Rangers perform all kinds of tasks to keep our national parks up and running. They might work in law enforcement, public relations, or inside the visitor center. Some also build and maintain the trails that snake through our mountains and forests. Lacey Cunningham is one of those rangers.
For the past 15 years, Cunningham has worked in trail crews for the National Parks Service. She spent 14 years at North Cascades National Park in Washington, hiking into the backcountry at the crack of dawn to clear fallen trees and construct bridges. Now she’s at Santa Monica Mountains, where she manages facility assets and scopes out new trail projects. She told us what it’s like to make the trails that so many visitors use to access awe-inspiring nature, and how to make the most out of your trip to a national park.
The following Q&A has been edited for clarity, flow, and length.