Service & Hiking Southwest

Overview Details Itinerary What to Pack FAQs Before You Go


Serve, hike and explore in Santa Fe and the desert Southwest—a land of great beauty and pressing needs.

Santa Fe is historic, beautiful and diverse. First settled as early as 900, Santa Fe boasts beautiful green mountains, red deserts and a diverse population.

Just as with any small city, Santa Fe has urgent needs. You, your Overland leaders and fellow group members will volunteer at a food bank, assist with trail and park maintenance and mentor local children. It’s all important work that’s worth doing.

The Southwest has much to explore. From downtown Santa Fe’s historic Plaza to the Taos Pueblo to the prehistoric ruins at Bandelier National Monument and the incredible geological formations at Tent Rocks (we’ll get out on the Rio Grande just outside Taos for rafting, too). Exciting adventures—culturally and historically—in a beautiful landscape.

Being able to serve, and appreciate, an area like the Southwest is a wonderful opportunity. You will serve, learn and explore. You will be in the good hands of your Overland leaders (who will guide you every step of the way). And, you will make friends and have fun with your group—great kids like you who are drawn to the Southwest, to its beauty and its opportunities to serve.

Questions? Contact us!

I loved seeing the faces of the people we were helping.

- Audrey Cobb, Charlotte, North Carolina
Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.

Days 1-3: Trip Start & Work with School Children at a Community Garden

After meeting in Albuquerque, we’ll drive to Santa Fe to our dorms at the Institute of American Indian Arts. During our first few days, we’ll work with school children, helping them develop and maintain a local community garden. We’ll take this chance to learn from our partners about food security and sustainability in the Santa Fe area. In the afternoons, we’ll stretch our legs on some hikes just outside Santa Fe. As we adjust to the altitude, these afternoon hikes will progress in difficulty.

Days 4-6: Trail Work in Santa Fe National Forest & Afternoon Hikes

We’ll pack up and move from our dorms to a pristine campground in the Santa Fe National Forest. With camp as our base for the next three days, we’ll work with a trail crew in the National Forest to improve trails for visitors. Our work may include clearing brush from the trail, trimming vegetation, removing loose debris, installing erosion control devices or re-routing sections of the existing trail. Knowledgeable and enthusiastic park rangers will help focus our efforts and ensure our work truly benefits the trail networks. On afternoon hikes, we’ll enjoy stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Santa Fe Valley.

Days 7 & 8: Explore & Hike around Taos & Raft the Rio Grande

Over the weekend, we’ll venture north from Santa Fe to experience the expansive landscape and rich history of New Mexico. We will drive to Taos, enjoy a day hike and meet our professional guides for a half-day rafting adventure down the Rio Grande River. We’ll spend the night at a campground in Taos and wake up early the next morning for a seven-mile hike in the Rio Grande Gorge. After experiencing the vivid blues and greens of the river, we’ll hike out, spend the afternoon exploring the Taos plaza and return to our dorms in Santa Fe before our second week of service begins.

Days 9 & 10: Volunteer at a Community Farm & Visit Tent Rocks & Bandelier National Monument

On Monday, we’ll head to a local farm and help prepare to harvest fresh produce to be distributed to the local food banks we’ll work with during our last days. During one afternoon, we’ll visit Bandelier National Monument, where we’ll see 850-year-old pueblo sites symbolic of the American Southwest. In another afternoon, we’ll hike through the rugged landscape of Tent Rocks National Monument.

Days 11-13: Food Bank Service & Trip End

During our final days together, we’ll volunteer at the largest food bank in northern New Mexico. Additionally, we’ll help at an all-volunteer food delivery and distribution organization. We’ll organize donated food at the warehouses, sort vegetables, bag bread and load delivery vehicles. Through our work, we’ll gain insight into the ways in which these non-profit businesses and volunteer groups tackle the pressing issue of hunger in their community. After our last morning of service at the food bank, we’ll enjoy our final dinner together in town, celebrating accomplishments, hard work and new friendships.




8 nights in dorms at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

4 nights of frontcountry camping. Campground facilities will vary and may include flush toilets, hot water, showers and/or laundry.

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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).
  • Be sure to bring comfortable clothes that can get dirty and worn while volunteering.
  • 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.
  • 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.


