2022 COVID-19 Parameters for Individual Expeditions

Individual Expedition participants are required to be fully vaccinated before their expedition. One of the best ways GCY can prevent the spread of COVID-19 on expeditions is to not bring it with us. Because young people are traveling from across the country to join this expedition, a vaccination requirement is our most prudent option. Please contact us today if you would like to request a religious or medical exemption.

COVID-19 FAQs

2022 COVID Update: Read More

Taylor Miller Erin Abernethy David Herasimtschuk David Herasimtschuk Erin Abernethy Jak Kearsley Jak Kearsley Walt Carr Pamela Mathues Jordan Robinson

Partners in Science


Experience Grand Canyon like few people get to! These expeditions bring together youth from across the world to travel the Colorado River, raft legendary whitewater, and explore the hidden world beneath the rim. Off the river, you will hike to ancient Puebloan archaeological sites, trek up side canyons, discover hidden springs and waterfalls, and sleep under the stars. Partners in Science expeditions are some of the only dedicated educational youth access to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.

These expeditions were developed in collaboration with the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC), whose goals are “to develop monitoring and research programs, and related scientific activities, that evaluate short and long-term impacts of the Glen Canyon Dam on the biological, cultural, and physical resources of the Colorado River Ecosystem.” This is not just a rafting trip, but a chance to learn from, be mentored by, and collect citizen-science data with real, working scientists! These projects are a great way to learn firsthand the complexities of protecting and managing a place like the Grand Canyon.

Choose between the Full, Upper, or Lower sections of Grand Canyon. These expeditions are truly one of a kind, and offer unique ways to learn about and understand this incredible place! Check out the options below.

In service to our mission and values, GCY would like to acknowledge that this expedition visits the ancestral homelands of the Nuciu (Ute), Pueblos, Diné (Navajo), Hopitutskwa (Hopi), Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute), Havasu Baaja (Havasupai), Kvav-Kapai (Hualapai), Pipa Aha Macav (Mojave), and Nuwuwu (Chemehuevi) peoples, past and present. We recognize with gratitude the people who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial and the vibrant Native communities who make their home here today.

Full Grand Canyon (Row)

Photo by Taylor Miller
Photo by Taylor Miller

**Financial Aid Available to All**

  • Where: Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek
  • How Long: 17 days
  • Who: Ages 15 to 19
  • Difficulty: Class III – IV Whitewater
  • Price: $2,300
  • Highlights: Click Here

  • Dates: 2023 Dates Coming Soon!

Upper Grand Canyon (Row)

Grand Canyon Youth three people on boat stories and photos
Photo by David Herasimtschuk

**Financial Aid Available to All**

  • Where: Lees Ferry to Pipe Creek
  • How Long: 9 days
  • Who: Ages 15 to 19
  • Difficulty: Class III – IV Whitewater
  • Price: $1,100
  • Highlights: Click Here

  • Dates: 2023 Dates Coming Soon!

Lower Grand Canyon (Row)

Photo by David Herasimtschuk

**Financial Aid Available to All**

  • Where: Pipe Creek to Diamond Creek
  • How Long: 10 days
  • Who: Ages 15 to 19
  • Difficulty: Class III – V Whitewater
  • Price: $1,200
  • Highlights: Click Here

  • Dates: 2023 Dates Coming Soon!

Middle School Adventure


Experience the beauty of the San Juan River in southeastern Utah! Middle school students come together for fun-filled days of rafting, hiking, and more. Learn about the ecology, geology, and history of the San Juan Canyon. Our goals are to spark your curiosity, explore what interests you most, and have a lot of fun! You will have many opportunities to work as a team to overcome challenges and form a  strong river community, becoming an outdoor leader as you learn to take care of yourself and your friends on expedition.

In service to our mission and values, GCY would like to acknowledge that this expedition visits the ancestral homelands of the Nuciu (Ute), Pueblos, Diné (Navajo), Hopitutskwa (Hopi), and Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute) peoples, past and present. We recognize with gratitude the people who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial and the vibrant Native communities who make their home here today.

Upper San Juan

Photo by Walt Carr

**Financial Aid Available to All**

  • Where: Sand Island to Mexican Hat
  • How Long: 6 days
  • Who: Ages 11 to 14
  • Difficulty: Class II Whitewater
  • Price: $850
  • Highlights: Click Here

  • Dates: 2023 Dates Coming Soon!

Lower San Juan

Photo by Jordan Robinson

**Financial Aid Available to All**

  • Where: Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing
  • How Long: 7 days
  • Who: Ages 11 to 14
  • Difficulty: Class III Whitewater
  • Price: $950
  • Highlights: Click Here

  • Dates: 2023 Dates Coming Soon!

Verde Valley Explorer


This expedition is a great introduction to outdoor adventure, kayaking, and Grand Canyon Youth. Participants sign up independently and come together to explore the Verde River. While some may already have outdoor experience, for others it may be their first time exploring the outdoors. Everyone is welcome to participate; you will work together to develop teamwork skills and build a community. We will all learn and play together!

In service to our mission and values, GCY would like to acknowledge that this expedition visits the ancestral homelands of the Hohokam, Hopitutskwa (Hopi), Yavapai-Apache, Jumanos, and Ndee (Western Apache) peoples, past and present. We recognize with gratitude the people who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial and the vibrant Native communities who make their home here today.

Verde River

Photo by Doug Von Gausig

**Financial Aid Available to All**

  • Where: Lower TAPCO to Tuzigoot
  • How Long: 1 day
  • Who: Ages 11 to 14
  • Difficulty: Class I Whitewater
  • Price: $120
  • Highlights: Click Here

  • Dates: 2023 Dates Coming Soon!

GCY Pre-Trip Requirements


We believe participants have a more fulfilling experience if they earn their program. By working towards this trip, we hope you will be actively engaged and invested in the success of the program. To achieve this, we ask you to carry out three Pre-Trip Requirements: Educational, Service, and Youth Earnings. We recommend starting this process early! You’ll have a sense of accomplishment once you are finished.

Updates for 2022

  • Travel Requirement

    For all participants on Individual Expeditions, GCY now requires that an adult responsible for each participant be within five driving hours of Flagstaff, AZ for the duration of the expedition. In the event of an evacuation, GCY will communicate with this adult, who will take responsibility for the participant once off the trip.

  • COVID Health Agreement

    All participants are required to sign and follow our pre-trip COVID-19 Health Agreement. Additionally, all Individual Expedition participants are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before their expedition. Please reach out if you have any questions.

  • Educational Component

    Each GCY Summer Expedition has an educational component. You are traveling to an incredible landscape, and learning about the ecology, geology, and history of that place is a huge part of your experience. Each expedition is unique, but expect to engage with a series of weekly emails throughout the spring before your program. These emails may ask you to read articles, respond to discussion questions, watch short videos or interact with other resources. We expect you to participate and be timely with your responses.

  • Service Component

    Engaging with your home communities prepares you to be an active member of the GCY river community. You are expected to complete 2 hours of service per day you’ll be on expedition with us. For example, if your program is 8 days long, you would need to complete 16 hours of service. You can count any service you have done since the beginning of the year. Think creatively! Is there an outdoor space at your school that needs cleaning up? Could you organize a coat-drive for a local homeless shelter, or recruit friends to help walk and bathe animals at a local animal shelter?

     

    *Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Grand Canyon Youth understands it may be challenging for participants to accomplish our community service goal safely. We ask participants to still do their best to get at the intention of this requirement through other creative means (i.e. completing random acts of kindness for their family or immediate community members, spreading awareness and support for a cause that could help the community).
    We look forward to building a community on expeditions with all participants!

  • Youth Earnings Component

    Have you ever noticed that when you work for something, it means more to you? That is the concept behind the Youth Earnings requirement. You are expected to find a way to raise or earn a portion of the trip fee. You have the opportunity to be as creative as you like: save money from your job, do chores for family and friends, sell art you make, sell old sports equipment or video games you no longer use, etc.

  • Pre-Trip Requirement Documentation

    We also ask that you document your completion of these Pre-Trip Requirements for us. When you turn in your Youth Application and are officially registered for the program, you will receive a welcome email containing a link to the Pre-Trip Requirements Documentation Form. This form asks for specific numbers, questions about how you fulfilled your Pre-Trip Requirements. It is a good idea to look at these questions before you begin working on your Pre-Trip Requirements. Your responses on this form will be due no later than 2 weeks prior to your program start. (If you do not have reliable internet access, call to request paper copies of these forms.)

2023 Expedition Applications Coming This Winter!

Join Our Expedition Email List for Updates

COVID-19 FAQs


How does GCY determine their COVID-19 recommendations?

Due to the dynamic nature of COVID-19, GCY is grateful to have medical experts who advise staff on COVID-10 related requirements. These are reviewed as needed and at least twice per year to be as up to date as possible.

What are the COVID-19 requirements for participating in a GCY expedition?

Individual Expedition (IE) participants are required to be fully vaccinated before their expedition. One of the best ways GCY can prevent the spread of COVID-19 on expeditions is to not bring it with us. Because young people are traveling from across the country to join this expedition, a vaccination requirement is our most prudent option. 

    • Please reach out to [email protected] if you would like to apply for an exemption.   

All participants will agree to pre-expedition behaviors outlined in our COVID-19 Health Agreement (included in the application).  This may include pre-expedition antigen testing.

Is a negative COVID-19 test result required for all GCY expeditions?

GCY may require a negative COVID-19 test from all participants before the expedition if tests are widely available. If GCY approves a vaccination exemption, the participant must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. 

Will I need to be vaccinated in order to participate?

Yes. All Individual Expedition participants will need to be fully vaccinated before their expedition. All adults on expedition (i.e. field staff or adult volunteers) are required to be fully vaccinated or have an approved exemption.  

Do I need to get a booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated?

GCY encourages everyone to be up to date on their vaccinations. However, at this time, GCY is not requiring COVID-19 booster shots.

What should I be aware of while traveling to my expedition?

Take steps to limit your exposure to COVID-19 for the 10 days prior to, and while traveling to, your expedition. GCY encourages all participants to check CDC guidelines frequently. 

What is GCY's COVID-19 cancellation and refund policy?

Grand Canyon Youth reserves the right to cancel any expedition and/or alter expedition dates due to weather, safety concerns, and/or any other unforeseeable circumstances. If GCY cancels your expedition, all payments will be refunded. If a participant cancels more than 45 days before the departure day, expedition payments will be refunded, less a 10% non-refundable deposit of the total expedition price. All other cancellations are ineligible for a refund, subject to the reasonable discretion of GCY in making exceptions to this policy as appropriate under the circumstances.

If you need to cancel because of exposure to or diagnosis of COVID-19 in the days before your expedition, please call the GCY office to learn more about your options.  

What precautions is GCY taking to help protect participants from exposure to COVID-19?

  • Before the expedition, all participants, volunteers, and Field Staff will agree and adhere to our COVID-19 Health Agreement. These requirements ensure we are all active participants in minimizing the potential for the presence and spread of COVID-19 on expedition. 
  • GCY requires all adults, field staff, and volunteers going on expedition to be fully vaccinated. Additional requirements will be in place for any adult who has an approved vaccination-exemption. 
  • Prior to your expedition departure, GCY or your group leader will conduct a health screening. This screening will include: verification that you do not have any COVID-19 symptoms and if antigen test are available, each person will need to test negative for COVID-19. 
  • While traveling in a vehicle to your expedition, all participants and volunteers, are required to wear face coverings, and vehicle ventilation will be increased in passenger vehicles.
  • On expedition, GCY Field Staff will work with each group to support everyone’s health and safety. While our expeditions will continue to be highly participatory, we have made some adjustments to better support the health of everyone on our expeditions. 

If you have specific questions, please call our office and we will be happy to talk about our precaution measures in more detail. 

What happens if I get sick or exposed before the expedition?

If you, or someone in your household, is exposed to or suspects exposure to someone diagnosed with COVID-19, we ask that you follow the CDC’s guidelines for exposure and preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

If your exposure was greater than 5 days from the start of your expedition and you can provide proof of a negative COVID-19, we welcome you to join us. 

What happens if I get sick at the start of or during the expedition?

Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will not be permitted to join an expedition. 

If someone presents COVID-19 symptoms while on expedition, GCY Field Staff will isolate the individual and evaluate their condition. They will determine when/if to evacuate based on the condition of the patient, the risks of the evacuation, and their ability to manage the condition in the field. Field Staff have access to emergency communication devices to reach out to Emergency Medical Services and the GCY office for support when needed.  

GCY office staff will contact the legal guardians of any participant who requires an evacuation from the expedition and work with them to support the evacuation.

GCY will communicate with all families if a possible exposure has occurred. 

Can I stop by GCY to borrow gear for my expedition?

Yes! We are available to make sure you have everything you need for your expedition. We encourage all participants to see what they can borrow from GCY before making any purchases. Please call our office to make an appointment, or email us a list with sizes ([email protected]) and we can have items ready to meet you at the start of your expedition.  

What if I have more questions?

Please contact us or call our office at 928.773.7921

For Youth


What are the Pre-Trip Requirements?

You are more invested in an experience when you work to earn it yourself! To achieve this, you are required to complete three Pre-Trip Requirements:

  • Educational Component: Learning about your destination before participating helps you connect with the place you will visit.
  • Service Component: Doing service projects in your community helps prepare you to form a cohesive community in the wilderness.
  • Youth Earnings Component: Earning a portion of the trip price helps you feel financially invested.

Each GCY Individual Expedition has a slightly different variation of these components; you will receive specific information when you apply. To learn more about these requirements, visit the Pre-Trip Requirement Tab.

What are we going to do out there?

Being in wilderness means taking a break from the hustle of everyday life. You will travel downstream, spending your days sharing meals, playing games, hiking to incredible vistas or cultural sites, learning about the place you’re in, and having a lot of fun! Everyone works together: setting up camp, doing science projects, cooking dinner, and washing dishes. You are a full participant in all aspects of river life! Each day you will move downstream, and each night you will camp in a new place.

What happens off the river can be as spectacular as the rapids! Come ready to explore side canyons – you may hike to historical sites or hidden waterfalls. Every multi-day GCY expedition includes a Citizen Science element, where you will assist in collecting data for ongoing research projects, and most Individual Expeditions will include scientist representatives from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) or National Park Service. GCY guides will also lead art projects, games, and leadership activities. Come ready to work & learn!

Who is coming with me?

Your group will include youth from across the country – sometimes from across the world! Each expedition has a Trip Coordinator, an adult leader in charge of helping you prepare and making your expedition successful! Your Trip Coordinator will communicate with you prior to the expedition and be your main group leader throughout the expedition. At the river you will meet your guide crew. Our guides have a passion for working with youth. Many GCY guides are alumni of our expeditions! You will also likely have one or more scientists from the USGS or National Park Service facilitating Citizen Science research projects.

How difficult will the expedition be?

For Middle School Expeditions

It is helpful to be in decent physical condition for your adventure. You will be outside, active, and in the hot sun every day. This is part of the fun, but can be challenging. Having broken-in footwear and knowing how to stay hydrated are great places to start. Besides rafting and hiking, plan on being involved in loading and unloading boats, packing and unpacking gear, and setting up and taking down camp. Even if you’re not ‘outdoorsy’, do not know how to swim, or have never camped before, everyone can participate and succeed!

For High School Expeditions

It is important to be in good physical condition for this adventure. Building up endurance prior to your expedition is a good idea. You will be outside, active, and in the hot sun every day. This is part of the fun, but can be challenging. Besides rafting and hiking, plan on being involved in loading and unloading boats, packing and unpacking gear, and setting up and taking down camp.

Hiking in the desert Southwest is different from hiking anywhere else. Many hikes contain uphill sections over uneven terrain, near vertical drop-offs. It can be very hot and dry, or wet and cold. Some hikes include rock scrambling and require guide assistance. Hiking is an important aspect of the expedition; expect to hike a couple hours a day.

Youth on the Upper and Lower Partners in Science expeditions will need to prepare to hike in or out of Grand Canyon via the well-maintained Bright Angel Trail, carrying a heavy pack. There are several places to stop, rest, and refill water bottles along the way and you are encouraged to go at your own pace. You will be responsible for carrying all of your personal items. The hike is steep, strenuous, and at high elevation. Think about it like climbing stairs for more than four hours with 20lbs on your back! We highly recommend you practice hiking in the summer heat, carrying a pack, before your expedition.

Youth on the full-length Grand Canyon Trips can expect to go on hikes often throughout their expedition, without needing to hike in or out of their trip. 

Do I need to know how to swim?

Knowing how to swim is not a prerequisite for participating in a GCY expedition. We have served youth with a variety of abilities – from first-time swimmers to youth in wheelchairs. Whenever you are in the water, you will be wearing a personal floatation device (PFD).

I have a medical condition or limited mobility. Can I still participate?

GCY has served youth with a variety of medical needs and physical abilities. This includes youth with diabetes, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, visual impairments and blindness, deaf youth, amputees, youth who use wheelchairs, and more. Our expeditions are for every youth, and we will work to support you the best we can. However, if your condition is new or you are still learning to manage it, it might not be the right time now. If you have questions as to whether a GCY expedition is the right choice for you, first review our Essential Eligibility Requirements and reach out to GCY.

I have food allergies that restrict what I can eat. Can I still participate?

Yes. GCY has a lot of experience serving youth with a variety of food allergies and dietary restrictions. We are able to accommodate most dietary needs. In certain cases, we may ask you to bring along some supplemental snacks or your favorite allergy-friendly foods (e.g. your favorite gluten-free bread). Please fill out the GCY application in a thorough and detailed manner to help us understand and support your dietary needs in the best way possible.

What is the weather going to be like?

The weather in the Southwest is as unpredictable as the place itself. Prepare for all kinds of weather, and being outside all day every day. Your expedition could be sunny and hot, cold and drizzly, or a combination of both! Pack layers to help you adjust to the range of temperatures and conditions. We recommend checking the weather conditions prior to your expedition by searching the forecast for where you will be traveling.

What will the sleeping arrangements look like?

Overnight expeditions will typically sleep at a different camp each night. GCY will provide you with a ‘sleep kit’, which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tarp, and sometimes a sheet. While all participants are encouraged to sleep out under the starry night sky, we also provide tents in case of weather or other group considerations. 

We want to make sure everyone feels welcomed and supported on our expeditions. Depending on everyone’s needs, our camp boundaries and sleeping arrangements are not always based on binary gender decisions. Additionally, environmental or logistical factors out of our control may impact the camping arrangements we can provide. We know each group and camp will be different, so our Field Staff will work with you and your group leader to respect and accommodate everyone’s needs.

Are there Financial Aid scholarships available? How do I qualify for Financial Aid?

Yes. GCY has Financial Aid funds available for every Individual Enrollment Expedition. Extended wilderness river trips are expensive endeavors, and some families and youth may need support. GCY, along with our donors, are proud to offer Financial Aid to participants who demonstrate financial need. There are no limits or cutoffs for requesting Financial Aid – we encourage anyone who needs help to apply. Everyone is qualified to apply for Financial Aid. The vast majority of applicants are awarded a portion of their request. Because funds are limited, please ask only for what you need. The Financial Aid Request form is available at the end of your online Youth Application, and includes fields and short answers for parents / guardians and youth to complete together and independently.

If you, or someone you know, would like to contribute to our Financial Aid Fund to support expeditions for all youth, you can do so here.

How do I pay for my expedition?

You will be asked to make a deposit payment after you complete your online application. For final payments, double check the amount you owe with your Trip Coordinator, and go to our Expeditions Payment page to make an online payment.

If you would prefer to pay via cash or check, you can stop by the GCY office or mail checks to Grand Canyon Youth (2131 N First Street, Flagstaff, AZ, 86004). Please include your name and expedition name in your letter.

What if I have to cancel? Will I get a refund?

Grand Canyon Youth reserves the right to cancel any expedition and/or alter expedition dates due to weather, safety concerns, and/or any other unforeseeable circumstances. If GCY cancels your expedition, all payments will be refunded. If a participant cancels more than 45 days before the departure day, expedition payments will be refunded, less a 10% non-refundable deposit of the total expedition price. All other cancellations are ineligible for a refund, subject to the reasonable discretion of GCY in making exceptions to this policy as appropriate under the circumstances.

What is the best way to travel to and from Flagstaff, Arizona?

All Individual Expeditions begin and end at Grand Canyon Youth Headquarters in Flagstaff, Arizona. You are responsible for your travel to and from Flagstaff. If you are travelling from outside of Flagstaff, please use the Travel & Packing page to help you plan.

There are a variety of travel options into Flagstaff. If flying or taking ground transportation, GCY can have a staff member pick you up or drop you off at the Flagstaff airport or shuttle, bus, or train stop. Please check in with the GCY office before booking your travel to double check that dates and times are correct and to coordinate any support you need from GCY.

What if there is an emergency?

Most emergencies can be prevented and we will give safety orientations once youth reach the destination. Everyone is encouraged to take extra care in looking out for themselves and adhering to safety guidelines. GCY Field Staff are certified Wilderness First Responders, and travel with a satellite phone and first-aid materials. Field Staff and Trip Coordinators will reinforce safety guidelines throughout the trip. If there is an incident, GCY office staff will work with Field Staff to organize any needed support. If you are nervous about any aspect of the expedition, please contact us for more information.

How do I pack? What if I don’t have all the items on the Packing List?

How and what you pack depends on your expedition. Check out your Packing List to see what items you need and how you should pack.

If you don’t have any items on the packing list, GCY has many items available to borrow in our Gear Room. From river shoes to rain jackets, we have nearly everything on your packing list! Please check with us before purchasing any items. We understand that kids grow quickly, and purchasing outdoor gear can be a burden. Work with your Trip Coordinator to request certain items, or stop by Grand Canyon Youth and try things on for yourself.

The Gear Room is open Monday – Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. If you cannot make it during those hours, or live out of town, please contact GCY or work with your Trip Coordinator to make sure any gear you need meets you at your destination.

Please call our office to make an appointment, or contact us a list with sizes and we can have items ready to meet you at the start of your expedition.  

Is there anything I should not bring?

Yes. If you do not see an item on your Packing List, it is because we have intentionally left it off. Avoid bringing heavy clothing, towels, jeans, nice shoes, or leather boots. GCY expeditions are intentionally technology free, so please do not bring any electronics (cell phones, mp3 players, gaming devices).

Remember anything you bring may get lost or ruined! Leave behind all money, wallets, and other valuables (watches, jewelry, favorite clothes, etc.). If you need these items for traveling, GCY will collect and store them at our offices while you are on expedition. GCY will provide plenty of snacks, so leave all food and drinks at home as well.

For Parents & Legal Guardians


Are there Financial Aid scholarships available? How does my family qualify for Financial Aid?

Yes. GCY has Financial Aid funds available for every Individual Enrollment Expedition. Extended wilderness river trips are expensive endeavors, and some families and youth may need support. GCY, along with our donors, are proud to offer Financial Aid to participants who demonstrate financial or compelling need. There are no limits or cutoffs for requesting Financial Aid – we encourage anyone who needs help to apply. Everyone is qualified to apply for Financial Aid. The vast majority of applicants are awarded a portion of their request. Because funds are limited, please ask only for what you need. The Financial Aid Request form is available at the end of your online Youth Application, and includes fields and short answers for parents / guardians and youth to complete together and independently.

If you, or someone you know, would like to contribute to our Financial Aid Fund to support expeditions for all youth, you can do so here.

How do I pay for my child’s expedition?

You will be asked to make a deposit payment after you complete your online application. For final payments, double check the amount you owe with your Trip Coordinator, and go to our Expeditions Payment page to make an online payment.

If you would prefer to pay via cash or check, you can stop by the GCY office or mail checks to Grand Canyon Youth (2131 N First Street, Flagstaff, AZ, 86004). Please include your name and expedition name in your letter.

What if my child has to cancel? Will we get a refund?

Grand Canyon Youth reserves the right to cancel any expedition and/or alter expedition dates due to weather, safety concerns, and/or any other unforeseeable circumstances. If GCY cancels your expedition, all payments will be refunded. If a participant cancels more than 45 days before the departure day, expedition payments will be refunded, less a 10% non-refundable deposit of the total expedition price. All other cancellations are ineligible for a refund, subject to the reasonable discretion of GCY in making exceptions to this policy as appropriate under the circumstances.

Who will be on the expedition with my child?

Your child’s group is made up of their peers and Trip Coordinators (teachers/adult leaders). They will meet their guide crew once they reach their expedition destination. Many GCY guides are alumni of our programs! They may also have scientists or community members along for the expedition.

What will the sleeping arrangements look like?

Overnight expeditions will typically sleep at a different camp each night. GCY will provide your child with a ‘sleep kit’, which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tarp, and sometimes a sheet. While all participants are encouraged to sleep out under the starry night sky, we also provide tents in case of weather or to accommodate other group considerations. 

Because we are committed to providing a supportive environment for all our participants, our camp boundaries and sleeping arrangements are not always based on binary gender decisions. Additionally, environmental or logistical factors out of our control may impact the camping arrangements we can provide. We know each group and camp will be different, so our Field Staff will work with your child and their group leader to create arrangements that respect and accommodate the needs of every individual.

Does my child need to know how to swim?

Knowing how to swim is not a prerequisite for participating in a GCY expedition. We have served youth with a variety of abilities – from first-time swimmers to youth in wheelchairs. Whenever in water, participants will wear a personal floatation device (PFD).

My child has a medical condition or limited mobility. Can they still participate?

GCY has served participants with a variety of medical needs and physical abilities. This includes youth with diabetes, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, visual impairments and blindness, deaf youth, amputees, youth who use wheelchairs, and more. Our expeditions are for every youth, and we will work to support your child the best we can. However, if their condition is new or they are still learning to manage it, it might not be the right time now. If you have questions as to whether a GCY expedition is the right choice for your child, first review our Essential Eligibility Requirements and reach out to GCY.

My child has food allergies that restrict what they can eat. Can they still participate?

Yes. GCY has a lot of experience serving youth with a variety of food allergies and dietary restrictions. We are able to accommodate most dietary needs. In certain cases, we may ask you send along some supplemental snacks or your child’s favorite allergy-friendly foods (e.g. favorite gluten-free bread). Please fill out the GCY application in a thorough and detailed manner to help us understand and support your child’s dietary needs.

How should my child pack? What if we don’t have all the items on the Packing List?

How and what your child needs to pack depends their expedition. Check out their Packing List to see what items they need and how they should pack.

