Southwest Journey

This expedition includes:

  • Mountain Backpacking
  • Peak ascents
  • River Rafting
  • Cross-Cultural service project*

Southwest Journey takes you deep into the heart of the Southwest. You’ll fly in a chartered plane to the river launch where you’ll raft through some of the most pristine country in the lower 48 states on the ‘Deso-Gray’ stretch of the Green River. After navigating over 60 rapids and exploring the canyon on hikes, your group heads to Hopi Pueblo to live and work with a community that contains the “oldest continually inhabited city” in the United States. Your journey wraps up with a backpacking trip in the coveted San Juan Mountains of Soutwest Colorado.

“I learned so much more here than I ever thought I would. I’m always going to remember the great times and great friends I’ve made – I’ve never been so close to people.” – Georgeanne, participant

Arrive at Basecamp

Days 1-2
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 begin to pack group and personal gear for the first part of their trip.

Green River ‘Deso-Gray’ Rafting Expedition

Days 3-11
All prepped and packed, the group departs Deer Hill Basecamp on Day 3 for the scenic flight over the canyon wilderness of the Colorado Plateau between Moab, UT and the launch site for the Desolation – Gray Canyons section of the Green River. The group will float 84 miles through a deep wilderness of sandstone canyons whose wall reaches up 5000 feet to its unseen rim. With over 60 rapids to navigate, participants have the opportunity to learn how to read the river, find a safe route, and paddle through it.

Service in Hopi Pueblo

Days 12-16
Participants live and work with their Hopi hosts near the oldest continually inhabited town in North America. The Plaza is the center of community life on the Hopi reservation, and has been for many hundreds of years. Participants often help community members plaster and whitewash the Plaza buildings in preparation for community ceremonies, and sometimes have the opportunity to watch these events. Several Hopi hosts that work with Deer Hill are artists who are willing to share their craft with participants in addition to other aspects of their cultural traditions. 

Rejuvenate at Basecamp

Day 17

The group will spend a full day at basecamp, where they will shower and prepare for their service section of the expedition. They will have the chance to relax, eat home-cooked meals, and enjoy some of the luxuries of the front country before heading to the Hopi Reservation.

Mountain Backpacking

Days 18-22

After taking off of the river the group will head to the mountains for their backpacking section in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.  Trek through alpine meadows, quaking aspens, and over mountain passes in one of the west’s most coveted ranges.

Return to Basecamp

Days 22-24

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*

July 6 – July 29, 2024

24 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 22-24) 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 at Basecamp at the beginning and end of the expedition, and for the transition between the service and mountain sections.

Arrival and Departure:

Durango Airport (DRO) or

Deer Hill Basecamp, Mancos, Colorado.

Arrive July 6, 12-6pm; Depart July 29, 8:30am-2pm

Travel Information



I love Deer Hill because it gives everyone a chance to be part of something bigger than ourselves. It makes us step out of our comfort zones to work with new people, to face the wilderness and to be on our own for three weeks

Ray—Participant 2018 Southwest Journey

Deer Hill Expeditions is the perfect opportunity for each individual to unpack who they are and then discover new ways to strengthen their image as a whole. It’s a place where we are able to see how we are all different puzzle pieces of different colors, shapes and parts of a whole. In the wilderness we learned how to really come together as a group.

Ella—Participant 2018 Southwest Journey

The experience Deer Hill provides is like no other, rafting the river for seven days, living at the Hopi Pueblo for six and then adventuring in the mountains for five! It is an experience I’ll never forget

Jake—Participant Soutwest Journey

Other summer expeditions may have rafting or backpacking but nothing could compare to Deer Hill. This place has such a strong sense of community and acceptance.

Corinne—Participant, 2018 Southwest Journey

My Deer Hill experience was probably the greatest thing I have ever done. I extended my family to 15 new people, who I’m closer to than anybody I’ve met. I’ll remember and carry the whole experience for the rest of my life.

Rafael, participant