The secret is out: ROCS, TCT and STEM Treks at Philmont are a hit

There’s still time for your Scouts or Venturers to experience Philmont magic this summer, and they don’t even need a crew to do so.

Three of Philmont’s individual programs — Roving Outdoor Conservation School (ROCS), Trail Crew Trek (TCT) and STEM Treks — give young men and women a once-in-a-lifetime experience at one of the greatest places on earth.

ROCS is a three-week program that offers a hands-on environmental science experience in the coolest outdoor laboratory ever. TCT is a 14-day educational program focused on conservation and leadership development. STEM Trek is a 12-day hands-on look at the science, technology, engineering and math behind Philmont’s past, present and future.

These three treks have a few things in common. First, they’re all pretty awesome. If I was younger, I’d be there faster than you can say “I wanna go back to Philmont.”

And second, none of these treks requires a crew. Instead, Scouts and Venturers in these programs show up solo and make new, lifelong friends from across the country.

Sarah Burgess, who leads Philmont’s Environmental Education programs, has the details on each.

But first, she wants potential applicants to take note of one important fact: Scholarship assistance is available to participate in these programs.

“They are there for the asking,” she says of the scholarships. “The [Philmont Staff Association] scholarship committee awarded $9,000 to participants going on individual treks in 2015.”

ROCS-at-PhilmontRoving Outdoor Conservation School (ROCS)

Who: Male and female Scouts and Venturers, ages 16-20; crews will be separated by gender and led by two Philmont Conservation Staff members.

What/Why: The Roving Outdoor Conservation School (ROCS) is an experience for individuals to explore natural resource management and conservation practices through hands-on environmental science lessons and work projects.

The crew will have the opportunity to interact with resource manager professionals from private lands, federal and state agencies. They’ll learn about botany, aquatic insects, mammals, forestry, habitat management and more.

During the three weeks, ROCS crews will practice “Leave No Trace” techniques while experiencing unique vistas and camping locations rarely visited by other crews at Philmont.

Throughout the three weeks, a ROCS crew will complete many conservation projects in many places; one day might be spent clipping back young trees encroaching on a meadow and stopping to study insects living in that meadow.

Another day you may join two sessions of conservation work going on at a permanent work site, working alongside other crews and with trained staff members who will teach you exciting techniques for designing and maintaining trails.

When: As of this writing, all sessions have spots available.

  • Session 1: June 16 to July 7
  • Session 2: June 23 to July 14
  • Session 3: June 30 to July 21 (Female Session)
  • Session 4: July 7 to 28
  • Session 5: July 14 to Aug. 4

Fee: $535. Scholarship assistance is still available; see application form.

Where to learn more and apply: At the official site.

Quotes from former ROCS participants:

“ROCS was the single-most importance experience of my youth that fueled my interest in natural resource management. Now I am pursuing a higher degree in conservation biology and I still think of my ROCS trek daily when I am in lecture or in the field.”

“ROCS was an awesome time with awesome people. I got to learn a lot about subjects like ecology and wildlife biology and do alongside 5 new friends and 2 encouraging and knowledgeable instructors.”

“ROCS really does ROCK! I had so much fun on the trail, I never wanted to leave the backcountry or the company of my crew when it was over. I will definitely be back for staff!”

TCT-at-PhilmontTrail Crew Trek (TCT)

Who: Male and female Scouts and Venturers, ages 16-20; crews will be led by two Philmont Conservation staff members.

What/Why: Trail Crew Trek is a 14-day educational program focused on conservation and leadership development. TCT involves 7 days of building trail followed by a 7-day trek through Philmont with your crew and foremen.

Throughout both weeks there are incredible opportunities for hands-on experience in a variety of conservation project techniques and uses of tools as well as guest speakers involved in professional conservation and resource management fields.

TCT provides a strong foundation for participants to become involved in service through conservation with the William T. Hornaday Award. In addition, Trail Crew Trek participants will develop valuable conservation skills, hone their leadership abilities, and expand their backcountry knowledge.


  • Session 1: June 14 to 28
  • Session 2: July 26 to Aug. 9

Fee: $375. Scholarship assistance is still available; see application form.

Where to learn more and apply: At the official site.

Quotes from former TCT participants:

“Going on TCT helped me learn how to be a project manager for my troop at home. Now I can lead them in executing conservation work in our local parks.”

“TCT was very fun for me because I got to spend two weeks in the backcountry making new friends, learning lots and picking up some new skills using tools to maintain awesome mountain biking trail.”

STEM-Trek-at-PhilmontSTEM Treks

Who: Male and female Scouts and Venturers, ages 14 and older by the time the trek begins; crews will be led by two Philmont Ranger staff members.

What/Why: STEM Treks introduce Scouts and Venturers to a new side of Philmont Scout Ranch. They’ll see the science, technology, engineering and math behind Philmont’s most popular programs. Participants learn about Philmont’s inner workings, exploring both the modern and the historical technology used across the ranch.

They’ll see how 19th-century miners, loggers and homesteaders used physics and biology to live and thrive on the lands Philmont now calls home.

They’ll learn about chemistry, material science, geology and astronomy — all with accompanying hands-on experience.

And they’ll do it all with a coed group destined to become lifelong friends.


  • Session 1: July 10 to 22
  • Session 2: July 16 to 28
  • Session 3: July 22 to Aug. 3

Fee: $870. Scholarship assistance is still available; see application form.

Where to learn more and apply: At the official site.

Quotes from former STEM Trek participants:

“I was able to see the academic subjects I enjoy be applied to real world, backcountry, helpful scenarios.”

“My ranger inspired me to challenge assumptions I had about STEM topics.”

“I will be able to make my troop more excited about STEM and the NOVA award after doing this trek.”

Photos (from top): Sean McElligott, Josh Galemore, Carrie Anderson, Erin Irwin


  1. The TCT sounds like the same basic experience as Order of the Arrow Trail Crew (OATC). Other than being open to non-Arrowmen and costing slightly more ($375 versus $300 for OATC) are there other differences?

  2. Hi Keith, I am the summer director of the above mentioned treks, including the TCT experience. You are correct in the similarities you’ve pointed out between TCT and OATC. The main difference, besides the co-ed part, is that Trail Crew Trek focuses on how to motivate youth to take their project management skills back to their home areas to complete conservation projects, Eagle Scout projects, Venturing Ranger, Silver, etc. awards. Our foremen (1 male, 1 female Philmont Staff Environmental Educator) really focus on how to instill project site leadership skills in the youth, everyone takes a turn at Project Manager of the Day – running the site without the Staff intervening. The other part of this difference is that throughout the TCT experience, environmental science topics are relevant to each day on the trail. The crew will hear from natural resource professionals at their site project, such as USFS trail crew bosses and wildlife biologists, during the course of their work week and trek week. OATC definitely instills a lot of these same skills with their Arrowmen, but with a lot more emphasis on aspects of Order of the Arrow principles. I hope this answers your question.

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