2021 Travel Requirements due to COVID-19

An adult responsible for each participant is required to 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.

Taylor Miller Max Andariese Jeff Hines Doug VonGausig Walt Carr Amy Martin Walt Carr Doug VonGausig

Expedition Destinations

GCY offers expeditions on a wide variety of river sections and land-based destinations. Explore the following options and think about what might be best for your group! From day-trips to 9-day extended expeditions, the Southwest has a lot to offer!

Colorado River 


Diamond Down

Photo by Taylor Miller
  • Where: Diamond Creek to Pearce Ferry, Arizona
  • How Long: 4 days
  • Difficulty: Class III Whitewater
  • Highlights: Click Here

Glen Canyon

Photo by Walt Carr
  • Where: Horseshoe Bend to Lees Ferry, Arizona
  • How Long: 2 or 3 days
  • Difficulty: Flatwater
  • Highlights: Click Here

San Juan River


Upper San Juan

Photo by Pamela Mathues
  • Where: Sand Island to Mexican Hat, Utah
  • How Long: 4 days
  • Difficulty: Class II Whitewater
  • Highlights: Click Here

Lower San Juan

Photo by Walt Carr
  • Where: Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, Utah
  • How Long: 5 to 7 days
  • Difficulty: Class III Whitewater
  • Highlights: Click Here

Full San Juan

Photo by Pamela Mathues
  • Where: Sand Island to Clay Hills Crossing, Utah
  • How Long: 7 or 8 days
  • Difficulty: Class III Whitewater
  • Highlights: Click Here

Verde River

Photo by Doug Von Gausig
  • Where: Clarkdale, Arizona
  • How Long: 1 day
  • Difficulty: Under Class I Rapids
  • Highlights: Click Here

Land Based Destinations

grand canyon youth land camping
Photo by Jordan Robinson
  • Where: Grand Canyon National Park, Flagstaff Area National Monuments, Canyon de Chelly National Monuments, and more!
  • How Long: Customizable, 1 to 3 Days
  • Difficulty: Varied based on location
  • Highlights: Click Here

Interested? Click here to get started!

Every GCY Expedition is unique…

Each program has interpretive stops, hikes, camps, teachable moments and activities that complement our groups’ goals and objectives, but there are some common threads that make GCY programs special! Program Components included on all GCY Expeditions are:


  • Pre-Trip Requirements

    GCY Expeditions are not a vacation – they are intentional learning experiences focused on promoting personal growth. Youth are more invested in an experience, if they have worked for it and earned it themselves. To achieve this, participants are required to complete three Pre-Trip Requirements: Educational, Service, and Youth Earnings Components. Learning about their destination before participating helps students better connect to place; doing service projects to better home communities helps prepare youth to form a cohesive community in the wilderness; and earning a portion of the trip cost makes youth feel financially invested. We expect Trip Coordinators to coordinate at least one group fundraiser and service project in preparation for the expedition. GCY can provide guidance and resources to help you develop, complete, and succeed in all of these requirements.

  • Sense of Place

    GCY emphasizes the Place-Based Learning model. Guides will plan interpretive stops, talks, and hikes that emphasize the ecology, geology, ancient and modern history, and current events pertaining to a program’s specific location. We believe that if we provide experiences rooted in place, participants will have authentic learning experiences in these magical places.

  • Citizen Science

    Participating in real, ongoing Citizen Science initiatives is one of our favorite ways to engage youth in place! It gives participants a way to connect with research outside of a lab, observe parts of the ecosystem up close, and think about how people are working to study and protect the place that they’re exploring. Current projects that we help collect data for include an emergent insect monitoring project and an acoustic bat monitoring project. Agencies that we collect data for are United States Geological Survey – Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Depending on your destination and partner schedules, you may have a partner scientist on expedition with you, facilitating their research.

  • Camp Crews

    There is a lot to do on a wilderness expedition, and participants are full members of the team. Participants will be placed on 4-5 small crews for the duration of the program, and rotate through different camp chores and activities. These include cooking dinner, doing group dishes, running the Citizen Science project, and unpacking the camp bathroom system. Alternating through these crews, youth gain a sense of ownership over the success of the trip, and a good look at all that it takes to make these expeditions happen.

  • Art

    GCY guides love to offer opportunities to do art. Each expedition will have art supplies that youth can explore – watercolors, oil pastels, and colored pencils are incredible ways to capture memories. There is also the option to bring along supplies to make linoleum block prints. Follow in Everett Ruess’s footsteps and capture canyon walls in black and white!

  • Adventure

    And of course, every GCY Expedition allows a chance to adventure! Participants step outside of their comfort zones and into new discoveries. Hiking into side canyons, paddling boats through rapids, and camping underneath the stars all give youth chances to push their limits, disconnect from technology, and learn new things about themselves.

