Summit the San Juans with us

Open to all first-year and transfer students, you can start your college career with an affordable and exhilarating backpacking trip through the rugged and beautiful San Juan Mountains. Your new backyard is full of alpine meadows, trout-filled lakes, deep forests, and jagged high peaks, so why not explore it with a group of your new peers?

Summit the San Juans is led by student leaders trained in wilderness first aid, low-impact backcountry ethics, and group facilitation skills. This experience is for all levels and abilities; prior experience is optional. Participants must be able to hike three miles a day over uneven terrain with a 40–50 pound pack.

When: August 19-24, 2023
Where: Weminuche Wilderness Area, San Juan Mountains
Number of students: 60
Student cost: $350; full and partial financial assistance is available

Sign up today.


Plan on arriving on campus during PEAK check-in on Saturday, August 19, between 9:00 am and 12:00 PM.

Summit the San Juans begins on Sunday, August 20, at 9:00 am.


The $350 fee includes:

  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Outdoor equipment
  • Lodging when on campus
  • Access to your room for storage during the trip

Participants are responsible for bringing appropriate clothing and footwear. Beyond what is available to borrow on the packing list, Outdoor Pursuits has limited clothing available.

Financial assistance:

Substantial financial assistance is available for those who qualify. To apply, complete the registration process, including the financial assistance application. This will hold your space on the trip. We review applications on a rolling basis. You will be notified by June 15 if you qualify for assistance. 

**Cancellation policy**

  • An administrative fee of $50 will be assessed for any cancellation
  • The full trip amount is forfeited if canceled less than 30 days before trip departure

As a participant on a Summit the San Juans trip, you will:

  • Backpack for five days and four nights with ten incoming students and two student leaders through the San Juan Mountains, just outside Durango.
  • Travel through rugged canyons, camp in aspen groves, and hike across an alpine meadow surrounded by Colorado's high peaks.
  • Learn the basics of backcountry travel and how to move and work as a group in the wilderness.
  • Travel, camp, cook, and share adventures with your group.

These trips are open for all experience levels and are moderately difficult. Most trails are over gradual terrain, but some include off-trail travel, with elevations exceeding 10,000 feet. Many ridges and peaks offer outstanding views, but challenging, steep sections can require hiking.


Travel, Lodging & Logistics

Will there be a place for me to store all my things while on the trip?

Yes, you will be able to drop off any belongings not needed for the trip at your residence hall when you move in on Saturday.

When should I arrive?

Peak move-in will run from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm on Saturday, August 19. It would be best if you planned your travel to campus so that you arrive during this window.

How do I get to campus from the airport?

Roadrunner transport offers $8 shuttles from the Durango Airport to campus. Reservations can be made from their website.

Will I be back in time for New Student and Family Orientation?

Yes, we will return to campus by Thursday afternoon. This is perfect timing for moving into your room and checking in to New Student and/or Family Orientation.

When and where can I meet my family upon returning?

Any family or friends joining for move-in or Orientation can meet you upon your return and after equipment clean-up. Campus return times will be in the early afternoon. You will be notified of your return time before Peak beginning.

How many students are on Summit the San Juans?

All groups are 10 incoming students and 2 student leaders.
The total number of participants is 60.

If I’m over 21, can I bring marijuana or alcohol?

No, even if you can legally use either of these substances, neither is allowed on Fort Lewis College programs.


What do I need to bring?

You are responsible for your personal clothing and footwear. Please view the packing list for all required personal equipment.

What if I don't have my own equipment?

OP has a complete equipment room where you can check out items such as backpacks, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, etc. You are responsible for your personal clothing and footwear.  See the packing list for more information.

Can I use my own pack/tent/etc.?

Yes, you are welcome to use any personal gear you wish (providing it is approved by your trip leader), but you will be responsible for any personal equipment you bring.

Do I need to bring my own food or water?

No, we will provide food from Sunday's lunch through Thursday's breakfast. We will also provide water treatment systems when we’re in the field.

Can I bring my own pack?

Yes, but your pack must be at least 70 Liters and meet our staff approval, as you will have to fit food and group gear. Our rental packs are 90 Liters.

Should I bring my cell phone or emergency beacon device?

Cell phone and music player use is discouraged on the trip, and you will likely not have service anyway.
You are welcome to use your phone for photos if you wish, but you should consider how to protect it from rain and use it in airplane mode to conserve the battery.

Please do not bring your own personal emergency beacon device; the groups will already be carrying a satellite communication device.

Route, Difficulty & Weather

What will the weather be like?

The weather can range from 70 degrees and sunny to below freezing temps with rain and snow. Please read the packing list thoroughly to be prepared.

How far are we hiking?

The total route length ranges from 12 to 25 miles, with 4.5 days to cover this distance.

Where are the routes going?