If you don’t have any items on the packing list, GCY has many items available to borrow in our Gear Room. From river shoes to rain jackets, we have nearly everything on your packing list! We encourage you to check with us before purchasing any items. We understand that kids grow quickly, and purchasing outdoor gear can be a burden. Work with your Trip Coordinator to request certain items, or stop by Grand Canyon Youth and try things on for yourself!

The Gear Room is open Monday – Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. If you cannot make it during those hours, or live out of town, please contact GCY or work with your Trip Coordinator to make sure any gear you need meets you at your destination.

Please call our office to make an appointment, or contact us a list with sizes and we can have items ready to meet you at the start of your expedition. 

Is there anything my child should not bring?

Yes. If you do not see an item on your child’s Packing List, it is because we have intentionally left it off. Avoid packing heavy clothing, towels, jeans, nice shoes, or leather boots. GCY expeditions are intentionally technology free, so please do not send any electronics (cell phones, mp3 players, gaming devices).

Remember anything they bring may get lost or ruined! Have your child leave behind all money, wallets, and other valuables (watches, jewelry, favorite clothes, etc.). If they need these items for traveling, GCY will collect and store them at our office while your child is on expedition. GCY will provide plenty of snacks, so leave all food and drinks at home as well.

Will I get updates about my child’s expedition while they’re adventuring?

GCY operates using the “no news is good news” model. Your child will have many great stories to share with you upon their return. Many of our travel destinations have no cell phone service, and the only method of reaching the outside world is via satellite phone. Guides will only call out of the expedition if there is an emergency.

What if there is an emergency?

Most emergencies can be prevented and we will give safety orientations once youth reach the destination. Everyone is encouraged to take extra care in looking out for themselves and adhering to safety guidelines. GCY Field Staff are certified Wilderness First Responders, and travel with a satellite phone and first-aid materials. Field Staff and Trip Coordinators will reinforce safety guidelines throughout the trip. If there is an incident, GCY office staff will work with Field Staff to organize any needed support. If your child is involved in an incident you will be contacted by the GCY office staff. If you are nervous about any aspect of the expedition, please contact us for more information.

If you have more questions not answered here, please contact us.

You are responsible for your travel to and from Flagstaff


Travel Planning

All expeditions begin in Flagstaff at the Grand Canyon Youth office (2131 N First Street). If you are traveling from outside of Flagstaff on your own, please use this information to help you assist with planning your travel logistics.

2022 Travel Requirement

In order to mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 on expeditions, Individual Expeditions will only be open to participants who are fully vaccinated before their expedition. One of the best ways GCY can prevent the spread of COVID-19 on expeditions is to not bring it with us at the start. Because young people are traveling from across the country to join this expedition, a vaccination requirement is our most prudent option. Please see our FAQs page for more information. 

Additionally, for all participants on Individual Expeditions, GCY now requires that an adult responsible for each participant be within five driving hours of Flagstaff, AZ for the duration of the expedition. In the event of an evacuation, GCY will communicate with this adult who will take responsibility for the participant once off the trip.

GCY Support

GCY Office Overnight: In the past we have offered to host participants traveling into Flagstaff the day before their expedition and/or traveling out of Flagstaff the day after their expedition. In 2022, GCY will not be able to offer this accommodation to participants due to COVID-19 mitigation practices. All pre and post-trip accommodations will need to be managed by the participant. 

Other Considerations

Unaccompanied Minors: Airlines have specific regulations regarding youth traveling on their own. Most companies will allow youth of 15 years and older to travel on their own without special supervision requirements, but please research what restrictions might exist when booking flights.

Travel Insurance can be helpful in the event of a missed or delayed flight, medical evacuation, or lost baggage.

After Expeditions: We ask that participants not congregate at the GCY office after their expedition has officially ended. Parents/Guardians will be notified with an estimated time of arrival. GCY staff will run a short debrief with the group; after that, parents/guardians should be present to take their youth home (for a much needed shower). 

Packing

Having the right gear and packing correctly is invaluable to your success and happiness on your expedition. Please refer to the following documents to help you prepare and pack. If you are missing items on the Packing List, GCY has a stock of extra gear that you can borrow from. On all expeditions, we recommend that you pack as lightly as possible. If you have any questions about which Packing List applies to your expedition, please call our office.

2021 packing lists have been updated to include COVID-19 specific information and supplies each participant is responsible for bringing. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Essential Eligibility Requirements

The following are the physical and mental eligibility criteria to participate on a Grand Canyon Youth river program:

  • Be a minimum 10 years of age for the San Juan, Verde, Lees Ferry, Diamond Down and land-based programs, and 15 years of age for Grand Canyon and Cataract Canyon programs.
  • Be able to manage all personal care and mobility independently, or with the assistance of a companion.
  • Wear a Type V Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (maximum chest size of 56 inches). Wearing leg straps may be required to ensure proper fit. Where required, properly wear a helmet.
  • Ability to independently board and disembark a boat four to ten times each day. This may require stepping into the boat, and then maneuvering your body over and across tubes and objects into a seated position.
  • Ability to remain seated and balanced while in a whitewater craft while holding on with at least one hand.
  • Ability to independently navigate shoreline terrain, including safely maneuvering around and across boulders, rocks, and slippery and uneven surfaces, under low branches, and around vegetation This includes the ability to maintain your balance near precipitous ledges or cliffs.
  • Ability to independently maneuver in whitewater or swift currents while wearing a PFD. This includes being an active participant in your own rescue, including having the ability to (a) hold your breath while underwater, and regain control of your breathing when being submitted to repeated submersion under waves or currents; (b) orient yourself to new “in-river” surroundings; (c) reposition yourself in the water to different swimming positions i.e. turn face away from waves, breathe between waves; (d) swim aggressively to a boat or to shore in whitewater; (e) receive a rescue rope, paddle, or human assistance, and possibly let go of the same; (f) get out from under an overturned boat.
  • Ability to maneuver 100 yards in flat water while wearing a PFD.
  • Ability to assist another passenger who has fallen out of the boat by pulling them back in.
  • Ability to comprehend and follow instructions given by guides in all situations, including during stressful or dangerous situations, and to effectively communicate with guides and other participants.
  • Ability to carry personal dry bags and other personal gear (as heavy as 20-30 pounds) uphill from the boats, independently, or with assistance.
  • If taking prescription medications, have the ability to maintain proper dosage by medicating independently, or with the assistance of an adult.
  • Ability to remain adequately fed, hydrated, and properly dressed so as to avoid environmental injuries such as hypothermia, heat related illness, sunburn and frostbite.
  • Not have a psychiatric condition which has the potential to render yourself or others unsafe.
  • Ability to sleep outdoors without artificial light.
  • Not have an orthopedic injury that is less than six weeks past full healing, and/or which cannot be weight bearing.
  • For some Grand Canyon programs, the ability to hike for at least 7 miles while carrying a backpack with a weight of at least 25 lbs.

The above criteria, if not met, can disqualify a person from participating in a GCY program. This safety criteria exist for all participants. The criteria is not meant to discriminate against any physical or mental disability; it is applied uniformly to all potential trip participants, regardless of the presence or absence of a disability. There may be additional issues not listed here which may preclude participation in a GCY trip, including menu restrictions that GCY cannot safely accommodate. GCY is committed to making reasonable modifications to any trip for any persons so long as they do not fundamentally alter the nature of the trip. These criteria can be expanded as deemed necessary by staff or the medical or legal professionals assisting GCY. GCY reserves the right to exercise final authority over which individuals can or cannot join a trip.

The following paragraphs further inform all potential participants of the expectations to promote a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone on a trip. There may be requirements, whether physical or mental, that are not specifically “essential eligibility criteria”, they are explained here to help participants understand the reality of being on a wilderness expedition. Our primary goal is to minimize risks associated with adventure trips in wilderness. The trip involves physical exertion and exposure to the elements, including cold water and the potential for heat, sun, wind, rain and snow. We have experience accommodating a wide range of physical abilities and/or health conditions. However, individuals with physical/mental limitations or ailments that interfere with the realistic encounters on wilderness river expeditions can endanger themselves, other participants, and the guides. GCY advises you to consult a doctor regarding medical or health conditions that could impact your ability to participate in this outdoor adventure.

It is important that each trip participant take an active role in their own safety. All participants will encounter unfamiliar and dynamic wilderness conditions. It is critical to pay attention at all times, be aware of surroundings, and avoid taking unnecessary risks. Even a non-life threatening injury in a wilderness setting can become a major emergency, and can endanger the entire group. Swimming or hiking alone is not allowed. Using common sense, and following the explicit instruction of your guides is essential.

River trips, particularly those involving whitewater, are inherently risky. The risk of a trip is part of what makes it an exciting adventure. It is important to stay calm as a non-voluntary swimmer. The odds of becoming a non-voluntary swimmer change with the classification of a rapid, boat selection and environmental factors. A swim in whitewater is more difficult and physically challenging than swimming in flat water. Swimming in cold water can cause a gasping effect on your respiratory system. Swimming in cold water quickly saps energy and decreases muscle function. While guides are highly trained and will do their best in a rescue situation, a successful rescue is greatly improved by a swimmer who actively participates and follows directions under stress.

