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Out TSX Youth Challenges are multi-night educational treks across John Muir Wilderness, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and Grand Canyon National Park open to students age 13-17. Our shortest experience is three nights, and our longest experiences is up to a week, and includes the opportunity to summit of Mt. Whitney (14,505 feet), the highest peak in the contiguous US.

There are “summer camps” – and then there is camping in the summer, while backpacking across some of the most remote, least traveled regions of our nation’s back country. Making that journey as a junior high or high school student can be a life-changing experience.

Read our full press release.

Our youth experiences are organized on a local level and we encourage friends, classmates, teammates and community members to bond together to from a team. School, youth group and community team formation takes place during the winter and spring. A minimum of 4 students with one parent/guardian participant is required to form a team. Groups of up to 12 or 13 participants are encouraged.

Due to the remote and challenging nature of our experiences, a note of recommendation from a teacher, coach or youth leader highlighting the student’s character, physical fitness and academic commitment will be required of all youth for final acceptance. Contact us now for more information or to schedule a parent and student informational presentation with TSX.

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Click here to watch full video with sound on YouTube and experience the spirit of our trail. Video by student, Delanie Lowe (2013).

Overview and Registration Details

The Mt. Whitney Youth Challenge is an educational experience that takes motivated young people on an epic 75-mile trek through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park to Mt. Whitney. There are “summer camps” – and then there is camping in the summer, while backpacking across some of the most remote, least traveled regions of our nation’s back country. Making that journey as a junior high or high school student can be a life-changing experience.

Educational focus: Each Mt. Whitney Youth Challenge will use the remote wilderness of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks as the setting for a week of hands-on education focused on History and the Environment, Leave No Trace, and Life Skills. Academic goals of the program will be centered around environmental education, and include:

  • History of Sierra exploration and evolution of wilderness stewardship;
  • Implementation of best practices to minimize wilderness degradation, including Leave No Trace;
  • Appreciation of Sierra diversity, including ecology, geology, and flora over elevations traversed;
  • Stimulate critical thought on environmental, water and land management challenges facing the Sierra;
  • Instill confidence for future safe and self-reliant experiences in the outdoors with life skills including how to safely purify water, start a stove, prepare food, pitch a tent, start a fire and more.

Challenge dates: Treks run from late June through early August. Group size is limited to 15, including two guide instructors. All treks depart on a Friday and return on a Saturday. Contact us to inquire about group outings for your organization, or to join an existing trip as an individual.

Route: All Mt. Whitney Youth Challenge experiences will traverse a trans-Sierra route across some of the most remote, least traveled regions of the Sierra to the summit of Mt. Whitney. Outings will travel from west to east and include a crossing of the Great Western Divide. Over the course of a week, students will hike more than 75 miles, with roughly 20,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain, and 18,000 feet of elevation loss.

Eligibility: Students must be between the age of 12 and 17 to be eligible for participation. Due to the rugged nature of the hike, participants must be in excellent physical condition and weigh at least 75lbs. Adult family members or chaperons are encouraged, but not required, to accompany minors on the experience.

Logistics and transportation: Optional one way, or round trip transportation will be available from select California REI locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California and Central Valley. Once treks are finalized, information will be shared among participants to encourage and facilitate car-pooling when possible. The formal program will commence at 2:00pm on the day of departure in Clovis, CA, and end around 6:00pm on the final day in Clovis, CA.

History of experience: Since 1983, TSX founders have led close to 900 people across its trans-Sierra route to the summit of Mt. Whitney. The Mt. Whitney Youth Challenge is modeled after similar backpacking treks led by Clovis, CA educator and TSX Challenge co-founder Mike Murphy. “Over the last 25 years, I’ve led hundreds of kids across the Sierra to the summit of Mt. Whitney, including over 120 students exiting the 5th grade. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the face of students and adults alike who complete this trek and realize what they can now accomplish,” said Murphy, who has stood atop Whitney 45 times. Read our story.

Pricing and scholarship opportunity: Pricing is done on a group by group basis and depends on the number of participants, mix of students and adults, whether or not transportation is provided, or other special requirements. The 9 day, 8 night experience includes all food, major gear and group equipment. To help enable access to Mt. Whitney for more youth, funds are available to support a limited supply of scholarships to help offset costs for students from Title 1 Schools.


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Life on the Trail

  • Up with the sun, breakfast and briefing, break camp by 8am
  • Full day of hiking, instruction and observation, end hiking between 3-5pm
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack breaks as a group
  • Evening group discussions
  • Pack weight between 25-40 lbs, depending on body weight
  • Participants share responsibilities around camp


What You’ll Need

Joining a TSX experience is easy. Don’t own a backpack or tent? Not a problem. We provide backpacks, tents and sleeping pads for those who need them, at no additional charge. We also take care of all group items like pots, stoves, food, food storage, water filters, first aid and more. Just show up with your boots and personal items, ready to hike!

Download Our Official Gear Checklist!
Enter your email to stay connected to TSX and download your gear checklist now:

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