High Adventure

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1 Preliminary Notes

Under Construction

This page and its subpages are in the process of construction, and will likely not be among the first things completed, in part because many of these high adventure plans build upon the other content on this site. However, the Guadalupe Peak High Adventure Trip is largely done in order to serve as a model of what is anticipated for the other pages that will link from here. Many of the others are supplemented by an 8 page pdf Do-It-Yourself High Adventure Itineraries handout from 2009 that briefly outlines many of those itineraries (until that information is all incorporated into the wiki).

Picking Destinations and Activities

You may want to review the discussion of regional climate in When to Go Where, as well as the other concepts about picking activities and destinations on Picking Destinations.

In addition to traditional outdoor activities, a troop can also schedule time for team building games, merit badge workshops, or anything else. These activities can also be done back at home, and you may want to focus on activities that can only be done while out on your high adventure trip. But these activities may also contribute to a better trip, or have more meaning while away from the distractions or regular daily life.

High Adventure Defined

"High Adventure" means activities aimed at older Scouts, typically with a minimum age requirement of 14 years old.

High adventure is typically considered a warm weather activity. But Big Bend and some of the national high adventure programs can also provide a nice trip between Christmas and New Year's.

Staffed versus DIY High Adventure

When planning a high adventure trip, the initial decision is whether to attend a staffed high adventure program or to instead plan a Do It Yourself trip.

Staffed programs require much less planning but are usually much more expensive. Because DIY programs require much more planning, most of this page and its subpages are dedicated to helping you plan your own DIY high adventure trip. But a list of staffed programs is also included at the bottom of this page.

Another issue when choosing between staffed and DIY is the impact that each is likely to have on the Scouts who are in your troop this year. Scouting's outdoor program is an important part of accomplishing two goals that can, at times, involve a trade-off. First, the outdoor program entices youth to join and remain in Scouting. In this sense, the outdoor program is a Scouting method that enables other methods such as the patrol method and interacting with adult role models. Second, the outdoor program gets youth away from many of the distractions back in the city so they can be more introspective and focus on interacting with others in the troop, including troop leaders.

So when a troop considers the choice between a staffed or DIY high adventure activity, it is worth considering both how much fun each option will be as a means to retaining youth, as well as the types of interactions that each activity will promote. It is worth asking: As we get older Scouts outdoors and away from many of the distractions back at home, what distractions do we choose to introduce back into the high adventure program, and which of those distractions are a necessary cost of retention, and which are we just allowing to get in the way without having stopped to think about it.

In other words, ask yourself: At the end of a week doing each of several different possible activities, how are people likely to have changed?

2 Destinations within 2 Hours of DFW

High adventure within 2 hours of Dallas-Fort Worth mostly means attending a staffed program at a council summer camp where the draw is less about nature and down time and is more about the staffed activities. The two best options for a DIY high adventure trip within two hours of DFW (but not even close to the two best on this page) are likely the following.

  • 1. Brazos River Float Trip from Possum Kingdom Lake Dam down to Oak's Crossing. The Longhorn Council runs a staffed high adventure canoe trip down this route. But you can also do it on your own. Depending on the cost of renting your own canoes (or kayaks?), the do-it-yourself version of this trip may or may not be much cheaper than the staffed version. A second potential advantage of the do-it-yourself version is the ability to be flexible as the water flow on the river dictates. The staffed version will require a financial commitment long before anyone knows what the water flow will be during the week of your trip; but with the D-I-Y version you have the flexibility to switch at the last minute to your Plan B trip down a different river with better or more predictable water flow.
  • 2. LBJ Grasslands. This is not wilderness, and this is not mountains. This is fairly flat prairie, and you will periodically see cars and cross paved asphalt roads. But it is close and it is free. Depending on the size of your group, a stay of several days may or may not require a permit. With 75 miles of equestrian trails, and the ability to hike cross-country in areas that lack trails, you can lay out an itinerary that would take a full week. While mountain biking is permitted on all equestrian trails, biking would be an activity, not a means of travel from campsite to campsite. It is possible to set up a fixed camp and then spend several days exploring the trail system on mountain bikes. You can also set up and run for yourselves an orienteering course by keeping and re-using old maps from a prior NTOA meet.
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3 Ouachita and Ozark Mountains

For those who live in Dallas-Fort Worth, the nearest "candy store" of outdoor options is Arkansas and the eastern portion of Oklahoma. The closer southern half is covered by the Ouachita Mountains, and the more distant northern half is covered by the Ozark Mountains as well as Lake Eufala in northeast Oklahoma. Both mountain ranges top out at about 2,500 feet elevation.

