Canyon Country

Journey Deep into the Redrock Canyons of the Southwest by Water and Foot

Grades 9-11 (ages 15-17) | June 26 – July 16 | 21 days | 40 Service Hours | $4,390*

An incredible multi-activity traverse of the Colorado Plateau that rafts the lower San Juan River then leaves the boats behind to hike in majestic Dark Canyon, one of the most beautiful canyons in the West. Add a rich cultural learning and anthropological experience in  Canyon de Chelly National Monument and it is no wonder this program is one of our most popular.

  • Jump into a pristine pool in a hidden side canyon
  • Steer your raft safely through Ross and Government Rapids
  • Discover the prehistoric survival secrets of “The Basketmakers” while hiking through one of the richest archaeological regions in the world
  • Community service on a traditional Navajo farm and ranch in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Raft the Lower San Juan River

After a delicious welcome feast, gear issue, orientation, and getting to know each other at Deer Hill Basecamp, we’ll head out to southeastern Utah for our wilderness river adventure. Only two groups each year raft the lower sections of the San Juan River, learning essential river skills and the pioneer history of the region along the way. You will float through the remote ‘Goosenecks’, a sinuous canyon scarcely touched by man, cutting deep into Cedar Mesa. Spot peregrine falcons and bighorn sheep, and explore a historic prospector’s cabin in a side canyon. Learn to read the river, take on a class 3 rapid, and master the handling of your raft or inflatable kayak with the help of your leaders. At the end of this real river expedition, we’ll take out at Clay Hills Crossing, and meet our resupply team for fresh supplies and gear, ready for the next stage of our expedition.

Backpack in the Dark Canyon Primitive Area, Utah

Leave the boats behind and put on your boots for a week-long trek through a wilderness canyon that crosses one of the richest archaeological regions in the world. Pass by towering cliffs and rock arches, swim in inviting pools, see weird ‘hoodoos’ and desert flowers blooming in the shade of overhangs. Smooth canyon ledges offer ideal hiking paths. See an eagle soaring, or a bighorn sheep silhouetted on the cliff wall, but no trace of modern man. Instead, find the legacy of the prehistoric peoples that inhabited this place: a rock art panel, a deserted dwelling high on a cliff, or a silent ceremonial kiva underneath the earth.

Cross-cultural Service in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Then, travel deep into the heart of Canyon de Chelly National Monument, to the home of a traditional Navajo family. Learn through your work how they combine simple solar technology and ancient farming techniques for the benefit of their community and the Earth. Work on a project that is important to the family, learning about their life as you share your labor. We’ll make time to discover the history of this legendary site, visiting hushed cliff dwellings that look as though their early inhabitants have just left.

Click here for detailed itinerary

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*Our Special Recreation permit with the Bureau of Land Management requires us to state that $870 are the gross receipts for the canyon section of this program.

“I personally designed this program, which explores some of the most unique places in the U.S. It’s a true journey into the natural, cultural, and living history of the Colorado Plateau.” Doug Capelin, Founder and Director

“I saw things that I cannot put into words. I have experienced life on the river and on the reservation – 2 things I never thought I would do.” John, Philadelphia, PA

“I loved all the people I have met here, and the activities were amazing… Deer Hill was the best place I could possibly have come to for my first teen “camp” experience.” Angela, New York, NY

“Sometimes I forget that places like this even exist where you can’t hear a car, and you can’t see because there are no street lamps. Then I get out here and it seems like this is all there is.”   Dan, Boston, MA