High Trails Outdoor Science School hires positive and dynamic instructors each school year to teach with us at our residential outdoor education program in the mountains of Southern California.


 We typically have 3 staff trainings during the school year: September is our largest training, with smaller trainings occurring in January and March. Most contracts are written for the traditional school year, from mid September through the end of May. Here’s the online application. Thanks!

Take some time to explore this site. We do our best to paint the full picture of working here…hard work and long hours, but also great friends, a wonderful community, and adventures & experiences you won’t find anywhere else!

The Instructor Position

Let’s start at the beginning: schools generally come to High Trails during the school week, which means you show up for program on Monday or Tuesday at 8am and are finished around 5pm on Fridays. Weekends and traditional holidays mean no elementary school, which means no program for us. Thank goodness…because the rest of your time will be split between the Field, the Cabin, and that “still work but no kids around” time that we spend on Hard Work and Continuing Education.

The Field: 40% of your time

Part of your time at High Trails will be spent in the field with a Trail Group. On full program days you’ll arrive at camp at 8am and head to the dining hall to prepare lunch for you and your students. After last minute things are taken care of, you’ll pick up your group at 10am and spend the day with them, teaching anywhere from two to four classes. You’ll eat your lunch on the trail, under the shade of tall Ponderosa Pines or enjoying the sunshine and high altitudes of our Southern California mountains. As the day begins to draw to a close you’ll review everything you covered during the day, take lunch orders for the next day and head off to dinner at 5:45. Around 6:30pm, things have winded down for the day, and you are off to rest and get ready for the next day of teaching.

We have two types of days; adventure days, where you will teach climbing, archery, low initiative courses, orienteering, and more. Environmental days are more class oriented with topics like plants, water, outdoor survival, and the like. With a 5 day program, there are generally two environmental days and one adventure day. The arrival day is more of an introduction and teambuilding day, and the departure day is more of a debrief day. You can see a sample schedule here.

With your classes, the objectives and vocabulary are set and ready for your own individual teaching style. You’ve got to prepare lesson plans for each class you teach, so be ready to be organized and prepared for your classes. We provide most of the equipment for you, from bug boxes to compasses and field guides. But you will have to make your own small props for your classes, the things that make the class yours and give you ownership in what you are doing and teaching. A good part of teaching comes from preparing before you even get your first group, so be ready for the work involved in being a Field Instructor. You can see more details on classes, objectives and vocabulary here.

Every school that comes up to High Trails is doing so because they want their students to learn two things; the importance of nature and how to interact positively with the community around them. During the day your primary focus is on nature, how we affect it, how we can responsibly enjoy it, and how we can share it with others. The students coming up here get to experience things they have never seen or done before, from their first arrow actually hitting the archery target to peering into a magnified bug box and seeing firsthand the different parts of an insect they caught. Your job during the day is to teach, in new and exciting ways, drawing the students to your words, encouraging them to catch your energy and passion for the environment and this world.

The Cabins 40% of your time

A large part of of your time at High Trails will be spent as a Cabin Instructor. This means that from 5pm until 10 am the next morning, you are in charge of a cabin of students. After you drop your students off in the morning, there’s cleaning to be done. You are generally off duty by 10:45 am, and don’t have to be back at work until 5pm. While the days are focused primarily on Adventure and Environmental based classes, the cabins are a time to open up the boundaries that normally exist within an elementary school social system and work on the community aspects of life.

Being a Cabin Instructor gives you a good chunk of time off during the day, to enjoy the weather, relax, take care of errands, and get some exercise. But as the day wanes it is up to you to make our visiting students experience here at High Trails a truly great one. As the week progresses you will be their parents, their teachers, their older siblings, and most importantly, their friend. At the end of the week, it’s the Cabin Instructors that get the biggest hugs.