  • Medium-Sized Duffel Bag or Backpack
    3,000-5,000 cubic inch (50-80 liters) duffel bag. You will leave the duffel bag and any extra items in our van during the trip and use your day pack for hikes and daily activities.


  • 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.
  • Long-Sleeve T-Shirt (1)
    Lightweight for sun protection.
  • Work Pants (1)
    Durable and suitable for trail work.
  • Fleece Pants (1)
    Please do not bring cotton sweatpants (they are heavy and bulky and will not keep you warm if wet).
  • Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom
  • Shorts (2)
    Shorts suitable for daily activities including volunteer work and hiking.
  • T-Shirt (5)
    Short-sleeve T-shirt or tank top.
  • Underwear (7)
  • Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (4)
  • Hat with Visor (1)
    For protection from the sun. Baseball hats are acceptable.
  • Swimsuit (optional)
  • Pajamas (optional)
    Students sometimes prefer to sleep in shorts and a T-shirt instead of bringing pajamas.
  • Bandana (optional)

Outer Layers

  • 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.
  • Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
    Medium to heavyweight and reasonably compact.

General Gear

  • 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 30 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).
  • Headlamp & Extra Batteries
  • Water Bottle
    One 1-liter bottle. A Camelbak or similar water carrier is acceptable.
  • 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).


  • Hiking Boots
    For some service work and while out hiking. They must be over the ankle hiking boots as required by the Santa Fe National Forest in order for our group to volunteer.
  • Sneakers (pair)
    Comfortable shoes to wear on daily activities. Shoes should be supportive and have a good tread on the bottom for traction.
  • 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).

Travel Documents

  • 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.


  • Leather Work Gloves (pair)
    Sturdy gloves to wear during volunteer work
  • Sunglasses
    Polarized sunglasses that wrap around to protect from glare are ideal.
  • Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
  • Toiletries
    All items should be travel size (if necessary, you will be able to restock during the trip).
  • Insect Repellent
  • Synthetic Camping Towel (1)
    A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
  • 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).
  • Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
    To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
  • Large Trash Bags (4)
    To waterproof your gear.
  • Personal Journal or Book (optional)
  • 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 Service & Hiking Southwest?

    The weather on Service & Hiking Southwest varies. The high desert environment of Santa Fe is hot; average summer temperatures range from the 50s to 80s and may be cooler at night. We do most of our work outdoors in the early mornings to avoid the late afternoon heat. 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.

  • What are the arrival and departure airports for my child’s trip?

    You will need to arrange transportation for your child to and from Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ) at trip start and end. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a program.

  • 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. 1. Teamwork and Shared Responsibilities.

    2. 2. Independence and Self-Reliance.

    3. 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.

  • Can my child get credit for service hours?

    You should check with your child’s school about whether or not Overland's service hours meet their requirements. The approximate number of hours of service are listed in the sidebar. We will provide your child with proof of participation after completion of his or her service work.

Volunteer in Santa Fe's local communities and explore northern New Mexico.

Students going on Service & Hiking Southwest should prepare for:

  • 9 days of hiking with an average of 3-5 miles per day
  • 9 days of volunteer service for an average of about 4 hours each 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 Service & Hiking Southwest, you will typically perform service work in the morning and then hike or experience local culture in the afternoon. You will hike on well-established trails through a variety of landscapes, traveling over terrain ranging from gentle and rolling to rocky and steep.

Before your trip, we strongly advise you spend time breaking-in and adjusting to your hiking boots. Please follow our guidelines as you prepare for your program.

Pre-trip training:

  • 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 30-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 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots .
  • 1 week before your trip: take two 2-hour hikes or walks in your boots .

While hiking, the pace of your group will vary. Typically, you will take multiple breaks over the course of the hike - for water, snacks, lunch, to adjust packs, etc.

Preparing for Service

Trips involving service work require a positive attitude and willingness to work hard as a volunteer. You should arrive eager to participate in a variety of service projects. Projects generally include trail work in Santa Fe National Forest, mentoring local youth and helping a community food bank distribute food. The projects your group work on will depend upon the availability of service opportunities and the needs of the local community. Once your program starts, be prepared to commit yourself wholeheartedly to your group and all activities.

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.

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.