Global Guide to Summer Camps & Teen Programs

Cottonwood Gulch

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Explore the Wilderness of the Southwest: Backpacking, Rock Climbing, River Trips, Ecology 

This is a place for those of us who need to get our hands and boots dirty in order to understand this beautiful land.  We take you on world-class backpacking excursions, but the Gulch is much more than thatwe also explore Southwestern art, archaeology, reptiles, and dinosaur bones. This is a place where adventure--backpacking, rock climbing, exploring ghost towns, spelunking through dried lava tubes, waking up before sunrise to hike to the top of a mountain--is the foundation for learning.  We know that learning, real learning, isnt sitting in classroom thumbing through a textbook about mountains.  Real learning means climbing that mountain yourself.

      Many of our older groups embark on extended backpacking trips of 4-10 days, and every group has the opportunity to rock climb on some of New Mexicos best red rock.  For Trekkers who are inspired to learn even more about the Southwest, we hire naturalists every year who work closely with individual trekkers to develop hands-on projects in geology, herpetology, ornithology, or any other ology that piques your interest.      

Discover the Culture of the Southwest: Art, Archaeology, Agriculture 

The Navajo Nation, Georgia OKeefe, Zuni Pueblo, Chaco Canyon, Kit Carson, Billy the Kid, GeronimoNew Mexicos unique history speaks for itself.  This is the Wild West, a land of unmatched inspiration to countless artists, and a place whose Native American heritage is alive and well. Unlike many wilderness programs that focus solely on adventure, we also take time to meet and learn about the people who live here. 

      So in addition to hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing, the Gulch will take you through the 1,000-year-old walls of Chaco Canyon, teach you to paint the same landscapes that inspired Georgia OKeefe, or help rebuild a Hogan or weave a rug with our Navajo neighbors on their farm. 

Create your own Legacy 

86 years of leading expeditions has taught us again and again that the way to discover if you have a passion for archaeology is not to read about Chaco Canyon in a textbook; it's to walk through the ancient walls of Chaco Canyon for yourself.  The way to discover if you have a passion for wild animals is to observe them in their natural habitat.  The way to discover if you have a passion for art is to draw and paint and sculpt with the red rocks and clay and silver of New Mexico. 

      Since Hillis Howies first Trek in 1926, the Gulch has set itself apart from similar organizations by giving you the opportunity to create your own projects.  This is NOT a paper or anything of the sort.  Instead it is a chance to work closely with our staff to create your own silver bracelet, make a star chart of the night sky, restore burrowing owl habitat on our property, reconstruct an 800-year-old pot with our archaeologist, or build a new chicken coop for our farm.   

      In other words, this is not a tour of the Southwest, this is a place to explore in a way you never have before. This is experiential education at its best.  And who knows? Maybe you will come home from the Gulch with a newfound passion.  You wouldnt be the first.


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