Walking into camp, many of the students have never slept away from home before, so as a Cabin Instructor your first priority is to provide a warm and comfortable atmosphere in which the students can open up and be themselves. After every day of camp they will come back to the cabin, excited to tell you everything about their day and even more excited for the things they know you have in store for them. You will teach them games, tell them stories, help them to create arts and crafts projects, and even work on their line dance steps with them. You will help them get ready to take showers, talk them through being homesick, and wake up with them in the middle of the night when they don’t feel well. You will help them come up with a skit for campfire, and then watch as they step in front of the entire camp, overcome with stage fright. You will sit with them in the evenings and facilitate discussions that allow them to open up with one another, to trust one another, and to believe in one another. Every bit of your time as a Cabin Instructor is packed full of things to do; classes like nighttime wildlife and astronomy fill your evenings, and there are always more New Games to play.

Hard work and inservice 20% of the time

Hard work does several things: it reinforces (or teaches) a solid work ethic, it provides a good opportunity to bond with coworkers, it gets you dirty, and it gets the stuff that a business needs done to keep operating.

We make the mess, and we clean it up. From toilets to vacuuming to mopping and scrubbing, this is true dirty work. You’ll also have a project area; this is a small slice of program that is yours to take care of and maintain. Projects areas consist of things like archery and climbing equipment, taking care of the dining hall, organizing the recycling program, maintaining class experiments, and more. We’ve also got random projects during the year; though you won’t be doing advanced carpentry, staff have been known to split firewood, lay carpet, rake tons of pine needles, build campfire amphitheaters, clear and construct trails, paint cabins…the list goes on.

Be prepared to see, and work on, just about every aspect of a program, from the glamorous and fun to the dirty and necessary. It’s part of running a small business.

After we work your body, we’re going to work your brain. Time has taught us that if we want you to be a good teacher, we’ve got to start the process ourselves by giving you honest feedback on how you are doing and then providing you the tools you need to get better. We give you two full evaluations during the school year; these are detailed observations, write-ups, and discussions of how you are teaching and what you can do to get better. We’ll also delve into how you are doing in the community, as this is a vital part of life at High Trails. Thrown into the mix as well are Flash Evaluations, which are quicker and shorter evaluations, making certain you get a sit down check in with administration on a regular basis. Twice a week we’ll have inservices, starting off with simple themes like basic medical conditions and discipline strategies, and working into harder topics like making decisions in the field and advanced classroom management. Put it all together and you have a good recipe for becoming a great teacher.

It’s awful hard to really have that balance in your life when you work in outdoor education. We try to give you a good deal of time off, but inevitably you are going to work a lot. Making it all worth it is our investment in you; hard work will get you dirty and real, and make certain you are grounded for the realities of life ahead. Continuing education will give you the resources and attention you need to become the kind of teacher you want to be; you will become as much as you put in. Kind of like life itself….

The Living Situation

Living at camp is an intense community experience. You live, work, play, eat, and sleep with all of the same people, all of the time. Strangers the first few days of staff training will soon become your best friends, and you will laugh, cry and share adventure after adventure with them as the year goes on. Come to camp expecting a room full of people that not only have the same interests as you but are ready to give as much as you, both to the program and to the friendships you all will form.

Housing is generally chosen by staff themselves, with options for roommates, houses, in town or on-site, all decided in a large group. You can expect to share a room with one other person, who is generally on the opposite shift as you. So although the rooms are not the biggest in the world, you are usually the only one in there. There are a limited number of single rooms, usually grabbed quickly by returning staff. If you are working both fall and spring seasons, you’ve got the place for a month between sessions, rent-free.

Our Oakes Site is just outside Big Bear City. The nearest city with amenities is 10-15 minutes away (Big Bear). Most of the staff live on site in small, two-person cabins with an attached restroom. There is a communal lodge with cooking facilities nearby. The rest of the staff live in Big Bear in houses.

Life in California

While there are a million reasons to come and work at High Trails, there are a million more reasons to come and LIVE here. We’re at the middle of one of the most geographically diverse areas in the world. Camp is at 7,000 feet in the middle of the San Bernardino National Forest, a small mountain range. To the west is Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. To the north are the Sierra Mountains and Death Valley National Park. To the east is the Mojave Desert and Joshua Tree National Park. And to the south is Palm Springs and the Santa Rosa Mountains National Scenic Area.

