Backcountry Program Features

Each itinerary is carefully developed to give your crew the maximum enjoyment of hiking and camping in the high mountains of the Sangre de Cristos. Itineraries also include certain staffed camps where you will pick up food and participate in program features. Although programs are not compulsory, they are recommended to get the most benefit from your Philmont experience.


The Ponil country in the northern section is rich in the prehistoric background of the American Indian. Your crew can help reconstruct Philmont history while participating in this fascinating program and learning about Indians who inhabited this area.

An educated archaeologist and staff explain and supervise the program in the North Ponil Canyon at Indian Writings camp. Activities may include assisting with excavations or preparing specimens and artifacts.

PLEASE NOTE: You can assist the archaeology program by being observant as you hike the trails. You may discover an artifact that will lead to further discoveries. Philmont’s antiquities rightfully belong to Philmont and are most meaningful when left where found. Others can then share the benefit of your discovery. Please report all finds to one of the staff archaeologists at Indian Writings, the Philmont Museum, or Camping Headquarters.

ATV Rider Course

At Zastrow an ATV Rider Course will be administered to participants in Itinerary 2 by Philmont’s All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute Certified Instructors. After completing the course, participants will take a trail ride on a specially designed ATV trail. The ATV program is supported by Polaris Industries.


At Beaubien and Clarks Fork, the focus is on the Old West with its songs and stories and true cowboy atmosphere. Ponil offers a nightly Old West Cantina Show.

Black Mountain

Experience life as it was soon after the Civil War at this rustic settelement. Shoot .58 caliber muzzle-loading rifles, learn to do blacksmithing and meet former Fort Union soldiers. Black Mountain is one of Philmont’s very popular living history theme camps.


The ring of hammer striking iron echoes through the mountains around, Black Mountain, Cyphers Mine, French Henry, Metcalf Station, and Rayado/Kit Carson camps. Here staff blacksmiths will acquaint you with a working forge, blower, leg vice and hardie, and an array of tongs used to grip red-hot iron. They will discuss and demonstrate techniques for firing the forge, working metal, and tempering the finished product.

Burro Packing

No animal is more closely associated with the colorful history of the Southwest than the burro. Burro packing methods are explained and demonstrated at Ponil and Miranda. Your tents and food may be packed on burros using a diamond hitch.

Burros are available for use on the trail in the northern portion of the ranch, starting or ending at Ponil and Miranda. Burro traps (holding pens for overnight stops) are located at Ponil, Pueblano, Miranda, Elkhorn, Flume Canyon, Head of Dean, and Baldy Skyline. Hay for feeding is provided at these camps. If your itinerary provides for packing burros, take advantage of this unique opportunity to pack them just as the miners once did.

Burro Racing

Thrills galore await you in catching, packing, and racing a burro in competition with other crews. At Harlan this activity provides a memorable experience.


Abreu and Ponil offer the opportunity for a thirst-quenching root beer in a Mexican or Western-style cantina. You can buy root beer for your whole crew or a cup for yourself.

Challenge Events

A series of activities that will test the teamwork, skill, and resourcefulness of your crew awaits you at Dan Beard, Head of Dean and Urraca. While the challenges can be met by every crew, the real contest is with yourself. Did you do your best? How would you do better next time?

Chase Ranch

The Chase Ranch is located along the Ponil Creek adjacent to Philmont Scout Ranch. It was founded by Manly and Teresa Chase in 1867 and has been operated through four generations of family members. Beginning in November 2013, Philmont Scout Ranch through a special use permit with the Chase Foundation, began operation of the Historic Chase Ranch.

A turnaround to begin and end treks is located near the Main House at the Chase Ranch. Tours will be offered of the 1871 house and surrounding grounds. Several itineraries will cross portions of the Chase Ranch and two low-impact camps have been designated in Chase Canyon.


Philmont offers opportunities for involvement, participation, and observation of conservation practices. Most conservation projects involve trail construction or repair, which is very important in controlling erosion.

Three hours of conservation work under the supervision of a Philmont Conservationist is expected of each camper to earn the Arrowhead Award. Ten hours of conservation work is a requirement for the 50-Miler Award. The 3 hours earned at Philmont can be applied—the other 7 may be acquired back home. Some crews elect to complete more hours during their trek. Some crews complete all 10 hours at Philmont.

Philmont has a number of conservationists on its staff, each located strategically throughout the backcountry. Logistics will identify the best location for your crew to do your 3-hour project under the supervision of one of the conservationists who will help you qualify for both the Arrowhead Award and the partial of the 50-Miler Award.

Should your itinerary not provide for an area with a conservation site, Logistics will identify an alternate project or a Camp Director at a staff camp can outline an alternative project.

Continental Tie and Lumber Company

The exciting legend of the loggers with the Continental Tie and Lumber Company will come to life through the staff at Pueblano and Crater Lake. They will share their skills of spartree “pole” climbing and the use of wood tools and instruments. Competition in exciting logging events such as log toss, cross-cut sawing, and log tong races will challenge your crew.

Crew Fires

Conducting your own campfire can be equally stimulating, whether you are camping at Visto Grande, Wild Horse, New Dean, or another trail camp. You and your friends will enjoy the camaraderie that radiates from the warmth of a Scouting campfire. (Fire restrictions may prevent building an actual fire.)

Cyphers Mine

At Cyphers Mine the story of gold will become memorable as an interpreter relates the life and adventures of miners of yesteryear at the nightly “STOMP”.

Demonstration Forest

Between Hunting Lodge and Clarks Fork, near Cito Reservoir, a Demonstration Forest has been developed with the support of the American Tree Farm Organization. Be sure your crew takes time to learn about the forests and various forest practices taking place at Philmont. A visiting Forester will be available to visit with crews.

Environmental Awareness

Become acquainted with some of the western birds, wildflowers, mammals, lizards, snakes, and insects in this natural outdoor wonderland. Discover what wildlife passed through camp by observing tracks and other signs—view how plant and animal species change as you climb higher into the mountains, and learn why these changes occur—walk past the timberline and observe the life that survives the rigors of this high-altitude environment.

Across the Ranch, Backcountry Staff will offer a program of environmental awareness. The program is called BEEP=Backcountry Environmental Education Program. It will help you know and understand Philmont’s flora, fauna, geology, and life zones; and how you can be a part of maintaining the natural order of things so others that follow may enjoy them too.

A Philmont Field Guide is available at the Tooth of Time Traders. It will enhance your environmental awareness during your trek.

Fly Tying and Fishing

The Rayado and Agua Fria streams in the south, as well as the Cimmaroncito Reservoir, offer excellent trout fishing. Though not large, these trout are wary and exciting to catch. Fly rods for catch and release fishing may be checked out at Hunting Lodge, Fish Camp, and Abreu.

If you don’t know how to remove the hook from your fish, a program counselor will demonstrate the correct methods.

At Fish Camp a program counselor with material and equipment will show you how to tie your own trout flies. The thrill of catching a trout on a fly you have tied is hard to beat. A tour of Waite Phillips’ fishing lodge, including a narrative of area history, is also offered. All fishermen are required to have a current New Mexico state fishing license.


Geocaching combines map reading and GPS use to find specific points where you can record your visit. Geocaching will take place at Zastrow and at a Low Impact Camp, Slate Hill Heck, located near Dean Cow. Instruction for the trail camp will be provided by your Ranger.

Also at Historic Zastrow your crew will learn the latest techniques of land navigation using map, compass and G.P.S. Discover how a knowledge of U.T.M. (Universal Transverse Mercator) and latitude/ longitude will improve your navigation skills on your trek. The evening program features a Dutch oven dessert and a rededication to the Values of Scouting Ceremony.


Philmont and private sector geologists have teamed up to provide an exciting and educational program of geology and mining technology at the sites where history comes alive – Cyphers Mine, Baldy Camp, and French Henry.

Gold Mining and Panning

Gold is still found in almost all streams on Philmont, which was once the scene of lucrative gold-mining operations. Mine shafts, sluice boxes, and placer mines dot the mountainsides and valleys. If your itinerary takes you to Cyphers Mine or French Henry you will tour a real gold mine. Not working now, the mines are carefully shored so you can tour the mine tunnel. Bring your jacket and flashlight for the tour. Learn about adventures that were experienced during the fascinating and colorful past as determined miners sought their fortunes in these historic mountains. When you find some “color,” ask one of the staff miners for some cellophane tape so you can take your discovery home to show others your success. Gold pans are available for you to use at Cyphers Mine, and French Henry.


At Crooked Creek, Rich Cabins and Abreu your crew will visit a working homestead. The staff will help you learn early day skills such as railsplitting, shingle making, primitive farming, log structure construction and care of farmyard animals. In keeping with the southwestern spirit of the program, you will be instructed in preparing a special Mexican meal at Abreu.

Horse Rides

Philmont owns and maintains a remuda of 300 western horses with strings located at Beaubien, Clarks Fork, and Ponil. All three camps offer exhilarating mountain horse rides at times noted on crew itinerary. Be prompt for your scheduled ride. Reservations are made at Logistics on a first-come, first-served basis upon arrival at Philmont. (Confirm times at Logistics.)Philmont wranglers are courteous but strict. They make certain everyone stays in line and maintains the pace to avoid endangering members of your crew. Even skilled riders cannot be permitted to ride at a different pace or away from the group. Please cooperate with the wranglers by following instructions for a safe and enjoyable ride. For your personal safety you will wear a helmet, which will be provided. Ponchos and maps should not be taken since they may frighten the horses. Wear long trousers on your horse ride to protect your legs. Persons weighing over 200 pounds will not be permitted to ride.

Jicarilla Apache Life

Apache Springs offers a unique program featuring the lifestyle of the Jicarilla Apache. You will see how the Jicarillas worked and played. A replica Jicarilla village has been erected for this program. Tepees are furnished with realistic fireplaces, back rests, robes, hides, and baskets for you to see.

3D and sporting arrows programs will also be offered. After that you can enjoy a “Jicarilla sauna” in a sweat lodge (subject to fire restrictions), followed by a dousing with cold water.

Low Impact Camping

Wildland ethics depend upon attitude and awareness rather than on rules and regulations. While at Dan Beard, Rich Cabins and other entry points into the Valle Vidal, you will have the opportunity to learn how to enjoy wildland with respect; to hike, camp, eat meals, and dispose of trash without leaving a scar or trace. You will also receive future “Leave No Trace” training at Whiteman Vega, Ring Place, Seally Canyon, and Zastrow. Your Wilderness Pledge Guia will also help you learn the techniques of Leave No Trace.

Metcalf Station

At Metcalf Station experience what it was like to build a railroad in the early 1900’s. The sounds of mauls driving spikes, the “tick tick” of the telegraph, combined with the smell of coal burning in the blacksmith’s forge will fill the air just like it did in 1907. Be ready for an exciting campfire to end the day at Philmont’s newest staffed camp.

Mountain Biking

Enjoy one of America’s fastest growing sports at Whiteman Vega as your crew takes a wilderness mountain bike ride into the most remote areas of the beautiful Valle Vidal section of the Carson National Forest. You will learn bike care and maintenance, riding techniques, and bike trail construction.


Although not a staff-sponsored program feature, mountaineering can be as fun and exciting as any. Restless adventurers seek challenges, comradeship, spectacular views, fields of delicate wildflowers, stimulating exercise, and solace by climbing high mountains. You can fulfill these urges at Philmont, where many challenging mountains await you. Mount Waite Phillips, nearly 12,000 feet high, towers over the beautiful southwest section of Philmont country. This peak is a rugged climb with fabulous views of Eagle Nest Lake, Wheeler Peak (highest mountain in New Mexico at 13,161 feet elevation) and most of Philmont.


Baldy Mountain
(Elevation 12,441 ft) “Old Baldy,”” named for its rocky, barren top, is a favorite climb for those who camp in the Baldy Town vicinity. Dotted with old gold mines, Baldy Mountain is the highest peak on Philmont—12,441 feet. The view from its top is unobstructed and spectacular.

Little Costilla
(Elevation 12,585 ft)

Mount Phillips
(Elevation 11,721 ft)

Black Mountain
(Elevation 10,875 ft)

Tooth of Time
(Elevation 9,003 ft)The Tooth of Time, the 9,003-foot high Philmont incisor, rises abruptly 2,500 feet from the valley floor. A landmark along the old Santa Fe Trail, the Tooth will give you a memorable view of Philmont.

Big Red
(Elevation 11,020 ft)

Muzzle-Loading Rifles

You will use powder, patch, ball, ramrod, and cap to actually load and shoot a .50 or .58- caliber muzzle-loading rifle. This exciting, historic program is offered at Black Mountain, Clear Creek and Miranda.

Other Peaks

Hart Peak, Lookout Peak, Trail Peak, and many other peaks will test your stamina and give you breathtaking views of surrounding terrain. Little Costilla Peak at 12,584 feet is located in the Valle Vidal. Many false peaks will keep you guessing as you work to reach the summit.

Philmont Campfires

Throughout the backcountry, various staffed camps conduct special evening campfires and programs. Urraca, Pueblano, and Crater Lake campfires relate to tales of the Old West, logging, and the history of the land. Facts about the Beaubien-Miranda Land Grant come alive, and the influence of Waite Phillips and his gift of Philmont to the BSA provides for a special inspiration.


