Service & Hiking Alaska

Spend two weeks exploring and serving in the spectacular Alaskan outdoors. Backpack in Tongass National Forest, a magnificent area marked by mountains and glaciers. Rebuild trails outside Juneau with a local trail crew. Explore the Inside Passage by sea kayak, while reflecting on two weeks of service and adventure in our nation's Last Frontier.

Overview Details Itinerary What to Pack FAQs Before You Go

Overview

Snowy peaks, glacial rivers, trail networks and wilderness that stretches to the horizon.

The vastness of the Alaskan landscape may feel initially overwhelming, but together we will come to know and appreciate this dynamic environment. Our aim on Service & Hiking Alaska is to engage deeply with environmental stewardship while growing closer and stronger as a group.

After our arrival in Anchorage, we’ll spend five days with trail crew leaders on a reconstruction project, working to minimize visitor impact, restore natural habitat and manage water drainage. Through observation and practice, we’ll hone our trail maintenance skills and better understand the effort needed to make the outdoors accessible to all. Upon completion of our focused service work in the mornings, we’ll then plunge into explorations of nearby trails and shorelines in the afternoon. This combination of stewardship and exploration is a perfect balance, allowing us to learn from, engage with and enjoy many facets of Alaska.

In our second week together, we’ll head deeper into the backcountry for an overnight trip and a series of day hikes. Hanging glaciers and soaring eagles will remind us of the untouched grandeur that still shapes the Alaskan wilderness.

At trip end, we’ll return to Anchorage. But we’ll return with greater awareness of and greater appreciation for the land and each other. We’ll have gained hard skills on the trail, and we’ll have also experienced the intangible — yet no less satisfying — feeling of coming together as a group over a shared purpose.

Questions? Contact us!

My favorite part of the program was the service work. I loved the hands-on work and the satisfaction of seeing our hard work make a difference.


- Isabella Carucci, New York, New York

Day 1: Trip Start

We’ll meet in the Anchorage Airport and drive to our campground surrounded by snowy peaks and glacial rivers, where we’ll learn to pack our gear, get to know one another and cook our first meal together.

Days 2-6: Trail Work 

We’ll dig into trail work and get to know each other and the land. Partnering with local trail crew, we will both preserve and create trails. With our crew leaders, we will learn the basics of trail maintenance and volunteer on a popular trail. We’ll work to minimize visitor impact, restore natural habitat and manage water drainage. We might remove loose material from the trail bed; place sand, cobble and rock along the trail corridor; or plant flora to reduce erosion, all with the goal of improving the trails for future visitors. In addition to completing our rewarding project, we’ll better understand the environmental and human impacts on the land. After our hard work, we’ll relax and explore nearby trails.

Days 7-9: Backcountry & Day Hike

Next we’ll explore the other trails around Anchorage. On an overnight trip, we’ll camp with views of glaciers and hope to catch a glimpse of soaring eagles. Out of the backcountry, we’ll take a more challenging day hike with lighter packs.

Days 10-12: Sea Kayak Passage Canal

We’ll travel to Whittier to prepare for two days of sea kayaking. We will paddle with our professional guides, following the rugged coastline of the Passage Canal. After a day on the water, we’ll camp on an island beach, enjoy views of the surrounding snowcapped peaks and valley glaciers and hope to see eagles, sea lions and other Alaskan wildlife.

Day 13: Trip End

After sea kayaking, we’ll return to Anchorage to celebrate two weeks of exploration, service and accomplishment in the great Alaskan wilderness.

 

ACCOMMODATIONS

9 nights of backcountry camping with no access to bathroom facilities.

2 nights of frontcountry camping with access to showers, flush toilets and facilities.

1 night in a hostel with dormitory style accommodations and separate rooms for boys and girls.

Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.
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Clothing

  • 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).
  • Work Pants (2)
    Durable and suitable for trail work.
  • Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom (2)
  • Synthetic Shorts (2)
  • Synthetic T-Shirt (3)
  • Underwear (7)
  • Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (5)
  • Winter Hat (1)
  • Gloves or Mittens
  • Hat with Visor (1)
  • Swimsuit (optional)
    If we swim, many students will wear shorts (and a sports bra for girls).

Outer Layers

  • Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
  • Lightweight, Packable Synthetic or Down Jacket (1)
  • Waterproof Raincoat (1)
  • Waterproof Rain Pants (1)

General Gear

  • 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).
  • Synthetic Sleeping Bag
    A lightweight, compact synthetic sleeping bag rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit or less. A synthetic sleeping bag is required for this trip; down is not appropriate as it does not insulate if wet. 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.
  • 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.
  • Headlamp
  • Mosquito Head Net
  • Camp Chair (optional)
    A lightweight, packable camp chair to use in camp (Crazy Creek, for example)
  • Gaiters (optional)
    Calf-height, waterproof gaiters to protect your legs and feet when hiking through brush, across snow fields or streams.

Footwear

  • 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.

Miscellaneous

  • Leather Work Gloves (pair)
    Sturdy gloves to wear during volunteer work
  • Synthetic Camping Towel
    A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
  • Travel Size Toiletries
  • Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
    To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
  • Large Trash Bags (4)
    To waterproof your gear.
  • Package of Moleskin or Molefoam
    To protect your feet from blisters.
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
  • Insect Repellent
  • Personal Journal or Book (optional)
  • Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
    A digital or disposable camera.

Important Documents

  • 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

  • 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 like on Service & Hiking Alaska?

    The weather on Alaska Expedition varies widely. Sometimes it is sunny and warm, other times it is rainy and cold; typical summer temperatures range from the high 40s to high 60s during the day and cooler at night.

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

    You will need to arrange transportation for your child to and from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) at trip start and trip end. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a trip.

  • 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 a bear encounter.

  • 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?

    PHONES
    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.

     

    ELECTRONICS
    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).

     

    COMMUNICATION
    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 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.

  • 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.

Work on national forest trails, backpack and sea kayak in Alaska.

Students going on Service & Hiking Alaska should prepare for:

  • Full days of outdoor activities led by two caring Overland leaders
  • Day hikes to viewpoints and mountaintops
  • A weekend backpacking trip designed for first-time backpackers
  • 5 days of volunteer service for an average of 7 hours each day
  • 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 Service & Hiking Alaska, you will spend three days backpacking and day hiking and do some additional hiking to and from your trail work campsite. You will hike over rolling terrain, following trails that may be rough, muddy and overgrown. 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.

Pre-trip Training:

  • 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 90-minute hikes in your boots with a backpack loaded with 10-15% of your body weight.
  • 1 week before your trip: take three 2-hour hikes in your boots with a backpack loaded with 20-25% of your body weight.

Preparing for Service

Trips involving service work require a positive attitude and a willingness to work hard as a volunteer. You will spend five days working on trail building and reconstruction with a professional trail crew. You should be eager to participate in a variety of tasks depending on the needs of the local crew. Many tasks, such as moving gravel and improving drainage, involve strenuous physical labor. Although we do not expect you to have any trail work experience, you should be prepared for a challenge.

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!