Component 1 – 1

Join us at Cottonwood Gulch for a journey that transcends ordinary adventures. Our treks are a unique blend of culture, landscapes, and the sheer beauty of the American Southwest. We invite both youth and adults to embark on a transformative experience that fosters exploration, learning, and personal growth within the nurturing embrace of outdoor community living.

Since 1926, Cottonwood Gulch has been a trailblazer, leading expeditions across the stunning landscapes of the Southwest. Our seasoned staff is not only skilled but passionate about ensuring your safety and enriching your experience in the great outdoors.

Our programs fall into three major categories: summer treks, school programs, and community programs. Summer treks are experiential learning opportunities for ages 8-18 that dive into pristine backpacking and hiking trails, hands on science, cultural exploration, and place-based education in the American Southwest. School programs concentrate on learning in the outdoor classroom, working with both local and national youth to facilitate environmental education in New Mexico. Our community programs include treks for adults, Youth Conservation Corps, and Wilderness Medicine certification programs; each tailored to provide unique and enriching experiences for our growing community.

Our Mission and Vision

Our Mission

Cottonwood Gulch creates outdoor learning adventures for youth from all backgrounds that foster personal growth, strengthen community, and inspire stewardship of the natural world.

Our Vision

Cottonwood Gulch envisions a global community grounded in reverence for the Southwestern U.S., and respect for the lands, waters, and human cultures of the world.

Our Highlighted Treks

Blue Corn Trek

Ages: 14-18 year olds
Dates: July 20 - August 9, 2024
Days on Trek: 21

Focus: Food systems of the Southwest


Mountain Desert Trek

Ages: 16-18 year olds
Dates: June 24 - August 5, 2024
Total Days: 43

Focus: Leadership, Challenge, Adventure

Paleontology Trek

Ages: 14-18 year olds
Dates: June 22 - July 12, 2024
Days on Trek: 21

Focus: Learn applied paleontology skills in the field alongside professionals

Turquoise Trail Trek

Ages: 14-16 year olds                                      All Girls
Dates: June 27 - July 31, 2024
Days on Trek: 35

Focus: Identity, Cultural Competency


Quartz Trek

Age Range: 14-16 year olds Nonbinary/genderqueer youth
Dates: June 27 - July 31, 2024
Days on Trek: 35

Focus: Identity, Cultural Competency



The Gulch Impact

“I'm gonna miss this place more than usual. The extended time at the Gulch has made the connection stronger.... I'm sad to leave, but the person I am because of this summer is the person I want to be when I go back, It's like the song 'Cause being here's just another step towards where I'm gonna be...'”


Prairie Trek - 2023

“We found ourselves in many different lush places, like a peaceful river crossing, an elegant forest, and a killer rockslide. We traversed through these three biomes with ease. It was truly a sight to behold.”


Prarie Trek 2022

"I gained a lot of confidence that I didn’t really realize I needed and felt more powerful than I have in awhile. I think this will remind me in life of what I can accomplish and what I am capable of. "


Turquoise Trail - 2019

"I grew from accomplishing feats I didn’t think I would be able to conquer. I’ll carry the knowledge that I’m more capable than I think I am."


Mountain Desert Trek - 2019

"Paleo Trek provided me with a first-hand experience of what paleontology really looks like, both in the field and the lab, thanks to the Gulch and Dr. Axel Hungerbuehler. I already really loved paleontology, but Paleo Trek really helped solidify what I wanted to do in college and internships. Even in the dry desert heat, it was such a great time that it makes you forget about the gnats or the cacti, just having a great time sitting on rocks and getting to enjoy the environment and hanging out with new friends."


Paleontology Trek - 2021