Service & Hiking Colorado

Volunteering in the Rockies—on the trail and at a community supported farm—multiplies the value of the teen summer service projects as the beauty of the landscape naturally leads to feelings of connection to the land and to those you share it with.

Overview Details Itinerary What to Pack FAQs Before You Go


Service, friends and fun in Colorado’s high country.

Perched at 10,152 feet, Leadville, Colorado is a dynamic, high-alpine community in the heart of the Rockies. Leadville serves as an ideal base for two weeks of active exploration and meaningful environmental engagement. We’ll help a local conservation group in its efforts to provide healthy affordable food options for the Leadville community. Next we will focus on trail-building and reconstruction, partnering with a professional trail crew with the help of local volunteers and learning new skills as we work to improve Leadville’s trail system. As we gain confidence on the trail and grow closer as a group, we’ll see the power of our combined efforts and feel the accomplishment of making a lasting impact.

When our work is done, we’ll venture into the backcountry. We’ll explore Colorado’s rugged alpine landscapes, traversing spectacular passes with views of Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive. The backcountry offers us the opportunity to be fully present in our surroundings and with our group–it’s Overland at its best. Our three days in the backcountry will also give us the chance to use the trails we’ve helped build and reconstruct for so many hikers.

Next, we’ll hit the water for a two-day rafting excursion out of Buena Vista. With professional guides at the helm, we’ll explore a section of the Arkansas River through Brown’s Canyon. Dynamic and fun, our time on the water will provide us with a new perspective on the Colorado landscape.

At trip end, we’ll look back on two weeks of environmental engagement and exploration. More than that, though, we’ll have felt and shared the satisfaction of working together towards a common goal. With our trip mates and leaders, we’ll have made a lasting and important impact on the land we explored–and we’ll have made lasting and important friendships with each other.


Questions? Contact us!

My favorite part of the trip was working with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative and seeing the sunrise from the top of Hope Pass in the Twin Lakes Wilderness.

- Kyle Hooker, Newton, Massachusetts

Experience the magic of the Rocky Mountains through exploration, teamwork and new friendships.

Day 1 & 2: Trip Start and Day Hike in Leadville

We’ll meet in the Denver Airport spend the first night on the gorgeous Dillon Reservoir at Prospector Campground to get acclimated. We’ll learn about the high-mountain community, get to know one another and cook our first meal together. On our second day, we will drive the rest of the way to Leadville and stretch our legs on a beautiful day hike, gearing up for our service work.

Days 3-5: Trail Preservation & Creation

We’ll head into our first backcountry with a local trail crew. After setting up a base camp on Mt. Elbert itself, we will preserve and create trails on one of the state’s highest peaks. With our crew leaders, we will learn the basics of trail maintenance, and work to minimize visitor impact, restore natural habitats and manage water drainage. After our hard work, we’ll relax and explore our astonishing high-mountain surroundings.

Days 6-8: Backcountry in the Rocky Mountains

With some backcountry experience under our belt, we’ll backpack near the historic Twin Lakes region with astonishing views of Mt. Elbert and Massive, sleep in backcountry campsites and explore the magnificent wilderness Colorado has to offer. Our trek will bring us to the top of Hope Pass (12,508’) and through historic remnants of old mining communities. We’ll refine our backcountry skills as we get a chance to learn more about the area’s history and appreciate trails similar to those we’ve worked on.

Days 9 & 10: Cloud City Farm

After departing the wilderness, we’ll engage with the community as we help with a local conservation effort in town. We will help build the community greenhouse, plant and harvest vegetables,
construct raised garden beds and establish trails to and from nearby schools and sports fields that position the farm in the center of the town’s goings ons.

Days 11 & 12 : Raft the Arkansas River

We’ll make the short drive to Buena Vista to meet our rafting guides before beginning our excursion. We will raft with our professional guides down the Arkansas River, getting a chance to experience the popular and gorgeous Brown’s Canyon. After a day on the water, we’ll camp on the beach, enjoy views of the surrounding “14er’s” and hope to see some of Colorado’s wildlife.

Day 13 : Trip End

After rafting, we’ll return to the Denver area to celebrate two weeks of exploration, service and accomplishment in the high mountains.


7 nights of frontcountry camping with access to toilets and periodic access to showers and formal facilities.

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


Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.
Download PDF

We travel light at Overland.


  • 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.


  • 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.
  • Synthetic T-Shirt (3)
  • Synthetic Shorts (2)
  • Fleece Pants (1)
    Please do not bring cotton sweatpants (they are heavy and bulky and will not keep you warm if wet).
  • Work Pants (1)
    Durable and suitable for trail work.
  • Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom (1)
  • Underwear (7)
  • Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (5)
  • Gloves or Mittens (1)
  • Winter Hat (1)
  • 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 Synthetic or Down Jacket (1)
  • Insulated Fleece or Down Vest (1)
  • Raincoat (1)
    Waterproof material (e.g., Gore-Tex, or similar) is required. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. Ponchos are not acceptable.
  • Waterproof Rain Pants (1)

General Gear

  • 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 20 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).
  • Headlamp
    Please bring an extra battery/batteries.
  • Water Bottle
    One 1-liter bottle. A Camelbak or similar water carrier is acceptable.
  • 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.


  • 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
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
  • Insect Repellent
  • Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
    To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
  • Large Trash Bags (4)
    To waterproof your gear.
  • Leather Work Gloves
    Sturdy gloves to wear during volunteer work.
  • Package of Moleskin or Molefoam
    To protect your feet from blisters.
  • 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 this 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, 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.

Questions? Call us: 413.458.9672.

  • What is the weather and environment like on Service & Hiking Colorado?

    The weather on Service & Hiking Colorado varies. 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 their 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 enrollment forms, and (3) charge a deposit of $795 to your credit card. If your first choice is not available, we will call you to discuss 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 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 a traditional 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 trails, backpack and raft in Colorado's Rocky Mountains.

Students going on Service & Hiking Colorado 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
  • 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 Colorado, you will spend three days backpacking 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.