There are many excellent destinations in the north and east three-quarters of this area. But every trip out to those destinations begs the question: Is the place where I am going really any better than the places I am already driving past right now in the western Ouachita Mountains of southeast Oklahoma and southwest Arkansas? And if not: Why haven't I stopped yet and gotten out of the car?

The wiki concentrates on the nearer western half of the Ouachita Mountains, which can be reached by car from Dallas in as little as 3-4 hours. And there is a lot to do once you get there.

  • 3. Illinois River in northeast Oklahoma at the western edge of the Ouachita Mountains. This river provides several days of canoeing for up to 65 miles, or about four (?) days on the river. This is a beautiful, generally tranquil river with year-round water flow and ample opportunities to purchase food and other supplies along the way. This and other trips to the area can incorporate rock climbing at Chandler Park in Tulsa. (4 hr 20 min N of McKinney)
  • 4. Eagle Rock Loop in the Beech Creek Scenic Area. This network of interconnecting trails can fill several days with some of the prettiest backpacking in Arkansas, and also offers opportunities to swim in the Little Missouri River and to rock climb. East-west travel along streambeds is generally easy, while north-south travel can be grueling as trails ascend and descend several mountain ridges. It is easy to arrange a route that ends at or near the point of beginning, eliminating the need to shuttle cars. A couple days of canoeing can also be incorporated at more than one location only a short car drive away. This itinerary is close to summer camp at Camp Pioneer and at Hale Scout Camp.
  • 5. West Quarter of the Ouachita Trail. The advantage to hiking the west quarter of the Ouachita Trail, as opposed to other parts of the trail, is the ability to end the trip by backpacking into Hale Scout Camp on Friday evening. This facilitates a D-I-Y high adventure trip simultaneously with regular summer camp. In this case, the car shuttle could be easily handled by leaders who spend the week at summer camp with the younger scouts, and a resupply drop halfway through the week would be even easier. This trail generally follows the crest of the mountains, so by summer it can be up to a dozen miles between year-round water sources. The second half of this trail section is very rocky. This itinerary is also only a short drive from summer camp at Camp Pioneer, but in that case a less rocky portion of trail a little further east could just as easily be selected instead. This is a fairly straight point to point trail requiring a shuttle for any lengthy trip.
  • 6. Winding Stair Equestrian Trail System. This is a looping trail network that facilitates a round trip that ends at it point of beginning. This is 77 miles of interconnected multi-use trails (foot, bike, horse) around Cedar Lake. This trail system connects to the Ouachita Trail via the Horsethief Springs Trail.
  • 7. Womble Trail - top notch mountain biking
  • Ouachita River, C Ark - canoeing (shorter)
  • 8. Ozark Trail
  • 9. Buffalo Trail
  • 10. Buffalo River - canoeing
  • 11. Spring River, S Mo - canoeing
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4 Piney Woods of Southeast Texas

The piney woods of southeast Texas are pleasant during only the cooler half of the year during from November to April. During the rest of the year the combination of heat and humidity can make you wish you had traveled in a different direction from Dallas-Fort Worth.

  • 12. Sam Houston National Forest (Stubblefield Unit) - Nov-Apr / backpacking
  • 13. Sam Houston National Forest (Double Lake Unit) - Nov-Apr / backpacking
  • 14. Davy Crockett National Forest & Neches River - Nov-Apr/backpacking and canoeing
  • 15. Caddo Lake - canoeing
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5 Upper Red River Valley

There are really only two places between Dallas-Fort Worth and Amarillo to stop and enjoy the outdoors for any extended length of time.

  • 16. Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. For a combination of backpacking and rock climbing, this destination is unmatched. The refuge features several excellent and popular locations for top-rope climbing and rapelling. Many of the trails are rugged and will require hiking boots with good ankle support. It is possible to simply car camp at a nicely wooded campground with cement picnic tables as a base camp, with significant daily hikes still required in order to reach each day's climbing destination. It is also possible to backpack out to the wilderness camping area for a couple of nights only, carrying your gear for camping, and also your gear for climbing if you climb those days.
  • 17. Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway. Caprock Canyons State Park is located in the Red River Valley, and the rocks are indeed red. The environment here is fragile, and this will only make sense for smaller crews. The state park will support three days and two nights of backpacking along backcountry trails. The trailway is a flat and straight rails-to-trails biking trail 64.5 miles in length, again supporting about three days and two nights of biking, for a total of five days and four nights. Much of the trailway passes through isolated terrain without cell phone reception. The trailway also passes through a cave with bats (the same kind that live in downtown Austin). Camping along the side of the trailway is permitted in small groups. Rock climbing is available on the way back to Dallas-Fort Worth at Copper Breaks State Park.
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6 Central Texas Hill Country

There are a lot of interesting places to visit in the Hill Country of Central Texas. The difficulty in planning an extended trip to this area is that there are very few places to spend more than one or two nights. Most high adventure trips to this area will thus involve a series of short activities separated by short drives in the car.

