t spend a lot of time downtown, and don’t plan on taking a lot of road trips, you can easily get by on $50 per week. If you will rent cars and take road trips to places like Vegas, LA, San Diego, or San Francisco most off periods, count on spending closer to $150 per week. And if go out a lot, plan on at least $200 per week. This does not include initially purchasing your sleeping bag, backpacks, sleeping pad, work boots, etc.

David volunteer on California programmeList of Items to bring

These are items you MUST bring on every project:

  • Sleeping bag (rated to well below the freezing point)
  • Large-sized backpack (~4,500 cubic inches/75 liters or larger is ideal)
  • Daypack (You’ll put your lunch, water and whatever else you’ll need during the day on projects (2,150 cubic inches/35 liters or larger) A school backpack works fine, ideally with external straps.
  • “Thermarest” brand or comparable sleeping pad
  • Strong, full-leather hiking boots or work boots (must go above ankle, 8” is ideal)
  • Long work pants – blue jeans or “Carhartt’s” brand work pants
  • Waterproof rain jacket plus rain pants or rain suit (you MUST bring this on every project)
  • Fleece or sweatshirt and other warm clothing (layers for all conditions). The climate of California varies widely from desert to sub-arctic. It will get cold!
  • Headlamp or Flashlight
  • Water bottles or bladder, 4-6L capacity such as “MSR Dromedary”

Recommended Items:

  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Tupperware (to protect and transport project lunches and leftovers)
  • Personal eating utensils (helpful backup at housing and for project lunches)
  • Insulated beverage container, like “Thermos” brand, for hot liquids
  • Sandals with back straps
  • Swimsuit and items for free time (book/travel games/etc.)
  • Tennis Shoes/Sneakers
  • Towel and pillow
  • Watch with alarm function or battery powered travel-size alarm clock.  You will  be personally responsible for waking up on time.
  • Tent. The project provides a tent during your stay, but if you want to bring your own tent you are more than welcome
  • Glasses and Contact lenses.  If you wear glasses and/or contact lenses, we strongly recommend that you bring both.  Contacts are more comfortable while working on project as our safety policy requires everyone to wear safety glasses that are provided by the Project.

Volunteers in their free time discovering red woods in CaliforniaVolunteer Requirements

Volunteers must be aged 18 yrs and over and must have a good knowledge of English and be in good physical condition. A lot of the work is very physically demanding and you will be hiking and camping out whilst in the field for several days straight. This is not recommended for anyone with respiratory problems such as asthma, as well as other conditions such as seizure, chronic fatigue, or chronic back injuries.  Some of the project locations will involve long hikes to get to and weather can be quite unpredictable.  In the summer months it can get very hot in the desert and sometimes in the winter, it can get very cold and even snow.  After application, we will request that you fill out a medical questionnaire and also get your doctor to confirm your state of health and fitness.  All volunteers will need to show proof of a Covid vaccination to join.

You don’t need to have any prior experience in practical conservation to join. But we do ask for a sense of adventure, an ability to clearly follow directions, a desire to make a difference, an ability to be respectful to others, and a willingness to remain flexible and positive through ever changing project work, locations, and weather conditions.

Travel Information

Please arrange to fly into Sacramento Airport (SMF code) for a 18.00PM Pickup the day before your official start date. From there you will get collected and taken to the volunteer house for training and orientation.  On departure, you will be dropped off at 18.00PM on your end date at SMF airport too.

California Conservation Volunteer Project