Photo by Meg Killen

J. MacDonald Pass

September 5-9, 2017

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Project Name: MacDonald Pass
Project Dates: September 5-9, 2017
Registration Deadline: August 30, 2017

Volunteer Limit: 10
Volunteer Spaces Left: 4
Level of Difficulty: Moderate

Location: MacDonald Pass, Helena NF
Type of Project: Frontcountry car camping
Meeting Time and Place: Monday September 4 @7PM

Basic Project Description

Calling all Helena-area citizens! Montana Wilderness Association needs you to lend a hand in completing the Continental Divide Trail. The CDT is the crown jewel of our National Trail System and it travels right through your backyard on MacDonald Pass. Unfortunately, not all of the CDT outside Helena is complete. A lot of it still travels on old Forest Service Roads. These roads wind through beautful country, but don't provide the same experience as travelling a landscape on good-old single track.

MWA's Volunteer Trail Crew will be spending the week decommisioning some of that old road in order to give the CDT, and Helena, its proper due. Our goal will be to convert these old roads into a clear, sustainable path forward that showcases the landscape. Work will include installing drainage structures, stabalizing the tread, hanging signage and naturalizing a scarred landscape. We'll set up a frontcountry, dispersed camp to base out of for the week. 

Here's your chance to make a difference while making memories. Being close to town, this will be a high-use trail so your work's impact will be carry forward for years to come.

Meeting Time and Place

The crew will meet on Monday September 4 @ 7PM at the MacDonald Pass campground. From there the group will caravan to the dispersed frontcountry campsite.

Project Elevation

5,500 to 6,500 feet

Hike at the Worksite

Expect to hike anywhere from 3-6 miles a day. Thanks for your flexibility and understanding! 

Camping Information

Camp for the week will be a primitive, frontcounty set up. No nearby running water or pit toilets are to be expected. We'll be digging a latrine for our stay there and we are brigning in our own water (please pack yours). 

Volunteers will assist in preparing the campsite for the week including setting up tarps and kitchen equipment. Crew will be educated on Leave No Trace practices and asked to follow these principles throughout the week. Food storage (bear) regulations will be observed. MWA will provide adequate food and snacks, however, if you want to bring along some extra personal snacks please be prepared to hang the food with your own gear and know-how. MWA bear boxes will be full with crew food and extra space will not be available. Read more about safely camping in bear country here. We kindly ask that you leave your technology and gadgets behind - let's enjoy the solitude and escape from technology for a week.

Food and Water

The first meal provided by MWA will be breakfast and lunch fixings on Tuesday morning. Please arrive on Monday evening either having already eaten dinner or prepared to cook for yourself using your own supplies. NOTE: There is no water readily flowing in the area. Please bring a water container for the "extra, personal" water you'd like to use. MWA staff will be bringing water for kitchen-related work, but NOT for personal hygiene for the crew. Please bring whatever you'd like and thank you in advance for sharing, if needed. 

MWA provides all food for the duration of the trip. We will require volunteers to assist in the preparation and clean-up of all group meals at camp. Please make sure to specify any allergies or dietary restrictions on your registration. MWA  also provides group filters for safe drinking water. Again, we'll be asking everyone to pitch-in by refilling water filters and taking good care of our equipment.

What to Bring

Please consult the gear list before packing and arriving to the project. Frequently forgotten items include safety gloves, glasses, sunscreen, rain gear and personal mess kits.

NOTE: There is no water readily flowing in the area. Please bring a water container for the "extra, personal" water you'd like to use. MWA staff will be bringing water for kitchen-related work, but not for personal hygiene. Please bring whatever you'd like and thank you in advance for sharing if needed. 

Physical Abilities

The work involved in this project is strenuous and can be very difficult at times.  This project will require you to be in great physical condition with previous backpacking experience.  You should be comfortable lifting, shoveling, bending over, and digging. If you have any concerns about your ability to participate, please contact MWA's Stewardship Coordinator Sonny Mazzullo at or 406.334.7378


Prepare for possibility of rain, snowstorms, high winds, cold weather and bugs. Unpredictable weather is to be expected – bring proper gear. It can snow in high elevations – even in June! If we do experience actual summerlike temperatures, be prepared for sun exposure. Bring hats, long sleeves, and sunscreen!

Here is a link to the weather forecast on However, don't be fooled; weather on the divide can be very different than predicted. Please be prepared for all kinds of conditions, regardless of the forecast.

Project Schedule

The work days will start the morning of Tuesday September 5 and go through the afternoon of Sept 9. Volunteers are expected to participate in the entire project. 

  • 7:00 AM: Breakfast- this is the time to chow and pack lunch, fill waters and prepare necessary layers and gear for the day.
  • 8:00 AM: Hike to the worksite. 
  • 12:00 PM: Lunch on the trail. One mid-morning and one mid-afternoon break.
  • 4:30 PM: Begin our hike back to camp- once we arrive back at camp we will have some personal time before jumping into dinner prep.
  • After dinner and dishes, you are free to spend the evenings as you wish- taking in a sunset, chatting around the campfire, reading or catching up on some zzz's.


Volunteers are responsible for checking project website for updates up until the day before the project start date. Last minute changes can take place due to weather, bad river crossings, wild fires or other events out of our hands. If you are traveling before your project, be sure to check your email to receive any last minute updates.  MWA staff may be in the field and unreachable 1-2 days before your project so plan ahead!


Do not show up to an MWA project without registering or without receiving a confirmation email from MWA staff. Unregistered volunteers will not be permitted to participate on projects. Minors require a hard copy volunteer registration with two signatures: one from volunteer, one from parent/guardian.

MWA requires a refundable deposit for project registrationThis will help us ensure that everyone who registers is well-intentioned and that MWA will not have to bear the costs of last-minute cancellations. More info available on the registration page linked below. Refundable Deposit for this project is $50.


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