Wilderness and Conservation: American West to Patagonia

Spend a semester backpacking and exploring the Colorado Rocky Mountains, Greater Canyonlands of Utah, and breathtaking Patagonia. You’ll go into great depth to advance your backcountry wilderness skills for the entire semester while studying pressing environmental issues and participating in real-world conservation service work.

Program Highlights

  • Backpack through Colorado’s highest peaks, the canyons of Utah, and awe-inspiring glacial valleys in Patagonia.
  • Learn to comfortably live and travel in the wilderness and international destinations for extended periods of time.
  • Investigate pressing conservation issues while working with service partners to protect and restore these wild places.
  • Plan and execute a student-led expedition in the mountains of central Patagonia.
  • Become part of an incredible community dedicated to personal growth, outdoor exploration, and adventure.

View a Sample Itinerary

Program Overview

Colorado Wilderness Expedition

You begin the course with a two-week backpacking expedition through the high peaks of Colorado. You learn to live comfortably in the backcountry, navigate challenging off trail terrain, cook delicious meals on a single-burner stove and sleep in lightweight shelters. You also begin to explore the diverse perspectives on environmental ethics, considering the value of wilderness and the importance of conservation. To complement these intellectual conversations, you’ll volunteer for a service project on one of Colorado’s most popular 14,000’ peaks. During this expedition, you come together as a community, getting to know one another through evening discussions, spontaneous fun and games, supporting each other as “Leader of the Day,” and sharing the profound experience of traveling through such an exceptional place.

Utah Section

Once you’ve returned from the Colorado wilderness expedition, you’ll transition to the Greater Canyonlands region of Utah. You’ll spend a few days touring the area and meeting with local stakeholders to learn about the complex conservation issues in the area. You’ll then embark on a two-week canyons expedition, applying your wilderness skills to a new, more technical environment. From descending slot canyons to navigating across a vast mesa, this section will challenge you to come together as a team and advance your competence.

After completing the canyons expedition, you’ll transition to a base-camp to begin a service project with one of our conservation partners. Whether improving a popular mountain biking trail, monitoring bighorn sheep migration, or contributing to a management plan recommendation, you get to actively participate in real-world conservation work. On non-work days, you’ll learn to climb on the sweeping sandstone walls that form the desert skyline, explore the area’s many wonders, and hang out in the town of Moab.

Patagonia Section

For the culminating section, you’ll travel deep into the heart of Chilean Patagonia. You’ll arrive in Chile Chico, a small town near the border with Argentina, and spend a few days settling in and enjoying a different way of life. You’ll then set off on an 18-21 day expedition through Parque Patagonia, traveling through immense glacial valleys and over mountain passes. You’ll stop for a few days beneath the impressive Vientisqueros Glacier to volunteer with a local eco-tourism organization to improve a backcountry hut. During this expedition, you’ll solidify your backcountry travel, navigation, wilderness first aid, and leadership skills.

Once back in Chile Chico, you’ll begin to plan your student-led expedition. As a group, you will independently plan and execute a backpacking expedition through a new swath of Patagonian wilderness. This final week is a culmination and celebration of everything you’ve been working toward these past three months.

The semester ends with several culminating events. You’ll write and discuss a personal mission statement as well as present your personal environmental ethic to the group. You’ll also complete a 24-36 hour solo, taking the time to reflect on what this experience has meant for you and what you hope to take with you into your future endeavors and adventures.