So what does this mean? It means that you can wake up at camp with a foot of snow around you, drive down the mountain and spend the day throwing the frisbee around at the beach, and then enjoy an evening of sushi and dancing in the city. And don’t forget about Disneyland and Six Flags Magic Mountain!

Or you can drive out to Joshua Tree National Park, where you can rock climb all day and then listen to the coyotes howl as the stars come out over your crackling fire and the barren desert landscape. A little farther south is the Santa Rosa Mountains, a beautiful desert paradise, where the mountain bike trails are world class and can only be ridden (unless you’re a camel) in the winter.

Or you can remain in the mountains, and hike, bike, climb, ski, and relax your weekends away. Snow covers much of the mountains during January, February, and into March. Big Bear sports two ski resorts, with lots of cross-country skiing trails around. When the snow melts our mountain bikes leave the lower elevations and taste the mountain soil again. In Southern California, you can recreate all year round, and choose your weather and climate. Snow? Beach? Desert? Mountain? It’s all here.

Working at camp means long, hard hours and plentiful rewards in return. Living at camp means that in your time off, you have the chance to explore nature in ways you never thought possible.

Smart Staff Who Talk

Pay and Benefits

Pay Package Value

$128 per workday: Adding everything together, the value of the first-year instructor wage package

We pay a daily wage pursuant to our government classification as a “residential camp”. Because there are additional benefits, this daily rate is not representative of the overall value of your wages at High Trails.  Here’s how we arrive at this figure:

  • Base: $85 Starting daily wage***.
  • Extra Work: +$15 Historical average for staff extra work shifts over the last school year. This may be more or less for you, dependent upon your choices and your work schedule. This means those time and a half and double shifts that occur intermittently.
  • Meals: +$10  Lunch Dinner on first day of program, Breakfast Lunch Dinner on full program days, Breakfast Lunch on last day of program. Based on $4 per meal, 2.5 meals a workday average.
  • Housing: +$12.5 Housing costs based on $250 per month, 20 workdays per month
  • Health Insurance: +$5.6  Average of $300 a month policy, we pay half of this ($150) to start. If you don’t use our policy, you get a stipend of $75 a month. Average based on 20 workdays per month.

10 Darn Good Reasons to join High Trails

Nobody ever got into Outdoor Education to get rich. However, we’ve all got to survive, pay off our bills, buy a couple of toys, and maybe save just a bit. Believe it or not, outdoor education can be an affordable pastime. Here’s what we can offer you to come work with us:

