This expedition includes:

  • Rafting
  • Inflatable kayaking
  • Cross-Cultural Service Learning
  • Mountain backpacking
  • Peak ascents

Deer Hill’s classic combination of river exploration, backpacking in the high country, and Native American service learning. A multi-day river expedition on the San Juan River leads you to a community service project and cultural immersion in the Navajo Nation. Cap your experience with a eight-day backpacking trip in the majestic San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado.

“Deer Hill holds a unique and irreplaceable spot in my heart. It feels like a second home.” – Laura, 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 the first part of their trip.

Upper San Juan Rafting Expedition

Days 3-6
All prepped and packed, the group departs Deer Hill Basecamp on Day 3 for the river launch at Sand Island, Utah. 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 7-10
Participants live and work with their Navajo hosts at their ranch in the Chuska Mountains 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 the San Juan Mountains

Days 11-17
After 2 days at Basecamp, preparing and packing for your backpacking section, you’ll head up into the San Juan Mountains. The final section of the expedition will be spent backpacking through the quaking aspen, subalpine spruce and fir, and alpine meadows peppered with wildflowers of myriad shapes and colors that make the La Plata Range of the San Juan Mountains one of Colorado’s most special places. You’ll learn how to stay safe and warm in unpredictable mountain weather, and take in some of the best views in the state.

Return to Basecamp

Days 18-19
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 31 – August 18, 2024

19 Days

28 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 17-18) 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 only at the beginning and end of the expedition, and for the transition between service and backpacking.

Arrival and Departure:

Durango Airport (DRO) or

Deer Hill Basecamp, Mancos, Colorado.

Arrive July 31, 12-6pm; Depart August 18, 8:30am-2pm

Travel Information

Apply for River and Mountain Adventure