What Are the Benefits of a Summer Hiking Trip for Teens?

As families make plans for summer camp, it’s time to take a close look at the benefits of a summer hiking trip for teens. Based on our 40 years of experience at Overland, we have identified these seven benefits of a summer hiking trip for teens: 

  • A broadening of horizons
  • A break from screens of all kinds
  • A time of discovery and inspiration
  • A deeper connection to the natural world
  • A forging of lifelong connections
  • An increase in self-reliance, resilience, and independence
  • A clearer sense of engaged and intentional living

The Seven Benefits of a Summer Hiking Trip for Teens

  1. A broadening of horizons. When we consider broadened horizons, we picture not just the physical horizons teens see on a hiking trip, but we see the world unfold in front of these teens: they see for themselves how the world is brimming with new experiences and bursting with promise. What’s more, they develop a deeper understanding of their place in the world: who they are as individuals separate from their family and friends at home. This is powerful stuff for a teen! 
  2. A break from screens of all kinds. When teens join a summer hiking trip (with Overland at least!), they leave their phones at home. There’s no need for scrolling, calling, texting, or posting. For the time that a teen is outdoors wit Overland, they’re fully engaged with their environment, their peers, their leaders, and their trip.
  3. A time of discovery and inspiration. There’s nothing more exciting for a teen than to immerse themselves in a world beyond their day-to-day. Teens on hiking trips find that they are amazed by the places they explore.
  4. A deeper connection to the natural world. Teens who join a summer hiking trip will never dismiss the value of the wilderness again once they’ve stood on the edge of the tundra in Alaska, or on the banks of a rushing river in Iceland
  5. A forging of lifelong connections. The people a teen travels with on a summer hiking trip—and those they meet along the way—will forever be imprinted in their rapidly maturing psyche and outlook. Those relationships capture a specific time and place—a time and place of tremendous change for a teen, a time a place that helps to orient the teen to what is most important to them.
  6. An increase in self-reliance, resilience, and independence. Hiking in the summer with a group of adventurous peers and two capable and caring leaders catalyzes in a teen a healthy embrace of resourcefulness, resilience, and creative problem solving. 
  1. A clearer sense of engaged and intentional living. Proximity matters, and when a teen pushes out into the world, they feel a closer connection to the people they share that space with, and the experiences are more vibrant than ever before.

The Three Types of Summer Hiking Trips for Teens on Overland

  1. Hiking
  2. Service & Hiking
  3. Language & Hiking

Read on to learn more about the three types of summer hiking trips for teens:

Hiking Trips

  • You set off, with your hiking boots on your feet, and your belongings in your backpack. It’s simple, beautiful, and physical. And it allows you to trace the lesser traveled paths of a country or region.
  • Before you go, consider where in the world you want to find yourself, do your research, and prepare thoroughly. Some, like Overland’s three-week Alaska Expedition trip, will take you to the far corners of the globe and into the shadow of one of the Seven Summits. Others might be a little closer to home; check out your local National Forest website or a non-profit wilderness management organization like the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Service & Hiking

  • Engage with a local community, and contribute to a meaningful service project. Some, like our Service and Hiking New England trip, are based here in the United States and have long-standing relationships with local organizations.
  • Some service projects are based abroad. Some of these projects are really great opportunities to lend a hand in a place that values your contribution. Other service projects may not be as closely connected to the community they serve. Carefully research the service partner organizations, as you’ll want to avoid voluntourism, or “volunteer tourism”, a kind of travel that isn’t always what you might hope for in terms of outcomes and impact.

Language & Hiking

  • What could be more exciting than learning a new language? There are many language learning opportunities around the world. On Overland’s Language and Hiking France trip, our students embed themselves in France’s Chamonix Valley. From there they are directly exposed to the language and culture of this famous mountain town, and leave their three-week adventure with language skills born out of language study both inside and outside the classroom.

Ready to Go? Take the First Step!

Here at Overland we spend ten months out of the year preparing our summer hiking trips for teens. There’s a lot to consider and everyone at Overland is eager to help guide you!

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Our Backgrounds

We have seen these positive outcomes for teens on hiking trips for forty years at Overland. Let us tell you a bit about ourselves:

Tom Costley founded Overland in 1984, and ran it for nearly forty years before handing it off to his son, Luke Costley, in September 2023. Over four decades, Overland has led 40,000 teens on outdoor trips around the world. Overland’s trips take our students on a journey of growth and discovery. Focused on safety, and free of screens, Overland is wholesome, adventurous, and fun. One of the things we’ve seen is that when teens join a summer hiking trip, they step out of their comfort zone a bit: they leave the comfortable routines and familiar relationships of home and school. And when they do, they have to reach down a bit. They have to have confidence in themselves and say: I can do this! It takes guts to leave home, try something new, and meet new people, but it has its benefits, too.

When I (Tom) look back on my career, I see the incredible power of the small group Overland experience. It literally has the power to launch a teen into adulthood. 

When I (Luke) arrived in Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time in 2008, I was all of thirteen years old, far from home, and brand new to the world of summer hiking trips for teens. Sixteen years later, I’ve learned a lot. As a member of the Admissions team here at Overland, I spend my days working with our families, trying to find a great summer adventure for their children. As I speak with families, I hear over and over about the values and growth at the core of their teen’s summer hiking experience.

In short: a summer hiking trip for teens is about more than taking a hike. It’s about taking the world into your arms!


    Tom Costley

    When Tom Costley founded Overland in 1984, he sought to create experiences for young people that were fun, where new friendships could grow, where natural beauty was embraced, where there were real and varied challenges, and where Overland’s students would achieve something of importance to them. Overland’s focus on small groups, carefully crafted trips, and superlative leadership has made it a leader in the summer camp world. Overland’s commitment to excellence in everything it does has led to its success: over the past four decades, Overland has served 40,000 students and 5,000 trip leaders. Tom writes about the outdoors and travel from Williamstown, Massachusetts.

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