Catch some of the flavor of a mountain man rendezvous while at Miranda. Find out why rendezvous were held and what went on. See demonstrations of the mountain man way of life and participate in some of these skills and contests such as “hawk” throwing and muzzle-loading rifle.

Ring Ranch

Visit the historic Ring family home at Ring Place and learn about their way of life during the early years. Astronomy is featured each night. Gaze through a professional quality telescope to see the rings of Saturn, distant stars and moons. Learn how to predict the weather in a wilderness setting.

Rock Climbing

This fascinating and challenging sport is a favorite of all Philmont campers. You’ll scale a steep pitch and rappel down a sheer cliff. Philmont has carefully selected three areas to conduct this program where the rocks are safe and practical, but a distinct “Class Five” challenge. Under the supervision of expert climbers, you will climb using your hands and feet while protected by rope, carabiners, and helmet. Safety is always stressed and practiced.

Rock climbing at Philmont is restricted to the three locations: Miners Park, Cimarroncito, and Dean Cow, and is only done under the supervision of Philmont rock climbing staff.

Rocky Mountain Fur Company

At Clear Creek several veteran trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company (portrayed by Philmont staff members) have established an outpost camp. Trapping was their way of life, however, it is not practiced at Philmont today. See traps like those they used to catch beaver, muskrat, raccoon, and bear. Hear about how they cured the hides and see trade goods which they used to purchase food and supplies.

Shooting Sports

.30-06 Rifle Shooting
This program offers a review of firearms and tips for successful and safe shooting. Wildlife conservation and game management are discussed. Metallic silhouette targets provide a challenging experience at Sawmill’s .30-06 rifle range. Each participant will reload and fire 3 rounds; additional rounds may be purchased at 3 for $1.00.

12 Gauge Shotgun Shooting
Shooting trap takes skill, but with some instruction and practice you may find that you can hit clay birds. Each participant at Harlan will reload and fire 3 rounds; additional rounds may be purchased at 3 for $1.00.

Cowboy Action Shooting
Cowboy Action Shooting will be conducted at Ponil. This program will bring the “Old West” to life in this exciting shooting sports activity. Participants will shoot .38 special pistols, lever action rifles and coach shotguns in this program.

Special Trail Meals

The programs at Clarks Fork, Ponil, and Beaubien include a special chuck wagon dinner. A Mexican meal is included at Abreu. Members of your crew will help prepare these meals. At Zastrow, crews will be treated to the ingredients required to create their own Dutch oven dessert and a ceremony for a rededication to the “Values of Scouting”.


Philmont has incorporated STEM (Science, Technology, Education, and Math) activities at many of the Backcountry Staff Camps. The STEM activities will provide interesting information and insights that will allow you to obtain a deeper understanding of the programs that you participate in. Watch for these fun experiences along your trek. For example, at Cimarroncito you will learn about the strength of climbing rope. The information will help you determine what ropes should be used in climbing activities.

Western Lore

Philmont is an operating western cattle ranch. Cowboys still watch over cattle on horseback and drive them from their winter pasture on the plains to high mountain meadows for summer grazing. While you hike the trails, look for the white-face Hereford cattle. Though not wild, they are best observed from a distance. A cow with a calf may become dangerous if she feels her calf is threatened. To chase or attempt to rope these animals is foolish and can result in serious injury. Watch and photograph them if you wish.

An organized western lore program is offered at Beaubien, Ponil and Clarks Fork. Horse riding, campfires, and branding are all part of the western lore program. Philmont cowboys will tell you about New Mexico’s cattle industry. Using authentic western lariats, they will show you how to rope. The cowboy’s garb and equipment will be named and their uses explained. After a hearty chuck wagon dinner which you help prepare, you’ll gather around a campfire under the western sky for an evening of songs, guitar playing, and stories of the Old West at Beaubien or Clarks Fork. Ponil campers may gather at the cantina.

Wilderness Medicine/Search and Rescue

This exciting informative program at Seally Canyon and Carson Meadows will enable your crew to “Be Prepared” to meet emergency first aid needs in a true wilderness environment. Every year many people become lost in the outdoors. Scouts are often called upon to help search for these people. Your crew will enjoy learning how to correctly conduct an organized search.The staff will share highlights of the new Search and Rescue Merit Badge.


At Zastrow, experience the Rededication to the Values of Scouting ceremony. This evening ceremony emphasizes the Scouting values and traditions and is a very moving outdoor ceremony.