2021 Volunteer Vacation

by | Feb 15, 2021 | Gathering, Service Projects

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The Trail to Cito peak—Year 6

The Philmont Staff Association and Philmont Scout Ranch are pleased to again offer this opportunity in 2021 – not once , but twice! This will be the 6th year for the very exciting and tremendously rewarding Volunteer Vacation. Past participants have experienced a fantastic week in the backcountry, hard physical work, and the ultimate satisfaction of giving back to Philmont.

The dates are July 16 to 22 for the summer session and September 11 to 18 for the autumn session. The cost is only $115 plus a $50 Covid surcharge. Please see Registration, Payments, and Refunds at the end of this article.

Registration is now open for the summer session. Registration deadline is July 1st, 2021.

Registration opens March 1, 2021 at noon, Mountain Time for the autumn session. Registration deadline is August 15th, 2021.

Carrying On in 2021

Both sessions in 2021 will focus on trails to Cito Peak – either the on-going construction of the new trail from the Sawmill side of the mountain, or the beginning of a new trail starting from the Webster Parks area. There has never been a trail to Cito Peak and now, hopefully, it can be added to Scout treks in 2022. Your work will be instrumental in making this happen.

July Session + PSA Reunion

The July Volunteer Vacation is followed immediately by the PSA Reunion featuring the Conservation Department’s 50th Anniversary. The Reunion begins on July 21st and continues through breakfast on July 25th. Volunteers can return after their work on Cito peak, relax at the PTC and enjoy all the Reunion activities. Registration is separate for the Reunion and all the details can be found here.

General Information

This program is available to PSA members and their eligible family members. The minimum age is 16 years by date of participation. Trek-eligible family members include your spouse, child or stepchild, sibling, parent, grandparent, grandchild, niece, nephew or in-law of the PSA member. Please do not register anyone who does not meet these requirements. All participants must be members of the Boy Scouts of America.

If females under the age of 21 years are registered, we will attempt to make accommodation for Youth Protection requirements. If we cannot meet Youth Protection requirements (having a female over 21 participate) we will return the entire registration fee.

The full Philmont medical form is required – the same 7 page form required for summer Trekkers. Please note, just because your doctor certifies you, it does not mean this program is for you. Volunteer Vacation requires hard work, long hours, a good crew spirit, backpacking ability and a sense of humor. This program is not leisurely and is not for those who are afraid of sore muscles, getting dirty, and who cannot maintain a great attitude when the going gets tough. The PSA reserves the right to return the entire registration fee of any person who would be inappropriate for this program.


Here’s the tentative schedule for the 2021 PSA Volunteer Vacation. Please note, this entire schedule could change dramatically based on Philmont’s needs. We’ll keep everyone informed as the year progresses.

Volunteer Vacation — July Schedule

Friday, July 16

Arrive at Philmont during the day. First meal will be dinner in the PTC Dining Hall. In the evening, the Conservation Department will begin the program with introductions and specific plans, gear & packing advice, and general Q&A.

Saturday, July 17

Breakfast at PTC, depart for the drop-off point and then a short hike to our base camp area to set up camp, and have lunch. Following lunch, you will receive Philmont tools and trail construction instruction, start trail construction work, and have fun.

Sunday-Tuesday, July 18-20

Trail construction work (and more fun).

Wednesday, July 21

Final wrap-up of trail construction work, break camp, campsite, clean up and then hike to our pickup point. Return to the PTC, clean up, and attend the evening recognition dinner. Also, attend any Reunion events scheduled that night.

Thursday, July 22

Depart Philmont after breakfast unless you’re staying for the PSA Reunion (separate registration required)

Volunteer Vacation — September Schedule

Saturday, September 11

Arrive at Philmont during the day. First meal will be dinner in the PTC Dining Hall. In the evening, the Conservation Department will begin the program with introductions and specific plans, gear & packing advice, and general Q&A.

