Prairie Trek (boys 14-16)
A 36-day, all-male adventure trek exploring the Southwest’s most rugged, wild, and fascinating places
The Cottonwood Gulch Prairie Trek began in 1926 when our founder, Hillis Howie, learned of plans to pave Route 66. He wanted to make sure that his students learned about the American West and Native cultures before it was too late. This five week, all-male trek will inspire and challenge young men through wilderness backpacking, local service projects, rock climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering, and exploration of cultural and scientific sites around the Four Corners.
This is a great trek for adventurous young men who enjoy being outdoors. It’s designed to give boys freedom to express themselves, challenge themselves, and form empowering relationships with peers in a safe, single gender environment. Many potential Trekkers and families are hesitant about the length of this Trek, and the single gender experience, but these are precisely the aspects that separate this experience and make the Prairie Trek so special. Nearly every member of this group returns for a second summer; a testament to the power of these experiences.
Is this Trek right for me?
- Great for young men ages 14-16 who enjoy being outdoors.
- Designed to give boys freedom to express themselves, challenges themselves, and form empowering relationships with peers in a safe, single-gender environment.
- The Prairie is a more intensive option than the Wild Country Trek, but less intensive than the Mountain Desert Trek.
Many potential Trekkers and families are hesitant about the length of this trek, and the single-gender experience, but these are precisely the aspects that separate this experience and make the Prairie Trek so special.
Why is this Trek so long?
We believe that the longer the experience, the more enriching and meaningful.
Our treks are more than just a vacation or a summer sleep-away. Trekkers grow and develop new passions, explore new interests, and form deep friendships. During this longer time frame, Trekkers have the opportunities, the support, and the time to build a deeper understanding of themselves and their community. Trekkers learn to not only live, but thrive, without phones or social media, and foster profound connections with nature and each other.
Why an all-boys group?
Over our 90-year history, we have found the all-girls and all-boys groups are able to go further, do more, and bond more deeply without the distraction of the other gender. Trekkers in these groups learn personal responsibility, teamwork, and leadership skills most successfully in a single-sex environment. Moreover, the Prairie Trek and Turquoise Trail have the highest rate of returning Trekkers of any of our expeditions.
A note on “The Gulch Way”
The major differentiating factor between The Gulch and other outdoor experiences is “The Gulch Way”. It’s one part careful preparation, and two parts improvisation.
Each season we outline the Trek plans, then allow our knowledgeable staff to embrace unique opportunities that couldn’t otherwise be planned. We often adjust our itineraries when we’re invited to a ceremonial feast day, local flea market, or rug auction. We may be asked to help excavate an archaeological dig, or participate in a local art installation (both have happened!).
The nature of outdoor education reserves innate changes due to shifts in weather, wildfire, and trail or road closures. This is all part of the adventure that distinguishes Cottonwood Gulch.
What is included in the cost?
Tuition includes everything once you arrive in Albuquerque:
- All meals
- All transportation
- Staff, educators, field specialists
- All gear necessary for group expedition
- Special activities (rafting, mountain biking, art classes + more) and backcountry permits
Trekkers are responsible for covering travel costs to and from Albuquerque the first day and last day of the trek. Gulch staff will be at the Albuquerque Sunport to greet incoming Trekkers.
Consider adding Trekker spending money when you register (to use for gifts, souvenirs, and trinkets to remember their experience). Trekkers are also responsible for providing personal belongings outlined in the packing list for their chosen expedition.
For more logistical questions, visit our FAQ page, or give us a call: 505-248-0563.
- Backpack Mount Tukuhnikivatz
- Backpack in the Blue Range
- Hike to Keet Seel
- Make pies in Pie Town, NM
- Visit Hopi artists
- Service project to conserve wildlife and public lands
- Base Camp legacy projects that may include forest restoration projects, organic farming projects, or special carpentry
- + so much more!
“Being part of a single gender expedition should be something that everyone is required to do growing up. It left me feeling so comfortable with my body and feelings and gave me a whole new perspective on what being in a group means.”