Multiple Locations +3
  • United States of America
  • Chile
  • Peru
Starting Price
$16,400 USD
4 - 26 weeks

Program Details

Backpacking Canyoning Mountain Climbing Rock Climbing Trekking
Fall Spring Winter
Host Family Hostel Tent
Primary Language
Age Min.
Age Max


Starting Price
$16,400 USD
Price Details
Tuition includes room and board as well as all domestic travel. Tuition does not include travel to and from Denver and to Patagonia.

Need-based financial aid available. Our highest awards include full tuition, free gear rentals and travel to and from the program.
What's Included
Accommodation Activities Airport Transfers Equipment Meals Park Fees Transportation
What's Not Included
Aug 17, 2021
May 12, 2021

About Program

HMI’s Gap Semesters unite outdoor adventure, environmental service, and leadership development on an uninterrupted journey to some of the world’s most awe-inspiring places. Our students realize their full potential to thrive as engaged citizens of the world by exploring with intention.

We believe the best learning occurs in nature’s classroom. Through experiential and field-based activities, students explore complex cultural, environmental, and ecological issues in the areas that they visit.

Central to all HMI Gap year programs is extended experience and practice in outdoor adventure. Each course goes into great depth to advance students’ skill in either rock climbing or wilderness travel. Whether climbing iconic sandstone towers in Utah, hiking through a breathtaking glacial valley in Patagonia, or rafting down the pristine blue waters of the Futaleufu river, our outdoor curriculum is aimed at moving students toward excellence and independence.

Video and Photos

Program Highlights

  • Rock Climbing, Backpacking, Backcountry Skiing, Rafting, Canyoneering
  • Stewardship, Community, Leadership
  • Environmental studies
  • Spanish language
  • College credit through Western Colorado University or Portland State


High Mountain Institute Award

If you’re looking at one of the four High Mountain Institute programs to Patagonia, consider applying for financial aid. Your application must include tax forms from the last two years and will be awarded based on SSS (school and student services calculator) used by National Association of Independent Schools, which HMI is apart of. In addition to tuition and other travel costs, High Mountain Institute also provides discounted gear rentals to financial aid recipients.

$1,000 - $15,000

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Program Reviews

9.62 Rating
based on 52 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 94.23%
  • 7-8 rating 5.77%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Housing 9.3
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.3
  • Value 9.5
  • Safety 9.5
Showing 1 - 8 of 52 reviews
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible experience—great community and self development

I decided to attend HMI gap because I was not having a good time at college online. And I’m so glad I did! I learned so many backcountry trip skills in telemark skiing, climbing, backpacking, canyoneering and more. The instructors are all so warm and wonderful role models and I got really close with the other students. The environmental studies curriculum is relevant, immersive, and pretty chill in terms of academic difficulty. I also attended the HMI high school semester and had a wonderful time
There too but also got different things out of it. All the stars!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Bring mio for your water and don’t spend too much time on your phone on transition days! Time with your fellow students is so precious.
16 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Wilderness and Conservation in the American West

I never thought I would be taking a year off after high school to backpack in the Southwest, but I'm so glad I did. Though I had little experience with camping and traveling in the wilderness areas, HMI gap made it possible for me to have an incredible three months in a super special community. We rafted the Colorado river, skied in the Rocky Mountains, and traveled through many slot canyons and deserts in Arizona and Utah. These are experiences I never thought I would have the chance to enjoy, much less with the group of 14 amazing people who I had the privilege of meeting and becoming friends with. One of the best aspects of this trip was how much it prompted me to grow and how much I learned about myself and the world around me, and I am super grateful that I had the opportunity to be a part of it.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
I would tell future students to make the most of every day. Even on long hiking days, your cook group is going to have a great time hanging out that evening, and every chance you get to see a big horn sheep or another really cool plant/animal in the places you travel is a special opportunity. The days start to go by fast, and you'll want to spend every minute of it enjoying the time you have.
15 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Awesome Way to Explore a Gap Year