Sunday, September 12

Breakfast at PTC and then depart for the drop-off point just above Sawmill. Next, a very short hike to Whistle Punk trail camp, set up camp, and have lunch. Following lunch, you will receive Philmont tools and trail construction instruction, start trail construction work, and have fun.

Monday-Wednesday, September 13-15

Trail construction work (and more fun). There should be time to climb Cito Peak! We’re close to the summit.

Thursday, September 16

Final wrap-up of trail construction work, break camp, clean up the Whistle Punk campsite, and then hike or ride to another campsite. The final campsite will depend on the number of participants, availability of transportation vehicles, weather, etc. Volunteers will spend the night at this new location, relaxing and enjoying traditional Philmont camping.

Friday, September 17

In the morning, possible side-hikes based on the location. By midday or early afternoon, Volunteers will be transported back to Base Camp. Friday evening’s dinner will be a celebration of the week and recognition for what you have given back to Philmont. Participants will be awarded the coveted Volunteer Vacation patch.

Saturday, September 18

Depart Philmont after breakfast. Take a proud and satisfying look back at Cimarroncito Peak (and the Tooth, of course)!

Common Questions and Answers

Note: Many of these questions reference the Whistle Punk campsite during September. In July, it’s possible that Volunteers might be based out of another trail camp.

What’s it like?

Download the detailed High Country article from 2016 providing a full explanation of everything that takes place.

What will we eat?

Both trail food and large quantities of FRESH food to insure sufficient calories. This will be a much better menu than the standard trail food menu. Cooking, cleanup, and water crews will be established.

Will we need to carry a full back pack?

Yes and no.

Philmont will pre-stage food, tools, and all crew equipment at Whistle Punk. However, the unused room in your pack will need to be filled with extra (and heavier) work clothes along with warm clothes (jackets, gloves, long underwear, headgear, etc). Extra gear can be shipped back to Base Camp after trail work is completed, but you will then be carrying traditional crew gear and food when hiking/riding to your campsite on Thursday.

Philmont backpacks are available at no charge if needed.

Do we need a tent?


You will be sleeping in normal backpacking tents for 5 of your 7 nights at Philmont. You can bring your own tent or use the standard issue Philmont Thunder Ridge 2-person tent (no charge). Tent pairings and partners will be discussed as the participant list is completed.

Will it be cold?


Whistle Punk is almost 10,032 feet, and by September 15th, autumn will be setting in. You will need warm clothes and a warm sleeping bag.

Where is Whistle Punk?

Whistle Punk is located south, and uphill, of the trail from Sawmill to Thunder Ridge. There is a spring nearby. This camp was first used in 2016.

What does Whistle Punk mean?

A Whistle Punk is the lumberjack who operated the signal wire running to a donkey engine whistle. The camp was given this name because it is near an old logging camp.

How many people can sign up?

Philmont would like to work with a group of 24 to 30 volunteers. If we exceed that number, a wait list will be established.

Do I need to join the BSA?


Please provide your BSA# during check-out or within 30 days of purchase of this service project.

Email us if you have further questions

PSA Registration; Philmont Payment and Refunds

Register here on the PSA website, but…

  1. Payment is made by check only directly to Philmont
  2. Philmont accepts checks, credit cards, and ACH bank transfers. (PayPal not accepted)
  3. Philmont’s policy: ALL FEES ARE NON-REFUNDABLE. THEY CANNOT BE APPLIED TO FUTURE PSA TREKS and EVENTS. Emergency situations will be handled by Philmont on an individual basis
  4. Make check payable to: “Philmont Scout Ranch”
  5. In the memo, please write: "PSA Summer Volunteer Vacation" or "PSA VV Fall 2021" as appropriate for your event.

Send check to this address:

Philmont Scout Ranch
17 Deer Run Road
Cimarron, NM 87714

The PSA reserves the right to deny or revoke registration where appropriate.

This session will have 30 slots available upon opening.