Canyon Country

This expedition includes:

  • Rafting
  • Inflatable kayaking
  • Canyon backpacking
  • Cross-Cultural service project*

“Here, sun, wind, and rain have played with the brilliant, multicolored land for a billion years, leaving the recorded history of the earth’s beginnings on a complex landscape of plateaus, cliffs, buttes, and river-cut canyon walls.” – Karen Shephard

Canyon Country participants experience the stunning beauty of the Colorado Plateau’s desert from three unique and distinct angles: rafting the San Juan River, hiking through Utah’s Canyons, and working on a service project with a host family on the Navajo Nation.

“I saw the best of America – the nature, the people, the beauty.” Rasa, participant

*Due to COVID, there is a degree of uncertainty that we take on as we plan for our programs to visit Native American communities in the coming year. The safety of our participants as well as our Native partners is paramount. If we have to cancel the Native American service portion of our programs and switch to conservation service or some other form of service, we will let you know as soon as possible about this change.

Arrive at Basecamp

Days 1-3
Participants arrive at Basecamp throughout the first afternoon. Their expedition leaders help them become acquainted with Deer Hill, as participants meet each other and the group begins to form. In addition to playing games, and eating home-cooked meals, the group will pack group and personal gear for the first part of their trip.

Lower San Juan Rafting Expedition

Days 3-7
All prepped and packed, the group departs Deer Hill Basecamp on Day 3 for the river launch in Mexican Hat, UT. They will spend their days on the river, rafting class I and II+ rapids through the deep and sinuous sandstone canyons, exploring side channels, and hiking to overlook points high up the canyon walls. Participants learn to read the river, paddle a raft and inflatable kayaks, and even have the opportunity to try the oar rig. After each day of boating, the group makes camp on a sandy beach where they will prepare dinner, and enjoy the scenery.

Service in the Navajo Nation

Days 8-13
Participants live and work with their Navajo hosts at sites near Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly National Monument on projects such as mending the fences around their ancestral farmlands, tending a sheep herd, or rebuilding a shade arbor. The group will learn about Navajo traditions and lifestyles, and what an ancient culture can look like in a modern world.

Backpacking through Utah’s Canyons

Days 14-20
Some of the country’s most unique and dramatic landscapes are found in the Bears Ear’s resplendent canyon systems. The group follows the major drainage through varying ecosystems during the backpacking section while learning about survival in the dry and hot climate. Participants can cool off in edenic pools ideal for swimming, watch the sun play off the 1100′ high canyon walls, and learn about the rich cultural history of the people who once called these canyons home.

Return to Basecamp

Days 20-22
Participants return to Basecamp for program closure. The group cleans equipment and returns it to its storage locations at Basecamp, and returns any rental items to the Deer Hill Store. The group holds a closing ceremony to conclude their experience, and enjoys a cookout and slideshow on the final evening. On the last day of the program, expedition leaders drive participants to the Durango airport to return home.

Ages 15-17*

June 27 – July 18, 2024

22 Days 

32 Service Hours


Scholarship Information

*For questions about age or grade level, call us at 970.533.7492.

Start and End at Basecamp

The expedition is bookended with time at Deer Hill’s Basecamp in Mancos, CO. From Days 1 to 3, participants get to know each other as they pack group and personal gear for their river expedition. At the end of their expedition, the group returns to Basecamp (Days 19-21) for hot showers and home-cooked meals. The final full day will include a closing ceremony and celebration with a cookout and slideshow.

Transitions between sections occur in the field. The group is at Basecamp only at the beginning and end of the expedition.

Arrival and Departure:

Durango Airport (DRO) or

Deer Hill Basecamp, Mancos, Colorado.

Arrive June 27, 12-6pm; Depart July 18, 8:30am-2pm

Travel Information



My experience with Deer Hill is the most incredible thing I have ever done in my life.

Katherine—Participant 2018 Canyon Country

Experience reality and enjoy the moment and laugh with the strangers you will meet, because at the end of it all, you won't be laughing with strangers—you will be laughing with friends.

Chris—Participant 2018 Canyon Country

I was able to get to know one Navajo family on a personal level. I began to understand how people could live and enjoy a simpler and more relaxed life. We worked with Navajo children. We got to know them, learn from them, and love them. The relationship was two-way, and we felt appreciated for our work.

Daniel, participant