The High Desert Center Expeditionary Semester

Video and Photos

Learn about immigration
Learn about immigration
Hiking the Arizona Trail
Hiking the Arizona Trail
See spectacular scenery
See spectacular scenery
Team building
Team building


This semester is for those excited about life on the trail. Join us for ten weeks and over 800 miles of walking through some of the most spectacular landscapes Arizona has to offer. We’ll form a tight knit community as we meet the challenges, the rewards, and the unexpected turns of this rugged trail. On top of that, we’ll engage in a meaningful examination of immigration and border issues and learn how about the natural history of the area. This semester will shape your values and character while giving you the skills necessary for adventure planning, building and contributing to community, and being a great friend.
The Arizona Trail, a stretch of trail linking Mexico to Utah, was designated a National Scenic Trail in 2009 and completed on 2011—it’s relatively new. Over the 800+ miles, we’ll encounter both interesting communities and people as well as diverse ecosystems: deserts, mountains and canyons.

  • Hike almost every day for ten weeks. Discover the history of the South West from Native American migrations to the impacts of grazing. Sing in three-part harmony. Learn new skills like whittling, bird identification, or juggling. Live in community.
  • Understand immigration issues from all sides. Make lifelong friends. Get in great shape. Learn the night sky.
  • Watch sunrises. Cook outside. Meet other thru-hikers and hear their stories. Document your adventures. Check thru-hiking off your bucket list. Plan your next, great adventure.

Questions & Answers


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Yes, I recommend this program

Deeply Empowering

My Expeditionary Semester with High Desert Center was one of the most pivotal and inspiring experiences that I have ever had. Wether we were hiking 30 miles in the rugged depths of the Rincon Mountains or dumpster diving behind a doughnut shop in Payson, I was in constant awe of the community I had been lucky enough to fall into the loving arms of, the epic places in which we adventured, and the new things that I learned daily. Geeking out over California poppies and blooming ocotillo, practicing our Spanish, and harmonizing new songs beside the fire is what filled my precious time in Arizona. High Desert Center bestows the gifts of deep compassion and curiosity upon their students with each cherished program. The HDC expresses their love for the world and everything in it through giving young people the opportunity to experience the miraculous wonders of the planet we live in. I’m left with their gifts of compassion and curiosity, relationships that will last me my lifetime, and an adventure that will be difficult to forget. I’m so extremely grateful for this inclusive community that changes the lives of so many amazing young people.

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About High Desert Center

The current High Desert Center Gap Year Programs represent our best efforts to take the most successful strategies and components and link them together into the kind of long programs that support participants in discovering who they are and what...