The HMI Gap Semester offers some of the most beautiful scenery someone could ever see and amazing people someone could ever meet. Everyone from the expedition organizers to the expedition leaders are helpful and do their best to make sure that each person has what they need in every backpacking environment. As someone who has never backpacked before, I felt like I was in good hands all the time. Not to mention, the food is awesome as students get to pick what they want to eat and learn what is best to bring. For anyone looking to learn about themselves over a gap semester, they would be hard pressed to find one better than what HMI offers.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
I have never skied before, and there was a ten day expedition that used telemark skis to help navigate snow in the backcountry. I rented skis from HMI, and instructors took us to local ski place in Leadville to practice. However, the expedition was hard as the cold and this new skill were mentally draining. Because of the supportive people and looking inside myself for strength, I overcame the traveling and difficulties that come with living outside in the snow. I look back greatly at this moment because I pushed myself the most during the semester that I would not have been able to do without HMI.
16 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

HMI Gap: The Best Semester of My Life!!

HMI gave me the perfect mixture of outdoor adventure, leadership skills, and environmental studies to create a genuinely phenomenal semester! I had spent very little time camping, backpacking, or climbing before the program, but HMI equipped me with all of the mental and physical tools to combat every challenge I would face. They helped me reframe my relationship with the outdoors and truly become comfortable in a wide variety of activities. HMI also created the space for an incredible and unique community. I had an amazing relationship with each individual participant and the group as a whole- we were genuinely a new family. Finally, I was so impressed by HMI's curriculum that brought together readings and discussions which allowed us to evaluate the many perspectives on nature and how they each address contemporary issues. These learnings allowed me to intentionally consider my personal environmental ethic and look at deep changes in my life. Overall, HMI was a wonderful experience of learning and adventure.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
The most surprising thing I did with HMI was traveling through Gravel Canyon in Jacob's Chair National Monument. It was an incredibly long day and we left camp before the sun rose and got back well after it set. We scrambled over boulders, wandered through slot canyons, and had to repel to the next section of the canyon three different times! It was intense and difficult at times, but also incredibly fun and massively rewarding. We were all surprised at how far we had come with our hiking, endurance, and technical repels and had an amazing day.
19 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Wilderness and Conservation 2

I had the best semester of my life doing this program! I got to meet awesome people and make some of my best friends ever. I also got to have some of the coolest experiences of my life and the instructors were super encouraging and supportive. I learned so much about myself and I feel that I’ve grown so much after doing this program. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to grow, make connections, and spend time outdoors. The people on my trip were awesome and I felt close with every single one of them. We got to have deep conversations and hilarious conversations alike.

What was your funniest moment?
Our funniest moment was on Halloween when we all created costumes with what we had in our packs on the last night of a backpacking expedition and had a dance party.
20 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Good people, good places, good food!

This semester was totally unexpected for me - I was fully committed to going right into college, not even considering a gap year. COVID hit and I did a last minute pivot, figuring anything would at least be better than online classes. This semester has turned out to be such an amazing experience - I've met so many cool people, seen and truly experienced some of the most incredible places in the US, and become a lot more comfortable with myself in community and as a leader. A total growth experience - if you're interested to be challenged physically and mentally, have awesome, inspiring mentors, and have a chance for some self reflection, this program is for you.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would try a little harder to learn more of the flora and fauna by name and identification before and during the semester. There's so much life out in these places, and I think I would have felt even more connected to the place if I'd been more aware of all the species around me.
19 people found this review helpful.
Read my full story
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Wilderness and conservation semester

HMI Gap was such an amazing experience! Each place we went was so unique and rewarding in its own way. The program was physically quite difficult at times but that made everything feel really rewarding. There was a nice balance of backpacking and trying climbing and rafting. Sleeping under the stars for 80 days was so nice and being out in the backcountry for so long gave a great opportunity for reflection. Backcountry baking was definitely a highlight and bonding experience. Would definitely recommend!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
We got to hike through the Paria Canyon which was incredible!
19 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

HMI Gap Semester

I was hesitant to enter HMI and take a gap semester. I didn’t realize how much one can learn from being out backpacking in the wilderness. Had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I met some amazing people that I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. As someone who hasn't ever gone backpacking before this semester I felt comfortable because of the expertise of the instructors. They taught many important technical and non technical skills that took a complete rookie to being very comfortable in the backcountry. Definitely recommend.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
How much I learned, technical and non technical skills.
20 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers