About Deer Hill

Find Yourself in the Middle of Nowhere

Deer Hill leads expeditions for individually enrolled participants during the summer months, and groups for which we have designed a custom program. Additionally, Deer Hill maintains its 130-acre Basecamp as a comfortable, nurturing environment that supports adventures into the field, or makes for a relaxing retreat. While other companies might focus on leading a tour, or teaching specific technical skills, Deer Hill goes beyond these services to include the richness of supported self-discovery.


Mission & Values

Deer Hill’s mission is “To empower the individual to create authentic connection to self and community through wilderness and service experiences.

Core Values:

  • Wilderness: reveals harmony, balance, and beauty.
  • Challenge: the chance to face obstacles and inspire personal growth.
  • Self-Awareness: the practice of becoming conscious human beings.
  • Compassion: deepens connection between individuals, communities, and nature.
  • Service: fosters generosity, humility, and multicultural learning.
  • Community: creates connection, support, and meaning in our lives.
  • Diversity: enriches communities by promoting acceptance and respect.

More About Deer Hill

Deer Hill provides wilderness adventure and cultural exchange through community service to 150 participants each summer and 20-30 organizations throughout the year. We are a small wilderness adventure camp based in Colorado that delivers a personalized experience. We maintain a staff to participant ratio of 1:4, and cap enrollment for each summer expedition team at 15. This gives participants the space and opportunity to shine as individuals.

Field staff are licensed river guides and climbing instructors, many of whom return year after year to work at Deer Hill. In the off-seasons, they work in a variety of fields all around the country, and bring these experiences to their work with Deer Hill.

Founders and owners, Doug and Beverly Capelin, built Deer Hill’s Basecamp in Mancos, Colorado, at the feet of the majestic Rocky Mountains, and a stone’s throw from the rivers and canyons of Southeast Utah. Over the past 30 years, the Capelins have built strong relationships with families and community leaders in the Navajo Nation and in Hopi and Zuni pueblos. Deer Hill’s programs are built on the kind of intimate relationships with people and place that take time and dedication to create.



Don’t Stop in the Middle of Hard

Deer Hill’s philosophy is that by facing challenges, and seeing them through, people develop skills that help them in every aspect of their lives. Our expeditions provide participants with opportunities to be challenged, and to be successful in meeting those challenges. Our Field Staff are trained to encourage and support participants through this process of learning and growth.

Beauty, Fun and Friendship

While facing challenges is part of an expedition with Deer Hill, it’s not the only part. We operate in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the United States and Costa Rica. Participants watch a sunrise from a 13,000’ peak or fall asleep on a sandy beach under the Milky Way. Experiences like these, in tight-knit groups, forge lifelong friendships and set up opportunities for good, old-fashioned fun along the way.

Richness of the Experience

For some, the reward comes after climbing a vertical granite wall, while others have their moment after completing an 84-mile backcountry river expedition. Some participants are moved by the endless layers of jagged mountains in every direction, while others glimpse the immensity of our world as they help their Navajo hosts shear sheep before attending a ceremony. Deer Hill offers expeditions that guide participants through real wilderness settings and authentic service projects, and connect participants with Native American families steeped in generations of tradition.







A Note from the Founder

Beverly and I left our teaching positions in 1983 because we had a dream. We wanted to do something that would change the lives of young people in a deep and soulful way. We didn’t spend very much time thinking about what everyone else was doing. We looked inside, and focused on things that mattered.

So, in 1984, Beverly and I took a handful of former students and friends camping for three weeks, and it worked. We invested in this beautiful property in Southwest Colorado, and made our home and Basecamp here. We built a community of people who are passionate about providing these kind of experiences for young people. Now we welcome several hundred young adults each year to Deer Hill. We see lives change before our eyes and we know that the dream has come true.

Over the years, many things have changed at Deer Hill, but not the important things. Beverly and I are still very involved in the running of Deer Hill, ensuring that the values at the heart of Deer Hill – honesty, depth, courage, diversity, “heartfulness”, excellence, service – are upheld in everything we do. Beverly still tends the “home fires”, overseeing the grounds and facilities at Basecamp, and manages the creation of our delicious menus. I still get out on our trips, sit in Circle with students, lead sweat lodge ceremonies, and guide our staff training; where new and old staff alike come together to honor and further the “Deer Hill Way.”

Of course, we’ve gotten bigger, but not too big. Whereas other companies have chosen to offer more and more programs in more and more locations, we’ve stayed true to our original mission, getting to know our programming areas in incredible depth – nobody knows the Southwest like Deer Hill – developing a skilled and loyal staff that is second-to-none, and forging deep and lasting friendships with our Native American service hosts. We still maintain our family home at Basecamp, just like we did in the old days. Staying small, we are proud that Deer Hill has remained a family, a family we’d love you to join.

Doug Capelin, Founder


This was a fun-filled adventure!!! I will take invaluable lessons from this trip into my life. Deer Hill creates an opportunity for groups to come together and experience what is possible when they work and explore together. It is life-changing.

Mara, participant

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