  • 18. Bastrop Lost Pines and/or Colorado River The pine forests of Bastrop County (just east of Austin) are much less humid than East Texas and just as pretty. There are primitive campsites. But there is not enough trail to occupy more than about three says and two nights. If river flow is sufficient, the Colorado River below Towne Lake can be canoed from Austin down to ???
  • 20. Central Texas Hill Country. This is a smorgasboard buffet of places to stop and see for half a day up to two nights, separated by drives of not more than couple hours each. Options include: camping and getting wet in the river at Pedernales Falls State Park; camping and rock climbing at Enchanted Rock State Park; backpacking at Inks Lake State Park or Lost Maples State Park; tubing down the Guadalupe River; visits to one of several caves that are open to the public, to the state capitol in Austin, and to the Alamo in San Antonio; and portions from either of the two other itineraries listed above.
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7 West Texas and Southeast New Mexico

There are five destinations in West Texas and Southeast New Mexico that will not occupy you for more than a day each, but that can be added to your itinerary to significantly improve the overall trip. There are also other destinations in the area that can be added into the mix, but these are the four that are not duplicated by what you can also get back at home in Dallas-Fort Worth, and it seems a real shame to go all the way out there and not at least think about which of these might be included: (1) a night time visit to McDonald Observatory; (2) staying overnight at Balmorrhea State Park to swim and snorkel in Solomon Springs with soft shell turtles; (3) a hike of a couple hours in Carlsbad Cavern and perhaps also scheduling a half day visit to a smaller cave or watching bats emerge at sundown; (4) a sundown to sunrise overnight stay hiking barefoot in the soft sand out to a primitive campsite at White Sands National Monument; and (5) visits to unique museums in Albequerque. Make your reservations for these outdoor stops six months in advance.

The five principal high adventure destinations in the region are:

  • 21. Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch DIY High Adventure Trip This is a premier council camp with over 50 miles of rustic foot and horse trails (not roads) on 9,000 rugged acres. During summer camp season (and perhaps also during Christmas break), trekking here would necessarily be through the council's staffed high adventure offerings. At other times of the year, a troop could hike many of the same trails on its own. The trip home combines well with the McDonald Observatory and Balmorrhea State Park.
  • 23. Guadalupe Peak High Adventure Trip Guadalupe Peak, the tallest mountain in Texas, is a steep up and back trip with an average 1/3 grade. This can be hiked up and back down in a single day, or backpacked up to the overnight campsite located three quarters of the way up the mountain. This hike feels similar to the trail at Philmont from base camp to the Tooth of Time. The equally rugged Pine Bowl trail system is accessible from three trailheads. You can hike up one day, spend the next on a day hike within the wooded pine bowl, and then hike down after two nights. Both ascents require that you pack all water all the way from the trailhead. If you make both ascents, you will need to spend the night in between down at ground level, perhaps at the trailhead campsite, or perhaps at nearby BSA Dowling Aquatic Base. The first half of the McKittrick Canyon trail is wooded, follows a stream with a gentle grade, and makes an easy half-day hike in and back out. This is located just across the state line from Carlsbad Cavern, and also combines well with White Sands, McDonald Observatory, and Balmorrhea State Park.
  • 24. Sacramento Mountains High Adventure Trip near Cloudcroft in the Lincoln National Forest. Excellent backpacking in a mountainous Pine Forest. BSA camps Wehinapay and Dale Resler are both located in this national forest [less than 30 miles apart]. Located close to White Sands and Albequerque, and also combines well with Carlsbad Cavern, McDonald Observatory, and Balmorrhea State Park.
  • 25. White Mountains High Adventure Trip near Ruidoso. Arguably the most scenic backpacking in New Mexico. Located close to White Sands and Albequerque, and also combines well with Carlsbad Cavern, McDonald Observatory, and Balmorrhea State Park.
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8 Northeast New Mexico

This area is right at the limit of BSA's ten hour driving rule from Dallas.