Expeditions

Partners in Science


Experience Grand Canyon like few people get to! These expeditions bring together youth from across the world to travel the Colorado River, raft legendary whitewater, and explore the hidden world beneath the rim. Off the river, you will hike to ancient Puebloan archaeological sites, trek up side canyons, discover hidden springs and waterfalls, and sleep under the stars. Partners in Science expeditions are some of the only dedicated educational youth access to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon.

These expeditions were developed in collaboration with the Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC), whose goals are “to develop monitoring and research programs, and related scientific activities, that evaluate short and long-term impacts of the Glen Canyon Dam on the biological, cultural, and physical resources of the Colorado River Ecosystem.” This is not just a rafting trip, but a chance to learn from, be mentored by, and collect citizen-science data with real, working scientists! These projects are a great way to learn firsthand the complexities of protecting and managing a place like the Grand Canyon.

Choose between the Full, Upper, or Lower sections of Grand Canyon. These expeditions are truly one of a kind, and offer unique ways to learn about and understand this incredible place! Check out the options below.

In service to our mission and values, GCY would like to acknowledge that this expedition visits the ancestral homelands of the Nuciu (Ute), Pueblos, Diné (Navajo), Hopitutskwa (Hopi), Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute), Havasu Baaja (Havasupai), Kvav-Kapai (Hualapai), Pipa Aha Macav (Mojave), and Nuwuwu (Chemehuevi) peoples, past and present. We recognize with gratitude the people who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial and the vibrant Native communities who make their home here today.

Full Grand Canyon (Row)

Photo by Taylor Miller
Photo by Taylor Miller

**Financial Aid Available to All**

  • Where: Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek
  • How Long: 17 days
  • Who: Ages 15 to 19
  • Difficulty: Class III – IV Whitewater
  • Price: $2,300
  • Highlights: Click Here

  • Dates: 2023 Dates Coming Soon!

Upper Grand Canyon (Row)

Grand Canyon Youth three people on boat stories and photos
Photo by David Herasimtschuk

**Financial Aid Available to All**

  • Where: Lees Ferry to Pipe Creek
  • How Long: 9 days
  • Who: Ages 15 to 19
  • Difficulty: Class III – IV Whitewater
  • Price: $1,100
  • Highlights: Click Here

  • Dates: 2023 Dates Coming Soon!

Lower Grand Canyon (Row)

Photo by David Herasimtschuk

**Financial Aid Available to All**

  • Where: Pipe Creek to Diamond Creek
  • How Long: 10 days
  • Who: Ages 15 to 19
  • Difficulty: Class III – V Whitewater
  • Price: $1,200
  • Highlights: Click Here

  • Dates: 2023 Dates Coming Soon!

Middle School Adventure


Experience the beauty of the San Juan River in southeastern Utah! Middle school students come together for fun-filled days of rafting, hiking, and more. Learn about the ecology, geology, and history of the San Juan Canyon. Our goals are to spark your curiosity, explore what interests you most, and have a lot of fun! You will have many opportunities to work as a team to overcome challenges and form a  strong river community, becoming an outdoor leader as you learn to take care of yourself and your friends on expedition.

In service to our mission and values, GCY would like to acknowledge that this expedition visits the ancestral homelands of the Nuciu (Ute), Pueblos, Diné (Navajo), Hopitutskwa (Hopi), and Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute) peoples, past and present. We recognize with gratitude the people who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial and the vibrant Native communities who make their home here today.

Upper San Juan

Photo by Walt Carr

**Financial Aid Available to All**

  • Where: Sand Island to Mexican Hat
  • How Long: 6 days
  • Who: Ages 11 to 14
  • Difficulty: Class II Whitewater
  • Price: $850
  • Highlights: Click Here

  • Dates: 2023 Dates Coming Soon!

Lower San Juan

Photo by Jordan Robinson

**Financial Aid Available to All**

  • Where: Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing
  • How Long: 7 days
  • Who: Ages 11 to 14
  • Difficulty: Class III Whitewater
  • Price: $950
  • Highlights: Click Here

  • Dates: 2023 Dates Coming Soon!

Verde Valley Explorer


This expedition is a great introduction to outdoor adventure, kayaking, and Grand Canyon Youth. Participants sign up independently and come together to explore the Verde River. While some may already have outdoor experience, for others it may be their first time exploring the outdoors. Everyone is welcome to participate; you will work together to develop teamwork skills and build a community. We will all learn and play together!

In service to our mission and values, GCY would like to acknowledge that this expedition visits the ancestral homelands of the Hohokam, Hopitutskwa (Hopi), Yavapai-Apache, Jumanos, and Ndee (Western Apache) peoples, past and present. We recognize with gratitude the people who have stewarded these lands since time immemorial and the vibrant Native communities who make their home here today.

Verde River

Photo by Doug Von Gausig

**Financial Aid Available to All**

  • Where: Lower TAPCO to Tuzigoot
  • How Long: 1 day
  • Who: Ages 11 to 14
  • Difficulty: Class I Whitewater
  • Price: $120
  • Highlights: Click Here

  • Dates: 2023 Dates Coming Soon!
Pre-Trip Requirements

GCY Pre-Trip Requirements


We believe participants have a more fulfilling experience if they earn their program. By working towards this trip, we hope you will be actively engaged and invested in the success of the program. To achieve this, we ask you to carry out three Pre-Trip Requirements: Educational, Service, and Youth Earnings. We recommend starting this process early! You’ll have a sense of accomplishment once you are finished.

Updates for 2022

  • Travel Requirement

    For all participants on Individual Expeditions, GCY now requires that an adult responsible for each participant be within five driving hours of Flagstaff, AZ for the duration of the expedition. In the event of an evacuation, GCY will communicate with this adult, who will take responsibility for the participant once off the trip.

  • COVID Health Agreement

    All participants are required to sign and follow our pre-trip COVID-19 Health Agreement. Additionally, all Individual Expedition participants are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before their expedition. Please reach out if you have any questions.

  • Educational Component

    Each GCY Summer Expedition has an educational component. You are traveling to an incredible landscape, and learning about the ecology, geology, and history of that place is a huge part of your experience. Each expedition is unique, but expect to engage with a series of weekly emails throughout the spring before your program. These emails may ask you to read articles, respond to discussion questions, watch short videos or interact with other resources. We expect you to participate and be timely with your responses.

  • Service Component

    Engaging with your home communities prepares you to be an active member of the GCY river community. You are expected to complete 2 hours of service per day you’ll be on expedition with us. For example, if your program is 8 days long, you would need to complete 16 hours of service. You can count any service you have done since the beginning of the year. Think creatively! Is there an outdoor space at your school that needs cleaning up? Could you organize a coat-drive for a local homeless shelter, or recruit friends to help walk and bathe animals at a local animal shelter?

     

    *Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Grand Canyon Youth understands it may be challenging for participants to accomplish our community service goal safely. We ask participants to still do their best to get at the intention of this requirement through other creative means (i.e. completing random acts of kindness for their family or immediate community members, spreading awareness and support for a cause that could help the community).
    We look forward to building a community on expeditions with all participants!

  • Youth Earnings Component

    Have you ever noticed that when you work for something, it means more to you? That is the concept behind the Youth Earnings requirement. You are expected to find a way to raise or earn a portion of the trip fee. You have the opportunity to be as creative as you like: save money from your job, do chores for family and friends, sell art you make, sell old sports equipment or video games you no longer use, etc.

  • Pre-Trip Requirement Documentation

    We also ask that you document your completion of these Pre-Trip Requirements for us. When you turn in your Youth Application and are officially registered for the program, you will receive a welcome email containing a link to the Pre-Trip Requirements Documentation Form. This form asks for specific numbers, questions about how you fulfilled your Pre-Trip Requirements. It is a good idea to look at these questions before you begin working on your Pre-Trip Requirements. Your responses on this form will be due no later than 2 weeks prior to your program start. (If you do not have reliable internet access, call to request paper copies of these forms.)

Apply

2023 Expedition Applications Coming This Winter!

Join Our Expedition Email List for Updates
FAQs

COVID-19 FAQs


How does GCY determine their COVID-19 recommendations?

Due to the dynamic nature of COVID-19, GCY is grateful to have medical experts who advise staff on COVID-10 related requirements. These are reviewed as needed and at least twice per year to be as up to date as possible.

What are the COVID-19 requirements for participating in a GCY expedition?

Individual Expedition (IE) participants are required to be fully vaccinated before their expedition. One of the best ways GCY can prevent the spread of COVID-19 on expeditions is to not bring it with us. Because young people are traveling from across the country to join this expedition, a vaccination requirement is our most prudent option. 

    • Please reach out to [email protected] if you would like to apply for an exemption.   

