Gap Year in the South West & Mexico

Travel, adventure and explore Mexican culture

Spend your gap year road tripping to and around Mexico.

Experience new cultures. Savor the freedom of life on the road. Dive into yourself.
A group of young people hike through the Arizona wilderness


The second part of our time together integrates the highest levels of learning and adventure while focusing on the landscapes, stories, science and connections surrounding the Colorado River.  We will travel from high in the snow-covered mountains of Colorado to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.  Along the way we will meet and learn from U.S. and Mexican experts, experience numerous outdoor adventures, and come to understand what it means to lead a life intertwined with the human and natural landscapes of place.

This semester is for people who embrace the challenge of understanding and experiencing one’s place in the world, and how we each affect and are affected by our surrounding human and natural communities.  You will be able to fully participate meaningfully in important conversations about topics like water use, food production, immigration and border issues.  You’ll have witnessed first hand how our decisions affect everything from rare dolphins, to soil salt levels, to the jobs and health of the people you befriend in Mexico.

Some potential activities and destinations:

  • The Sonoran Desert during its February bloom.
  • Organ Pipe
  • The Pinacates, Mexico.
  • Beaches throughout Baja, Mexico.
  • Working with conservarionist banding birds and building habitat
  •   Learning from  Mexican scientists.
  • The former Colorado River Delta and Cienagua de Santa Clara in Mexico.
  • Backpacking in Utah Canyons.  Find and explore ancestral pueblo ruins.  Study their culture and what they can tell us about the relationships between desert civilizations and irrigation.
  • The border and border issues in Arizona.
  • A long, multi-day hike from the fence in Mexico north towards Tucson, following the path of numerous immigrants.
  • Studying large-scale agriculture and water use on the lower Colorado River and also small-scale organic agriculture on the upper river near Paonia, Colorado.
  • A canoe trip on the Colorado river
  • Backpacking the Grand Canyon
Students studying in the desert
after high scool student group gathered in front of the Colorado River


Oscar Wolfenstein


Portland, OR

At the High Desert Center, I felt for the first time in my life that I had a place and a purpose entirely to myself. The environment provides hands-on education in sustainable living and community building, and the staff engages each participant earnestly, asking participants to discover what we truly care about and to explore the numerous options presented by our ambitions. Each day feels like an experience and adventure to itself, and also preparation for the great adventure of life.

Male staff member


Belfast, ME

Let me tell you about the mountains that we wake up to every morning, surrounded by sun-kissed peaks that offered weeks of back country exploration. Let me tell you about the delicious smell of bacon calling me from my bed just before the breakfast bell rings, bacon from a small organic farm down the road where we visited and worked with our hands in the dirt. This gap year changed my life. If it calls to you, I encourage you to take the leap.


Today! We are currently accepting applications.