Community Involvement & Service Learning

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
– Desmond Tutu

Community and Service

  • Improve trails alongside National Forest rangers
  • Restore a riparian area
  • Reintroduce endangered species
  • Monitor wilderness areas
  • Earn college credit and volunteer service hours

What it means to be part of the Cottonwood Gulch community

Over the past nine decades we have built strong ties with neighbors, friends, and families throughout the Four Corners states. We consider this four-state-wide network our community and we contribute time and hard work to make it a better one.

Expeditions may work with the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service or Park Service to improve and maintain trails and campsites, gaining access to restricted or otherwise hard to find areas.

“Perhaps the most defining feature of The Gulch is the sense of community that develops. In one summer you could find yourself in the presence of cob-makers, pottery specialists, cheese-makers, Navajo weavers, park rangers, and of course many enthusiastic staff willing to be just crazy enough to make a real difference in a group of teenagers’ lives.”

Marina, TT, St. Louis, MO

College Prep and Volunteer Work

Trail work at El Malpais National Monument

Trail work at El Malpais National Monument

Earn College Credit

The Gulch prepares high schoolers incredibly well for college, both academically and personally. Science, art, and archaeology at The Gulch (along organic gardening, backpacking, rock climbing, and everything else we do) are fantastic supplements to any high school education.

We offer three college credits for completing the Paleontology Trek. We partner with Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, New Mexico so that paleontology Trekkers have the chance to work alongside professors in a professional academic setting.

We’re working to add college credit to other Treks, but in the meantime Trekkers use their Gulch experience as a way to enhance their college applications, and prepare themselves for an unpredictable adventure away from home.

Whatever your area of interest, you’ll work side-by-side with the pros—our broad community of scientists and artists will tell you what it’s like to be a professional in their field, and what it takes to get there.

Log Volunteer Service Hours

We work closely with a large community of scientists, park rangers, and restorationists and have many opportunities to participate in trail maintenance, conservation, fieldwork, and data collection. Each summer we work with trekkers to document the volunteer work they complete during their expedition. Depending on the group and the year, this may be anywhere from 3-30 service hours. We’ve also worked with individual trekkers who need a certain minimum number of hours to do extra service independent of the rest of the group.


“We’re very excited that she has been accepted to Skidmore College… she’s thrilled! It was her first choice, and we think it will be a great fit for her. I’m convinced her activities last summer in the Paleontology Trek made her a very unique and attractive candidate. Getting college credit for it was icing on the cake!”

– Carter, Paleontology Trek Mom