A few people with backpacks on hike down a steep mountain trail with mountains on the distant horizon.Every year, Johnson County Conservation staff take local high school students on a 10-day conservation adventure in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, which contains 1.3 million acres of pristine wilderness. Along the way, students will gain backpacking skills, participate in trail work projects, and learn about the Wilderness Act and local ecology along the way. 

The 2024 trek will take place from July 1-10. Applications due April 15.

2024 Trip Brochure


Trip Basics:

Who is Eligible? 

Any high school student from Johnson County who has completed their freshman through senior years. No prior backpacking or camping experience is necessary.




Letter of Support

The online application process includes a series of short essays and a letter of support from a non-family member. Both are due April 15.



There is a $500 trip fee. Included in the fee is all food for time in the backcountry, travel expenses, and most gear items such as backpacks, tents, sleeping bag/pad, etc. Students are responsible for providing their own hiking clothing and footwear, however, JCC also has a small loan library with clothing and miscellaneous items, such as headlamps, bottles, and dishware available on loan. 

Full and partial scholarships are available for students with financial need. Email [email protected] for the scholarship application. 

A high school boy sits on a large boulder surrounded by a lake and mountains.

Core Pillars of the Trek

Outdoor Skills

During the trip, students will gain greater competency with the following skills:

  • Packing a backpack 
  • Setting up a tent
  • Using camping stoves to prepare food
  • Filtering water from natural sources
  • Protecting food from animals using various methods
  • Beginner map-reading

A student with a backpack on stands on the trail facing a mountain vista in the distance.


JCC partners with the U.S. Forest Service and the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation to involve the students in trail stewardship. Students will learn how to use tools safely, and will participate in trail maintenance, clearing windblown trees from trails. This component is the most significant part of the experience, and takes up 3-4 full days in the wilderness. Though it is hard work, it is one of the highlights for most students each year.

Two people operate a crosscut to cut through a two-foot-diameter log that is blocking a trail.

Wilderness Ethics

A core element of the trip is the study of Wilderness. Before the trip, essays about the Wilderness Act, and wilderness philosophy and ethics, and diversity in the outdoors are provided as required reading. During the trek, we'll have some campfire discussions where students will have a chance to share thoughts and ideas to help them further understand and develop their own relationship with the land. 

A group of people sit around a fire while roasting marshmallows.

Hands-on Ecology

Whenever the opportunity presents itself, trip leaders teach about the ecosystem around them, whether that is a lesson about the wildflowers in bloom, fish seen swimming in the lakes, forestry and fire science classes, and more. 

A trip leader speaks near a lake while a group of high school students is circled around him listening.