Backpacking at Elk Creek Ranch is an extensive and challenging adventure into one of the few remaining wilderness areas in the continental United States: the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountain Ranges in northwestern Wyoming and southwestern Montana. This country is as scenic as it is primitive. The backpackers ascend several mountains in the 12,000 feet range and spend most of their trip in areas above 8,000 feet!
Much of the country lies within designated wilderness areas and all of it within Shoshone, Gallatin, and Custer National Forests. The backpackers travel through the summer ranges of elk, deer, mountain sheep, and mountain goats. (In fact, goats in recent years have even invaded several of our Beartooth camps.) They travel as far from "modern life" as the mind's eye can conceive.
Because of the rugged and primitive nature of the country, the keynote of the backpacking program is the group experience. As is true back at the Ranch, we place great emphasis on the smallness of each group, which requires and enables the full participation of each teen.
Such trips cannot be safely and successfully undertaken without the full and responsible involvement of all the teens and staff. On the trail, the backpackers receive instruction in packing, low-impact camping, cooking and high altitude dietary requirements, map reading, physical health, and group dynamics. With that background the group faces each new challenge, making decisions and shouldering responsibilities as a unit. This blend of wilderness challenge and cooperative endeavor provides each individual with a memorable western experience.
The Challenge Backpack
Prompted by the interest of Ranchers, Elk Creek Ranch now offers a Challenge Backpack, a six-day trip at the beginning of second session that will include more peaks and high country travel than our traditional, end of session trips. Only first session ranchers who have taken one of the two first session backpacks and are at least 14 years old, will qualify for the Challenge Backpack. It will not be mandatory for participants to stay for the entire second session, but there will be a supplemental charge for the backpack. For those who would take on the Challenge Backpack and then stay at the ranch for the entire second session, the cost will be included in the normal tuition.