Most groups will be between Durango and Silverton in the San Juan Mountains. A few groups may also be La Plata Mountains, just west of Durango.

What elevation is the trip?

All routes travel above 10,000 feet, with many groups traveling higher.

How heavy will my pack be?

Depending on your size, your pack weight may range from 40-60 pounds.


Do I need to bring my own food or water?

No, we will provide food from Sunday's lunch through Thursday's breakfast. We will also provide water treatment systems when we’re in the field.

What will we be eating on the trip?

Our groups will fuel their adventures with delicious, nutritious meals. We pack plenty of food so no one will go hungry.

Do you accommodate dietary restrictions or allergies?

Yes, we can accommodate a wide range of dietary needs and allergies. Please identify your dietary requirements in the registration process.

Can I bring my own snacks?

Yes, if you have a special snack you want to have, you’re welcome to bring it.

Summit packing list

Unless otherwise noted, all the below items are REQUIRED to keep you and your group safe and comfortable in the mountains. Summer weather in the San Juan Mountains is very unpredictable. PEAK groups have experienced warm sunny weather, freezing rain, and even snow. Given that it is monsoon season, it is very likely you will get rained on. If you are not accustomed to this weather or know you get cold, please bring extra warm layers. OP can provide items denoted with *

Equipment we provide (feel free to bring your own if you wish)

  • 90L backpack* (min. 70L capacity if bringing your own, as you will have to fit group gear/food too)
  • Tent*
  • Sleeping bag* (15-20-degree bag will work great for most people. OP has 20-degree and 0-degree bags.)
  • Sleeping pad* (either foam or inflatable will work, suitable for backpacking. OP has foam pads.)
  • All group gear (stoves, pots, water treatment systems, etc.)

Personal clothing & equipment

  • 2 t-shirts (at least 1 synthetic, non-cotton)
  • 1 pair of shorts or hiking pants, quick drying
  • 1 pair fleece, nylon, or wool pants (no cotton i.e. jeans or sweatpants)
  • 1 fleece top or mid-weight wool sweater
  • 1 pair light or medium weight long underwear, top and bottom
  • 1 warm jacket (heavy fleece, down, or synthetic fill)
  • 1 warm hat (not cotton)
  • 1 hat with brim for sun (baseball cap is fine)
  • 1 waterproof rain jacket* (no ponchos or wind shells)
  • 1 pair waterproof pants*
  • 1 pair of wool or fleece gloves or mittens
  • 3 pair heavyweight wool or synthetic socks
  • 1 pair thin liner socks (optional)
  • 1 pair sturdy hiking boots or trail shoes (No tennis shoes or Five Fingers. Boots/trail shoes must be broken in by wearing them for several full-day hikes prior to arrival. Not doing this = blisters!)
  • 1 pair closed-toed camp shoes (running or tennis shoes work great. No sandals or Crocs)
  • 3 pairs underwear
  • 2 stuff sacks for organizing clothing
  • 1 headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries
  • 1 pair sunglasses
  • 1 small sunscreen
  • 1 lip balm with sunscreen
  • 1 small toilet kit
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Contacts, menstrual products, and personal medications as needed
    • Do not bring makeup, deodorant, perfume, etc. (they are heavy and attract bugs/animals)
  • 2 water bottles (enough to carry 1/2 gallon. If you bring a bladder system, also bring 1 bottle in case of breakage)
  • 1 personal eating kit (lightweight spoon, cup, and bowl/plate)


  • Camera, journal, book, insulated mug, pen/pencil, compass, small pocketknife (<4” blade), natural history books, bandana.

Download printable packing checklist

Trip leaders

Student leaders make this program what it is! 

They are:

  • Committed individuals who are at the heart of every trip.
  • Current and past Fort Lewis College students from all majors and disciplines.
  • Selected for their judgment and experience in the outdoors, as well as their personality and ability to work with groups.
  • Trained in a demanding outdoor leadership course focusing on group dynamics, teaching techniques, decision-making, risk management, backcountry travel, and outdoor ethics.
  • Certified in wilderness medicine.

Learn more about our Student Outdoor Leadership program.

All PEAK Experience programs

two students wearing backpacking backpacks hold hands and kick feet together.

"My peak experience was such a memorable one! Not only did it build a sense of community and trust between peers as an incoming freshman, but it was also absolutely beautiful!! Peak was so much more than a '5-day hike.' So cool to get to explore your new backyard in a very personal and constructive way while making connections and overcoming personal mountains. Plus, the food was amazing the whole way through. I am still friends with people I met through this awesome experience!"

Contact us

Orientation Office

171 Student Union
Phone: 970-247-7090
Fax: 970-247-7487

Kate Macklin
Operations coordinator, Outdoor Pursuits
Phone: 970-247-6394