Multiple Locations +6
  • United States of America
  • Guatemala
  • Thailand
  • Australia
    • Adelaide
  • Spain
  • Mexico
26 - 52 weeks

Program Details

Backpacking Camping Rafting
Academic Year Fall Spring Winter
Cabin Tent
Primary Language
Age Min.
Age Max


Starting Price
$9,850 USD
Price Details
This includes room, board, activities, and travel while we are together.
What's Included
Accommodation Activities Meals Park Fees Transportation Wifi
What's Not Included
Airfare Some Equipment
Dec 18, 2020
May 04, 2020

About Program

For the adventurous soul, who's craving something out of the box, who wants to climb mountains or try dumpster diving with a group of fun loving friends. We offer the chance to be seen and accepted for who you already are and the chance to see the world for what it is and what it could be. We inspire rather than coerce. We dumpster dive, skinny dip and challenge you to be real. We get dirty & think big.

We work on organic farms, build using sustainable materials, make our own bread and hike our brains out. In the process you learn the skills of self-sufficiency, community and quality living. We also travel around the South West and Mexico to immerse ourselves in border issues, & see first hand how we are connected to the people of Sonora not only by a river and water issues but also by trade, food, migratory fish and birds, politics and the human experience. By the end, you will be a new person, with new options for living the good life & experiencing the richness of the world.

Video and Photos

Program Highlights

  • Live the good life while climbing mountains and hiking canyons, baking your own bread, learning community living skills, and exploring sustainable living.
  • Experience small town, off the beaten path Mexican & Guatemalan culture and learn about pressing border and environmental issues.
  • Be part of a homespun family that challenges you to deeply understand and experience your inner self, your world, and your options.
  • Between semesters, travel with friends from the program to Spain, Australia, Thailand, or one of our satellite locations
  • Adventure with fellow participants who are creative innovators, young people in charge of their own education already making things happen in the world.

Related Programs

Program Reviews

9.8 Rating
based on 5 reviews
  • 9-10 rating 100%
  • 7-8 rating 0%
  • 5-6 rating 0%
  • 3-4 rating 0%
  • 1-2 rating 0%
  • Housing 9.2
  • Support 10
  • Fun 9.8
  • Value 9.8
  • Safety 9.4
Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Life-Changing Program

Being a part of the High Desert Center was one of the best experiences of my life. Dev and Marian are amazing and I got to meet the most wonderful people that I hope to know for a long time.
I got to try a bunch of new things I never would have been able to without this program, with some awesome people along the way, from backpacking in Colorado, mountain climbing, driving to mexico and staying in rural homestays, as well as learning what it's like to live in a community, I would absolutely do this program again.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Be open and don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try new things.
13 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A life changing experience!

My time with the High Desert Center was truly one of the best experiences of my life. The chance to go explore the world with a supportive community was so valuable and staff guidance throughout the whole program added an important sense of security to our often crazy adventures. The opportunity to learn skills like group cooking, farming, building, and butchering animals in the first semester was a definite highlight for me. Whether you join one of the shorter programs or for a whole year, anyone who feels attracted to what this company offers will gain something valuable from participating in such a cool space. I highly recommend this program for any young people seeking to grow their sense of self and figure out their place in the world!

15 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Eye opening program

I had an amazing experience doing this program! I loved being able to sleep under the stars with some awesome people and being able to hike all day and see the land. It truly opened my eyes to so many more life options. it also made me appreciate how little personal items I need to have. after this program all I have been thinking about is what my next adventure is going to be. My goal was to walk all 800 miles, sadly I did not exactly that. it was kinda ironic trying to take a day in the van was more challenging for me that actually hiking, but I was glad that I ended up taking that break. this program is always gonna be one of those things that I think about before going to bed. one thing that was really nice during the program, I only would focus on the present not the stressful future . I reccommend doing any programs with the HDC.

15 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

So awesome, would highly recommend.

My time staying at the high desert center was truly fantastic, I loved the people the place and all that went with. I wasn’t the best writer on the trip, but I had so many great people to talk to and learn from, which I think improved my writing greatly. We were given awesome sources to talk to from all around Colorado. I got to meet established authors, Learn dance from one of the staff, do impressions, have barefoot nighthikes and explore a truly wonderful area. After spending 5 weeks at HDC I was living life and felt more open to people. After I returned home I signed up for another trip they were hosting and went on an 800 mile thru hike! I enjoyed it immensely and would highly recommend to any and all who like off the grid living, meeting crazy cool people and learning the importance of healthy group living to check out the programs.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Do everything always, say yes to fun. You might be scared in the moment but it’s worth it. Have fun!
15 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Definitely worth checking out!

Ive done both the 2018 Gap Year Program, and the Arizona Trail trip with the HDC and both have been amazing and life enriching experiences. In fact, I love it so much that I keep coming back for more! The town, Paonia is such an interesting and beautiful place. Make sure to take a dip in the River! Ive made so many exciting memories here and made some friends that I will have for the rest of my life. The programs challenge you in every way, and the staff are extremely supportive of you and anything you want to do. The town is full of people that have an insane variety of interests, and there is no doubt that there is somebody who can nurture yours! There is no shortage of adventures and plenty of personal growth, Highly recommend to anyone and everyone!

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
If I had the chance to have a do-over, Id definitely do my best to push myself to do the things I want to do. You have the ability to go for anything that piques your interest here and I wish I had taken advantage of that.
14 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers