Prairie Trek

Summer Trek




Overview of Prairie Trek

Join a group of adventurous young men who enjoy being outdoors to explore the Southwest. This supportive and motivated group of young men will wander desert canyons, summit mountain peaks, learn about local culture and ecology, and work together to overcome challenges. Even for someone who has never been camping before, this trek is a great fit to learn about the outdoors, leadership skills, the Southwest, and oneself.

The itinerary varies from year to year (see below for a sample itinerary), but you can rest assured that each year it will be packed with opportunities for hands on learning in the amazing backdrop of the American Southwest. Some years, the PT has summited Wheeler Peak, the highest mountain in New Mexico, while other years they have hiked 15 miles in a day to get to Keet Seel, a spectacular cliff dwelling in Arizona. They may learn to read a topographic map, cook on a single burner backpacking stove, tie knots, work through conflict, select a campsite, and more. These experiences lead the teens on PT to reflect on their increased resilience, self love, and self confidence after completing their five week trek. By the end, they come away with new friends, outdoor and leadership skills, great memories, and new perspectives after five weeks of independence and exploration.


The PT spends the majority of their time exploring the wild places of the Four Corners states, though they will have about a week to get to know Basecamp. While at Basecamp, trekkers will have the opportunity to learn new skills from our specialists 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. The PT will also have the opportunity to get to know trekkers on other treks and serve as role models for our younger trekkers.

 The PT could serve as a prelude to our longer Mountain Desert Trek or be a great foundation to other outdoor adventures for years to come. Regardless of what a PT alum chooses to do in the future, he will have skills and confidence that he can rely on at school, work, and home. In today’s world, communication, conflict resolution, empathy, and other interpersonal skills are more important than ever and the PT is a perfect opportunity to build them. PT alumni have gone on to become Gulch interns and staff, scientists, photographers, artists, professors and other educators, guides, directors of nonprofits, business owners, and many other careers influenced by their time on the PT.

While on trek with us, participants will complete a project in a field they are interested in. These are meant to be opportunities to take advantage of the vast knowledge sets of our staff, dive deeper into a topic of interest, and to walk away from the summer having a tangible example of all that was accomplished. Examples of past projects include: building a latrine at basecamp, creating maps, conducting a stream study, creating a field guide, compiling an art portfolio, writing an original song, planning and leading activities for other trekkers, and many more. To help us prepare to facilitate these projects, we will send a survey for your trekker to complete. If they aren’t sure, that’s okay! Our staff are ready and excited to talk with them about their interests and figure out what makes sense. 


Age Range: 14 - 16

Gender: Male Only

Min Group Size: 8

Max Group Size: 18

Instructors: 3

Elevation: 5,000 to 13,000 feet

35 Days on Trek

Cost: $6,750

June 27 - July 31, 2024

Enroll Now

Trek Details

“See what needs to be done, and do it well”- Hillis Howie

People: Who we are

As the longest running trek at the Gulch, Prairie Trek has an extensive history of bringing young
male-identifying 14-16 year olds into challenging and beautiful spaces. PT focuses on further developing
identities as members of a greater community, with an emphasis on accountability and mindfulness. This trek
links young people with intersecting identities and challenges them to recognize their roles and responsibilities
to each other and themselves.

  • Personal Identity Within A Community: Prairie Trek is guided by questions of self-discovery and a
    mindfulness of pre-existing groups and spaces. PT asks:
    • Who am I?
    • Who do I want to be?
    • Who lives/lived here?
    • What can we learn from each other?
  • Collaboration and Cooperation: PT incorporates projects with community partners that are highly
    knowledgeable about the land, culture and history of the Southwest. Active listening allows for
    trekkers to foster their roles as future leaders and honest members of the community.
  • Shared Experience: PT has historically been composed of young men and male-identifying trekkers.
    Going on trek with trekkers who share a gender identity and some of the experiences associated with
    it, can be valuable for reflection in both the self and group.

