Youth Programs

Connecting Youth to Nature

Big City Mountaineers empowers young people with the transformative power of nature. We aim to cultivate compassion in youth towards themselves, their communities, and the world. Our focus is to remove barriers that limit access to the outdoors for youth from disinvested communities.

Through free, fully equipped, and professionally guided outdoor trips, we offer youth aged 12 to 18 the chance to connect with nature and enhance their skills, community involvement, and resilience.

How BCM Programs Work

Building Confidence Step by Step

Over the past three decades, we have refined our programs to cater to the needs of youth participants. Our structured approach gradually introduces young people to nature by first familiarizing them with the frontcountry through day hikes and overnight camping trips. Then, we culminate their BCM experience with our flagship weeklong expedition in the backcountry, consisting of backpacking or canoeing trips.

Through this graduated model of smooth transitions, we ensure a comprehensive exposure to the outdoors that fosters self-esteem, self-efficacy, and increased independence.

Step 1

Day Trip

Step 2

Frontcountry Overnight

Step 3

Weeklong Backcountry Expedition

What’s Next?

BCM alumni can continue to grow and help the next group of kids share in their experiences.

Journey to Empowerment

Creating a Wide Array of Deeper Connections for Our Participants


  • Belief in themselves
  • Ability to address challenges
  • Outdoor skills
  • Self-esteem


  • Empathy
  • Sense of belonging
  • Outdoor activities to share with their friends and family


  • Environmental responsibility
  • Technology’s impact on relationships and nature
  • Finding their place in nature


  • Manage anxiety better
  • Deepen nature and community bonds
  • Enhance well-being and social skills

Participants in Our Programs Experienced

Self-Esteem Scores Increased

Self-Efficacy Scores Increased

Empathy Scores Increased

Setting Out Safely

Risk Philosophy Statement

Big City Mountaineers acknowledges that risk is a part of the natural environments that are central to the transformative powers of our programs. The risks include physical and emotional uncertainties, which play an important role in the transformation many of our programs achieve for participants, but are also inherent in the activities we facilitate.

Rather than attempting to create programs that are free of risk, we actively manage risk through established policies, guidelines, and field practices. For instance: choosing suitable course areas for our programs; intentionally hiring staff with the relevant skills, training, and lived experiences to effectively lead and support students throughout the duration of a program; and engaging in activities that support our mission but minimize, to the extent possible, the risk of physical injury and emotional distress. We are committed to openly reporting accidents, incidents, and near-misses when they do occur and learning from them as an organization.

Positive risk taking such as leaving one’s family for the first time, crossing a fast-flowing stream as a group, or sharing journal entries with the group are key components of our programs that aid in students’ social-emotional growth. By both embracing the challenges and uncertainties of the natural world and balancing them with appropriate planning, Big City Mountaineers guides young people through opportunities to challenge their comfort zones outdoors in alignment with our mission, vision, and values.

Essential Eligibility Criteria

BCM works closely with our youth agency partners to support participants’ individual needs and learning styles while in the field. We also acknowledge that there may be occasions when an interested individual’s abilities, medical or mental health history, or required support exceeds what BCM and the trip leader(s) can provide.

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