We’ll gather in San Francisco then head east to spectacular Lake Tahoe, where we’ll swim in Tahoe’s brilliant blue water, kayak pristine Emerald Bay and hike high above the lake through stands of fragrant pine and past the last of the winter’s snow.
Just south of Tahoe we’ll take on more challenging hikes through wildflower-filled valleys and below granite peaks. We can expect warm, sunny days and clear, cool nights—as nice as it gets for hiking and camping.
We’ll wrap up our time in the Sierras with a day of rafting on the American River—splashing and laughing our way down the river—a great way to finish two fantastic weeks in California’s high country.
In San Francisco at trip end, we’ll celebrate all of our accomplishments, all of the fun we’ve had and all of the friendships we’ve made in the rugged and beautiful California mountains.
Sierra Adventure offers the chance to see the West in an enthusiastic group of adventurous peers with two caring, capable Overland leaders. We encourage all of our students to embrace the independence of an Overland trip while relying on the support and fun of the group. All activities have been carefully chosen to suit 5th and 6th graders—it’s a great way to explore the West and to experience Overland.
My leaders made my trip the most fun two weeks of my entire life. They have inspired me in so many ways; when I grow up I want to be just like them. Thank you.
- Thomas Quinnild, Brainerd, Minnesota
Day 1: Trip Start
We’ll meet in the San Francisco International Airport. Once everyone has arrived, we’ll drive to our campground just outside San Francisco and spend the day getting to know one another, playing games and reviewing our gear.
Day 2-7: Hike and Kayak Lake Tahoe
We’ll spend the next several days exploring the Lake Tahoe region on foot and by kayak. We’ll hike in Eldorado National Forest, exploring Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay, the Desolation Wilderness and Meiss Country. When we’re not hiking, we’ll enjoy the beach, play games and swim in the crystal-clear water. While at Lake Tahoe, we will kayak Emerald Bay with professional guides. From the water, we’ll soak in views of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains.
Day 8-10: Hike in the Emigrant Wilderness
After exploring Lake Tahoe, we’ll head south to the Emigrant Wilderness. The Emigrant Wilderness offers a remarkable landscape of granite peaks, wildflower-spotted meadows and crystal clear alpine lakes. For our first hike, we’ll travel along a ridge with spectacular views of Yosemite National Park to the west and the Nevada desert to the east. While we’re here, we’ll challenge ourselves on a hike alongside a babbling creek splashed with colorful wildflowers, aiming to reach the vividly blue East Lake.
Day 11: Raft the American River
After conquering our challenge hike, we’ll venture west to raft the American River with professional guides. We will raft down fun, exciting rapids surrounded by beautiful scenery and friends.
Day 12 & 13: San Francisco and Trip End
After rafting on the American River, we’ll drive back to San Francisco to celebrate two weeks of fun, friendship and accomplishment in California’s High Sierra.
11 nights of frontcountry camping. Campground facilities will vary and may include flush toilets, showers and/or laundry.
1 night in a hostel near San Francisco. The hostel is a dormitory style accommodation with beds, showers and laundry facilities. The rooms are divided by gender.
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, carry your sleeping bag and sleeping pad with you 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.
- T-Shirt (3)
Short-sleeve T-shirt or tank top.
- Long-Sleeve T-Shirt (2)
Lightweight for sun protection.
- Synthetic Shorts (3)
- Pants (2)
Suitable for cool evenings in camp (synthetic pants are preferred).
- Underwear (6)
- Athletic Socks (pair) (6)
- Hat with Visor
For protection from the sun. Baseball hats are acceptable.
- Winter Hat
- Gloves or Mittens (pair)
To stay warm in camp on cool nights.
- Pajamas (optional)
Students sometimes prefer to sleep in shorts and a T-shirt instead of bringing pajamas.
- Waterproof Raincoat
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.
- Packable Synthetic or Down Jacket (1)
Lightweight, compressible, synthetic (Primaloft or similar) or down jacket. Full zip or 1/4 zip are acceptable.
- 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).
- Flashlight or Headlamp & Extra Batteries
Headlamps are preferable because they free up your hands.
- 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 smaller size is acceptable).
- 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).
- 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).
Polarized sunglasses that wrap around to protect from glare are ideal.
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Spending Money
$30 per week in cash or a debit/ATM card.
- 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).
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Pillow (optional)
Compact, travel-size pillow recommended.
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
- What is the weather like on Sierra Adventure?
The weather on Sierra Adventure 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.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for Sierra Adventure?
Your son or daughter 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 son or daughter have access to showers and laundry?
While we have regular access to showers, most students will shower once or twice a week. Groups will 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.
Hike, raft and kayak in California’s Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe.
Students going on Sierra Adventure should prepare for:
- 6 days of hiking with an average of 4 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
You should be prepared for day hikes in the Sierras on well-established trails; on some hikes you will reach elevations higher than 8,000 feet. Your group will hike together and take breaks for rest, lunch, snacks and water as necessary.
Stay active this spring, playing sports, walking and hiking.
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, eager to experience new activities 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.