  • 27. Valle Vidal
  • Clayton Camp Trail
  • Beatty's Lake Trail
  • 28. Wheeler Peak and Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Area
  • Wheeler Peak Trail
  • 29. Latir Peak Wilderness Area
  • Cabresto Lake Trail
  • 30. Pecos Wilderness Area. Pecos Trail System. Gorham and Tres Ritos Scout camps are only 46 miles apart by road through the Pecos Wilderness], and there reportedly used to be a high adventure trek from one camp to the other that would hit both East Pecos Baldy and Jicarita Peak, and Gorham's staffed high adventure trip does still summit Jicarita Peak.
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9 Staffed High Adventure Programs

The links on this part of the page go straight to the council webpages relating to each of these high adventure camps.

Also see the BSA webpage with a nationwide listing of Council Operated High Adventure Bases.

Non-Summer Staffed High Adventure Activities

In addition to a traditional week long high adventure trip, other staffed events aimed at older Scouts include:

  • Longhorn Council has typically put on a winter Mountain Man Rendezvous in alternate years.
  • Circle Ten Council's Venturing Officer's Association (VOA) often sponsors a Rendezvous in the spring.
  • Periodic council-sponsored shooting sports events.

Staffed High Adventure Programs within 3 Hours of DFW

  • Water Oddyssey: Afternoons spent on Possum Kingdom Lake with canoes, kayaks, sailboards, sailboats, and catamarans. Mornings free for merit badges and other activities offered by the camp.
  • Climbing tower, ATV's, wood-turning on a lathe, and horseback trail rides.
  • Chisolm Trail Adventure: Philmont-format with pontoon boat travel each day at lunch time from one activity outpost to another, including choices from: US cavalry, vikings, drone racing, ATV's, covert op's, Texas Rangers, sporting clays, climbing, boats, sailing base, blob, wakeboarding, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboards, kayaking, and tubing.
  • Sea Kayak and Caving Adventure: Sea kayaking, fishing, and camping trip on Stillhouse Hollow Lake and the Lampasas River with a caving trip at the end.
  • Outpost: Afternoons and evenings spent climbing, shooting sports, kayaking, metalworking, tomahawk throwing, and COPE. Mornings available for other activities and merit badges offered at summer camp. Outpost participants camp as a group, not with their troops.

Staffed High Adventure Programs between 3-10 Hours from DFW

  • Hale Scout Reservation (3 hrs NE of McKinney). Camping in the Ouachita Mountains of East Oklahoma. Waterfront includes sailing on its own lake. Pairs well with high adventure for older Scouts; a spur trail connects the camp to the Ouahita Trail, allowing high adventure backpacking treks (D-I-Y or staffed) that end by hiking into camp on Friday afternoon. Indian Nations Council (Tulsa, OK).
  • Winding Stairs Mountain Trail: 19 station ropes course, 50' climbing tower, downhill skiing, and C.O.P.E. Whitewater day trip available to those who take or have earned the whitewater merit badge.
  • Outback Hiking Adventure: Over 50 miles of rustic mountain trails, ranging from easy to very difficult. Multiple itineraries to match difficulty to the abilities of the crew.
  • Cavalry Adventure Camp: Located on Forbidden Mountain. Live as cavalry soldiers did in the 1800's with chuck wagon meals, etc.
  • Mountain Man: Live as fur trapping mountain men with Dutch oven cooking, tomahawk and knife throwing, black powder shooting, atlatl spear throwing, archery, tanning deer hides, flint knapping, making soap and rope from plants, and Mountain Man swimming.
  • Mountain Man: Half day program including dutch oven cooking, tomahawk and knife throwing, black powder rifle, archery, flint and steel fire building, knife making, blacksmith forging, and sweat lodge.
  • COPE: Half day program.
  • ATV Adventure.
  • Hay Canyon Outpost: Flexible schedule including backpacking, mountain biking, and Mountain Man activities.
  • Older Scout Program includes white water rafting and an overnight backpack trip to summit Jicarita Peak.
  • Frank Rand High Adventure Program: Day hike at the Valle Caldera National Preserve • Mountain biking in the Santa Fe National Forest • Morning at the camp's climbing tower, then afternoon climbing at Eagle Crag • Whitewater rafting on the Rio Grande, overnight camping near Taos • Hike to the top of Wheeler Peak, the highest summit in New Mexico.

Staffed High Adventure Programs More than 10 Hours from DFW

Here are links to staffed high adventure bases that might justify a trip of more than ten hours. No attempt is made to discuss these high adventure bases here. Any such discussion belongs on a site with nationwide participation rather than a regionally-focused site such as this wiki.

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