  1. Room and Food: with Food, we’ll feed you all through the program week. Fantastic food, for vegetarians and the meat-lovers alike. We also take care of your housing. To encourage you to walk the talk of being a conservationist, you’ve got to cover gas and electric utilities at an average of $35 a month.
  2. Single Duty Starting Rate of $85 a day***: if you have residential outdoor education experience we will credit you days towards progressing though levels and pay increases. PLEASE NOTE; our positions are designed to give you time off, so you can still have a life. Single duty is Cabins (5pm through 10:30am) or Field (8am through 6pm). There are places out there that pay more, but also require you to work more on a daily basis; this is a recipe for burnout. We want you to love your job and truly enjoy your time with the students, so the most common week at High Trails is single duty. Don’t get your hopes up too much, though – there is a healthy amount of time and a half and double duty available.
  3. Time and a Half Starting Rate of $127.50 a day: plan on working this on average 1 out of every 4 weeks. This one is for you if you like sharing both kids and time off. Here you have a cabin group and share a field group with another instructor. One person would teach the morning classes and the other the afternoon classes, or whatever you work out with the other instructor. Pay is one and a half times your daily rate each day of the program.
  4. Double Duty Rate Starting at $170 a day: available on average 1 out of every 8 weeks. Take this one on if you are resilient and keep begging the kids to dish out more, and if you want to earn double pay. Here you would have a cabin and a trail group all week to teach. Pay is double your daily rate each full day of program, one and a half times your rate on the last day of program.
  5. Move Up Levels and Earn More: we have a detailed level system that encourages you to learn and push yourself, and rewards you accordingly. Please see the Level Request Form and the Guide to Levels for complete information.
  6. Environmental Incentives: carpooling, recycling, biking to work, and getting out on the weekends. We try to back up what we believe in, and are super proud of this program!
  7. Pro-Deals: lots of them as you progress through the levels. Prodeals are professional discounts on field-related gear; outerwear, sleeping bags and tents, shoes, sunglasses, and more.
  8. Health Insurance: we require all of our instructors to have health insurance and will assist them financially in this endeavor; see below for more details.
  9. Paid Staff Training: $300 is your pay for completing the initial 2 week staff training and 5 peer evaluations within 5 weeks of beginning of program. Everyone goes through this 10 day training before they work with students.  We put a lot of time and effort into training our staff, and it will benefit you both short and long term.
  10. ***A Built In Savings Account: $5 of your daily pay is automatically placed into a “savings” account, this is designed to a)help you save and give you a really big check at the end of the school year and b)encourage you to fulfil the time period on your signed contract. As long as you fulfill the dates of your contract, this lump sum is payable to you on your last paycheck of your contracted period. We do pay interest…we’ll add 10% of the amount you’ve saved onto your last check.

Our goal is Full Disclosure: ever take a job, show up for your first day of work, then look around and say “ummm….this isn’t what I thought it would be….”? We have, so our goal is to let you know the entire picture before you come out here. It’s a big step getting a job without ever actually seeing the program and facilities in action, so through this website you will see pictures, details and everything else that we can think of that will give you an accurate picture. For more details about pay, see FAQs. If you don’t see something you want to see, please let us know!

Health Insurance

Health Insurance is a tough issue these days. It used to be, years ago, that people would hire on with a company, and one of the incentives to stay with the job for a long period of time was the “group” health insurance that was offered. As people tended to not only stick with the same job for quite a while, but also have families early in their lives, this health insurance was a very important factor in their compensation.

Group health insurance, the type of insurance traditionally offered by employers, is a very expensive type of insurance. It is based on the premise that everyone in the company is covered by the insurance, regardless of any preexisting conditions they may have. Because of this, the healthier people end up paying the same premiums as the not-so-healthy people. The same concept is true, to a lesser extent, when families are involved. It often occurs that those without families or dependents subsidize the insurance of those with families. Both of these factors mean that “group” health insurance is a pretty expensive option.

Group health insurance is also only available while you are employed through the company that offers it. This is great you work at the same position for 10 years; if, however, you will bounce back and forth between jobs searching for your niche in life, it will mean that you will be in and out of health care coverage a whole lot. Or, like many people, you will forsake insurance all together.

Today’s job environment is a little bit different; most of us will have multiple careers and work for multiple companies during our life (often even during the course of a single year…). We will wait longer before we get married and have families. This, coupled with the ever increasing cost of group health insurance, means that we’ve got to explore different options to find a better, longer term solution for the people that come work with us as instructors.

We want our instructors to be healthy, and when they are sick, to have inexpensive ways to get better. We also want to help set them up for their future years, so they can keep teaching students, wherever they are at. Because of this, we REQUIRE our instructors to choose from these health options:

  1. Get Individual Health Insurance. On average, this option offers the same benefits as insurance offered through group plans at a reduced rate. Individual health insurance is obtained by and through the individual, and is based on age and health factors. Once you sign up for this policy, it is yours, whether you work with us or not. We will add to your paycheck a health insurance stipend, based on your current level.
  2. You are a dependent on a health insurance plan: you may already have health insurance, as a dependent, on your parent’s (or someone else’s) health insurance plan. If this is you and you would like to keep this coverage, please bring proof of coverage.
  3. Sign up for the High Trails Group health insurance plan: we offer one plan, Anthem Blue Shield Silver Full PPO 1700. The average cost of this for individuals in their 20’s is $260 per month; costs will vary a little depending upon age. You can see all of the details here.

