The YMCA of San Francisco wants every child to have meaningful and fun outdoor experiences. We believe everyone has a place in nature and want youth in our Boys Outdoor Leadership Development (BOLD) and Girls Outdoor Leadership Development (GOLD) programs to deepen their connection to the outdoors and build their leadership skills. BOLD & GOLD is a small group, an overnight backpacking program for youth aged 12-17 in the California wilderness.
All youth are invited to take part in BOLD & GOLD! No child will be turned away for financial reasons. Find out if you qualify for financial assistance at the bottom of the page.
What is BOLD & GOLD?
Are you ready to explore, make new friends, and be inspired by the beauty of nature? Leave what you know behind and be a part of something extraordinary in the wilderness. On a YMCA BOLD & GOLD backpacking adventure, you will:
- Understand the value of challenge while experiencing amazing sunsets, beautiful mountaintops, and starry skies. Backpacking is hard at times, but the view is always worth it.
- Experience the wonder of being up close and personal with California's unique wild places.
- Pack everything you need into your backpack and hike along the trail, stopping along the way to enjoy the view or play games. At night you and your team will set up camp, make dinner, and enjoy being among nature.
- Develop trust in one another and believe in yourself. You'll laugh deeply, make lifelong friends, and discover your true potential.
- Connect with students from all different backgrounds. We embrace diversity and the uniqueness of every participant. You'll be inspired to be yourself and learn how to be a bridge-builder in today's multicultural world.
FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE, TO THE EXTENT POSSIBLE, IS MADE AVAILABLE THROUGH THE GENEROSITY OF OUR MEMBERS AND DONORS.
Click here to pledge your support to this life-changing program!
All Gender Expressions are Welcome
Gender equality is an essential component of the BOLD & GOLD program. In the Y spirit of inclusion, we invite youth to be their whole selves and register based on the gender they identify with. Single-gender boys (Boys Outdoor Leadership Development) or girls (Girls Outdoor Leadership Development) trips allow participants to be themselves while stepping out of their comfort zone. We also offer all-gender expeditions, where instructors help you work together with your team in a way that empowers and allows equal space for everyone.
Regardless of the program type, all youth will have fun exploring the wonder of the wilderness while making new friends and developing leadership skills that empower them on the trail and at home.
All You Need: A Desire to Go
Our trips are designed for beginners ready to embrace getting dirty and the adventure of living in the woods. You don't need any experience in backpacking.
Gear: We provide all group gear and will send you a packing list before the trip. Are you missing something on the list? Let us know! We can probably loan it to you at no additional cost.
Staff: Our leaders are skilled at building solid groups, have extensive experience working with youth as well as adults, and are passionate about inspiring people of all ages to discover the best in themselves. All BOLD & GOLD instructors are experienced outdoor professionals, possess certifications in Wilderness Medicine, and have undergone background checks and abuse prevention training.
Getting There: We transport BOLD & GOLD students to the trip destination on a leased bus driven by a professional driver.
Through backpacking, you will learn what it means to be independent. There are no parents or teachers on a BOLD & GOLD trip, just experienced wilderness instructors that will expertly guide you as you learn about what it means to be part of a team and how to become a skilled outdoors person. Backpacking takes you to places you can’t get to any other way, and there you will find freedom.
You will have fun and make friends through backpacking: Backpacking is the perfect challenge to bring a team together and help you feel capable and successful. Nothing compares to reaching the top of a mountain and seeing how far you’ve come. Adventuring with a group of skilled instructors and other young folks, you will create friendships through backpacking that are like no other in your life.
Backpacking allows you to escape and exhale: Forget about homework, take a break from the pressures of being a teenager, and step away from the pollution and noise. The peace of nature will surround you, and you will have a chance to breathe and gain some perspective. Many young people say that backpacking for them was a life-changing experience that they will never forget.
2024 DATES & TRIPS - COMING EARLY 2024
Desolation Wilderness of Lake Tahoe
All Gender, Boys, and Girls Trips
We'll begin our trip on the stunning shores of Lake Tahoe before hiking into the majestic mountains of the Desolation Wilderness. Participants can look forward to cooling off mid-day at one of the many alpine lakes, camping in beautiful sites, and experiencing the adventure and tranquility of the real wilderness.
ALL GENDER TRIP
ALL GENDER TRIP
ALL GENDER TRIP
Mobile device users, pan right to see additional dates.
All Gender Trip
Explore the majestic backcountry of Yosemite and take in the incredible ecosystems tucked away from the crowds! Each day, we'll hike 5-8 miles in one of the country's oldest and most famous national parks. Each night, we'll set up camp in barely touched, truly natural areas. Campers will learn High Sierra backpacking skills while exploring refreshing creeks, incredible granite formations, and breathtaking views.
