Join Our Team!
Compassionate | Dedicated | Curious | Experienced
We have been leading outdoor expeditions since 1926, and currently work with hundreds of students (or “trekkers,” as we call them) each year. We use the outdoors as our classroom to explore science, culture, history, art, and adventure in New Mexico and surrounding states, all with the goal of inspiring personal growth and a strong community. During the school year, we partner with more than 30 schools and nonprofits, primarily serving New Mexico students in grades 1-12 on trips ranging from one day to two weeks. During the summer, we run multi-week expeditions for 8-18 year olds. All this totals about 10,000 field days each year, a thriving “Gulch Community,” and hundreds of lives impacted for the better.
Year Round Employment Opportunities:
Development Director: We are seeking a new Development Director. This position will lead the implementation of the strategic development plan for individual giving, government and foundation grants, and planned giving. They will also play a major role in fundraising tied to our 100th anniversary celebration in 2026. For a more complete job description, click here.
- Per Diem Instructors (Year Round): Apply by filling out this Application Form. Our next staff training begins in March 2023!
Seasonal Employment Opportunities
Spring through Fall:
- Farm Educator: The Farm Educator is part of our Basecamp team providing high-quality farm education programming while also producing vegetables from a ¼-acre farm. For a more complete job description, click here.
- Field Educator: The Field Educator supports the creation and facilitation of place-based educational curriculum. We are looking for scientists, artists, culturalists, and others who enjoy working with youth outdoors. For a more complete job description, click here.
- Group Leader: Group Leaders take on the responsibility of leading their trek throughout the season. This position is ideal for those who are knowledgeable about the Southwest and seeking leadership opportunities. For a more complete job description, click here.
- Operations Coordinator: The Operations Coordinator is primarily responsible for maintenance, upkeep, and improvement of the 550-acre Basecamp property, as well as our fleet of vehicles and inventory of gear. For a more complete job description, click here.
- Youth Conservation Corps Group Leader: The YCC Group Leader leads a conservation crew throughout the summer, working on projects in partnership with the US Forest Service. For a more complete job description, click here.
- Group Leaders: Group Leaders take on the responsibility of leading their trek throughout the season. This position is ideal for those who are knowledgeable about the Southwest and seeking leadership opportunities. Familiarity with the Gulch and/or summer camp experience is preferred. For a more complete job description, click here.
- Program Staff: Program staff work with the Group leader to plan educational programming based on the needs and location of the group and are essential in maintaining the ‘flow’ of a trek. We are seeking self-motivated, well organized individuals who enjoy working with youth. For a more complete job description, click here.
- Road Cook: Road cooks go out with a trek and must be adaptable, creative, and interested in mixing adventure into their daily routine. Our ideal candidates are detail-oriented, flexible and self motivated to create nutritious and delicious meals. For a more complete job description, click here.
- Basecamp Cook: Basecamp cooks work as a team to create menus inclusive of trekker’s dietary and nutritional needs and often cook for large groups. Our ideal candidates are detail-oriented, flexible and self motivated to create nutritious and delicious meals. For a more complete job description, click here.
Summer Programs Specialists
- Naturalist: The Naturalist is part of our Basecamp team providing high-quality science education programming including, but not limited to: ecology, biology, geology, astronomy, and ornithology to trekkers. For a more complete job description, click here.
- Art Specialist: The Art Specialist leads art activities both in the Nature Arts Workshop and in the field, to summer trekkers. Activities can include pottery, leatherwork, weaving, beading, watercolors and more. For a more complete job description, click here.
- Mountain Bike Specialist: The Mountain Bike Specialist uses our fleet of mountain bikes to facilitate adventure to trekkers throughout the summer. This role includes teaching youth mountain bike skills, IMBA Trail Etiquette and leading single-day and multi-day bike excursions. For a more complete job description, click here.
- Climbing and Adventure Specialist: The Climbing and Adventure Specialist provides exceptional adventure education to our school and summer trekkers, including rock climbing, navigation and team building activities. For a more complete job description, click here.
Staff Frequently Asked Questions
Where is Cottonwood Gulch located?
We have a 540 acre base camp in Thoreau, NM, about 2 hours west of Albuquerque. We are based at basecamp June through mid-August and spend the rest of the year working from our office in the North Valley of Albuquerque.
Where do staff live?