Want to take your group on a GCY Expedition?


If you have reviewed the Expedition Components and Destinations tabs, and think that a GCY Expedition might be an amazing way for you to bring connection to place, environmental awareness, Citizen Science, and adventure to your group, then we are excited to start working with you!

 

For information about the different expeditions that GCY offers, please take a look at our Expedition Catalog below.

Expedition Catalog

Learn More!

Please fill out the following form and a GCY Program Director will contact you promptly.

Planning a quality expedition typically takes about 6 months time; please take this into consideration when requesting dates.

Expedition Planning Form

Learn More!

COVID-19 FAQs


How does GCY determine which expeditions to run?

GCY’s COVID-19 Task Force, made up of board members, staff, and medical experts, developed a Risk Assessment Tool with objective criteria to determine which expeditions to run in 2021. Our goal is to minimize the risk of COVID-19 being present on an expedition through monitoring community spread and implementing a pre-trip health agreement. In an effort to remain vigilant in an ever-changing environment, risk will be assessed several times throughout the planning process leading up to the expedition.

What are the new requirements for participating in a 2021 GCY expedition?

For 2021, GCY has implemented the following COVID-19 related changes:

  1. At this time, Individual Expeditions will be limited to participants who live in Coconino County, AZ. Use our contact form to sign up to be notified if we are able to open applications to non-Coconino County residents. 
  2.  An adult responsible for each participant is required to 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. 
  3. All participants will agree to pre-expedition behaviors outlined in our COVID-19 Health Agreement. 

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

GCY requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination for participants, volunteers, and staff on multi-day expeditions. One-day expeditions do not require proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination record. GCY does not accept positive antibody tests. 

 

Please test within 5 days of the start of your expedition, and share your results with your group leader/Trip Coordinator or GCY before your expedition starts. Refer to the below chart to help you schedule your test:

 

Earliest Possible Test Day Expedition Start Day*
Wednesday Monday
Thursday Tuesday
Friday Wednesday
Saturday Thursday
Sunday Friday
Monday Saturday
Tuesday Sunday

 

*If you are travelling with a group, your expedition start day is your first travel day. Please call the office if you have questions. 

What if I cannot find a COVID-19 test in my area?

If you cannot find a COVID-19 test in your area, consider some of the at-home tests available at drug stores. Keep in mind, these tests may require a smartphone. In addition, you may be able to find regional COVID-19 tests through participating pharmacies.

What if I can’t get test results in the prescribed time window?

You will not be allowed to participate on your multi-day expedition without proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 5 days of expedition start, or proof of vaccination. For day-trips you do not need to provide test results in order to participate.

Will I need to be vaccinated in order to participate?

No, you do not need to be vaccinated in order to participate. However, GCY will accept COVID-19 vaccination records in lieu of providing a negative test result before your expedition.

If I have already had COVID-19, do I still need to provide a test result?

Yes. All multi-day expedition participants will be required to provide proof of a negative test result regardless of your past diagnosis.

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

Take steps to limit your exposure to COVID-19 for the 14 days prior to, and while traveling to, your expedition. The COVID-19 Health Agreement you will sign and agree to includes practicing social distancing, wearing a face covering when in public or when social distancing is not possible, frequent hand washing, and monitoring your health for symptoms of COVID-19 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-190 Health Agreement. These requirements ensure we are all active participants in minimizing the potential for the presence and spread of COVID-19 on expedition. 

 

Prior to your expedition departure, GCY or your group leader will conduct a health screening. This screening will include: reviewing your vaccination or COVID-19 test results; taking your temporal temperature; verification that you do not have/have not had any COVID-19 symptoms in the last 14 days; and confirming that you have not been exposed to anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19. 

 

While traveling in a vehicle to your expedition, all participants, volunteers, and Field Staff are required to wear face coverings and vehicle ventilation will be increased.

 

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. There will be requirements for face covering, hand washing, social distancing, and additional sanitation measures. 

 

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 14 days from the start of your expedition and you can provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 5 days of your expedition start day, we welcome you to join us. 

 

If your exposure occurs fewer than 14 days from the start of your expedition, you will be unable to  participate. Please call our office to learn more about your options. 

 

GCY will require a negative test result for everyone who has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status or expedition length. If you are participating on a one-day expedition, and you experience any COVID-19 symptoms within 14 days prior to your expedition, GCY will require you to provide proof of a negative test result before you will be allowed to participate. 

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 contact us a list with sizes 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 Teachers & Group Leaders


How do I sign my group up?

If you think a GCY expedition might be right for your group, head to our Inquire tab and complete the GCY Expedition Planning Form. This will help our Program Directors start to get to know your group, what you’re interested in, and what destination might be the best fit. Planning a quality expedition typically takes about six months. Please take this into consideration when requesting dates.

