We could not be more excited to announce the complete list of Explore Austin’s 2023 Summer Wilderness Trip locations. Our staff worked hard to scout trip locations that would afford our Explorers and Mentors a variety of environments for challenge, growth and fun. This summer, our Trip Leaders are guiding Explorers through six unique landscapes across the U.S., including Texas, New Mexico, Idaho, Arkansas and Utah.
In addition to becoming comfortable with new skills and physical challenges, Summer Wilderness Trips afford our Explorers the opportunity for social-emotional learning (SEL). Every day of the trip, Mentors facilitate SEL discussions to pave the way for Explorers to learn self-awareness and interpersonal skills to ultimately become a bonded team. These important “campfire discussions” allow Explorers to be unconditionally accepted just as they are while learning about themselves and their teammates.
And now, a look at our 2023 Summer Wilderness Trip locations!
Colorado Bend State Park, Texas
Colorado Bend State Park is home to rugged wilderness just two hours northwest of Austin. In mid June, our ‘29 Explorer teams and their Mentors learned the basics of camping, hiking, paddling and outdoor wilderness safety to get them started in the program, all while camping on the Colorado River. During their trip Explorers and Mentors had the opportunity to:
- Swim in Spicewood Springs
- Hike to Gorman Falls
- Hike to Gorman Cave along a canopy-covered river trail before exploring the cave
- Learn canoeing and water safety while playing river games on the Colorado River
- Experience 30- to 60-minute “solos” where Explorers spend time alone in nature reflecting, which can include journaling, drawing or simply enjoying “alone time”
Learn more about Colorado Bend State Park, Texas.
Pecos Wilderness, New Mexico
Our Explorers and Mentors will complete a backpacking loop in the Pecos Wilderness outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. They’ll camp in a high-elevation forested environment (cooler temps!), setting up base camp beside a remote alpine lake from which they’ll explore another two to three nearby lakes. They’ll also hike the Winsor Loop to Stewart Lake. Over the course of the week, teams will:
- Hike 20-plus miles
- Camp at 10,000-foot elevation
- Complete one- to two-hour “solos” around the lake, allowing them time to reflect on their trip
Learn more about the Pecos Wilderness in the Santa Fe National Forest.
City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho
City of Rocks National Reserve is an internationally renowned spot among climbers. Boasting over 600 routes ranging from easy 5.6’s to difficult 5.14’s, its granite walls offer interesting routes for all levels of climbers. Our Explorers and Mentors will set up camp at the Twin Sisters Group Site before exploring the area to try out different crags (rock walls) each day. They’ll enjoy a morning climbing session, break for lunch, then have an afternoon session of more rock climbing or a fun swimming or exploring activity. During this trip Explorers and Mentors will have the opportunity to enjoy:
- Climbing games such as knot-tying races and an introduction to speed climbing
- Activities that Explorers get to help choose, such as a visit to Durfee Hot Springs or Caldron Linn Canyon Falls
- Two- to three-hour “solos”
In addition to the younger teams heading to City of Rocks, the ‘24 Mafia Team chose rock climbing as their Capstone Trip (their final Summer Wilderness Trip with Explore Austin). The Explorers of ‘24 Mafia have had a hand in planning their trip all year and will also take on more involved leadership roles during the Summer Wilderness week including:
- Helping grocery shop and prepare meals independently
- Designing the itinerary and daily schedules, deciding when to push themselves and when to take a rest day and enjoy nature
- Diving deeper into our rock-climbing curriculum, including learning about gear management and taking turns leading lessons to explain basic concepts to their Mentors and Trip Leaders as a way to review what they’ve learned
- Completing their longest “solos” yet – overnight
Learn more about City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho.
Buffalo National River, Arkansas
The Buffalo National River flows freely for 135 miles and is one of the few remaining undammed rivers in the lower 48 states. Teams will canoe 50 miles of this remote river, carrying all supplies with them as they camp along the banks and on sandbar islands en route. With four to six hours on the water each day, Explorers and Mentors will have plenty of time to soak in the cool waters and simply enjoy nature. In addition, teams will:
- Receive lessons in hydrology, learning how to identify eddies, upstream and downstream Vs and eddy lines
- Complete the Big Bottom Rapids whitewater section on one of the last days after the team scouts it out together and creates a plan of attack
- Complete three- to five-hour “solos” (solos get progressively longer as teams get older)
Learn more about the Buffalo National River in Arkansas.
Idaho Falls, Teton Mountains Range, Idaho
Teams can expect stellar views of the Teton Mountains Range throughout this trip. They’ll visit the top-rated mountain biking area in the Big Hole Mountains: the Teton Connector route through Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Each day of the trip will allow Explorers and Mentors to experience elevation gains and varying distances, and different types of track and landscapes, from rugged snow-capped mountains and green meadows to creeks, rivers, and mixed aspen-and-pine forests.
In addition to mountain biking, teams will get to experience:
- A soak in Heise Hot Springs
- The 7NRanch Bike Park, which includes a wide array of beginner to advanced trails, pump and obstacle tracks and a teeter totter
- A variety of campsites while enjoying biking day trips
- Six- to eight-hour “solos”
Wasatch Mountains Range, Utah
Rugged terrain, crisp mountain air – the ’24 Hermanos team is backpacking the Wasatch Mountains Range, perhaps made most well known by the 2002 Winter Olympics which showcased its natural splendor to a global audience. The range stretches 160 miles from Utah’s northern border with Idaho to Central Utah. At the center of that corridor is Salt Lake City, where the team will fly in.
This is the team’s Capstone Summer Wilderness Trip, so the ‘24 Hermanos Explorers have played a big role in planning their own adventure. After the first night, the Explorers will essentially “take over” the planning to select daily backpacking mileage and camping spots, and choose when to push themselves or take breaks. In addition to taking the lead for many trip logistics and completing overnight “solos,” the team plans to enjoy the following itinerary on their week-long backpacking trip:
- Five straight days “off the grid” – no signs of civilization!
- Summiting Mount Timpanogos (elevation: 11,753 feet)
- Taking routes with waterfalls and alpine lakes along the way
Learn more about the Wasatch Mountains Range, Utah.
We wish all of our Explorers and Mentors the best on their 2023 Summer Wilderness Trips!