During our summer season, staff reside at basecamp in rustic, open air cabins or some choose to sleep in tents. The cabins do not have any electricity and are typically shared with at least one other person. When in Albuquerque, we have a bunkhouse available for staff to live in if they choose. The bunkhouse is very much a communal living situation and the staff living there must work together to keep the space clean and tidy. The bunkhouse is able to sleep 8 people in 2 bedrooms with a bathroom, kitchen, living space, and outdoor space. Limited storage space is available in the bunkhouse. Some staff elect to find their own housing in Albuquerque.
What are some of the challenges and rewards of the job?
It can be challenging to live in community 24/7. Since we are an unplugged program, communication with friends and family back home can be challenging. We do have an office at our basecamp, but both internet and phone service are very limited. Letter writing remains the best method of communication. Additionally, our basecamp is a very rustic setting with open air cabins, no electricity, and pull string showers, which can be challenging for some.
It is also a very rewarding job which allows for an outdoor lifestyle with a like-minded group of people. Our staff have the opportunity to explore the Southwest, spending nights out under the stars, and making meaningful connections with people of all different backgrounds.
What qualifications do I need?
All staff must maintain a CPR certification and obtain Wilderness First Aid, at a minimum, within the first year of employment. Higher levels of wilderness medicine certification are a plus. Some staff positions require specific certifications i.e. Bike Instructor Certification Program for the Mountain Bike Specialist. We can support staff in finding local courses to obtain certification.
What is the application process?
Any interested applicant should start by completing our staff application, which can be found here. An interview will follow for anyone who completes an application.
What is staff training like?
At the beginning of the summer season, we provide at no cost a three week staff training which includes a WFA certification, training in risk management, behavioral challenges in youth, technical skills, and outdoor leadership.
If staff are starting in either the spring or fall, there is an intensive 3 day training, followed by several treks where they will be shadowing before moving into full staff roles.
Additional professional development is available for staff involved in long-term roles (multiple years/6+ months) at Cottonwood Gulch. This may be a free spot in a WFR course, an SPI certification, a marketing photography workshop, or attendance to a local or national conference. Staff who receive this higher level of training are asked to bring their experience back to our larger team.
What kind of gear do I need?
Every staff is expected to carry a daypack with them all the time. Your pack is essential to being able to care for yourself as well as your trekkers. Everyone’s needs vary slightly, though we encourage all staff to carry ~2 liter sized water bottles, rainlayer, warm layer, sunscreen, hat, headlamp, notebook and pen, and tools/props for programming (balls, rope, activity book etc.). Additionally, all staff should have a sleeping bag rated to at least 0 degrees for spring/fall staff and 20 degrees for summer staff, a sleeping pad (inflatable or foam), sturdy shoes, clothing suitable for outdoor living, work gloves. Staff who work with backpacking programs are expected to have a 60+ liter pack and be comfortable carrying 50+ lbs as a backpacking instructor. Staff will receive a complete gear list upon hire.
What do days off look like?
Typically during our spring and fall seasons, staff can expect to have weekends off. Occasionally we have programs that span a weekend, in which case, we schedule 2 days off for those staff as soon as possible after the trek is complete. If staff have particular days they are wanting to have off, it may not always be possible, but with at least a month of notice, we will try our best to accommodate. During our summer season, basecamp staff can expect 24 hours off approximately every 7-10 days. During time off, staff are responsible for coordinating their own transportation should they wish to leave the property. If staff wish to stay, they are welcome to join in for meals provided they help with community clean up.
What are the top 10 reasons that staff love working at the Gulch?
- Group of coworkers who are interesting, fun to work with, and are part of a passionate community.
- Making meaningful connections with people from many different places and backgrounds.
- Getting to go to some “hidden gems” of the Southwest and doing cool stuff in amazing places.
- Part of your job is facilitating mandatory fun times.
- Learning skills applicable in your own life and gaining resilience.
- Sharing your knowledge and passion with others.
- Being part of a staff team that is committed to sustainable, outdoor living.
- Getting to make a difference in the lives of young people.
- Countless number of desert sunsets, nights spent under the stars, and that smell of rain in the desert.
- Cottonwood Gulch is a different kind of outdoor education organization that isn’t just focused on wilderness adventure and personal development, but instead includes science, nature, art, and culture.