Deer Hill Classic

This expedition includes:

  • Canoeing
  • Native American service project
  • Mountain backpacking
  • Peak ascents

Discover the timeless beauty of the southwest as you canoe the Upper San Juan River, and explore the ancient ruins of ancestral Puebloans. Engage in community service in Navajo Nation, with your hosts outside of Window Rock, Arizona, and conclude your expedition with a backpacking trip in the rugged and beautiful La Plata Mountains of Southwest Colorado.

“It’s hard to sum up Deer Hill in a few lines because it was just so amazing! I will cherish the friendships and the experiences.” – Anton, participant

The Classic West AwaitsApply

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 begin to pack group and personal gear for the first part of their trip.

Whitewater Canoeing Expedition

Days 3-7
All prepped and packed, the group departs Deer Hill Basecamp on Day 3 for the river launch in Bluff, UT. They will spend their days on the river, canoeing class I and II+ rapids through the sinuous canyon, exploring the ancient ruins of Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, and enjoying the view from the tops of ridges that overlook southeastern Utah’s stunning landscape. 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 Navajo Nation

Days 7-12
Participants live and work with their hosts at their home in the Navajo Nation on projects such as tending the family garden using traditional Navajo practices, mending fences, 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. Our hosts often invite community and family members to share their knowledge, skills and arts with our groups.

Backpacking the San Juan Mountains

Days 14-19
The expedition ends with six days of backpacking through the quaking aspen, subalpine spruce and fir, and alpine meadows peppered with wildflowers of myriad shapes and colors that make the San Juan Mountains one of Colorado’s most special places. The group will learn how to stay safe and warm in unpredictable mountain weather, and attempt the ascent of 12- and 13,000-foot peaks.

Return to Basecamp

Days 19-21
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 3 – July 23, 2018

21 Days

40 Service Hours

*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.

The group is at Basecamp only at the beginning and end of the expedition, and for a transition between the service and backpacking sections.

Arrival and Departure:

Durango Airport (DRO) or

Deer Hill Basecamp, Mancos, Colorado.

Arrive July 3, 12-6pm; Depart July 23, 8:30am-2pm

Travel Information



I loved our service project at Grandma Charley’s. It was probably my favorite part of the trip. …. I will remember spending time with our hosts, celebrating Grandma Charley’s birthday party, huddling under a tarp with everyone in a thunderstorm, and reaching Centennial Peak and that feeling of accomplishment because of the long journey we had taken together.

Jacob, participant