Philmont Alternatives

Our troop leaders are beginning to plan their calendar for the spring and summer, and have asked me for some ideas for summer camp that offer a "high adventure" experience for the older guys without excluding the younger scouts. I've been intrigued by what I've heard about the Spanish Peaks Scout Camp in Colorado. Two questions:

  1. Anybody here gone to Spanish Peaks and care to share your experiences?
  2. Anyone like to suggest other camps that meet these criteria that worked well for them?


ASM, T-252
Kilgore, TX

One place I haven't seen mentioned, which your Buffalo River mention made me think of, is Camp Orr in Arkansas. Not exactly a Philmont alternative, but they do have backpacking, canoe, or combo 4-5 day summer camp treks for older scouts, while younger scouts can stay in camp and do a more traditional summer camp. (Of course that requires a little more adult support). It's a great camp, beautiful countryside, only drawback is the humidity (which really shouldn't bother Texans too much).

Andre Houser
SM, Troop 109
DeSoto, TX

Since you were looking for alternatives for your younger guys, a local troop did this a few years ago by sending their older boys to Camp Packard and the younger guys to St. Elizabeth. These camps are about an hour apart in Colorado. West of Pueblo along the Arkansas river.

Garry Black
Troop 718

Our Troop has gone to Buffalo Trails Scout Ranch
( a couple of times, and our older guys did their "Outback" backpacking program. It looks like Philmont meets HH as far as terrain goes - steep hills, little shade, etc. - but everyone that has done the Outback has had good things to say, and the summer camp there is first rate.

Shane Hoffman
Advisor - Crew 445 -

The Great Alaska Council this spring kicked off its Capital Campaign to build the Denali High Adventure Scout Base (DHASB). It will be a traditional Scout Camp with what promises to be a true High Adventure Base.

The camp will be located about 100 miles north of Anchorage in the vicinity of Talkeetna. The Camp is bordered on the east and west by the Susitna and Chulitna Rivers, to the north by Denali State Park and Denali National Park.

The first season is slated to be 2011. Scouting Magazine is coming up next week to do a feature story and Scouting Digest plans to do a piece next year.

High Adventure Activities will include whitewater, backpacking, gold mining, ice climbing, glacier trips, horseback riding, fishing, COPE, what may be among the first Scout tree top zip/tram line, among cool (no pun intended) other things.

The council is reworking its website, but you can view the camp master plan at Click on the DHASB tab to view the master plan.

It will be a true first class, top tier kind of High Adventure and Camping program.

When you suggest the word "Alaska" to the average youth it brings to mind adventure. This is the kind of "extra crispy" type Scouting that 20,000 scouts who end up on the Philmont waiting list every year want.

The council is not yet accepting reservations but you can check back to the website from time to time to see what is happening. Look for pictures later this fall.


Your link for Keith to Sid Richardson is a good idea. My Troop did the Chisholm Trail adventure a few years ago. It was different than anything we had done in recent memory. The boys had a ball. We even took one of their activities (Covert Ops) and re-packaged it as a Troop cabin campout for a Jan / Feb timeframe. A big hit with all our boys. We schedule it every two years now.

Craig Winney

Keith, this may be a little far-fetched, but our troop (located in Birmingham, Alabama) has twice traveled to Camp Parsons on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington for summer camp. On our second trip (last summer) we had the older boys spend five nights on a high adventure trip in the Olympic Mountains. We have trouble getting older boys to go to summer camp because they generally have all the merit badges they need and consider the camp activities to be geared towards the younger Scouts, but a high adventure element gets them excited about the summer experience.

High adventure at Camp Parsons is really high adventure--several notches above Philmont in a number of respects. They hiked through fifty miles in six days (not sure about the elevation gain, but it was considerable), slept under the stars most nights and carried all their food for the entire trip. Water consisted of melted snow. Parsons sends you out with one ranger and requires that at least one adult from the troop go as well. The trip is very demanding physically, with almost all of the hiking being across wilderness areas. Rock and scree fields were numerous and the boys admitted to varying levels of fear and trepidation as their negotiated the terrain but all had an incredible sense of accomplishment in making it through. A number of boys who took that trip went with me to Philmont this summer and enjoyed a very high level of confidence knowing what they accomplished last summer.

We had ten boys on the trip. During the trip, the boys learned about the topography and wildlife of the region, and were tested on it after they got back. Those who showed the requisite outdoors skills and who passed the written test were admitted into the Order of the Silver Marmot, an honor society at Parsons that predates the Order of the Arrow. Seeing three of our Scouts inducted into the Order at the closing campfire was really cool.

Parsons is a top notch camp, with the only disadvantage being the traveling distance and time, but aside from travel costs, the costs of the camp compare favorably to other Scout camps. While the setting of the camp on the Hood Canal on the Olympic Peninsula is stunning (complete with submarines from the nearby base surfacing in the canal from time to time), what really distinguishes the camp is an incredibly well-trained, hard-working and enthusiastic staff.

If you interested in pursuing this, please drop me a line and I'll be glad to share more details.

