The American West—beautiful and legendary—for two weeks of exploration, friendship and fun.
There’s an irresistible draw to the West: it’s open, and big and beautiful. It looms large in our collective imagination. But how do you experience it? For over 30 years, we’ve answered that question with a small number of carefully crafted trips.
Rocky Mountain Explorer offers two spectacular weeks out West. The trip is perfectly paced: start with day hikes, move to a backcountry hike, then go rafting. And then, at the end of the trip, when skills and fitness are at their finest, we head to a peak for a final challenge. We will scramble towards the top and look out at the West and all of its beauty and grandeur.
As with every Overland trip, you’ll be in the capable, caring hands of two wonderful Overland leaders. We call them leaders, but they’re more than that, much more: they’re leaders, yes, but they’re also mentors, role models, friends.
When you head home, you’ll take the West with you. The West will be a part of you—we know it will. And you’ll be back. We know that, too.
Each year I am struck by Overland’s extraordinary leaders.
- Katy Terry, Princeton, New Jersey
After meeting in Denver, we’ll drive to Rocky Mountain National Park where we’ll get to know one another, review our gear and prepare for the adventure ahead.
Day Hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park
We’ll start with a number of day hikes, which will help us acclimate to the elevation and prepare us for more challenging hikes later in the trip. We might hike Flattop Mountain, Sky Pond and Emerald Lake, or traverse Chapin, Chiquita and Ypsilon peaks. On these hikes, we’ll average between five and seven miles per day, enjoying beautiful viewpoints, lakes and snowfields along the way.
Our backcountry hike will take us along snowy mountain ranges and through alpine meadows covered in wildflowers. We’ll spend two or three days on the trail, average five miles per day and travel as a self-sufficient group. We’ll learn backcountry skills, Leave No Trace principles and camping basics near beautiful and peaceful high mountain lakes.
Raft the Arkansas River
We’ll take a break from the trail to raft the Arkansas River for two days with professional guides who will lead us down the river through calm flat water and exciting Class II and III rapids. We’ll spend a night camping along the river, waking up to breakfast prepared by our guides and another great day of rafting.
Our final challenge is hiking one of Colorado’s high peaks. After two weeks of hiking at elevation, we’ll be ready. We’ll rise early, hoping to summit by late morning and return to camp in the early afternoon—a fitting end to our adventure in the Rockies.
At trip end, we’ll return to Denver and look back on two weeks of outdoor exploration. We will celebrate our accomplishments and the friendships we formed along the way.
Frontcountry camping. Most nights we’ll have access to campground facilities (these will vary and may include flush toilets, hot showers and/or laundry).
Backcountry camping. A small number of nights–typically two or three–will be spent in the backcountry with no access to bathroom facilities. Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.
- Navy Overland T-Shirt (1)
We will send every student an Overland T-shirt prior to the trip. Please wear this T-shirt to trip start.
- 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.
- Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom (1)
- Synthetic Shorts (3)
- Synthetic T-Shirt (3)
- Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (4)
- Underwear (5)
- Hat with Visor (1)
- Winter Hat (1)
- Gloves or Mittens
- Swimsuit (optional)
If we swim, many students will wear shorts (and a sports bra for girls).
- Pajamas (optional)
Students sometimes prefer to sleep in shorts and a T-shirt instead of bringing pajamas.
- Lightweight Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
- Fleece or Packable Synthetic/Down Jacket (1)
Medium to heavyweight fleece jacket or lightweight, compressible, synthetic (Primaloft or similar) or down jacket. Full zip or 1/4 zip are acceptable. To be used as a warm, insulating layer.
- Insulated Vest (1)
Insulated fleece, Thinsulate or down vest to wear on cold days and evenings.
- Waterproof Raincoat (1)
- Waterproof Rain Pants (1)
- Internal Frame Backpack
50-70 liters or 3,000-4,300 cubic inches (if you plan to do longer backpacking trips in the future, consider purchasing a pack that is towards the higher end of this range). 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 (optional)
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
¾-length or full-length closed cell foam (thin and firm) or self-inflating.
- 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).
- 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.
- Camp Shoes
Closed-toe shoes to wear around camp. Crocs or lightweight tennis shoes are ideal.
- Synthetic Camping Towel
A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
- Travel Size Toiletries
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Insect Repellent
- Package of Moleskin or Molefoam
To protect your feet from blisters.
- 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)
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera.
