South San Juan Wilderness Trek

The South SSouth San Juan trek students hiking through woody areaan Juan Wilderness Trek is a two-week backpacking trip for high school students to one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the United States: near Pagosa Springs along the Continental Divide in Southwest Colorado. Through a partnership with Step Outdoors, the U.S. Forest Service, and local nonprofits, Linn County Conservation is able to offer this opportunity. Students who meet application guidelines and are accepted take part in this trip which typically takes place in July. Although no camping or backpacking experience needed, class size is limited.

No date has been set for the next trek hosted by Linn County Conservation. 


Provide safe, equitable access to a backcountry wilderness experience that develops outdoor leadership and recreation skills for Linn County Youth.

Four Pillars

1. Stewardship

  • Participants will work on a stewardship project designated by the Forest Service and Step Outdoors. Projects may include trail maintenance, campsite rehabilitation, ecosystem monitoring, and restoration. 

2. Study of Wilderness

  • Through this trek, participants will form a personal definition for wilderness. After reading about the idea of wilderness, trek leaders will facilitate discussion on the philosophy, importance, and ideas of wilderness.

3. Environmental Science

  • Trek leaders will stop for trail-side lessons whenever the opportunity comes up. These mini-lessons may cover aquatic biology, tree/flower identification, fire ecology, and more.

4. Outdoor Skills

  • Leave no trace. Participants will gain skills in campsite set-up, backcountry cooking, water filtration, and sustainable camping.

Safety and Cost

Trip leaders are highly experienced and trained in advanced wilderness first aid, navigation, and group management. SPOT devices will be used for daily communication and weather updates.

Thanks to outstanding community support from the NATOPAKAMA Bittersweet Foundation, SOKO outfitters, and Kate Svitek Memorial Foundation, Linn County Conservation is able to offer this program FREE of charge. All equipment, transportation and meals are included for students accepted into the program. 

South San Juan Wilderness Trek
south san juan project with 4 people involved in a trail clearing project in forest

Student Application and Acceptance

The trek is not offered to provide travel for high school students to exotic, far off lands for an adrenaline-based thrill. We are offering this trip to give students experiences in nature they could never experience in Iowa and to stimulate their minds in what the world has to offer. Outdoor leadership programs such as Outward Bound and NOLS have proven that group experiences in a wilderness environment can serve as a valuable catalyst that enables students to become more responsible, tolerant, and self-confident. We also know that through intimate outdoor experiences students are more likely to become peer leaders and develop a responsible appreciation for the natural world.


Help us create the next generation of outdoor leadership. Without new innovative programs that target and engage today’s youth in diverse outdoor experiences we can expect to see decreased interest in the conservation and preservation of our wild open spaces and public lands. Although the program is free for participants, donations from individuals, businesses, and organizations make this program possible. 

What Your Contribution Can Do

$8,000 - Fully funded program with student expenses includes basic program operations: ($5000) and ($375) per student for personal gear: boots, rain gear, socks, base layer, hat, etc.

$5,000 - Annual program budget for one season: enrollment fees, outfitter fees, food, fuel, lodging, etc.  

$1,000 - Student sponsor to cover one student’s basic program fee and personal gear. 

$625 - Student enrollment fee. 

In the "Special Needs" section of the donation form, type Wilderness Trek to earmark your donation.

Or mail a check to:

Linn County Conservation
% Wilderness Trek
10260 Morris Hills Rd
Toddville, IA 52341