ALL GENDER TRIP
Point Reyes Expedition
All Gender, Boys, and Girls Trips
Whether you are new to backpacking or have many miles behind you, Point Reyes is sure to amaze! Point Reyes National Seashore is full of natural wonders to explore, whether its rocky headlands, sandy beaches, open grasslands, or pine forests. With human-made wonders as well, the Point Reyes Lighthouse has protected the windiest and foggiest shoreline in California for over 150 years. We'll travel to beautiful Point Reyes where we will hike about 5-6 miles per day and develop outdoor leadership skills. Each night we will set up camp at a backcountry campsite along the coast or in the forest.
ALL GENDER TRIP
Frequently Asked Questions
The YMCA of San Francisco meets or exceeds all public health guidelines while delivering programming during COVID-19. Specific details regarding our COVID-safe policies and procedures will be shared with families closer to the start of each trip to ensure that the latest public health information has been incorporated into our trip plans.
About the Program & Registration
What does a typical day with BOLD & GOLD look like?
Read more about life on a BOLD & GOLD trip here.
What training do your instructors receive before leading a trip?
Our staff are experienced outdoor educators with an extensive background of working with youth. They have advanced wilderness medical training; specific child abuse prevention training; and go through a rigorous 5- to 7-day training on BOLD & GOLD curriculum, how to develop leadership in all, and behavioral management.
Why are some BOLD & GOLD trips divided by gender?
BOLD & GOLD prioritizes serving every youth in our program, and gendered trips allow some campers more freedom to express themselves authentically. In addition, part of BOLD & GOLD's mission is to challenge gender stereotypes. It is important to us that we create trips for young women to experience firsthand that they can be capable outdoor leaders.
How do I register?
To register online, click the appropriate registration link on the program page. If you have an existing YMCA of San Francisco account, log in and register your camper.
If you don't have an account with us, you can register yourself as a community participant and then add your teen to your account. Go to the correct registration link on the program page, click "Sign Up" in the top right corner, choose the "Point Bonita YMCA" as your location, and then click on “Community Participant.” Follow the prompts and enter your information, then add your child to the account after. Once you have created your account, return to the program page, log in to your account, and register.
Once you complete your online registration, all participants will complete a more detailed paper registration. If you still need help, contact our staff at email@example.com.
What is your refund policy?
All deposits are non-refundable. In cases of no-shows, homesickness, dismissal, or voluntary withdrawal, there is no refund of fees. All cancellations must be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org at least 3 weeks prior to the trip start date for a full refund.
Cancellations between 3 and 1 weeks before your trip start date will result in a 50% refund, not including the deposit. Cancellations the week of the trip until the start date will result in a 25% refund, not including the deposit. All requests for a full refund must be submitted in writing via email or mail. If the cancellation is due to a medical reason, a physician-authorized medical excuse must be provided to be considered.
Hygiene on the Trail
How will my child use the bathroom on the trail?
On the trail, the land is our bathroom and proper showers wait until our return from the backcountry.
Do campers have an opportunity to wash their clothes?
In the backcountry, we re-wear our clothes without washing them throughout the trip. To keep our packs light, dirty clothes become part of the experience.
Who's in the Group? Group Size, Genders, Friends, etc.
How many people will be on each trip?
An important element of our trips is the small group size. Our groups typically have 6-10 participants and 2 instructors. Single-gender trips often have instructors that are the same gender as the participants.
I'm transgender, non-binary, or questioning my gender identity. Which trip should I go on?
We encourage you to sign up for the trip that will make YOU feel the most comfortable. You will be welcomed and supported whether you join a trip that is all gender, boys, or girls. Our program director and instructors want to create the most inclusive environment for our campers, so please contact us before the trip if we can help with any of your needs.
I signed up with a group of friends, will we be in the same group? Can we share a tent?
If you signed up for the same trip (including dates, location, and gender) as friends, then you will be in the same group. All other arrangements will be made on the trail with your trip's leaders to best serve the group dynamic.
Safety & In Case of Emergency
Will my child update me throughout the trip? How will I know that they are safe?
Due to the nature of backpacking, campers will be offline for the entirety of the trip. Instructors have satellite phones for emergencies and daily check-ins, but otherwise, communication is limited. Should you have concerns or family emergencies while your child is away, reach out to the program director for arrangements. Otherwise, your child can share their memories and photos once they return from the trail.
What does the Y do if there is an emergency on the trail?
At the Y, safety is our number one priority. Our instructors are trained to handle a variety of emergency situations and we have protocols and emergency action plans in place if needed. For non-urgent incidents, each trip leader has advanced wilderness medical training to help your child.
Packing & Gear Concerns
Where do I find the packing list?
You can find our packing list here.
Do we need to purchase special equipment for the trip?
No. We provide all the group gear such as tents and stoves. We also have necessary personal items and other equipment, including clothing and backpacks, available for loan.
Will my child actually carry everything on the packing list?
All campers will carry their personal gear on their backs and share the responsibility to carry the group gear. At the beginning of each trip, we do a "Duffle Shuffle" and go through the gear that campers have, help them check out items to borrow, and encourage them to leave some items behind to lighten their packs. Your child should expect a challenge in carrying their pack, but we work with each participant to make sure their pack still keeps them physically and emotionally safe.