Wilderness Leadership

A True Wilderness, Leadership, and Service Quest

Grades 10-12 (ages 16-18) | June 26 – July 21 | 26 days | 32 Service Hours | $4,890*

For 30 years, we have been providing advanced leadership training in the most rugged areas of our backyard. For Wilderness Leadership we bring all this experience to bear to create a true wilderness quest, led by our most experienced leaders, for young adults who want to take their skills, and their summer, to the next level.

  • Rappel into pristine Gravel Canyon
  • See the world from a different point of view while working with the Zuni
  • Talk leadership with Deer Hill’s respected founder
  • Dig deep to scale a wall of granite
  • Find your own voice while leading your group across the largest wilderness in Colorado

Backpacking and Technical Canyoneering in Gravel Canyon, Utah

After program orientation at Deer Hill Basecamp, we head out to the canyons of southern Utah, to Gravel Canyon, where water has carved a dramatic, mile-deep channel through the slickrock plateau. This is no groomed trail through a national park. Instead, using all the necessary safety gear, we’ll descend into the cool depths to negotiate a labyrinthine canyon network, scrambling over boulders, rappeling over pour-offs, and wading across pools. This is an incredible landscape to lay the groundwork for a powerful adventure in leadership.

Service in the Zuni Nation, New Mexico

When we emerge from Gravel Canyon, we meet a resupply team from Basecamp for fresh food and service tools, and then head down to the Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico, where our host family welcomes us into their home. In recent years service groups have collaborated with a local summer camp program. Work side by side with Zuni youth to build a traditional bread oven and assist teachers in the elementary school classrooms. When work is done, take a hike in the nearby Zuni mountains with a native guide and visit the Zuni Eagle Aviary, where injured eagles are nursed to health.

Trek across the Weminuche Wilderness, Colorado

We stop at Basecamp to relax for a day, fuel up on huge home-cooked meals, and meet with Doug Capelin, founder and owner of Deer Hill. Once we’re well-fed and rested, we set out to traverse one of the most rugged parts of the immense Weminuche Wilderness. Wonder at vast alpine bowls and meadows of wildflowers. Hone your mountaineering and map and compass skills, carry out a solo exercise, take on the demands of off-trail travel and leadership scenarios. Test yourself against the technical summits of Arrow Peak, Storm King or Leviathan. Just as important as completing these challenges is the way your group works together to meet them, and the lessons you learn about yourself in the process.

For a detailed itinerary, click here

Wilderness Leadership is an induction into Deer Hill’s culture of leadership. We are proud that many graduates of this program go on to become Deer Hill leaders in the future.

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*Our Special Recreation permit with the US Forest Service requires us to state that $1305 are the gross receipts for the mountain section of this program. 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 did not walk into this program expecting to be so well instructed in leadership skills and am blown away by everything I’ve learned. I now can navigate and orient myself with a map and the landscape, lead a group over talus off-trail, identify plants and animals, tie knots, set up a tarp, start a fire, know what to do in a lightning storm, and so much more.” Aviva, Lexington, MA

“The canyons and the service each brought new experiences and meaning, yet the mountains provided an environment in which all my lessons and experiences came together. The hikes in the mountains opened my eyes to my own strengths both physical and as a leader, and provided a new appreciation for these activities, journeys and the wilderness. The times in which the instructors recognized my strengths were reassuring and motivating. But also, the times when the instructors let us learn without assistance were more memorable because it pushed me out of my comfort zone into a place where they knew I would succeed despite the obstacles. This is why a leadership course is the most meaningful of all the courses.” Isabelle, Montclair, NJ