Bear in mind that any accident or injury that occurs in a workplace setting is covered by a Worker’s Compensation insurance policy. Because of this policy, we know you will be safe and protected while you are at work. We require you to have some kind of health coverage so that you will be safe and protected outside of work as well.

During staff training, we will provide time to discuss and choose your health option. Whichever option you choose we will require you to provide us with current proof of health coverage. You cannot elect to take the health insurance stipend without choosing one of the above options, and you cannot work with us if you do not choose one of the above options. Our hope and goal is that you get a good individual health insurance plan and keep it through the years, so that you are always protected and healthy.

The health stipend we provide you depends on your current level at High Trails. Please see details of the levels for complete information.

How To Apply


  • You need to have a college degree! If you don’t have a degree but still think you would like to work with us, check out our Internship Program.
  • You need to have experience working with children. The more the better.
  • You need to have First Aid and CPR certifications, or be willing to take the necessary classes once you get to High Trails. NOTE: Your First Aid and CPR certification must include, at minimum, 50% of course time to include in person instruction, hands on practice, and skills assessment under the direct supervision of a certified instructor. This means that part of your course readings may be done online, but any practical testing must be done in person. CPR must be for infant, child, and adult, and your CPR card must meet or exceed the current “AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC.”
  • You must have the ability to pass a criminal background check by the CA DOJ and the FBI.
  • You must be open-minded, tolerant, patient, loving, caring, giving, and determined.
  • Most importantly, you must have a non-stop positive attitude.
  • You must be legally permitted to work in the USA before starting employment at High Trails. We do not sponsor international applicants.
  • We believe firmly that anyone can be a great teacher at High Trails, as long as they are willing to learn.
    Because of this we look more closely at your personality characteristics than your resume.


We think working here is pretty cool, but High Trails is not an easy job. Teaching sixth graders every day is an exhausting experience, and you must have the energy and determination to keep up with them. Being an Instructor does not mean all you do is teach. You are a full staff member, and that means lots of program equipment maintenance and facility upkeep. If you shy away from honest, hard work, whether it is scrubbing toilets everyday or moving bunks from cabin to cabin, you should look for an experience elsewhere. Before you even think of applying, please take the time to explore this entire website (especially the FAQ) and email us with any questions you may have.

Your Application

  1. Get that Resume out. Update and fine tune it. This is your black and white, nuts and bolts, “where I’ve been and what I’ve done” piece.
  2. Write a Cover Letter. This is your style piece; introduce yourself, tell us why you want the position and are perfect for it, how you love kids, the environment, and cleaning toilets. Or just talk about whatever you want.
  3. Fill out the online Tough Questions. This is your character piece; let us know how you think and feel about camp relevant issues. You can find these questions on the Online Application.
  4. References! You need three (3) of these; they can either be a written letter from a reference or you can take advantage of our Online Application; just enter the name and email address of three references. We’ll take this information and contact your references, giving them a link to an online form they can fill out to tell us all about you. If you choose to use a Letter of Reference that someone has already written for you, please include this when you submit your Resume and Cover Letter. Friends and family are decent references, but work related references are key. We can review your application and even interview you, but we cannot offer you a position until we have all three references. PLEASE NOTE: Out of your entire application, what we weigh most heavily are your references. References are also the most common item to hold up an application; we’ll send out online forms to your references, but you may have to get in touch with them as well to ask for their assistance in the process.
  5. Get everything to us! Use the Online Application.

