San Juan Wilderness - Program Outline and Schedule

The San Juan Wilderness Program has six key elements.

I. Therapeutic Wilderness Expeditions - Personal Growth through Perseverance. Students spend 2-3 weeks per month backpacking in the pristine mountain wilderness of the San Juan Mountains, participate in daily therapy and academic sessions, and complete service-learning trail projects for the National Forest. In addition, our highly structured schedule and level system are key aspects of student life.

II. Base-Camp Life - Lessons in Responsibility and Cooperation. Students spend 1-2 weeks per month living at the base-camp, without any modern conveniences like electricity or running water. They prepare all their own meals (a low-fat, sugar- and caffeine-free diet), chop and split wood for heat and cooking, and do their laundry with a washboard. Therapy and academic sessions continue, along with additional project-based education.

III. Service Learning Projects – Learning in Action.
Student receive 40 hours per month of project-based service-learning. The benefits of learning new skills, applying those skills and realizing one’s potential for accomplishment are best realized through hands-on experience. Project partners include Habitat for Humanity, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the National Forest Service, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and local food banks, homeless shelters and senior citizen groups.

IV. Academics – Creating Independent Learners and Thinkers. Our curriculum of experiential natural science lessons and labs were developed and are taught in the field by our licensed science teacher as well as seasoned field staff. In addition, students complete daily assignments in literature and language arts which are meant to add meaning to the student’s experience. Because San Juan is an accredited school by the state of Colorado, students may receive approximately 1 high school credit per month of enrollment.

V. Adventure Education - Real Challenges offer Real Self-Esteem. Our students spend 5-6 days per month learning adventure-based skills. They receive ample training to safely participate in activities such as peak ascents, rock climbing, kayaking and rafting, mountain biking, horseback riding and cross country skiing. Our students naturally respond well to healthy risk-taking.

VI. Individual and Family Therapy – for Lasting Change.
Our therapists meet twice weekly with students for both individual and group therapy sessions, and weekly with parents. In addition, both parent and child address issues through guided written correspondence concerning issues and feelings associated with accountability, forgiveness, gratitude, parental expectations for the future, etc. Please visit our “Therapy and Treatment” page on this website for comprehensive information.

Family Weekends occur monthly and include initiatives, cook-outs, and family therapy sessions. These events have proven to be very effective at rebuilding relationships and are enjoyable as well.

Graduation Ceremonies help students bring closure to this unforgettable life-changing experience with meaningful ceremonies that truly honor their accomplishments. Ceremonies include an “Eagle Solo” and a Native American Lakota Sweat Lodge Ceremony. Moreover, parents are invited to participate in students receiving their graduation certificates and pictures of their experience.

Monthly Schedule:
Backcountry Itinerary (first two weeks of each month):

Day 1-2: Clinical assessment and orientation (issue gear, safety/guidelines lecture)

Day 3-6: Backpacking/trail projects, academics, evening counseling groups

Day 7: Solo (students spend 24 hour period alone with regular staff check-ins)

Day 8-9: Individual and group therapy and academic lessons (physical rest days)

Day 11-14: Backpacking, trail projects, academic sessions, evening counseling groups

Day 15: Solo (students spend 24 hour period alone with regular staff check-ins)

Base-camp Itinerary, (second two weeks of each month):

Day 16-17: Individual and group therapy, academics/projects, hygiene and laundry

Day 18-19: Service learning projects and academic lessons

Day 20-21: Adventure education: rock climbing, kayaking/rafting, mtn. biking, etc.

Day 22: Solo (students spend 24 hour period alone with regular staff check-ins)

Day 23-24: Individual and group therapy, academic/projects, hygiene and laundry

Day 25-26: Service learning projects and academic lessons

Day 27-28: Adventure education rock climbing, kayaking/rafting, mtn. biking, etc.

Day 29: Family day and Graduation Ceremonies

Day 30: Travel home

Compare to a typical wilderness program schedule:
Day 1: Orientation and Assessment
Day 2-Finish: Backpacking in Desert (in circles or back and forth) Daily Groups, Weekly Therapy, Solos and Graduation.


San Juan Wilderness
Teen Therapy Program
Experiential by Nature


San Juan Wilderness
Six to Nine WeekTherapeutic
Programs for
Troubled Teens and their Families.

  • Licensed Therapeutic
    Wilderness Program
  • Licensed Residential
    Treatment Center
  • Colorado Dept of
    Education Accredited
  • 12 Years Experience
    with Troubled Teens
  • Tuition $250
    per day

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