Which destination should I choose for my group?

Every destination is unique and easily customizable to the needs of your group. The Southwest is an incredible classroom! Taking into consideration goals for your group, age and experience, financial capacity, travel logistics, and other factors, GCY Program Directors will work with you to help you decide which destination is the best fit for your group.

Can I take my group down the Grand Canyon through the National Park section?

For a Grand Canyon experience, check out our Diamond Down destination! This stretch of the Colorado River (Diamond Creek to Pearce Ferry) contains the last rapids and side canyons of Grand Canyon as it flows into Lake Mead. Permitting and access to the main-stem of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon (Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek) is limited. While we can’t offer this experience to schools and groups, we do offer it for our Individual Expeditions. We are happy to offer recommendations to other outfitters who can provide your school or group a main-stem Grand Canyon experience.

What are we going to do out there?

Being out in nature is taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. GCY groups spend the days sharing meals, playing games, hiking to incredible vistas or cultural sites, learning about the place they’re in, and having a lot of fun! Everyone works together: helping set up camp, do science projects, cook dinner, and wash dishes. Every youth is a full participant in all aspects of the expedition. GCY will help Trip Coordinators develop activities, discussions, and other structures for participants to engage with to meet educational goals.

How much do expeditions cost?

The price of GCY expeditions varies with destination, group size, and additional logistical support needed. We do our very best to ensure that price is not a barrier to participation. Through fundraising efforts, GCY is able to subsidize about 50% of all expedition costs. Because of this, we are able to keep our expeditions at about one third to half of the price of similar commercial operations. Longer expeditions, small group sizes, and transportation or camping support will all impact the overall price of the expedition.

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

GCY may have Financial Aid funds available to support your group. If you think your group will need access to funding sources in addition to family capacity and youth fundraising, reach out to your GCY Program Director to discuss this possibility.

How many adult chaperones should we bring?

We want you to bring enough adult chaperones to feel comfortable managing your group. Typically, groups bring 2 to 4 adults (Trip Coordinators), depending on the size of their group. Two trip coordinators per expedition may participate at no cost. Any additional adults will be charged the participant price. Keep in mind that you will have GCY guides along as well, and too many adults on an expedition may have negative impacts on a group’s experiences.

Can parents come along?

We recommend parents do not come on expeditions with their children. Youth have drastically different experiences when they are away from their parents – they push comfort zones, create deeper bonds with peers, develop independence, and learn more about themselves. If a group needs to send parent volunteers with their expedition, we recommend that parents and children go in separate groups.

What will the sleeping arrangements look like?

Overnight expeditions will typically sleep at a different camp each night. GCY provides each participant and adult chaperone with a ‘sleep kit’, which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tarp, and sometimes a sheet. While participants are encouraged to sleep out under the starry night sky, we also provide tents in case of weather or 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 you to respect and accommodate the needs of every individual.

Does GCY have a set curriculum?

GCY does not have a set curriculum, or set of activities that happen on every expedition. Each group determines their own goals, and works with GCY to develop an expedition that will help them reach those goals. Group Leaders & Teachers are expected to bring 1-3 activities that they would like to lead. GCY guides will lead teambuilding activities, games, interpretive talks, art projects, hikes, and other activities that complement each group’s goals. Before the expedition, GCY will help you develop activities, discussions, and other structures to meet educational goals, and succeed in all of the Pre-Trip Requirements. Teachers, if you are considering bringing your class on expedition, finding activities that connect to curriculum standards is a great way to bring a different breadth and depth to your group’s learning.

What are the Pre-Trip Requirements?

Youth are more invested in an experience, if they have worked for it and earned it themselves. To achieve this, participants are required to complete three Pre-Trip Requirements: Educational, Service, and Youth Earnings Components. Learning about their destination before participating helps students better connect to place; doing service projects in home communities helps prepare youth to form a cohesive community in the wilderness; and earning a portion of the trip cost makes youth feel financially invested. GCY can provide guidance and resources to help Trip Coordinators develop, complete, and succeed in all of these requirements.

What if there is an emergency?

Most emergencies can be prevented by encouraging everyone to take care of themselves and adhering to safety guidelines. GCY guides are certified Wilderness First Responders, and travel with a satellite phone and first-aid materials. Guides will ask you to help youth listen to and follow all safety instructions. If there is an incident, GCY office staff will work with guides to organize any needed support and contact parents. If you are nervous about any aspect of the expedition, please contact us for more information.

Is there anything else I should know?

We have supported hundreds of group leaders/teachers through the process and we are here to support you too.  While our website is full of valuable information, you can always reach out to us with any questions you have. Planning an expedition for your group does not have to be overwhelming, and we cannot wait to help!

