Heart of the Rockies

This expedition includes:

  • Mountain backpacking
  • Mountaineering
  • Conservation service project
  • Peak ascents

Spend three weeks backpacking through the aspen and spruce forests to the alpine tundra of the San Juan National Forest. This is a true backcountry immersion expedition during which you’ll learn to navigate some of the most coveted mountain terrain in Colorado.

“My experiences at Deer Hill were life changing because I found myself in the middle of nowhere, but that middle of nowhere was beautiful, stress-free and real.” – Jocelyne, participant


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 their trip.

Backpacking in the San Juan National Forest

Days 3-9
All prepped and packed, the group departs Deer Hill Basecamp on Day 3 for the trailhead. Participants will enter the beautiful San Juan National Forest carrying their homes on their backs, sleeping under tarps, cooking on backpacking stoves, and getting to know some of the most pristine backcountry wilderness in the lower 48 states. The group will form close bonds while they hike, camp, and enjoy the trail together.

High Camp Hut & Conservation Service

During Days 10-11
After multiple nights of sleeping under the stars, the group will enjoy the luxury of staying at High Camp Hut, the midway point of the expedition. High Camp Hut is located in a beautiful alpine meadow on the doorstep of the stunning Lizard Head Wilderness Area. It is outfitted with a full kitchen, living room and dining room, composting toilets, and sleeping quarters. Participants will complete their conservation service while staying for two nights at the hut before heading back out into the backcountry to continue their trek.

Lizard Head Wilderness

During Days 12-18
After a wonderful stay at High Camp Hut, participants head back out on trail carrying a full resupply. They will continue to backpack and also learn and develop technical general mountaineering skills such as traversing snowfields and navigating the ascent of a class 4 alpine pitch. Additionally, the group will attempt to summit world-class 13-and 14,000-foot peaks.

Return to Basecamp

Days 19-21
Participants return 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*

July 1 – July 21, 2022

21 Days

12 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 time in the mountains. 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.

The group is resupplied by a horse packer mid-program. 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 July 1, 12-6pm; Depart July 21, 8:30am-2pm

Travel Information


It was an unbelievable experience that changed me. I learned to appreciate the wilderness and disconnect from technology.

Marilyn—Participant 2018 Heart of the Rockies

The experience was life-changing. I discovered a new sense of self out in the wilderness.

Assatta—Participant 2018 Heart of the Rockies

Deer Hill Expeditions gave me the opportunity to connect to the wilderness, learn and experience unique things, and be part of a family.

Alice—Participant 2018 Heart of the Rockies

This was life-changing. On day one, I was surrounded by strangers, but on day twenty-one, I was surrounded by family.

Felix—Participant 2018 Heart of the Rockies

This was an adventure that allowed me to hike and test my mental and physical boundaries and push them.

Tae—Participant 2018 Heart of the Rockies

It was the greatest experience of my life so far. It helped me learn a lot of skills. I loved meeting new people. I loved being in nature and living with it and learning to respect it. I will cherish the beauty of the mountains.

Margaret, participant