George Taylor, ASM
Troop 28
Birmingham, Alabama
Philmont '07

Keith-the Denver Area Council has a backpacking program called Alpine Adventure. Seven days, six nights backpacking in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Base camp is Camp Tahosa, near Ward, Colorado. The kicker is that it is MUCH cheaper than Philmont, but you don't get all the program features. You do get to rock climb and glissade. You have an experienced guide assigned to you the whole time you are on the trail. More information (including a slide show) can be found at:

The nice thing about Camp Tahosa is that your younger guys (under age 13) can do a traditional summer camp there (called Eaglepoint), while your older guys do an Alpine Adventure trek. Last I heard, the cost was around $200 per week.

Of course, I can't miss an opportunity to promote our OKPIK winter camping program at Camp Tahosa, since my whole family are instructors. It is Kanik, only with certain snow and super cheap at like $60 for the weekend. The demand for this program is VERY high and the 10 weekends (@ 24 participants per weekend) always sell out. So if you are at all interested in a weekend roadtrip with your troop or crew, contact the Council NOW! The program starts at 6 PM on a Friday night and runs through lunchtime on Sunday. More information can be found at:

Good luck! YIS. Mike Conkey ('76, '02, '04 and '07).

PS-one of the best things about Camp Tahosa is that it is right next to one of the last strongholds of ultra-hippiedom left in the US (heck, maybe the world) in Ward, Colorado. I love to drive the kids through there and have them look at the dogs wandering the streets, homes heated by fireplaces fueled by cutup telephone poles, trucks & cars that haven't moved in 20 years, windows covered in cardboard, a firehouse that is propped up by come-alongs and timbers, and make my point that a college education can prevent you from having to live there, or in a place just like it. Of course, in reality, most of the town population probably has more degrees that I do, but if it helps push the kids towards college even a little bit, I'm game....


a Scoutmaster in my troop was bummed out when his 13 year old son could not come with us this Summer to Philmont. Well, I wonder if HE was bummed out because he could not go .... soooo He found out about Sid Richardson's pontoon boat 'High Adventure ' program Here is a link for the general summer camp that ALL scouts can do

Then here is a link to the 'High Adventure' program

you pack like you are going to Philmont but instead of hiking you use pontoon boats to get from camp to camp. It sounded very fun UNTIL you mention that record-breaking rain that Texas had when our guys went --- they stayed 3 days and then left when flooding was threatening.

BTW, I did meet a fella named Dwight Jekel at Woodbadge last Fall. He is from the Longhorn council and if he is a measure of the volunteers in that council then I want to take Scouts there when it doesn't rain 6 inches every day.
Sam Taylor ASM T89, Austin Texas

We took a crew to Packard in Buena Vista, CO. They had backpacking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking programs to choose from for the week. Our crew had a great time and would recommend this camp. The backpacking is a good precursor for a Philmont trek. Two day trek over a 10,000'+ mountain.

Garry Black
Troop 718
Dallas, TX

At my urging, my troop instituted a three year rotation among three such camps in the Northeast. Knowing where you're going three years out makes it easy to make sure you're not going to get closed out when popular programs fill up. You're not going to the same place year after year, yet are familiar enough with each camp and its programs to get the most out of them. And, should any camp not live up to expectations, you've got a couple of years to find a new one to plug into the rotation.

We just returned from Sabattis Adventure Camp (Patriot's Path Council) in the Adirondacks. Next year is Blue Ridge Mountain (Blue Ridge Mountain Council) and the year after is Ten Mile River (Greater New York Councils). I know Calvin Grey has led a number of trips from down your way to Blue Ridge Mountain, which has about 8 different programs.

I recommend you go to your Council Service Center and get the publication "Passport to High Adventure", which lists council High Adventure offerings. It is unfortunately not up to date, but is a good start, as well as giving you a soup to nuts guide to setting up your own high adventure expedition. Also, check council websites in areas that look high adventurish.

We really like the convenience of transporting the entire troop, including the troop trailer, to summer camp, and have the high adventure guys split off from there for the week.

Hope this helps.

Bill Sheehan, ASM
Troop 55, Pitman, NJ

May also look at Camp Frank Rand in New Mexico. Their high adventure activity backpacks in the Pecos Wilderness, which is right next door to them. The Pecos is 40 or so miles South-South west of Philmont. We went several years ago (2002). The summer camp was very good. The high adventure had some problems that were not entirely the fault of the camp. Everything was on fire that year and we ended up having to go up by Walsenberg, Colorado to backpack. It seemed like they were not entirely prepared with a good backup plan for this, however this was about the third choice since the Weminuche was choice number 2 and it was also partly closed. Also, our guide was a Vegan. That went over really well with a very conservative crew. We were perfectly content to just not discuss politics, but with those folks, there isn't a single thing that humans do that they approve of. I think if it had not been for the guide we had, we would have had a very positive experience in spite of a very abnormally dry year.

However, I would think that if your guys have done Philmont, they may have somewhat of a let down with a program that doesn't have program. The adults may or may not object to a guide along the whole time. If your guys are experienced, you may be able to get by for less money to go backpacking on your own somewhat close to the summer camp you chose. Just a couple of things to consider.

Allen Jones
SM Troop 168
CA Crew 2168
Oklahoma City

Give Camp Daniel Boone, Canton, NC a look at They have a little bit of everything including cool weather and minimal bugs!

Bill Johnson
ASM Troop 207
Gaithersburg, MD

See also:

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