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 outdoors.
  • Youth Earnings Component: Earning a portion of the trip price helps you feel financially invested. 

Your group will work together to design and complete these Pre-Trip Requirements.

What are we going to do out there?

Being in nature means taking a break from the hustle of everyday life. You will spend your days sharing meals, playing games, hiking to incredible vistas or cultural sites, learning about the place, and having a lot of fun! Everyone works together: setting up camp, doing science projects, cooking dinner, and washing dishes. Come ready to work and learn!

Who is coming with me?

Your group is made up of your peers and your adult leaders; GCY will refer to your teachers and adult group leaders as Trip Coordinators. You will meet your guide crew once you reach your expedition destination. They are always excited to work alongside you and share the wonders of the Southwest. Many GCY guides are alumni of our programs! You may also have scientists or community members along for the expedition.

How difficult will the expedition be?

It is helpful to be in decent physical condition for your adventure. It is important to show up physically and mentally prepared to be outside and active every day. Having broken-in footwear and knowing how to stay hydrated are great places to start. Even if you’re not ‘outdoorsy,’ do not know how to swim, or have never camped before, everyone can participate and succeed on a GCY expedition!

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 on 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 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 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.

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 the area where you’ll be traveling.

What will the sleeping arrangements look like?

Overnight expeditions will typically sleep at a different camp each night. GCY provides each participant and adult chaperone with a ‘sleep kit’, which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tarp, and sometimes a sheet. While 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.

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 destination and the length of 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! We encourage you to check with us before purchasing any items. Work with your Teacher/Group Leader 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.). GCY will provide plenty of snacks, so leave all food and drinks at home as well.

For Parents and Legal Guardians


How much do expeditions cost?

The price of GCY expeditions varies with destination, group size, and additional logistical support needed. We do our very best to ensure that price is not a barrier to participation. Through fundraising efforts, GCY is able to subsidize about 50% of all expedition costs. Because of this, we are able to keep our expeditions at about one third to half of the price of similar commercial operations. Longer expeditions, small group sizes, and transportation or camping support will all impact the overall price of the expedition.

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

GCY may have Financial Aid funds available for your child’s expedition. Extended wilderness trips are expensive endeavors, and some families and youth may need support. If you have questions regarding Financial Aid and if this applies to your group, reach out to your Teacher/Group Leader.

How do I pay for my child’s expedition?

Groups pay for GCY expeditions in a variety of methods – you might be able to pay GCY directly, or your payments may need to go through your school or group leader. If you have questions about how or where to pay for your expedition, please reach out to your Teacher/Group Leader.

Some groups from Arizona also have the ability to use Arizona Tax Credit to pay for portions of their expeditions. *GCY cannot accept Tax Credit payments directly.

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 Teachers/Group 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.

Can parents come along?

We recommend parents do not come on expeditions with their children. Youth have drastically different experiences when they are away from their parents – they push comfort zones, create deeper bonds with peers, develop independence, and learn more about themselves. If a group needs to send parent volunteers with their expedition, we recommend that parents and children go in separate groups.

What will the sleeping arrangements look like?

Overnight expeditions will typically sleep at a different camp each night. GCY provides each participant and adult chaperone with a ‘sleep kit’ which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tarp, and sometimes a sheet. While participants are encouraged to sleep out under the starry night sky, we also provide tents in case of weather or 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 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 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 participants 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 on their destination and the length of 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 Teacher/Group Leader to request certain items, or stop by Grand Canyon Youth and try things on for yourself.

The Gear Room is open Monday – Friday from 9am to 5pm. If you cannot make it during those hours, or live out of town, please contact GCY or work with your Teacher/Group Leader 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.). 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 wonderful 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 guides are certified Wilderness First Responders, and travel with a satellite phone and first-aid materials. Guides and Teachers/Group Leaders will reinforce safety guidelines throughout the trip. If there is an incident, GCY office staff will work with guides 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.

Packing


Having the right equipment 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 do not have items on the Packing List, GCY has many items available to borrow in our Gear Room. From river shoes to rain jackets, we have 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. 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.

 

In 2021, our packing lists have expanded to include instructions and materials related to our COVID-19 specific mitigation measures. About two weeks before your expedition, your Trip Coordinator will remind you about materials on both the typical pack list, as well as the COVID-19 packing list. Please reach out to us with any specific questions regarding packing for your 2021 expedition. 

 

2021 COVID-19 Packing List

2-3 Day Packing List

4-6 Day Packing List

7-11 Day Packing List

Verde River Packing List

Glen Canyon Overnight Packing List

Glen Canyon Multi-night Packing List

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 assist another passenger who has fallen out of the boat by pulling them back in.
  • 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.