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
- Photo Identification
If you are not flying: Overland does not require photo identification. If you are flying within the U.S.: The TSA website has two relevant pieces of information. (1) “TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States.” This language indicates that TSA staff can insist that an under-18 year old who does not have a companion (we interpret this as a companion who is 18 or over traveling with them—not just checking them in) must have TSA-compliant identification. Our experience is that this requirement is inconsistently enforced but, since it might be enforced, we recommend that all Overland students who are flying to/from their trip have TSA-compliant identification. (2) “Contact the airline for questions regarding specific ID requirements for travelers under 18.” This is always smart to do as airline policies vary widely and change frequently.
- Spending Money & Miscellaneous Expenses
Each student should bring a debit card, an ATM card or a prepaid Visa card to cover spending money and miscellaneous expenses. Spending Money: While all meals and activities are included in the trip fee, we recommend $25/week for spending money (for example: for souvenirs or an occasional drink or snack beyond what is provided to the group as a whole). Miscellaneous Expenses: Most Overland students will incur some expenses while traveling (for example: an equipment repair or baggage fees at trip end). Please add $100 to the debit/ATM/Visa card (in addition to spending money), to cover these expenses.
Things to know
- We travel light at Overland; please only bring the items on your packing list.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring your smart phone (or any other electronics).
Please visit the FAQ tab 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 schedule expensive items—phones, cameras, bicycles, etc.—on your homeowners insurance policy.
- Please wear the navy Overland T-shirt that you receive from Overland to your trip start location.
- What is the weather and environment like on Rocky Mountain Explorer?
The weather on Rocky Mountain Explorer varies widely. In the mountains, the weather can change quickly and afternoon showers are common. Sometimes it is sunny and warm while other times it is rainy and cold. Summer temperatures in Colorado range from the 50s to the 70s during the day and are cooler at night.
- How often will my child have access to showers and laundry?
Groups typically shower and do laundry once a week.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for my child’s trip?
You will need to arrange transportation for your child to and from Denver International Airport (DEN) at trip start and trip end. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a trip.
- 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 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 trip 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.
When we receive your application, if your first choice is available, we will: (1) call you to acknowledge our receipt of your application, (2) send you an email with a link to our Admissions Review Forms, and (3) charge a deposit of $795 to your credit card to hold your place in the trip pending a favorable admissions review. If your first choice is not available, we will call you to discuss your second choice, third choice or other options. For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
- 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. 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 an expensive smartphone, instead, an inexpensive prepaid cell phone will do. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss, 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 other 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 I send mail to my child during a trip?
Getting a letter, card or postcard while on an Overland trip is always exciting. Please keep in mind that sending mail to your child on an Overland trip is different than sending mail to camp because your child will be on the move. Our experience has been that mail often does not arrive on time, and, sometimes, even when it does, post offices, campgrounds and other mail stops do not reliably deliver mail to our groups. For these reasons:
1. Please do not send anything valuable – please send letters, cards or postcards only. If mail is late, lost or misdirected, Overland’s leaders and staff are not able to return to the post office (or other mail stop) to collect it.
2. Please use the US Postal Service first-class mail only; do not use UPS, FedEx or DHL (many of our mail stops accept US Postal Service mail only).
3. Please do not send overnight letters: many overnighted letters arrive before or after we arrive and are then sent back. For this same reason, please do not send mail that requires a signature upon delivery.
4. Please allow one week for postal delivery to U.S. mail stops.
5. Please allow two weeks for postal delivery to international mail stops.
Hike, raft and explore in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
Students going on Rocky Mountain Explorer should prepare for:
- Full days of outdoor activities led by two caring Overland leaders
- Day hikes to viewpoints and mountaintops
- A multi-day backpacking trip designed for first-time backpackers
- A fun, supportive and wholesome Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for the Hiking
On Rocky Mountain Explorer, you will hike on well-established trails over a wide range of terrain, from meadows to hills to mountains. You'll start with day hikes where you'll carry just the essentials for the day (snacks and lunch, water, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, bug spray and a raincoat). As the group's skills and fitness increase, you'll set out on a multi-day backpacking trip. While backpacking, you will carry all of your belongings (clothes, sleeping bag and pad), some group gear, food and water. Typically when backpacking, pack weights average about 30% of a hiker's weight. In the month before your trip, you should break-in your hiking boots (wear them a lot!) and complete the pre-trip training (see below). Once on your trip, you'll find that enthusiasm and a positive attitude will help to make the trip a success for you... and for everyone in your group.
- 4 weeks before your trip: three 45-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 3 weeks before your trip: three 60-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 2 weeks before your trip: three 90-minute hikes in your boots with a backpack loaded with 10% of your body weight.
- 1 week before your trip: four 2-hour hikes in your boots with a backpack loaded with 20% of your body weight.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland trips are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be enthusiastic, positive, helpful and supportive of your trip mates and your leaders. 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. 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 trip!