Program Overview


The mission of the Youth in Wilderness (YiW) program is to inspire, educate and motivate future generations of central California's wilderness advocates and stewards. 

In recent years, YiW leadership has realized the urgent necessity to leverage the program's resources and position of privilege to address issues of justice, equity, inclusion, and diversity in the outdoor field. While the program serves all young people of Central California, we prioritize serving those from surrounding communities of color who, through historic and systematic inequities, have faced increased barriers to accessing outdoor spaces and outdoor education opportunities.


Who we are / What we do:

We are an outdoor education program that specializes in introductory wilderness immersion experiences for young people. We offer overnight backpacking trips and single-day nature walks (Outings) for young adults of central California. All YiW Outings travel to the Ventana and Silver Peak Wildernesses, ancestral homelands of the Ohlone, Esselen, and Salinan people.

Supported by preparatory workshops, YiW organizes, outfits and leads young people in central California on single-day nature walks and overnight wilderness backpacking trips. These life‐changing Outings are provided at no cost to participants - all outdoor leadership, essential gear, and Outing meals are provided by the program through hard-earned grant funding and individual donations. Click HERE to learn more about YiW Outings.

The experiences, mentioned above, are provided by the YiW team, and are informed by the following YiW Core Values:


  1. Opportunity: we recognize that there are many who have yet to reap the benefit of time spent in nature (due to myriad historic and systemic reasons) and prioritize providing opportunities for these individuals to do so.
  2. Empowerment: we aim to empower participants by helping them feel at home in nature.
  3. Connection: through intentional and compassionate guidance in outdoor spaces, we help participants form their own personal connections to the land, themselves, and each other.
  4. Service Learning: through service learning experiences, we teach participants about the value of public lands stewardship.


Click here to learn more about the YiW team's Guiding Strategy.



Since its inception in 2008 through December 2021, YiW has led 3,752 local young people on 198 nature walks and overnight backpacking Outings. Over the years, YiW Field Instructors have engaged with participants on over 20,000 hours of customized outdoor education and contributed over 10,000 hours of volunteer wildlands stewardship.

To learn more about the program, please contact YiW Program Manager Daniela Cervantes at  or call 831-423-3191.  You can also follow us on Instagram (@youthinwilderness) for periodic program updates!