Destinations

Expedition Destinations

GCY offers expeditions on a wide variety of river sections and land-based destinations. Explore the following options and think about what might be best for your group! From day-trips to 9-day extended expeditions, the Southwest has a lot to offer!

Colorado River 


Diamond Down

Photo by Taylor Miller
  • Where: Diamond Creek to Pearce Ferry, Arizona
  • How Long: 4 days
  • Difficulty: Class III Whitewater
  • Highlights: Click Here

Glen Canyon

Photo by Walt Carr
  • Where: Horseshoe Bend to Lees Ferry, Arizona
  • How Long: 2 or 3 days
  • Difficulty: Flatwater
  • Highlights: Click Here

San Juan River


Upper San Juan

Photo by Pamela Mathues
  • Where: Sand Island to Mexican Hat, Utah
  • How Long: 4 days
  • Difficulty: Class II Whitewater
  • Highlights: Click Here

Lower San Juan

Photo by Walt Carr
  • Where: Mexican Hat to Clay Hills Crossing, Utah
  • How Long: 5 to 7 days
  • Difficulty: Class III Whitewater
  • Highlights: Click Here

Full San Juan

Photo by Pamela Mathues
  • Where: Sand Island to Clay Hills Crossing, Utah
  • How Long: 7 or 8 days
  • Difficulty: Class III Whitewater
  • Highlights: Click Here

Verde River

Photo by Doug Von Gausig
  • Where: Clarkdale, Arizona
  • How Long: 1 day
  • Difficulty: Under Class I Rapids
  • Highlights: Click Here

Land Based Destinations

grand canyon youth land camping
Photo by Jordan Robinson
  • Where: Grand Canyon National Park, Flagstaff Area National Monuments, Canyon de Chelly National Monuments, and more!
  • How Long: Customizable, 1 to 3 Days
  • Difficulty: Varied based on location
  • Highlights: Click Here

Interested? Click here to get started!

Expedition Components

Every GCY Expedition is unique…

Each program has interpretive stops, hikes, camps, teachable moments and activities that complement our groups’ goals and objectives, but there are some common threads that make GCY programs special! Program Components included on all GCY Expeditions are:


  • Pre-Trip Requirements

    GCY Expeditions are not a vacation – they are intentional learning experiences focused on promoting personal growth. Youth are more invested in an experience, if they have worked for it and earned it themselves. To achieve this, participants are required to complete three Pre-Trip Requirements: Educational, Service, and Youth Earnings Components. Learning about their destination before participating helps students better connect to place; doing service projects to better home communities helps prepare youth to form a cohesive community in the wilderness; and earning a portion of the trip cost makes youth feel financially invested. We expect Trip Coordinators to coordinate at least one group fundraiser and service project in preparation for the expedition. GCY can provide guidance and resources to help you develop, complete, and succeed in all of these requirements.

  • Sense of Place

    GCY emphasizes the Place-Based Learning model. Guides will plan interpretive stops, talks, and hikes that emphasize the ecology, geology, ancient and modern history, and current events pertaining to a program’s specific location. We believe that if we provide experiences rooted in place, participants will have authentic learning experiences in these magical places.

  • Citizen Science

    Participating in real, ongoing Citizen Science initiatives is one of our favorite ways to engage youth in place! It gives participants a way to connect with research outside of a lab, observe parts of the ecosystem up close, and think about how people are working to study and protect the place that they’re exploring. Current projects that we help collect data for include an emergent insect monitoring project and an acoustic bat monitoring project. Agencies that we collect data for are United States Geological Survey – Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Depending on your destination and partner schedules, you may have a partner scientist on expedition with you, facilitating their research.

  • Camp Crews

    There is a lot to do on a wilderness expedition, and participants are full members of the team. Participants will be placed on 4-5 small crews for the duration of the program, and rotate through different camp chores and activities. These include cooking dinner, doing group dishes, running the Citizen Science project, and unpacking the camp bathroom system. Alternating through these crews, youth gain a sense of ownership over the success of the trip, and a good look at all that it takes to make these expeditions happen.

  • Art

    GCY guides love to offer opportunities to do art. Each expedition will have art supplies that youth can explore – watercolors, oil pastels, and colored pencils are incredible ways to capture memories. There is also the option to bring along supplies to make linoleum block prints. Follow in Everett Ruess’s footsteps and capture canyon walls in black and white!

  • Adventure

    And of course, every GCY Expedition allows a chance to adventure! Participants step outside of their comfort zones and into new discoveries. Hiking into side canyons, paddling boats through rapids, and camping underneath the stars all give youth chances to push their limits, disconnect from technology, and learn new things about themselves.

Inquire

Want to take your group on a GCY Expedition?