Our Response

Once you have taken the time to apply with us, we owe it to you to be on top of things. Don’t expect anything less from anyone else. Here’s what you can expect from us:

  • We will respond to your application within 2 business days. We’ll email you to let you know we received it and let you know if we need anything else from you. Occasionally, especially during the summer months, we may be out of the office on a vacation for a bit; in this case we’ll do our best to let you know the timeframe.
  • If your application is complete, we will try to schedule a phone interview with you. We’ll ask what your schedule is and do our best to find a time that fits. Interviews last 45-90 minutes; your job is to ask a lot of questions, and our job is to convince you that we’re a good place and you should come work with us. After the interview, we will do some thinking, as should you. If your application is complete but we don’t believe we would be a good match for you, we will do you the courtesy of letting you know why.
  • We will be in touch within 2 business days after an interview. During our busier hiring season, we offer positions when we have made a decision. Other times of the year positions are generally offered on the 1st and 15th of each month.  If we don’t think you’d be a good fit at High Trails, we’ll give you a good explanation to help you out in future job hunts. Bear in mind that we can’t offer you a position until we have all of your references.
  • Once a position is offered, we will give you a concrete date by which you may accept the position. If you choose to accept, please make certain that you are willing to commit; nothing is worse than turning down lots of great people and then finding out at the last minute that a new instructor is not taking the job after all.
  • If you accept the position, we will email you a staff hiring packet. This will contain a contract, a schedule and other assorted information. We will be ready to answer questions from you as they arise. Then comes…staff training!

Methods of communication

We prefer email, because we are in and out of the office so much and the mountains don’t always lend themselves to consistent phone service. If you need to speak on the phone, though, please give us a call. We will respond to you via email unless you ask us otherwise.

Staff hiring email: Telephone / Fax: 1 800 428-1851



If you are in college you are qualified. Although internships are traditionally arranged through colleges, our internships happen when people want it, with your school’s involvement or without it.

When do you offer Internships? We offer flexible paid internship opportunities that may be just what you are looking for. Most positions run seasonally, September through December and January through May, but we may have shorter sessions available. Note: we have a limited amount of internships available each year. Please contact us to determine availability before you apply.

Why do we offer internships?

The overwhelming majority of our staff have their college degrees. However, we wish to offer those up and coming a chance to experience the benefits of “learning by doing”. We believe strongly in Experiential Education and the benefits this type of education can afford. It may be that you wish to “test the waters” in several areas of your field or that you’re looking for a break away from the everyday grind of classes. Whatever the reason, an internship in a great opportunity to learn and grow.

Internship Goals

  • To provide you, the student, with significant work experience, which contributes to your understanding of and expertise in the field of Outdoor/Environmental Education.
  • We will provide an on-site supervisor, who is available at all times for questions, concerns, and assistance in helping you develop into a productive employee and making sure you’re happy with what is going on around you.
    To provide accurate, detailed, written feedback of your on the job performance, including suggestions for improvement.
  • We will provide an on-site supervisor who will (if needed by your college) be liaison between you and your College/University. This supervisor will assist a student in meeting their academic and administrative requirements and deadlines.

How is an Internship different than a normal Instructor position?

The Internship Goals are what differentiate our internship program from our normal staff positions. Other than this, you will have the same job and responsibilities as all of the other Instructors. We will expect you to act like a normal Instructor; because of this you will enjoy the same pay and benefits as a normal Instructor.

Job Description

Position/Title: Field/Cabin Instructor
Reports To: Director
Pay Rate: Base wage of $85 per working day (Monday – Friday). Raises are discussed in Level information, available at
Benefits: Room seven days per week and Board (meals) available when program is in session. Employees are responsible for utilities (gas, electric, water) at their place of residence.
Health Insurance: A Health insurance stipend is provided, as detailed in Level information. You are required to either join our Health Insurance Plan or show proof of membership in a current Health Insurance plan.


