Paleontology Trek

Summer Trek




Overview of Paleontology Trek

Paleontology Trek connects students with a professional Paleontologist and his colleagues in some of New Mexico’s most exciting dig sites. Trekkers will travel to multiple active excavation sites to unearth dinosaur bones and prospect for future discoveries. Trekkers work alongside researchers on an active dig and will learn techniques for processing artifacts for local museum displays. There will also be an opportunity for a behind the scenes tour of Albuquerque’s Natural History Museum and the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum. This trek is a perfect fit for a student interested in paleontology–there’s no need to know the difference between an Ornithischia and a Saurischian; only a need to be willing and eager.


While the majority of this program is focused on paleontology, students will get a chance to visit the Cottonwood Gulch Basecamp and will have the opportunity to learn new skills like metalsmithing, animal tracking, plant identification, mountain biking, farming, cooking, music, and rock climbing. The exact specialties of our staff vary from year to year, but we always have an incredibly talented and knowledgeable team that is excited to introduce trekkers to new skills as well as offer deeper exploration for those already familiar with a topic. 

Students on Paleo Trek will be camping for the duration of the program. While working on dig sites, they will sleep in tents and once the dig portion of the course is complete, they will head to our Basecamp and sleep in cabins. Trekkers will sleep under the stars, learn about paleontology, and experience some of the most majestic places the Southwest has to offer. See below for a sample itinerary.  


Age Range: 14 - 18

Gender: All welcome, Male, Female, Non-binary

Min Group Size: 8

Max Group Size: 18

Instructors: 3

Elevation: 5,000 to 11,000 feet

Days on Trek

Cost: $4,100 - college credit included*

*4 credit hours from Mesalands Community College


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Trek Details

This trek will encourage trekkers to explore, create, learn, listen and play. Here are the details!

People: Who we are

Paleontology trek brings 14-18 year old future scientists, historians, archaeologists and of course,
paleontologists into the field. For any trekker interested in dinosaurs, New Mexico and/or the Gulch
community, this trek provides ample opportunities to investigate the earth’s crust and what lies beneath it.

  • Future Scientists: Paleo trekkers are guided by questions of applied science and collaboration,
    specifically in regards to paleontology. Paleo trek asks:
    • What is field paleontology?
    • What can I learn from my peers?
    • How do I share what I’ve learn with my peers, an with the scientific community?
  • Students in the field: Trekkers gain technical field skills, learning how to contribute to long-term
    research and working alongside professionals as well as having the opportunity to gain college credit
    through Mesalands Community College. This trek is driven by active learning in the field.

Places: Where we go

Paleo spends 3 weeks exploring dig-sites throughout New Mexico, primarily focused in Tucumcari.

  • Basecamp: Paleo Trek spends ~ 1 week at our Basecamp, sleeping in cabins, learning about the
    history of Basecamp and the Zuni mountains, and sharing programming with other summer treks.
  • On the Road: Paleo Trek spends ~ 2 weeks on the road, honing in on camping skills, working
    alongside professionals on dig sites throughout Tucumcari, Abiqiui, San Ysidro and the Bisti

Projects: What we do

Paleontology trek invites youth into the very real world of science-driven dinosaur detection. The Southwest
is teeming with opportunities to investigate fossils, work alongside a professional team of paleontologists and
geologists to learn about our planet through the lens of paleo-history. This trek is a perfect first stepping
stone for students interested in paleontology- there is no need to know the difference between an
Ornithischiaand a Saurischian; only a need to have an open mind and willingness to get your hands a little

  • Technical Skills Development:
    • Research Skills: Trekkers will develop their skills in the field and in the lab; excavation work,
      fossil prospecting, and professional techniques for processing artifacts in museums and
    • Frontcountry skills: Trekkers will master “details” both on the road and basecamp,
      participating as active members of their group.. They will grow comfortable sleeping in tents,
      setting up and breaking down camp, and challenging their comfort zone in the outdoors.
  • Collaborative Studies in the Field: 
    • Working with professionals: Paleo trekkers will work on projects alongside a professional
      paleontologist, Axel and his research team.
    • Exploratory fossil hikes: Trekkers will hike throughout New Mexico, identifying fossils and learning about the geological history of the area.
    • Applied science in the field: Trekkers will work to collect data in the field, working with
      partners to collect water samples, soil samples and weather data.
  • Days and Nights at the Museum:
    • Mesalands Community College Dinosaur Museum: Trekkers will prepare fossils and spend
      the night at the museum, touring and learning about the processes required to study,
      preserve and display fossils.
    • New Mexico Museum of Natural History: Trekkers will go behind the scenes at this museum
      in Albuquerque, touring and learning from professionals and experts in the field.


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Resources for Parents

Sample Itinerary

The trek itineraries vary year to year, depending on permits and staff expertise

  • Day 1 Arrive and get to know everyone
  • Day 2-9 Excavation, prospecting, fossil preparation
  • Day 10 Mesalands Dinosaur Museum visit
  • Day 11 Behind the scenes tour of Natural History Museum
  • Day 12-14 Basecamp Loop and Cottonwood sessions!
  • Day 15 Rendevouz
  • Day 16 Trek wrap up, final banquet
  • Day 17 Head home

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*All locations and itineraries are subject to change given permitting and fire restrictions.