All participants will agree to pre-expedition behaviors outlined in our COVID-19 Health Agreement (included in the application).  This may include pre-expedition antigen testing.

Is a negative COVID-19 test result required for all GCY expeditions?

GCY may require a negative COVID-19 test from all participants before the expedition if tests are widely available. If GCY approves a vaccination exemption, the participant must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. 

Will I need to be vaccinated in order to participate?

Yes. All Individual Expedition participants will need to be fully vaccinated before their expedition. All adults on expedition (i.e. field staff or adult volunteers) are required to be fully vaccinated or have an approved exemption.  

Do I need to get a booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated?

GCY encourages everyone to be up to date on their vaccinations. However, at this time, GCY is not requiring COVID-19 booster shots.

What should I be aware of while traveling to my expedition?

Take steps to limit your exposure to COVID-19 for the 10 days prior to, and while traveling to, your expedition. GCY encourages all participants to check CDC guidelines frequently. 

What is GCY's COVID-19 cancellation and refund policy?

Grand Canyon Youth reserves the right to cancel any expedition and/or alter expedition dates due to weather, safety concerns, and/or any other unforeseeable circumstances. If GCY cancels your expedition, all payments will be refunded. If a participant cancels more than 45 days before the departure day, expedition payments will be refunded, less a 10% non-refundable deposit of the total expedition price. All other cancellations are ineligible for a refund, subject to the reasonable discretion of GCY in making exceptions to this policy as appropriate under the circumstances.

If you need to cancel because of exposure to or diagnosis of COVID-19 in the days before your expedition, please call the GCY office to learn more about your options.  

What precautions is GCY taking to help protect participants from exposure to COVID-19?

  • Before the expedition, all participants, volunteers, and Field Staff will agree and adhere to our COVID-19 Health Agreement. These requirements ensure we are all active participants in minimizing the potential for the presence and spread of COVID-19 on expedition. 
  • GCY requires all adults, field staff, and volunteers going on expedition to be fully vaccinated. Additional requirements will be in place for any adult who has an approved vaccination-exemption. 
  • Prior to your expedition departure, GCY or your group leader will conduct a health screening. This screening will include: verification that you do not have any COVID-19 symptoms and if antigen test are available, each person will need to test negative for COVID-19. 
  • While traveling in a vehicle to your expedition, all participants and volunteers, are required to wear face coverings, and vehicle ventilation will be increased in passenger vehicles.
  • On expedition, GCY Field Staff will work with each group to support everyone’s health and safety. While our expeditions will continue to be highly participatory, we have made some adjustments to better support the health of everyone on our expeditions. 

If you have specific questions, please call our office and we will be happy to talk about our precaution measures in more detail. 

What happens if I get sick or exposed before the expedition?

If you, or someone in your household, is exposed to or suspects exposure to someone diagnosed with COVID-19, we ask that you follow the CDC’s guidelines for exposure and preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

If your exposure was greater than 5 days from the start of your expedition and you can provide proof of a negative COVID-19, we welcome you to join us. 

What happens if I get sick at the start of or during the expedition?

Anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will not be permitted to join an expedition. 

If someone presents COVID-19 symptoms while on expedition, GCY Field Staff will isolate the individual and evaluate their condition. They will determine when/if to evacuate based on the condition of the patient, the risks of the evacuation, and their ability to manage the condition in the field. Field Staff have access to emergency communication devices to reach out to Emergency Medical Services and the GCY office for support when needed.  

GCY office staff will contact the legal guardians of any participant who requires an evacuation from the expedition and work with them to support the evacuation.

GCY will communicate with all families if a possible exposure has occurred. 

Can I stop by GCY to borrow gear for my expedition?

Yes! We are available to make sure you have everything you need for your expedition. We encourage all participants to see what they can borrow from GCY before making any purchases. Please call our office to make an appointment, or email us a list with sizes ([email protected]) and we can have items ready to meet you at the start of your expedition.  

What if I have more questions?

Please contact us or call our office at 928.773.7921

For Youth


What are the Pre-Trip Requirements?

You are more invested in an experience when you work to earn it yourself! To achieve this, you are required to complete three Pre-Trip Requirements:

  • Educational Component: Learning about your destination before participating helps you connect with the place you will visit.
  • Service Component: Doing service projects in your community helps prepare you to form a cohesive community in the wilderness.
  • Youth Earnings Component: Earning a portion of the trip price helps you feel financially invested.

Each GCY Individual Expedition has a slightly different variation of these components; you will receive specific information when you apply. To learn more about these requirements, visit the Pre-Trip Requirement Tab.

What are we going to do out there?

Being in wilderness means taking a break from the hustle of everyday life. You will travel downstream, spending your days sharing meals, playing games, hiking to incredible vistas or cultural sites, learning about the place you’re in, and having a lot of fun! Everyone works together: setting up camp, doing science projects, cooking dinner, and washing dishes. You are a full participant in all aspects of river life! Each day you will move downstream, and each night you will camp in a new place.

What happens off the river can be as spectacular as the rapids! Come ready to explore side canyons – you may hike to historical sites or hidden waterfalls. Every multi-day GCY expedition includes a Citizen Science element, where you will assist in collecting data for ongoing research projects, and most Individual Expeditions will include scientist representatives from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) or National Park Service. GCY guides will also lead art projects, games, and leadership activities. Come ready to work & learn!

Who is coming with me?

Your group will include youth from across the country – sometimes from across the world! Each expedition has a Trip Coordinator, an adult leader in charge of helping you prepare and making your expedition successful! Your Trip Coordinator will communicate with you prior to the expedition and be your main group leader throughout the expedition. At the river you will meet your guide crew. Our guides have a passion for working with youth. Many GCY guides are alumni of our expeditions! You will also likely have one or more scientists from the USGS or National Park Service facilitating Citizen Science research projects.

How difficult will the expedition be?

For Middle School Expeditions

It is helpful to be in decent physical condition for your adventure. You will be outside, active, and in the hot sun every day. This is part of the fun, but can be challenging. Having broken-in footwear and knowing how to stay hydrated are great places to start. Besides rafting and hiking, plan on being involved in loading and unloading boats, packing and unpacking gear, and setting up and taking down camp. Even if you’re not ‘outdoorsy’, do not know how to swim, or have never camped before, everyone can participate and succeed!

For High School Expeditions

It is important to be in good physical condition for this adventure. Building up endurance prior to your expedition is a good idea. You will be outside, active, and in the hot sun every day. This is part of the fun, but can be challenging. Besides rafting and hiking, plan on being involved in loading and unloading boats, packing and unpacking gear, and setting up and taking down camp.

Hiking in the desert Southwest is different from hiking anywhere else. Many hikes contain uphill sections over uneven terrain, near vertical drop-offs. It can be very hot and dry, or wet and cold. Some hikes include rock scrambling and require guide assistance. Hiking is an important aspect of the expedition; expect to hike a couple hours a day.

Youth on the Upper and Lower Partners in Science expeditions will need to prepare to hike in or out of Grand Canyon via the well-maintained Bright Angel Trail, carrying a heavy pack. There are several places to stop, rest, and refill water bottles along the way and you are encouraged to go at your own pace. You will be responsible for carrying all of your personal items. The hike is steep, strenuous, and at high elevation. Think about it like climbing stairs for more than four hours with 20lbs on your back! We highly recommend you practice hiking in the summer heat, carrying a pack, before your expedition.

Youth on the full-length Grand Canyon Trips can expect to go on hikes often throughout their expedition, without needing to hike in or out of their trip. 

Do I need to know how to swim?

Knowing how to swim is not a prerequisite for participating in a GCY expedition. We have served youth with a variety of abilities – from first-time swimmers to youth in wheelchairs. Whenever you are in the water, you will be wearing a personal floatation device (PFD).

I have a medical condition or limited mobility. Can I still participate?

GCY has served youth with a variety of medical needs and physical abilities. This includes youth with diabetes, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, visual impairments and blindness, deaf youth, amputees, youth who use wheelchairs, and more. Our expeditions are for every youth, and we will work to support you the best we can. However, if your condition is new or you are still learning to manage it, it might not be the right time now. If you have questions as to whether a GCY expedition is the right choice for you, first review our Essential Eligibility Requirements and reach out to GCY.

I have food allergies that restrict what I can eat. Can I still participate?

Yes. GCY has a lot of experience serving youth with a variety of food allergies and dietary restrictions. We are able to accommodate most dietary needs. In certain cases, we may ask you to bring along some supplemental snacks or your favorite allergy-friendly foods (e.g. your favorite gluten-free bread). Please fill out the GCY application in a thorough and detailed manner to help us understand and support your dietary needs in the best way possible.

What is the weather going to be like?

The weather in the Southwest is as unpredictable as the place itself. Prepare for all kinds of weather, and being outside all day every day. Your expedition could be sunny and hot, cold and drizzly, or a combination of both! Pack layers to help you adjust to the range of temperatures and conditions. We recommend checking the weather conditions prior to your expedition by searching the forecast for where you will be traveling.

