Sierra sunshine, adventurous rafting and spectacular Shasta views.
California is more than its coast and its cities. California is the stunning Sierras, the exuberant American River and the majestic Mount Shasta. This is the California we’ll see and experience on High Sierra Expedition.
Every Overland trip is a carefully crafted series of challenges with a clearly defined goal. High Sierra Expedition is no exception. In the Sierras, the hiking is challenging—but attainable. On the American River the rafting is exciting—but ideal for first-timers (and we’re guided by terrific guides). And climbing Shasta, well, that’s the best part of all. We’ll spend three days on a snowcapped volcano working toward the summit at over 14,000 feet.
As with every Overland trip, we’ll see and experience these places with a small, fun group and two great leaders. This is what makes all the difference. An Overland group—always limited to 12 kids, always carefully put together—is a spirited, enthusiastic, positive and wholesome place. And the Overland leaders, well, they’re the best—caring, supportive and fun-loving. Together we’ll share three weeks of adventure and camaraderie, friendship and fun.
Standing on Mount Shasta we’ll see the world in a new light. That’s what’s so special about an Overland trip: the challenge, the group, new friends and lifelong memories that we can share together. What could be more wonderful than that?
We are all sharing in the happy glow of Ethan's extraordinary experience that was the result of careful planning by exceptional staff.
- Maya and Brian French, Brookline, Massachusetts
Days 1-3: Trip Start & Hike in the Hoover Wilderness
After meeting in San Francisco, we’ll drive east to the spectacular High Sierra. We’ll get to know one another, review our gear and learn how to pack our backpacks. We’ll also prepare for our backcountry hike by shopping for food and taking a day hike in the pristine Hoover Wilderness.
Days 4-11: Backpack in the High Sierra
On the fourth day of our trip, we’ll hit the trail and hike into the heart of the Sierra high country, into Toiyabe and Stanislaus National Forests. Over eight days, we’ll hike about 50 miles up rocky passes, through valleys, past alpine lakes, along grassy meadows and across snowfields. Few landscapes in the country are as dynamic as the High Sierra—in a single day we might start hiking in an evergreen, alpine forest and end the day near a wide-open granite peak. Averaging eight miles a day at altitudes between 7,000 and 10,000 feet, we’ll learn Leave No Trace principles and valuable backpacking skills. Along the way, we’ll find time for refreshing swims in alpine lakes or relaxing afternoons surrounded by incredible peaks and wildflowers.
Days 12-14: Raft the American River
After our backcountry hike, we’ll head to the historic town of Placerville and the American River. For two days, we’ll raft through lively Class III rapids to a private campground on the river. Our professional guides will lead us through alternating rapids and peaceful stretches of calm water.
Days 15-18: Mount Shasta
Rising from a nearly flat plain, Shasta’s snowcapped peak reaches over 14,000 feet. Driving north, we’ll prepare as a group for our challenge hike. We’ll pick up our mountaineering gear (boots, crampons, helmets and ice axes) and meet our professional guides who will instruct our snow school and lead our summit bid. On our first day, we’ll hike to base camp at 8,000 feet and spend the afternoon relaxing and acclimating to the altitude. The next day, we’ll hike to nearly 11,000 feet and spend the afternoon learning and practicing essential mountaineering skills. We’ll rise early the next day to climb towards the mighty peak of Shasta (14,179 feet). On the summit, we’ll stand above the clouds and soak up views of the California wilderness in the early morning sun.
Days 19 & 20: San Francisco & Trip End
At the end of the trip, we’ll return to San Francisco to celebrate three weeks of accomplishments and adventure in the great wilderness of the High Sierra.
8 nights of frontcountry camping. All campgrounds will have flush toilets and running water. Some facilities will include showers and laundry.
10 nights of backcountry camping with no access to bathroom facilities.
1 night in a hostel in San Francisco.
Things to know
- We travel light on Overland trips; please only bring items on your packing list.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring any electronics (including your cell phone). See FAQs for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
- Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
- If you are flying to your trip start, wear your hiking boots and carry your sleeping bag and sleeping pad on the plane in case your checked luggage fails to arrive on time.
- Pack everything in your backpack or day pack. Do not bring additional luggage.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
- Please wear the navy Overland shirt that you will receive from the Overland office to your trip start location.
- Navy Overland Shirt (1)
We will send students an Overland shirt prior to their trip, and we encourage students to wear their Overland shirt to trip start. We highly recommend this for students flying to their trip start location.
- Synthetic T-Shirt (4)
Short-sleeve T-shirt or tank top.
- Synthetic Shorts (2)
- Fleece Pants (1)
Please do not bring cotton sweatpants (they are heavy and bulky and will not keep you warm if wet).
- Synthetic Hiking Pants (optional)
Lightweight and quick dry material. Non-cotton warmup style pants are acceptable.
