Environmental stewardship and lasting friendships 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. We will plant and harvest food, and help construct a community supported greenhouse. Next we will focus on trail-building and reconstruction, partnering with 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.
Our expectations are always surpassed. For George, the destination is always secondary. The people he encounters and the help he provides are what he talks about for months afterwards.
- Barb NeCastro, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Day 1: Trip Start
We’ll meet in the Denver Airport and head straight out to Leadville to get ready for our first week of work. We’ll learn about the high-mountain community, get to know one another and cook our first meal together.
Days 2-3: Cloud City Farm
During our first few days together, we’ll engage with the community as we help with a local conservation effort in town. We will help build the community greenhouse, planting and harvesting vegetables, constructing raised garden beds and establishing trails to and from nearby schools and sports fields that position the farm in the center of the town’s goings ons.
Days 4-7: Trail Preservation & Creation
Next we’ll head into our first backcountry with a local trail crew. After setting up a base camp on Mt. Elbert itself, we will both preserve and create trails on one of the state’s highest peak. With our crew leaders, we will learn the basics of trail maintenance and volunteer on popular trails throughout the day, then spend our nights together in the remote beauty of Colorado’s backcountry. We’ll work to minimize visitor impact, restore natural habitats and manage water drainage. All of the work we do will be 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 our astonishing high mountain surroundings.
Days 8-10: Backcountry in the Rocky Mountains
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 11-12 : Raft the Arkansas River
We’ll make the short drive to Buena Vista to meet our rafting guides before begin our excursion. We will raft with our professional guides, down the Arkansas River getting a chance to experience the popular 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 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.
Things to know
- We travel light on Overland trips; please only bring items on your packing list.
- Please do not bring any electronics (including your cell phone). See FAQs for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- 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 wear the navy Overland shirt that you will receive from the Overland office to your trip start location.
- 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.
- 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)
- Synthetic Shorts (2)
- Synthetic T-Shirt (3)
Short-sleeve T-shirt or tank top.
- Underwear (7)
- Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (5)
- Winter Hat (1)
- Gloves or Mittens (pair)
To stay warm in camp on cool nights.
- Hat with Visor (1)
For protection from the sun. Baseball hats are acceptable.
- Swimsuit (optional)
If we swim, many students will wear shorts (and a sports bra for girls).
- 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.
- Insulated Vest (1)
Insulated fleece, Thinsulate or down vest to wear on cold days and evenings.
- Waterproof Raincoat (1)
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.
- Waterproof Rain Pants (1)
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain pants provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer.
- 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).
- 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
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).
- 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 & Extra Batteries
- 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.
- Photo Identification
A current school or other kind of photo identification (if you have one).
- 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.
- 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).
All items should be travel size (if necessary, you will be able to restock during the trip).
- 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.
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.
- Insect Repellent
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- 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).
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
- 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. Our packing list takes these variables into consideration. Layering is the best strategy. Please follow the packing list, paying close attention to rain gear specifications.
Additionally, the Colorado environment includes a variety of elevations. The group will hike between 8,000 and 13,000 feet. It will take your child a few days to acclimate to the elevation which is why we will ease into our service and hiking. Leaders will make sure that your child drinks plenty of fluids and applies sunscreen to help prevent dehydration, altitude sickness and sunburn.
- 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 program.
- 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.
- 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.
Work on trails, backpack and raft in Colorado's vast wilderness.
Students going on Service & Hiking Colorado should prepare for:
- 6 days of hiking with an average of 5 miles per day
- 5 days of volunteer service for an average of 7 hours each 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
On Service & Hiking Colorado, you will spend three days backpacking and day hiking and do some additional hiking to and from your trailwork campsite. You will hike over rolling terrain, following trails that may be rough, muddy and overgrown.
Backpacking is a strenuous physical activity and requires proper training. While backpacking, our groups are fully self-supported—you will carry all of your belongings (clothes, sleeping bag and pad), some group gear, food and water. Your leaders will distribute group gear and food among all members of the group. Pack weights will vary trip by trip, depending on the location, weather, student and the distance covered. Typically when backpacking, pack weights average about 30% of a hiker’s weight.
Before your trip, we strongly advise you spend time breaking-in and adjusting to your hiking boots. We expect you to prepare adequately so you can keep up physically and participate in all of your group's activities. Please follow our guidelines as you prepare for your program.
- 5 weeks before your trip: take three 30-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 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 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 10-15% of your body weight.
- 1 week before your trip: take two 2-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 20-25% of your body weight.
Groups typically average between 1½ and 3 miles per hour (although pace varies by group). You will take multiple breaks throughout the day—for water, snacks, lunch, to adjust packs, etc.
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 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 at trip end. You will call home upon arrival and before departure. You may also be dropped off at the airport, or in Williamstown (depending on your program’s start and end locations). More information regarding travel to and from your trip will be provided with the admissions review forms upon applying.
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.
All trips have a range of challenges. You should come prepared and recognize that some days will be more difficult, more challenging and longer—both in terms of miles and hours on the trail—than others. Delays occur due to a wide range of variables beyond the control of you, your group or your leaders. Weather patterns change and trail and route conditions vary. You, or someone in your group, might develop a blister or encounter another issue that could delay your group.
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 program.