What will the sleeping arrangements look like?

Overnight expeditions will typically sleep at a different camp each night. GCY will provide you with a ‘sleep kit’, which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tarp, and sometimes a sheet. While all participants are encouraged to sleep out under the starry night sky, we also provide tents in case of weather or other group considerations. 

We want to make sure everyone feels welcomed and supported on our expeditions. Depending on everyone’s needs, our camp boundaries and sleeping arrangements are not always based on binary gender decisions. Additionally, environmental or logistical factors out of our control may impact the camping arrangements we can provide. We know each group and camp will be different, so our Field Staff will work with you and your group leader to respect and accommodate everyone’s needs.

Are there Financial Aid scholarships available? How do I qualify for Financial Aid?

Yes. GCY has Financial Aid funds available for every Individual Enrollment Expedition. Extended wilderness river trips are expensive endeavors, and some families and youth may need support. GCY, along with our donors, are proud to offer Financial Aid to participants who demonstrate financial need. There are no limits or cutoffs for requesting Financial Aid – we encourage anyone who needs help to apply. Everyone is qualified to apply for Financial Aid. The vast majority of applicants are awarded a portion of their request. Because funds are limited, please ask only for what you need. The Financial Aid Request form is available at the end of your online Youth Application, and includes fields and short answers for parents / guardians and youth to complete together and independently.

If you, or someone you know, would like to contribute to our Financial Aid Fund to support expeditions for all youth, you can do so here.

How do I pay for my expedition?

You will be asked to make a deposit payment after you complete your online application. For final payments, double check the amount you owe with your Trip Coordinator, and go to our Expeditions Payment page to make an online payment.

If you would prefer to pay via cash or check, you can stop by the GCY office or mail checks to Grand Canyon Youth (2131 N First Street, Flagstaff, AZ, 86004). Please include your name and expedition name in your letter.

What if I have to cancel? Will I get a refund?

Grand Canyon Youth reserves the right to cancel any expedition and/or alter expedition dates due to weather, safety concerns, and/or any other unforeseeable circumstances. If GCY cancels your expedition, all payments will be refunded. If a participant cancels more than 45 days before the departure day, expedition payments will be refunded, less a 10% non-refundable deposit of the total expedition price. All other cancellations are ineligible for a refund, subject to the reasonable discretion of GCY in making exceptions to this policy as appropriate under the circumstances.

What is the best way to travel to and from Flagstaff, Arizona?

All Individual Expeditions begin and end at Grand Canyon Youth Headquarters in Flagstaff, Arizona. You are responsible for your travel to and from Flagstaff. If you are travelling from outside of Flagstaff, please use the Travel & Packing page to help you plan.

There are a variety of travel options into Flagstaff. If flying or taking ground transportation, GCY can have a staff member pick you up or drop you off at the Flagstaff airport or shuttle, bus, or train stop. Please check in with the GCY office before booking your travel to double check that dates and times are correct and to coordinate any support you need from GCY.

What if there is an emergency?

Most emergencies can be prevented and we will give safety orientations once youth reach the destination. Everyone is encouraged to take extra care in looking out for themselves and adhering to safety guidelines. GCY Field Staff are certified Wilderness First Responders, and travel with a satellite phone and first-aid materials. Field Staff and Trip Coordinators will reinforce safety guidelines throughout the trip. If there is an incident, GCY office staff will work with Field Staff to organize any needed support. If you are nervous about any aspect of the expedition, please contact us for more information.

How do I pack? What if I don’t have all the items on the Packing List?

How and what you pack depends on your expedition. Check out your Packing List to see what items you need and how you should pack.

If you don’t have any items on the packing list, GCY has many items available to borrow in our Gear Room. From river shoes to rain jackets, we have nearly everything on your packing list! Please check with us before purchasing any items. We understand that kids grow quickly, and purchasing outdoor gear can be a burden. Work with your Trip Coordinator to request certain items, or stop by Grand Canyon Youth and try things on for yourself.

The Gear Room is open Monday – Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. If you cannot make it during those hours, or live out of town, please contact GCY or work with your Trip Coordinator to make sure any gear you need meets you at your destination.

Please call our office to make an appointment, or contact us a list with sizes and we can have items ready to meet you at the start of your expedition.  

Is there anything I should not bring?

Yes. If you do not see an item on your Packing List, it is because we have intentionally left it off. Avoid bringing heavy clothing, towels, jeans, nice shoes, or leather boots. GCY expeditions are intentionally technology free, so please do not bring any electronics (cell phones, mp3 players, gaming devices).

Remember anything you bring may get lost or ruined! Leave behind all money, wallets, and other valuables (watches, jewelry, favorite clothes, etc.). If you need these items for traveling, GCY will collect and store them at our offices while you are on expedition. GCY will provide plenty of snacks, so leave all food and drinks at home as well.

For Parents & Legal Guardians


Are there Financial Aid scholarships available? How does my family qualify for Financial Aid?

Yes. GCY has Financial Aid funds available for every Individual Enrollment Expedition. Extended wilderness river trips are expensive endeavors, and some families and youth may need support. GCY, along with our donors, are proud to offer Financial Aid to participants who demonstrate financial or compelling need. There are no limits or cutoffs for requesting Financial Aid – we encourage anyone who needs help to apply. Everyone is qualified to apply for Financial Aid. The vast majority of applicants are awarded a portion of their request. Because funds are limited, please ask only for what you need. The Financial Aid Request form is available at the end of your online Youth Application, and includes fields and short answers for parents / guardians and youth to complete together and independently.

If you, or someone you know, would like to contribute to our Financial Aid Fund to support expeditions for all youth, you can do so here.

How do I pay for my child’s expedition?

You will be asked to make a deposit payment after you complete your online application. For final payments, double check the amount you owe with your Trip Coordinator, and go to our Expeditions Payment page to make an online payment.

If you would prefer to pay via cash or check, you can stop by the GCY office or mail checks to Grand Canyon Youth (2131 N First Street, Flagstaff, AZ, 86004). Please include your name and expedition name in your letter.

What if my child has to cancel? Will we get a refund?

Grand Canyon Youth reserves the right to cancel any expedition and/or alter expedition dates due to weather, safety concerns, and/or any other unforeseeable circumstances. If GCY cancels your expedition, all payments will be refunded. If a participant cancels more than 45 days before the departure day, expedition payments will be refunded, less a 10% non-refundable deposit of the total expedition price. All other cancellations are ineligible for a refund, subject to the reasonable discretion of GCY in making exceptions to this policy as appropriate under the circumstances.

Who will be on the expedition with my child?

Your child’s group is made up of their peers and Trip Coordinators (teachers/adult leaders). They will meet their guide crew once they reach their expedition destination. Many GCY guides are alumni of our programs! They may also have scientists or community members along for the expedition.

What will the sleeping arrangements look like?

Overnight expeditions will typically sleep at a different camp each night. GCY will provide your child with a ‘sleep kit’, which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tarp, and sometimes a sheet. While all participants are encouraged to sleep out under the starry night sky, we also provide tents in case of weather or to accommodate other group considerations. 

Because we are committed to providing a supportive environment for all our participants, our camp boundaries and sleeping arrangements are not always based on binary gender decisions. Additionally, environmental or logistical factors out of our control may impact the camping arrangements we can provide. We know each group and camp will be different, so our Field Staff will work with your child and their group leader to create arrangements that respect and accommodate the needs of every individual.

Does my child need to know how to swim?

Knowing how to swim is not a prerequisite for participating in a GCY expedition. We have served youth with a variety of abilities – from first-time swimmers to youth in wheelchairs. Whenever in water, participants will wear a personal floatation device (PFD).

My child has a medical condition or limited mobility. Can they still participate?

GCY has served participants with a variety of medical needs and physical abilities. This includes youth with diabetes, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, visual impairments and blindness, deaf youth, amputees, youth who use wheelchairs, and more. Our expeditions are for every youth, and we will work to support your child the best we can. However, if their condition is new or they are still learning to manage it, it might not be the right time now. If you have questions as to whether a GCY expedition is the right choice for your child, first review our Essential Eligibility Requirements and reach out to GCY.

My child has food allergies that restrict what they can eat. Can they still participate?

Yes. GCY has a lot of experience serving youth with a variety of food allergies and dietary restrictions. We are able to accommodate most dietary needs. In certain cases, we may ask you send along some supplemental snacks or your child’s favorite allergy-friendly foods (e.g. favorite gluten-free bread). Please fill out the GCY application in a thorough and detailed manner to help us understand and support your child’s dietary needs.

How should my child pack? What if we don’t have all the items on the Packing List?

How and what your child needs to pack depends their expedition. Check out their Packing List to see what items they need and how they should pack.

If you don’t have any items on the packing list, GCY has many items available to borrow in our Gear Room. From river shoes to rain jackets, we have nearly everything on your packing list! We encourage you to check with us before purchasing any items. We understand that kids grow quickly, and purchasing outdoor gear can be a burden. Work with your Trip Coordinator to request certain items, or stop by Grand Canyon Youth and try things on for yourself!

