FRIENDS OF THE FOREST volunteer Jack Luescher responds to questions as he guides a visitor in the use of the interactive Trail Finder exhibit. Photo courtesy of Manny Romero

Friends of the Forest Sedona is a nonprofit organization that works in partnership with the Red Rock Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest. It supports the Forest Service with expertise and thousands of volunteer hours per year across a range of activities. While Friends of the Forest is always seeking new volunteers, below are two areas that have the highest need.

Red Rock Ranger Station and Visitor Center

As you drive north on Route 179, the Red Rock Ranger Station and Visitor Center is one of the first things to greet you and is the first stop many people make on their way into Sedona. As a matter of fact, in 2022 the Visitor Center was the first impression of Sedona for 230,000 people!

“Our Visitor Center Staff and Friends of the Forest Volunteers are the welcoming face of the Red Rock Ranger District. They work hard to provide visitors with the opportunity to safely create meaningful connections with our storied landscape,” said L.J. Varon-Burkhart, Visitor Center, Heritage and Conservation Education Supervisor. “We encourage Leave No Trace ethics and set people up for success with the most accurate information possible.”

New volunteers are provided training and information about a broad range of topics, including trail use, etiquette, and policies; legal camping locations and policies; alternative locations to hike that meet their needs; up-to-date information on heritage site, road, and/or trail closures; and more. This training is done individually or in small groups by Candice Mark, Customer Service Representative. After training, the new volunteer shadows an experienced volunteer at the Visitor Center for more hands-on experience.

Shifts are daily: 9:00am – 12:45pm and 12:00pm – 4:00pm (only 12:45pm – 4:30pm Wednesdays).  “You can choose if you want to sign up for the same day and shift monthly. Substitutes can choose open shifts any time and day of the week, while seasonal members may work as either a regular or substitute volunteer,” said Manny Romero, Friends of the Forest Visitor Information Center Coordinator.

“Volunteers love the variety of people they talk to,” said Romero. “Visitors are typically in a cheerful mood and eager to discover what recreational options are available. It’s very enjoyable to help them.”

“If you’re looking for an opportunity to share your passion and enthusiasm for recreating responsibly on the Coconino National Forest, consider volunteering at our Red Rock Ranger Station Visitor Center”, said Varon-Burkart.  For more information about volunteering at the Red Rock Visitor Center, email

Trailhead Beautification

The first impression people have of a trail is the trailhead.  Last year, the Coconino National Forest Service asked Friends of the Forest for help in keeping the trailheads beautiful.  “If people see a trailhead looking nice, they are less likely to leave garbage behind, and more likely to be respectful of the trails, said Dale Smrz, Chairperson, Friends of the Forest Trailhead Beautification Committee.

“We want people to enjoy the scenery, feel safe, and informed when they visit our trailheads. Being a highly sought after destination, these trailheads are the first thing people see when they recreate. We hope to make their recreation experience the best possible,” said Ashley Hillis, Recreation & Vendor Support, Forestry Technician.

This newly formed committee will begin on the highest priority trailheads, like Bell Rock Vista Trailhead. Initially, issues like loose rocks or broken fencing will be identified. “When Committee members are comfortable, have knowledge and experience, they will deal with those issues,” said Smrz. Work may include the clearing of brush, branches and weeds around fencing and the general parking area. “Other issues will be communicated to and addressed by the Forest Service,” continued Smrz.

Once the initial trailhead issues are addressed, the Trailhead Beautification volunteers will shift to ongoing maintenance. There will be sixteen trails, broken into three geographic groupings: along State Route 179, West Sedona, and Oak Creek Canyon. Friends of the Forest volunteers will work in teams that are assigned 4-6 trailheads in their geographic area for ongoing maintenance. The time commitment is only a few hours each month.

“This is a volunteer opportunity that does not require a lot of hiking, and we hope more people will join us,” said Smrz.  On-going trailhead and parking lot work will include picking up trash with Forest Service provided trash pickers, sweeping dirt away from signs, keeping the area clear of weeds, branches and brush. Additional seasonal work may be needed during monsoon season. The Forest Service is providing all necessary tools and equipment for Trailhead Beautification work. For more information about Trailhead Beautification, email

There are so many ways to volunteer with Friends of the Forest, and help preserve our beautiful forest! Want more information about volunteering or Friends of the Forest?  Visit

Serving Sedona, written this week by Carol Dores, Friends of the Forest, appears Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News.