If you have reviewed the Expedition Components and Destinations tabs, and think that a GCY Expedition might be an amazing way for you to bring connection to place, environmental awareness, Citizen Science, and adventure to your group, then we are excited to start working with you!

 

For information about the different expeditions that GCY offers, please take a look at our Expedition Catalog below.

Expedition Catalog

Learn More!

Please fill out the following form and a GCY Program Director will contact you promptly.

Planning a quality expedition typically takes about 6 months time; please take this into consideration when requesting dates.

Expedition Planning Form

Learn More!
FAQs

COVID-19 FAQs


How does GCY determine which expeditions to run?

GCY’s COVID-19 Task Force, made up of board members, staff, and medical experts, developed a Risk Assessment Tool with objective criteria to determine which expeditions to run in 2021. Our goal is to minimize the risk of COVID-19 being present on an expedition through monitoring community spread and implementing a pre-trip health agreement. In an effort to remain vigilant in an ever-changing environment, risk will be assessed several times throughout the planning process leading up to the expedition.

What are the new requirements for participating in a 2021 GCY expedition?

For 2021, GCY has implemented the following COVID-19 related changes:

  1. At this time, Individual Expeditions will be limited to participants who live in Coconino County, AZ. Use our contact form to sign up to be notified if we are able to open applications to non-Coconino County residents. 
  2.  An adult responsible for each participant is required to 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. 
  3. All participants will agree to pre-expedition behaviors outlined in our COVID-19 Health Agreement. 

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

GCY requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination for participants, volunteers, and staff on multi-day expeditions. One-day expeditions do not require proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination record. GCY does not accept positive antibody tests. 

 

Please test within 5 days of the start of your expedition, and share your results with your group leader/Trip Coordinator or GCY before your expedition starts. Refer to the below chart to help you schedule your test:

 

Earliest Possible Test Day Expedition Start Day*
Wednesday Monday
Thursday Tuesday
Friday Wednesday
Saturday Thursday
Sunday Friday
Monday Saturday
Tuesday Sunday

 

*If you are travelling with a group, your expedition start day is your first travel day. Please call the office if you have questions. 

What if I cannot find a COVID-19 test in my area?

If you cannot find a COVID-19 test in your area, consider some of the at-home tests available at drug stores. Keep in mind, these tests may require a smartphone. In addition, you may be able to find regional COVID-19 tests through participating pharmacies.

What if I can’t get test results in the prescribed time window?

You will not be allowed to participate on your multi-day expedition without proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 5 days of expedition start, or proof of vaccination. For day-trips you do not need to provide test results in order to participate.

Will I need to be vaccinated in order to participate?

No, you do not need to be vaccinated in order to participate. However, GCY will accept COVID-19 vaccination records in lieu of providing a negative test result before your expedition.

If I have already had COVID-19, do I still need to provide a test result?

Yes. All multi-day expedition participants will be required to provide proof of a negative test result regardless of your past diagnosis.

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

Take steps to limit your exposure to COVID-19 for the 14 days prior to, and while traveling to, your expedition. The COVID-19 Health Agreement you will sign and agree to includes practicing social distancing, wearing a face covering when in public or when social distancing is not possible, frequent hand washing, and monitoring your health for symptoms of COVID-19 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-190 Health Agreement. These requirements ensure we are all active participants in minimizing the potential for the presence and spread of COVID-19 on expedition. 

 

Prior to your expedition departure, GCY or your group leader will conduct a health screening. This screening will include: reviewing your vaccination or COVID-19 test results; taking your temporal temperature; verification that you do not have/have not had any COVID-19 symptoms in the last 14 days; and confirming that you have not been exposed to anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19. 

 

While traveling in a vehicle to your expedition, all participants, volunteers, and Field Staff are required to wear face coverings and vehicle ventilation will be increased.

 

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. There will be requirements for face covering, hand washing, social distancing, and additional sanitation measures. 

 

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 14 days from the start of your expedition and you can provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 5 days of your expedition start day, we welcome you to join us. 

 

If your exposure occurs fewer than 14 days from the start of your expedition, you will be unable to  participate. Please call our office to learn more about your options. 

 

GCY will require a negative test result for everyone who has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status or expedition length. If you are participating on a one-day expedition, and you experience any COVID-19 symptoms within 14 days prior to your expedition, GCY will require you to provide proof of a negative test result before you will be allowed to participate. 

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 contact us a list with sizes 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 Teachers & Group Leaders


How do I sign my group up?

If you think a GCY expedition might be right for your group, head to our Inquire tab and complete the GCY Expedition Planning Form. This will help our Program Directors start to get to know your group, what you’re interested in, and what destination might be the best fit. Planning a quality expedition typically takes about six months. Please take this into consideration when requesting dates.

