I offer education-focused and adventure-filled backpacking courses and trips. Since 2011 I have managed 228 trips with nearly 1,800 total clients.
To help me lead and instruct, I have assembled a world-class guide team. We are true backpacking experts, and specialize in modern gear and technique, long-distance thru-hiking, mountain high routes, and off-trail travel.
Our goal is to empower clients with skills and knowledge so that they can be self-sufficient in the wilderness, lead our group, and undertake future trips of their own. We also like to have fun, make new hiking friends, and expand our comfort zones.
We have trips for beginner, intermediate, and advanced backpackers. Then we sub-divide these groups by fitness level and technical ability so that they hike at about the same pace, want breaks at the same frequency and length, and are similarly comfortable on spicier terrain.
Our schedule and locations
Refer to the 2023 schedule for exact trip dates and availability.
Read descriptions of our locations and review travel logistics.
Our season starts in April just as spring arrives in Escalante canyons of southern Utah, encompassed by Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
In early-June we will run several beginner-level Fundamentals courses in Great Sand Dunes National Park, where we have access to both a desert and mountain classroom.
Our premier location is Gates of the Arctic National Park in the central Brooks Range of Alaska. These trips are scheduled in late-June and early-July, in a narrow window between spring breakup and summertime mosquitoes.
Our most popular and arguably most magnificent location is the High Sierra in California. Throughout July and early-August we will be running trips in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, Inyo National Forest, and Stanislaus National Forest.
In September we witness the transition from summer to fall in Olympic National Park, which is more smoke- and wildfire-resistant than other areas in the Mountain West.
Finally, our season ends with peak fall colors in West Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains.
All of my trips are learning-intensive, regardless of the length or location, or the group’s experience level or fitness. Learning occurs at two times:
- Beforehand, through the Planning Curriculum; and
- In the field, following our Field Curriculum.
All the guides have extensive first-hand backpacking experience — they were backpackers before they became guides. Nearly half have completed the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and/or Continental Divide Trails, and nearly all of them have completed at least one high route. In addition, Scott and Katie have hiked the length of the Grand Canyon; Joe has set speed records on the Pacific Crest Trail, Long Trail, Arizona Trail, and John Muir Trail; and Brian Robinson is one of fifteen people to have finished the Barkley Marathons.
When making recent hires, I have tried to professionalize and diversify our team, and add teaching expertise to it. Jeff Wohl and Scott have spent over 200 weeks in the field as NOLS instructors. Hazel Platt is a former wilderness ranger in West Virginia and an open transgender man. Melodie Kao has a PhD in Astrophysics, and mentors women and people of color in STEM. Rebeccaa Bastian, Dahn Pratt, and Christy Rosander are current or retired K-12 educators. And Steve McLaughlin is an emergency medicine physician and Chief Medical Officer for the University of New Mexico Hospital.
Read our full bios.
We have three trip types, each designed for a particular level of backpacking experience:
- Fundamentals (3 days), for beginners;
- Adventure (5 or 7 days), for intermediates; and,
- Expedition (5, 7, and 11 days), for advanced backpackers.
Fitness levels and technical ability
Each trip type is offered in five fitness levels, since backpacking experience and physical fitness are not necessarily correlated. By pairing like-abled applicants together, we maximize camaraderie and minimize frustration (at the front and the back.
We also divide groups by technical ability, since backpackers vary in their comfort when traveling on slickrock, granite slabs, talus, scree, and Class 3, 4, and 5 terrain.
The cost of our trips ranges from $745 to $4175, depending on the duration, location, and technical element. Discounts are available to alumni and groups.
View the trip prices.
If you have questions about the trips, please contact me.
Why take a trip with us?
Our clients vary in their motivations, but generally it’s a mix of these factors:
1. Learn to backpack, or backpack better
You can learn a lot by reading blogs and books, watching YouTube, and going on trips of your own. But you will learn more and more efficiently with us.
We don’t offer “tours.” Instead, our program is designed for you to become and to feel more self-reliant in the wilderness. The learning begins months before we meet at the trailhead, with a mandatory 9-week online course during which you’ll research likely conditions, select gear, plan your meals, and create topographic maps.
Once in the field, we help beginner backpackers develop core skills, like how to read a map, find great campsites, and protect food overnight. With more experienced groups, we focus on more advanced skills like how to navigate off-trail, cross swift creeks, and travel on spring snow.
2. Adventure in world-class locations
Our venues were intentionally selected — they are among my all-time favorite spots. They tend to be wild and dramatic, and occasionally humbling.
On longer itineraries, we’re more able to access remote and rarely visited areas, often by getting off-trail. Our routes are normally more creative and challenging than you would feel comfortable doing on your own.
3. Backpack with experts
Within the backpacking community, our expert guides are considered all-stars, if not legends. Don’t let our resumes worry you, however. We’re known to be supportive, patient, approachable, and safety-minded. We love to teach and help our clients develop. And we’re reasonably normal people — most of us have families, fur children, careers, and other hobbies.