- Underwear (5)
- Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (5)
- Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom (1)
- Hat with Visor (1)
For protection from the sun. Baseball hats are acceptable.
- Winter Hat (1)
- Gloves or Mittens (pair)
Insulated, warm and waterproof. Avoid knit and porous materials.
- Swimsuit (optional)
If we swim, many students will wear shorts (and a sports bra for girls).
- Waterproof Raincoat (1)
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain coats provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. We recommend hoods and breathable materials. Gore-Tex is a well-known waterproof and breathable fabric but there are many other quality fabrics. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Waterproof Rain Pants (1)
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain pants provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer.
- Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
Medium to heavyweight and reasonably compact.
- Packable Synthetic or Down Jacket (1)
Lightweight, compressible, synthetic (Primaloft or similar) or down jacket. Full zip or 1/4 zip are acceptable.
- Internal Frame Backpack
65-85 liters or 4,000-5,100 cubic inches. Before purchasing a backpack, find your backpack size by measuring your torso length and your hips (instructions are available here). We recommend getting fitted at a store and trying on multiple packs.
- Waterproof Pack Cover
If your backpack does not come with a cover, we recommend buying a cover one size larger than your pack.
- Day Pack
Basic two-shoulder backpack large enough to hold your lunch, two water bottles, snacks, extra layers and rain jacket. Use your day pack as a carry-on for your flight and for daily activities or hikes. A standard school backpack is usually fine (no satchels or shoulder bags).
- Sleeping Bag
A lightweight, compact sleeping bag rated to 20 degrees Fahrenheit or less. We recommend either synthetic or treated down material. Your sleeping bag should compress into a stuff sack no larger than 20" in length.
- Sleeping Pad
Full- or ¾-length compact sleeping pad. We recommend closed cell foam that is thin and firm (e.g., RidgeRest) or self-inflating (e.g., Therm-a-Rest).
- Bowl, Mug & Utensils
6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top, insulated plastic mug, spoon, fork and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils (a Tupperware dish and regular utensils are fine).
- Water Bottle
One 1-liter bottle. A Camelbak or similar water carrier is acceptable.
- Flashlight or Headlamp & Extra Batteries
Headlamps are preferable because they free up your hands.
- Mosquito Head Net
- Adjustable Trekking Poles (optional)
To add stability, reduce strain on the knees and improve balance while crossing unstable surfaces.
- Gaiters (optional)
Calf-height, waterproof gaiters to protect your legs and feet when hiking through brush, across snow fields or streams.
- Waterproof Hiking Boots
Choose comfortable boots designed for hiking with a pack (i.e., mid to high cut for ankle support). Boots should be waterproof. Break them in before the start of your trip.
- Water Shoes
Closed-toed sport sandals, water shoes or old sneakers to wear on the water. Sandals must have a heel strap for activities such as kayaking, rafting or canoeing (flip flops and Crocs are not acceptable).
- Camp Shoes (optional)
Closed-toe shoes to wear around camp. Crocs or lightweight tennis shoes are ideal.
- Photo Identification
A current school or other kind of photo identification (if you have one).
- Unaccompanied Minor Fee Receipt (if applicable)
For students travelling as Unaccompanied Minors, please print a copy of the UAM fee receipt for your child's leaders to keep on file.
- Baggage Fee Receipt (if applicable)
Some airlines allow passengers to input credit card information to cover checked bag service charges when checking in online prior to the trip. To reduce hassle at the airport, we encourage you to pay for checked baggage beforehand and supply your child with a copy of the receipt for his or her leaders to keep on file.
- Synthetic Camping Towel
A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
All items should be travel size (if necessary, you will be able to restock during the trip).
- Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
- Large Trash Bags (4)
To waterproof your gear.
Polarized sunglasses that wrap around to protect from glare are ideal.
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Insect Repellent
- Package of Moleskin or Molefoam
To protect your feet from blisters.
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera and, if necessary, a charger and large enough memory card to accommodate your pictures (4 to 8 GB).
- Spending Money
$30 per week in cash or a debit/ATM card.
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
- What is the weather like on High Sierra Expedition?
The weather on High Sierra Expedition varies. Sometimes it is sunny and warm, other times it is rainy and cold; typical summer temperatures in the High Sierra range from the 40s to 80s and may be cooler at night. Our packing list takes these variables into consideration. Layering is the best strategy. Please follow the packing list, paying close attention to rain gear specifications.
Your child should come prepared for some mosquitoes and black flies. The number of bugs varies from year to year with weather conditions. Using bug spray, head nets and wearing long sleeve shirts and/or pants alleviates most problems.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for my child's trip?
Your child will fly to and from San Francisco International Airport (SFO). We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a program.
- How often will my child have access to showers and laundry?