Which destination should I choose for my group?

Every destination is unique and easily customizable to the needs of your group. The Southwest is an incredible classroom! Taking into consideration goals for your group, age and experience, financial capacity, travel logistics, and other factors, GCY Program Directors will work with you to help you decide which destination is the best fit for your group.

Can I take my group down the Grand Canyon through the National Park section?

For a Grand Canyon experience, check out our Diamond Down destination! This stretch of the Colorado River (Diamond Creek to Pearce Ferry) contains the last rapids and side canyons of Grand Canyon as it flows into Lake Mead. Permitting and access to the main-stem of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon (Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek) is limited. While we can’t offer this experience to schools and groups, we do offer it for our Individual Expeditions. We are happy to offer recommendations to other outfitters who can provide your school or group a main-stem Grand Canyon experience.

What are we going to do out there?

Being out in nature is taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. GCY groups spend the days sharing meals, playing games, hiking to incredible vistas or cultural sites, learning about the place they’re in, and having a lot of fun! Everyone works together: helping set up camp, do science projects, cook dinner, and wash dishes. Every youth is a full participant in all aspects of the expedition. GCY will help Trip Coordinators develop activities, discussions, and other structures for participants to engage with to meet educational goals.

How much do expeditions cost?

The price of GCY expeditions varies with destination, group size, and additional logistical support needed. We do our very best to ensure that price is not a barrier to participation. Through fundraising efforts, GCY is able to subsidize about 50% of all expedition costs. Because of this, we are able to keep our expeditions at about one third to half of the price of similar commercial operations. Longer expeditions, small group sizes, and transportation or camping support will all impact the overall price of the expedition.

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

GCY may have Financial Aid funds available to support your group. If you think your group will need access to funding sources in addition to family capacity and youth fundraising, reach out to your GCY Program Director to discuss this possibility.

How many adult chaperones should we bring?

We want you to bring enough adult chaperones to feel comfortable managing your group. Typically, groups bring 2 to 4 adults (Trip Coordinators), depending on the size of their group. Two trip coordinators per expedition may participate at no cost. Any additional adults will be charged the participant price. Keep in mind that you will have GCY guides along as well, and too many adults on an expedition may have negative impacts on a group’s experiences.

Can parents come along?

We recommend parents do not come on expeditions with their children. Youth have drastically different experiences when they are away from their parents – they push comfort zones, create deeper bonds with peers, develop independence, and learn more about themselves. If a group needs to send parent volunteers with their expedition, we recommend that parents and children go in separate groups.

What will the sleeping arrangements look like?

Overnight expeditions will typically sleep at a different camp each night. GCY provides each participant and adult chaperone with a ‘sleep kit’, which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tarp, and sometimes a sheet. While participants are encouraged to sleep out under the starry night sky, we also provide tents in case of weather or 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 you to respect and accommodate the needs of every individual.

Does GCY have a set curriculum?

GCY does not have a set curriculum, or set of activities that happen on every expedition. Each group determines their own goals, and works with GCY to develop an expedition that will help them reach those goals. Group Leaders & Teachers are expected to bring 1-3 activities that they would like to lead. GCY guides will lead teambuilding activities, games, interpretive talks, art projects, hikes, and other activities that complement each group’s goals. Before the expedition, GCY will help you develop activities, discussions, and other structures to meet educational goals, and succeed in all of the Pre-Trip Requirements. Teachers, if you are considering bringing your class on expedition, finding activities that connect to curriculum standards is a great way to bring a different breadth and depth to your group’s learning.

What are the Pre-Trip Requirements?

Youth are more invested in an experience, if they have worked for it and earned it themselves. To achieve this, participants are required to complete three Pre-Trip Requirements: Educational, Service, and Youth Earnings Components. Learning about their destination before participating helps students better connect to place; doing service projects in home communities helps prepare youth to form a cohesive community in the wilderness; and earning a portion of the trip cost makes youth feel financially invested. GCY can provide guidance and resources to help Trip Coordinators develop, complete, and succeed in all of these requirements.

What if there is an emergency?

Most emergencies can be prevented by encouraging everyone to take care of themselves and adhering to safety guidelines. GCY guides are certified Wilderness First Responders, and travel with a satellite phone and first-aid materials. Guides will ask you to help youth listen to and follow all safety instructions. If there is an incident, GCY office staff will work with guides to organize any needed support and contact parents. If you are nervous about any aspect of the expedition, please contact us for more information.

Is there anything else I should know?

We have supported hundreds of group leaders/teachers through the process and we are here to support you too.  While our website is full of valuable information, you can always reach out to us with any questions you have. Planning an expedition for your group does not have to be overwhelming, and we cannot wait to help!