4. Save money
Learning to backpack through trial-and-error can be expensive and deflating. Invest in your backpacking future by letting us help you avoid regrettable gear purchases and by learning a comprehensive planning framework so that you can maximize the potential of every trip. Reduce your expenses further by borrowing our free demo gear and by taking advantage of discounts with preferred vendors.
5. Save time
Planning a backpacking trip is time-consuming, especially if it’s a new or complicated location — and that can be a deterrent to getting out. We mostly relieve you of this task, which is ideal for those who have more money than time. We select the location, set the dates, plan the route, share a gear list, create the maps, obtain the permits, and make your breakfasts and dinners.
6. Like-abled and like-minded groups
Whereas most commercial outdoor organizations accept the first eight or ten paying customers, we will painstakingly match you with other applicants who have similar physical abilities, outdoor experiences, and even personal interests and life stories.
Groups that hike at a similar pace and for a similar distance each day have more fun and are more likely to re-group in later years for a trip independent of us. They’re also easier to manage: no group member is frustrated by being way out front or way in the back; and our groups rarely must be split up.
7. Personalized service
This program has expanded considerably in recent years, but it’s remained a small and intimate outfit. I still lead about 20 percent of the trips, and I’m on-site for nearly all of the others. If you email or call me, I’ll personally respond. My name is inextricably linked to this service, and I embrace the responsibility of getting every single detail right.
What do clients say about their experience with us. Read a comprehensive list of reviews, videos, and testimonials, or get a sampling below.
“Wonderful instruction, wonderful guides, and wonderful people. I came on the trip having never slept alone in a tent before and I ended it cowboy camping on my own mesa without a care in the world.” — Jeni P.
“I came into this trip looking for an adventure and thinking there was nothing more I needed to learn about backpacking. Boy was I wrong. I learned so much about gear and skills, and I’m a much more confident and knowledgeable backpacker now.” — Greg J
“Unlike most guided trips where you are just along to sight-see, this program gives you the academic foundation, thought processes, and practical experience to prepare you to plan and undertake your own back country adventures.” — Michael D
“My trip was made even better than expected by the people in my group and my guides. Whether it was serendipitous or some crazy Skurka algorithm, our group got along fantastically. I would backpack anywhere with them.” — Stephanie C
The trip exceeded my expectations! The people were great, the scenery was beyond compare, and I felt I was in really good hands with my guides. Compared to what you get elsewhere, the level of instruction and preparation far exceeds anything else I have seen. I look forward to going on more trips with Andrew and his team! -Michele T.
It was an incredible trip led by an all-star guide team. I learned a lot about off-route travel and developed confidence and skills to start exploring high routes on my own. The route itself was out of this world, and the entire experience is a bucket-list item. -Victoria L.
The highest praise I can give Andrew’s trips is that I would not hesitate for a moment in spending my hard earned dollars and using my limited vacation time to take another trip with him! –Glenn S.
“The Andrew Skurka Adventures team are some of the most accomplished and impressive backpackers in the world. The strange thing is that they are also some of the most fun and kind people I have ever met. They will take a personal interest in your journey and goals, and work hard to prepare and inspire you to meet them. The trips are hard, but you will learn a ton, meet some awesome people, and have some shockingly good meals in epic locations. I am a significantly more confident and prepared backpacker thanks to this program and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is new to backpacking, wants to expand on existing skills, or just wants to spend a week doing something awesome.” -Sam
“The Andrew Skurka Adventures guided trips bring together a wonderful combination of rigorous planning, beautiful locations, education for all levels, experienced and passionate guides, and just plain fun. Unlike a tour where you are just along to sight-see, this program gives you the academic foundation, thought processes, and practical experience to prepare you to plan and undertake your own back country adventures. The guides were great at understanding each participant’s goals and creating an environment where we had the confidence to leave our comfort zones and try new skills and methods. By the second day, our group of relatively inexperienced backpackers was working together as a team to navigate and route find across the desert. You can watch YouTube videos for another year or you can take a 5-day Adventure trip and learn what really works.” -Michael D.
“If you’re serious about wanting to improve your backpacking skills, there is no better option than Skurka Adventures. Andrew has put together a team of some of the most knowledgeable and experienced backpacking experts in the world. And unlike other guiding groups, the entire experience, from the start of the Planning Curriculum to your last day on trail, is devoted to making you self-sufficient in the backcountry. You’re all but guaranteed to come out of your trip as the backpacker you want to be.” -Anonymous
“I can’t say enough about how valuable this trip was for me. I consider myself a very competent hiker, and this experience filled in gaps in my knowledge that I didn’t even know existed. I happily walked away a stronger, more confident hiker and I couldn’t have asked for a better educational setting. On another note – I don’t know what secret formula Andrew and his team are using to assemble the groups, but I was amazed at how quickly we all formed genuine bonds together. I wasn’t sure what to expect walking into 7 days in the backcountry with a group of strangers, but I can honestly say I made lasting connections on this trip that I will value for a long time.” -Joel C.
To operate commercially, Andrew Skurka Adventures LLC obtains authorization from land agencies like the National Park Service, US Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management. View authorizations for the current season.