Arts & Culture

Be inspired by the jaw dropping landscapes, diverse people, and rich cultures.

Southwest Culture

Unlike many wilderness programs that focus solely on adventure, we take the time to meet and learn from the people who have lived in the American Southwest and called it home for thousands of years. This is the Southwest, a diverse landscape of untamed forests, red rock mesas, wild rivers, and majestic mountains. It’s the confluence of cultures. It’s the land of unmatched inspiration to countless artists from puebloan potters and Navajo weavers, to Al Hurricane, Georgia O’Keefe and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (our alumnus!). It’s a place with thriving Native American heritage found nowhere else in the world.

At The Gulch you’ll explore:

Native American Culture & Arts

Latino Arts & Culture

Pottery, Silversmithing, & Painting

Music & Songwriting


Native American Culture

Our unique location in the heart of the Four Corners offers an unparalleled cultural education.  We take time to stay with our friends in the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Reservation, the Zuni Pueblo, and the Acoma Pueblo. Our trekkers develop lifelong friendships within these unique communities. This will change the way they see the world around them—much like the friendship between Gulch founder Hillis Howie, and a local Diné man, Tom Henio, formed at a wedding way back in 1930.

Connect with The Gulch friends & community firsthand:

  • Attend a Navajo rug auction
  • Nurture close bonds with the land and people of the Southwest
  • Tend to Navajo Churro sheep and other farm animals
  • Learn to dye wool and weave
  • Help cook traditional meals
  • Sleep in Diné hogans
  • Grapple with the history of uranium mining, water rights, land acquisition within the area


A Cultural Exchange on the Navajo Nation

Many of our expeditions are invited to spend time with members of the extended Henio family doing day-to-day activities like tending sheep, repairing hogans, weaving rugs, butchering goats, and cooking fry bread side-by-side with our hosts. Often our trekkers tell us building these friendships was the most memorable part of their trek.

Pueblos of the Southwest

Our philosophy of opportunistic learning gives us the flexibility to accept invitations to feast days, ceremonial dances, farm projects, and storytelling at some of the 19 pueblos of the Southwest. Read more about The Gulch Philosophy here. We are grateful to be regularly invited by our friends in the Cochiti, Zuni, Acoma, Laguna, Taos, and Hopi pueblos whose generosity and openness helps foster deeper understanding and culture literacy among trekkers.

Art of the Southwest

The poeticism of the Southwest’s open vistas, huge skies, and striking reds and greens make this the ideal spot for any creative soul. For young artists, you’ll be able to work closely with our resident artists to create a project of your own.

The Southwest is a haven for artists. The opportunities are many: create your own ceramic pot, your own silver and turquoise bracelet, or a wooden bench made from tree trunks found around Base Camp. Music is also a big part of The Gulch: we sing songs nightly at campfires, and offer workshops and classes with our staff musicians to learn a new instrument or write new songs together.

Arts Workshop

Our Arts Workshop is the perfect place to work side-by-side with our resident artists to create your own work.

  • Interested in pottery? Harvest your own clay from our land, mold it with your hands or on our potter’s wheel, and fire your creation in a kiln that you help build.
  • Our silversmithing workshops will help you craft your own belt buckle, pendant, or set of earrings using soldering tools and torches.
  • Musicians can use our recording equipment to create an album of your own original songs, or use the sounds of New Mexican birds, snakes, and springs as an inspiration for your music.
  • Sculpture lovers can take advantage of our wilderness setting to create Andy Goldsworthy-inspired “Earthworks” with the rocks, wood, bark, and clay of the Southwest.
  • Live in the land that inspired Georgia O’Keefe and use the same alluring red rocks, expansive desert views, towering mountains and incomparable sunsets of New Mexico to inspire your own imaginative hand in painting or illustrating.

Music of the Southwest

Music is also a big part of The Gulch experience. We sing songs nightly at campfires, and offer workshops and classes with our staff musicians to learn a new instrument or write new songs together.

  • Take a songwriting workshop
  • Learn to play a new instrument with a staff mentor
  • Write new verses to Gulch campfire songs
  • Perform at Rendezvous
  • Take a rhythm and sound workshop
  • Record your own song


Archaeology is a fantastic way to understand the Southwest and the people who have lived here for centuries.

Base Camp Artifacts
The Gulch Base Camp property has been home to humans for centuries. We are still finding potsherds, arrowheads and corn-grinding stones around camp every year. We also have a collection of artifacts that were excavated by Gulch expeditions decades ago that have been curated in our Museum.

Explore Ancient Ruins
In addition to studying archaeology at Base Camp, our treks travel throughout the Southwest to study investigate ancient ruins firsthand. The high desert climate allows artifacts to remain intact for centuries, and archaeologists from all over the world come to New Mexico to hone their skills and learn about ancient cultures. Each expedition will visit one or more of these sites, some of which are only accessible by foot. Some of the best-known sites on earth are within a short drive of the Cottonwood Gulch Base Camp:

  • Keet Seel
  • El Morro
  • Moonhouse Ruins
  • Chaco Canyon

Experiential Archaeology
Archaeology at The Gulch is hands-on in the best way!

  • Flintknap your own stone tools
  • Practice your hunting skills with an atlatl
  • Use yucca fibers to create a rope or bracelet
  • Grind corn with a mano and matate

Archaeologists on Staff
Each year we hire at least one archaeologist as one of our staff specialists. This means that Cottonwood Gulch trekkers have the chance to experience what it’s like to be an archaeologist as they work side-by-side with a professional. Over the years, many trekkers have used their Gulch treks as a springboard to become a professional archaeologist, and the opportunity to learn from a professional in the field gives Trekkers a firsthand view of what that career entails.