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 outdoors.
  • Youth Earnings Component: Earning a portion of the trip price helps you feel financially invested. 

Your group will work together to design and complete these Pre-Trip Requirements.

What are we going to do out there?

Being in nature means taking a break from the hustle of everyday life. You will spend your days sharing meals, playing games, hiking to incredible vistas or cultural sites, learning about the place, and having a lot of fun! Everyone works together: setting up camp, doing science projects, cooking dinner, and washing dishes. Come ready to work and learn!

Who is coming with me?

Your group is made up of your peers and your adult leaders; GCY will refer to your teachers and adult group leaders as Trip Coordinators. You will meet your guide crew once you reach your expedition destination. They are always excited to work alongside you and share the wonders of the Southwest. Many GCY guides are alumni of our programs! You may also have scientists or community members along for the expedition.

How difficult will the expedition be?

It is helpful to be in decent physical condition for your adventure. It is important to show up physically and mentally prepared to be outside and active every day. Having broken-in footwear and knowing how to stay hydrated are great places to start. Even if you’re not ‘outdoorsy,’ do not know how to swim, or have never camped before, everyone can participate and succeed on a GCY expedition!

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 on 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 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 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.

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 the area where you’ll be traveling.

What will the sleeping arrangements look like?

Overnight expeditions will typically sleep at a different camp each night. GCY provides each participant and adult chaperone with a ‘sleep kit’, which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tarp, and sometimes a sheet. While 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.

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 destination and the length of 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! We encourage you to check with us before purchasing any items. Work with your Teacher/Group Leader 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.). GCY will provide plenty of snacks, so leave all food and drinks at home as well.

For Parents and Legal Guardians


How much do expeditions cost?

The price of GCY expeditions varies with destination, group size, and additional logistical support needed. We do our very best to ensure that price is not a barrier to participation. Through fundraising efforts, GCY is able to subsidize about 50% of all expedition costs. Because of this, we are able to keep our expeditions at about one third to half of the price of similar commercial operations. Longer expeditions, small group sizes, and transportation or camping support will all impact the overall price of the expedition.

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

GCY may have Financial Aid funds available for your child’s expedition. Extended wilderness trips are expensive endeavors, and some families and youth may need support. If you have questions regarding Financial Aid and if this applies to your group, reach out to your Teacher/Group Leader.

How do I pay for my child’s expedition?

Groups pay for GCY expeditions in a variety of methods – you might be able to pay GCY directly, or your payments may need to go through your school or group leader. If you have questions about how or where to pay for your expedition, please reach out to your Teacher/Group Leader.

Some groups from Arizona also have the ability to use Arizona Tax Credit to pay for portions of their expeditions. *GCY cannot accept Tax Credit payments directly.

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 Teachers/Group 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.

Can parents come along?

We recommend parents do not come on expeditions with their children. Youth have drastically different experiences when they are away from their parents – they push comfort zones, create deeper bonds with peers, develop independence, and learn more about themselves. If a group needs to send parent volunteers with their expedition, we recommend that parents and children go in separate groups.

What will the sleeping arrangements look like?

Overnight expeditions will typically sleep at a different camp each night. GCY provides each participant and adult chaperone with a ‘sleep kit’ which includes a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tarp, and sometimes a sheet. While participants are encouraged to sleep out under the starry night sky, we also provide tents in case of weather or 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 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 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 participants 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 on their destination and the length of 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 Teacher/Group Leader to request certain items, or stop by Grand Canyon Youth and try things on for yourself.

The Gear Room is open Monday – Friday from 9am to 5pm. If you cannot make it during those hours, or live out of town, please contact GCY or work with your Teacher/Group Leader 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.). 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 wonderful 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 guides are certified Wilderness First Responders, and travel with a satellite phone and first-aid materials. Guides and Teachers/Group Leaders will reinforce safety guidelines throughout the trip. If there is an incident, GCY office staff will work with guides 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.

Packing

Packing


Having the right equipment 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 do not have items on the Packing List, GCY has many items available to borrow in our Gear Room. From river shoes to rain jackets, we have 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. 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.

 

In 2021, our packing lists have expanded to include instructions and materials related to our COVID-19 specific mitigation measures. About two weeks before your expedition, your Trip Coordinator will remind you about materials on both the typical pack list, as well as the COVID-19 packing list. Please reach out to us with any specific questions regarding packing for your 2021 expedition. 

 

2021 COVID-19 Packing List

2-3 Day Packing List

4-6 Day Packing List

7-11 Day Packing List

Verde River Packing List

Glen Canyon Overnight Packing List

Glen Canyon Multi-night Packing List

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 assist another passenger who has fallen out of the boat by pulling them back in.
  • 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.