Groups typically shower and do laundry once a week.
- What do you do about bears?
Traveling as a large group goes a long way in preventing unwanted attention from wildlife. In addition, we hike in well-traveled areas and train all of our staff in backcountry skills and awareness. We instruct our leaders how to set up camp and store food in ways that reduce the chances of attracting wildlife, including bears. We’ll brief students on these routines at the start of the trip. Both of our leaders also carry bear spray in case of an emergency.
- Please tell me about safety at Overland.
Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent and other risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. We work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for over 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
- Does my child need to have previous experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child–with your help–to select a trip that is appropriate for his or her interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific program and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready–and excited–to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.
- Please tell me about Overland’s admissions process.
For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
When we receive child’s application, if the first choice is available, you will receive a phone call and an email containing a link to our Overland Portal where you will find our Admissions Review Forms. We will accept your deposit to hold your child’s place in the program pending a favorable Admissions Review. If the first choice is not available, we will call you to confirm that the second choice is acceptable. If neither the first choice nor second choice are available, we will call you to discuss options. For those students placed on our waitlist, we will notify you as soon as a spot becomes available.
We seek to admit students who have demonstrated that they possess the personal qualities and experience necessary to succeed on an Overland trip. While Overland is always supportive and nurturing, an Overland program is unlike a traditional camp in that our small groups–12 students and 2 leaders–travel, live and work as a group, making all of their own meals, helping each other and cooperating in ways big and small, and they do all of this far from home. As a result, every student must be able to thrive in an environment that places equal emphasis on:
1. Teamwork and Shared Responsibilities.
2. Independence and Self-Reliance.
3. Support of Others and Consideration for Others.
- What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?
To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers (the exceptions to this are: your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency). If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send him or her with an expensive smartphone; instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss to phones, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.
Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).
We are committed to providing extraordinary support to you and your child; to that end, the Overland office is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week during the summer (outside of office hours our answering service provides emergency coverage). Our leaders in the field are in touch with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with their child.
Backpack, hike, raft and learn mountaineering skills in Northern California.
Students going on High Sierra Expedition should prepare for:
- 12 days of hiking with an average of 7 miles per day
- Travel to and from the trip
- An Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for Hiking
On High Sierra Expedition, you will do one day hike and spend a total of 11 days backpacking. You will follow well-established trails and backcountry routes through terrain ranging from gentle and rolling to steep and rocky. The route will be challenging at times, as you travel to elevations higher than 8,000 feet and experience significant elevation gain and loss.
Backpacking is a strenuous physical activity and requires proper training. While backpacking, our groups are fully self-supported—you will carry all of your belongings (clothes, sleeping bag and pad), some group gear, food and water. Your leaders will distribute group gear and food among all members of the group. Pack weights will vary trip by trip, depending on the location, weather, student and the distance covered. Typically when backpacking, pack weights average about 30% of a hiker’s weight.
Before your trip, we strongly advise you spend time breaking-in and adjusting to your hiking boots. We expect you to prepare adequately so you can keep up physically and participate in all of your group's activities. Please follow our guidelines as you prepare for your program.
- 5 weeks before your trip: wear your boots for 15-30 minutes a day. Walk around your house or neighborhood so your boots begin to conform to your feet.
- 4 weeks before your trip: take three 45-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 3 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots.
- 2 weeks before your trip: take three 2-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 10-15% of your body weight.
- 1 week before your trip: take two 3-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 25-30% of your body weight.
Groups typically average between 1½ and 3 miles per hour (although pace varies by group). You will take multiple breaks in the morning and afternoon - for water, snacks, lunch, to adjust packs, etc. If you arrive into camp early, your group might spend the afternoon exploring the area.
Preparing for Travel to and from the Trip
Families are responsible for arranging flights to and from the designated airport during a specified window (please do not purchase flights until you have received an email confirming our review of your health forms and school reference). Overland staff will be at the airport to welcome you at the start of your trip and to assist with your departure. You may also be dropped off and picked up at the airport. If you are flying to and from your trip, we will have you call home upon arrival and before departure. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed you on a program.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland programs are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be supportive of your trip mates and your leaders, enthusiastic, positive and helpful. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. You will have the opportunity to send letters and receive mail at designated mail stops, which are shared in the spring.
All trips have a range of challenges. You should come prepared and recognize that some days will be more difficult, more challenging and longer—both in terms of miles and hours on the trail—than others. Delays occur due to a wide range of variables beyond the control of you, your group or your leaders. Weather patterns change and trail and route conditions vary. You, or someone in your group, might develop a blister or encounter another issue that could delay your group. On some days your group will arrive in to camp in the early afternoon, with plenty of time to explore the area or go swimming, while on other days your group will spend more time on the trail.
Arriving ready for a challenge—and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland program.