Places: Where we go

Prairie Trek spends 5 weeks connecting with the Southwest, driven by a focus to establish healthy,
harmonious relationships between trekkers and who/what they encounter.

  • Basecamp: PT spends ~ 2 weeks throughout the summer at our Basecamp, connecting and listening
    to the land and people they encounter in the Zuni Mountains of Northern New Mexico.
  • On the Road: PT spends ~ 20 days on the road, divided into 2 road loops; one in the areas
    bordering New Mexico and Arizona which includes visiting the Chaco Canyon region as well as
    traditional Zuni, Hopi and Dinélands and another in Northeastern New Mexico, visiting the Taos
    area which includes Wheeler Peak and Gold Hill.
  • In the Backcountry: PT backpacks in Carson National Forest and the Navajo National Monument.

Projects: What we do

How do we give back to the places and people we learn from? PT strives to answer this question by
incorporating moments of genuine connection and humbling responsibility which we believe is critical for
young people today.

  • Taking Action through Hands-On Experience:
    • PT will focus on taking action in the communities they visit which may include traditional
      ecological knowledge driven restoration projects such as building one rock dams for
      watershed restoration, mapping and plotting sections of land and removing invasive species
      from a particular area.
    • Trekkers will lead programming on a topic they were inspired by in the field, and may
      participate in Rendezvous logistics; taking on active roles in planning and facilitating the day’s
  • Technical Skills Development:
    • Frontcountry camping: Trekkers continue to expand on their technical skills, gaining
      comfort in front country camping (tents, tarps, road kitchens and groovers).
    • Backpacking skills: PT spends enough time in the backcountry that trekkers are able to
      strengthen their backcountry skills packing backpacks, using Whisperlite stoves, navigating
      with a map/compass and setting up camp.
  • Confidence in Adventure:
    • Backpacking in Arizona and Northern New Mexico: PT goes on two backpacking trips to
      build up confidence in the backcountry and provide a scaffolded experience (first backpack
      1-2 nights, second backpack 4-6 nights).
    • Introduction to Mountain Biking: PT trekkers will learn mountain biking techniques and

Trek Log

Zachary Demarest

This morning there were some tarp problems so breakfast wasn’t as hot as usual. After we packed up, we drove and stopped a couple of times along the way for gas and lunch. For lunch we stopped in the town of Escalante, and we got to buy some stuff at the store. I learned that a large bottle of root beer has like 600% of the recommended daily sugar, and also has the potential to give someone type 2 diabetes. After we left there, we eventually got to our campsite– after getting the van stuck for over an hour, but finally freeing it by brute force –and set up the groover in a good spot. We got some fresh glizzies for dinner and then got a Prius unstuck (2 vehicles total today). The most important part of the day was when we learned the many ways to store feces in our backpacks for maximum efficiency.

P.S. – RIP groover

Ezra Goldner

We woke up at the normal time, packed up our stuff, and then had breakfast which was eggs and corn tortillas plus rice krispies. It was very good. Then we went on a day hike through a canyon and the trail was very sandy. We hiked for a little bit and then we drove out of our campsite and ate lunch down the road a little bit. After lunch, we went to our next campsite and played camouflage. Then we ate dinner, had campfire (where we meditated) and then went to sleep.

Resources for Parents

Within Your Itinerary You Might

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

  • Meet with a musician
  • Visit an Amphitheater
  • Take some Day hikes
  • Meet with an instrument manufacturer
  • Visit music festival
  • Visit Hispanic Cultural Center and Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
  • A Sunset hike
  • Basecamp Loop (Cottonwoods)
  • Visit Zuni Pueblo to meet musicians and artists
  • Meet with an artist 
  • Visit Georgia O’Keefe Museum and other local art based museums  
  • Visit Taos Earthships
  • Explore Lavender Farm
  • Day hike Canyon de Chelly
  • Day hike El Morro National Monument

Need Assistance or Have Questions?

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