The Gear Room is open Monday – Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. If you cannot make it during those hours, or live out of town, please contact GCY or work with your Trip Coordinator to make sure any gear you need meets you at your destination.

Please call our office to make an appointment, or contact us a list with sizes and we can have items ready to meet you at the start of your expedition. 

Is there anything my child should not bring?

Yes. If you do not see an item on your child’s Packing List, it is because we have intentionally left it off. Avoid packing heavy clothing, towels, jeans, nice shoes, or leather boots. GCY expeditions are intentionally technology free, so please do not send any electronics (cell phones, mp3 players, gaming devices).

Remember anything they bring may get lost or ruined! Have your child leave behind all money, wallets, and other valuables (watches, jewelry, favorite clothes, etc.). If they need these items for traveling, GCY will collect and store them at our office while your child is on expedition. GCY will provide plenty of snacks, so leave all food and drinks at home as well.

Will I get updates about my child’s expedition while they’re adventuring?

GCY operates using the “no news is good news” model. Your child will have many great stories to share with you upon their return. Many of our travel destinations have no cell phone service, and the only method of reaching the outside world is via satellite phone. Guides will only call out of the expedition if there is an emergency.

What if there is an emergency?

Most emergencies can be prevented and we will give safety orientations once youth reach the destination. Everyone is encouraged to take extra care in looking out for themselves and adhering to safety guidelines. GCY Field Staff are certified Wilderness First Responders, and travel with a satellite phone and first-aid materials. Field Staff and Trip Coordinators will reinforce safety guidelines throughout the trip. If there is an incident, GCY office staff will work with Field Staff to organize any needed support. If your child is involved in an incident you will be contacted by the GCY office staff. If you are nervous about any aspect of the expedition, please contact us for more information.

If you have more questions not answered here, please contact us.

Travel & Packing

You are responsible for your travel to and from Flagstaff


Travel Planning

All expeditions begin in Flagstaff at the Grand Canyon Youth office (2131 N First Street). If you are traveling from outside of Flagstaff on your own, please use this information to help you assist with planning your travel logistics.

2022 Travel Requirement

In order to mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 on expeditions, Individual Expeditions will only be open to participants who are fully vaccinated before their expedition. One of the best ways GCY can prevent the spread of COVID-19 on expeditions is to not bring it with us at the start. Because young people are traveling from across the country to join this expedition, a vaccination requirement is our most prudent option. Please see our FAQs page for more information. 

Additionally, for all participants on Individual Expeditions, GCY now requires that an adult responsible for each participant be within five driving hours of Flagstaff, AZ for the duration of the expedition. In the event of an evacuation, GCY will communicate with this adult who will take responsibility for the participant once off the trip.

GCY Support

GCY Office Overnight: In the past we have offered to host participants traveling into Flagstaff the day before their expedition and/or traveling out of Flagstaff the day after their expedition. In 2022, GCY will not be able to offer this accommodation to participants due to COVID-19 mitigation practices. All pre and post-trip accommodations will need to be managed by the participant. 

Other Considerations

Unaccompanied Minors: Airlines have specific regulations regarding youth traveling on their own. Most companies will allow youth of 15 years and older to travel on their own without special supervision requirements, but please research what restrictions might exist when booking flights.

Travel Insurance can be helpful in the event of a missed or delayed flight, medical evacuation, or lost baggage.

After Expeditions: We ask that participants not congregate at the GCY office after their expedition has officially ended. Parents/Guardians will be notified with an estimated time of arrival. GCY staff will run a short debrief with the group; after that, parents/guardians should be present to take their youth home (for a much needed shower). 

Packing

Having the right gear and packing correctly is invaluable to your success and happiness on your expedition. Please refer to the following documents to help you prepare and pack. If you are missing items on the Packing List, GCY has a stock of extra gear that you can borrow from. On all expeditions, we recommend that you pack as lightly as possible. If you have any questions about which Packing List applies to your expedition, please call our office.

2021 packing lists have been updated to include COVID-19 specific information and supplies each participant is responsible for bringing. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Essential Eligibility

Essential Eligibility Requirements

The following are the physical and mental eligibility criteria to participate on a Grand Canyon Youth river program:

  • Be a minimum 10 years of age for the San Juan, Verde, Lees Ferry, Diamond Down and land-based programs, and 15 years of age for Grand Canyon and Cataract Canyon programs.
  • Be able to manage all personal care and mobility independently, or with the assistance of a companion.
  • Wear a Type V Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (maximum chest size of 56 inches). Wearing leg straps may be required to ensure proper fit. Where required, properly wear a helmet.
  • Ability to independently board and disembark a boat four to ten times each day. This may require stepping into the boat, and then maneuvering your body over and across tubes and objects into a seated position.
  • Ability to remain seated and balanced while in a whitewater craft while holding on with at least one hand.
  • Ability to independently navigate shoreline terrain, including safely maneuvering around and across boulders, rocks, and slippery and uneven surfaces, under low branches, and around vegetation This includes the ability to maintain your balance near precipitous ledges or cliffs.
  • Ability to independently maneuver in whitewater or swift currents while wearing a PFD. This includes being an active participant in your own rescue, including having the ability to (a) hold your breath while underwater, and regain control of your breathing when being submitted to repeated submersion under waves or currents; (b) orient yourself to new “in-river” surroundings; (c) reposition yourself in the water to different swimming positions i.e. turn face away from waves, breathe between waves; (d) swim aggressively to a boat or to shore in whitewater; (e) receive a rescue rope, paddle, or human assistance, and possibly let go of the same; (f) get out from under an overturned boat.
  • Ability to maneuver 100 yards in flat water while wearing a PFD.
  • Ability to assist another passenger who has fallen out of the boat by pulling them back in.
  • Ability to comprehend and follow instructions given by guides in all situations, including during stressful or dangerous situations, and to effectively communicate with guides and other participants.
  • Ability to carry personal dry bags and other personal gear (as heavy as 20-30 pounds) uphill from the boats, independently, or with assistance.
  • If taking prescription medications, have the ability to maintain proper dosage by medicating independently, or with the assistance of an adult.
  • Ability to remain adequately fed, hydrated, and properly dressed so as to avoid environmental injuries such as hypothermia, heat related illness, sunburn and frostbite.
  • Not have a psychiatric condition which has the potential to render yourself or others unsafe.
  • Ability to sleep outdoors without artificial light.
  • Not have an orthopedic injury that is less than six weeks past full healing, and/or which cannot be weight bearing.
  • For some Grand Canyon programs, the ability to hike for at least 7 miles while carrying a backpack with a weight of at least 25 lbs.

The above criteria, if not met, can disqualify a person from participating in a GCY program. This safety criteria exist for all participants. The criteria is not meant to discriminate against any physical or mental disability; it is applied uniformly to all potential trip participants, regardless of the presence or absence of a disability. There may be additional issues not listed here which may preclude participation in a GCY trip, including menu restrictions that GCY cannot safely accommodate. GCY is committed to making reasonable modifications to any trip for any persons so long as they do not fundamentally alter the nature of the trip. These criteria can be expanded as deemed necessary by staff or the medical or legal professionals assisting GCY. GCY reserves the right to exercise final authority over which individuals can or cannot join a trip.

The following paragraphs further inform all potential participants of the expectations to promote a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone on a trip. There may be requirements, whether physical or mental, that are not specifically “essential eligibility criteria”, they are explained here to help participants understand the reality of being on a wilderness expedition. Our primary goal is to minimize risks associated with adventure trips in wilderness. The trip involves physical exertion and exposure to the elements, including cold water and the potential for heat, sun, wind, rain and snow. We have experience accommodating a wide range of physical abilities and/or health conditions. However, individuals with physical/mental limitations or ailments that interfere with the realistic encounters on wilderness river expeditions can endanger themselves, other participants, and the guides. GCY advises you to consult a doctor regarding medical or health conditions that could impact your ability to participate in this outdoor adventure.

It is important that each trip participant take an active role in their own safety. All participants will encounter unfamiliar and dynamic wilderness conditions. It is critical to pay attention at all times, be aware of surroundings, and avoid taking unnecessary risks. Even a non-life threatening injury in a wilderness setting can become a major emergency, and can endanger the entire group. Swimming or hiking alone is not allowed. Using common sense, and following the explicit instruction of your guides is essential.

River trips, particularly those involving whitewater, are inherently risky. The risk of a trip is part of what makes it an exciting adventure. It is important to stay calm as a non-voluntary swimmer. The odds of becoming a non-voluntary swimmer change with the classification of a rapid, boat selection and environmental factors. A swim in whitewater is more difficult and physically challenging than swimming in flat water. Swimming in cold water can cause a gasping effect on your respiratory system. Swimming in cold water quickly saps energy and decreases muscle function. While guides are highly trained and will do their best in a rescue situation, a successful rescue is greatly improved by a swimmer who actively participates and follows directions under stress.