OUTside Mariposa

A Collaborative Project

between Ethos Youth Center, Balanced Rock, and Sierra Foothill Conservancy

The Story of Yosemite Youth Expedition/OUTdoors Mariposa

The Yosemite Youth Expedition (YYE) was born in 2010 out of the recognition of the need for Mariposa youth to feel a connection to the national park in their backyard.  Balanced Rock, Mountain Crisis Services (MCS), and Ethos Youth Center partnered together to bring Mariposa County youth into Yosemite to experience wilderness, learn to appreciate wild spaces, and to explore the wilderness that lives inside each one of them.  This is a holistic program that seeks to nurture the mind, body, and spirit of each youth that participates in the day hikes and the backpacking trip.  In 2013-14, this program was funded through the Foundation for Youth Investment and was expanded to include exploration of conserved lands in Mariposa and took on the name of OUTdoors Mariposa.  The program, over the last four years, has been led by individuals who have experience in leading wilderness trips, have relationships with local youth, and the ability to help youth connect deeply to wilderness and themselves.

The Need

“Breaking Barriers” is a report published through a project conducted by the National Park Service (NPS), NatureBridge, and the Adventure Risk Challenge program.  This report recommends getting young people outdoors as early and as regularly as possible so that they do not have fear of the outdoors and know how to access wild places.  OUTdoors Mariposa seeks to do just that by helping at-risk and unprivileged youth connect to Yosemite, a place many have never been, though it is only 40 miles away.

The Expeditions

Each month beginning in August (excluding December and July), students have the opportunity to participate in a hike or expedition. Sierra Foothill Conservancy and Ethos Youth Center partner up August-April to lead monthly hikes that focus on experiencing conserved land in their backyard through plant/animal identification, stewardship projects and space for personal growth and introspection.  The Balanced Rock Foundation leads hikes in April, and May in Yosemite. The backpack expedition takes place in June right after the end of the school year and up to 9 youth can participate.  OUTdoors Mariposa has seen enthusiasm build for this program and has up to 30 youth show up for one hike!  Most youth that take part in OUTdoors Mariposa have had little to no wilderness experience and the program is transformative for them.  Through this program, youth are connected to Yosemite National Park through interpretive rangers and the Yosemite Leadership Program at UC Merced that accompany each hike and learn about the variety of jobs available to them.  Youth recognize that they have the power and the strength to reach mountain peaks and they have the power and strength to create change in their lives and in their community.  This program is unique in the way that the program leaders are able to maintain relationships with the youth throughout the year, building on the lessons learned from OUTdoors Mariposa.

Goals and Visions

One goal of this project is to teach youth how to independently explore Mariposa and Yosemite outside of the planned trips.  We use the YARTS bus (public transportation) to enter the park, teach youth what they need to be prepared to hike/backpack, teach them Leave No Trace Principles, and we teach them how to access wilderness permits.  Once a youth has completed the OUTdoors Mariposa program, they have the knowledge they need to continue discovering the wilderness outside of the program.

The program also focuses on using wilderness exploration as a vehicle for youth to explore future goals and visions. Through creative journaling, reflective time alone, and mentoring relationships with a wide range of local adults, the participants also develop and refine plans and life skills for their emergence into adulthood.

We would like to expand OUTdoors Mariposa to include educational scholarships for youth that participate in the program.  Youth will participate in a contest to explain the effect the program has had on their life throug
h spoken word or video; they will have a chance to perform or show their film through a recognition event for all participants. 


The five major collaborators for this project are Mountain Crisis ServicesEthos Youth CenterBalanced Rock, Sierra Foothill Conservancy and  Yosemite National Park.  Beyond these three organizations, OUTdoors Mariposa is a community effort working with the Yosemite National Park, Nature Bridge, Mariposa Unified School District, Mariposa Probation and Sheriff’s Department, and many other community volunteers.

Our last adventure for this OUTside Mariposa season:

For more information, please contact Ethos Youth Center (742.4256) or Sierra Foothill Conservancy (742.5556).

Here are the 3 forms required for the OUTside Mariposa hikes:

  1. Liability & release form: ACT Liability Form (This PDF may not be compatible with screen readers)
  2. Medical form: ACT Medical Form (This PDF may not be compatible with screen readers)
  3. Media release form:  ACT Media Release (This PDF may not be compatible with screen readers.