  • BA/BS in outdoor/environmental education, environmental science, science degree, related field, or relevant experience.
  • Valid certification in First Aid and CPR. (Must provide on first day of employment.) NOTE: Your First Aid and CPR certification must include, at minimum, 50% of course time to include in person instruction, hands on practice, and skills assessment under the direct supervision of a certified instructor. This means that part of your course readings may be done online, but any practical testing must be done in person. CPR must be for infant, child, and adult, and your CPR card must meet or exceed the current “AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC.”
  • Valid driver’s license or state ID and social security card, or United States Passport.
  • Valid California Food Handler’s Permit; training and testing will be provided during initial staff training.
  • Positive role model for minors.
  • Documented experience and ability to teach an outdoor science school curriculum to school children.
  • Desire to live and work in a camp community.
  • Ability to accept guidance and supervision from and to work with others.
  • Ability to pass a criminal background check.
  • An Instructor should show evidence of the following characteristics: flexibility, positive outlook, creativity, concern for student and staff safety, good interpersonal skills, a willing attitude, adaptability, decision making skills, maturity, integrity, and approachability.
  • An instructor shall be in good physical health that allows the performance of any of the following possible duties: hiking over rough terrain for up to 5 miles, carrying 25 lbs of equipment in a bag or backpack, performing emergency first aid and rescue skills outdoors in inclement weather, in various rough terrain, near or in water, and around the camp property, ability to drive maintenance or emergency vehicles, and stair climbing.
  • Specialized positions require the physical ability to lift and move 50 pounds of weight regularly.
  • Instructors must be able to see and hear. Vision and hearing are required to identify and respond to environmental and other hazards related to an activity, and in daily activities and programs. Vision, which may be corrected, and hearing, which must be in a normal rage as measured by a standard audiogram, must be good enough to see and hear children and adults in life and/or health safety endangering situations, in both daytime and nightime conditions. Vision requirements include close vision (clear vision at 20 inches or less), distance vision (clear vision at 20 feet or more), peripheral vision (ability to observe an area that can be seen up and down or to the left or right while eyes are fixed on a given point), depth and perception (three dimensional vision, ability to judge distance and spatial relationships), and ability to adjust focus (ability to adjust the eyes to bring an object into sharp focus). Hearing requirements include the ability to properly use a two way radio and telephone while around groups of people to communicate with program personnel.


  • Instructors will read the entire Staff Manual and additional literature distributed during the year and actively be responsible for the material and duties contained within.
  • Instructors will plan, implement and evaluate any and all of the classes and activities offered by High Trails Outdoor Science School using experiential instructional methods that satisfy the written objectives for each class or activity. Classes include, but are not limited to: Archery, Archeology, Pond and River Study, Wildlife Ecology, Environmental Awareness, Orienteering, Ornithology, Outdoor Living Skills, Teambuilding, High/Low Ropes, Astronomy, Sensory Awareness, and Nocturnal Ecology.
  • Instructors shall spend approximately two weeks a month teaching up to 4 classes a day, facilitating meals and non-class-time activities during the daytime. Instructors will spend the remaining two weeks staying with the students in the cabin planning, organizing and facilitating large group activities with a recreational and life skills focus, including evening programs, and will supervise the students overnight. This schedule may change at any time due to demands of the program.
  • Instructors will observe student behavior, assess its appropriateness, enforce appropriate safety procedures and behavioral expectations, and apply appropriate behavior management techniques.
  • Instructors should be available to work at High Trails five days each week as assigned. When science school programs are not scheduled or have been cancelled, instructors need to remain flexible to carry out duties assigned by the directors of High Trails. Duties could include (but are not limited to): program leadership, program development, grounds maintenance, repairs or improvements, facility set-up, maintenance, or improvement.
  • Instructors shall be responsible each day for cleaning, inventory and proper care of all High Trails equipment used during the program, including cabins, restrooms, staff lounge, class equipment, dining hall, etc.
  • Instructors shall perform tasks and complete any documentation necessary to meet any American Camping Association standards and assist in the compliance of all local, state and federal standards that exist for operating camps. Each instructor will be trained and asked to respond in the implementation of procedures for incidents, accidents, injuries and emergencies which include, but are not limited to, natural disasters, lost persons, and “strangers” in camp. It is the responsibility of the instructor to report all incidents, accidents and injuries in writing to the Medic and/or Director within 24 hours of the occurrence.
  • The instructor will positively participate in all aspects of camp life including, but not limited to: meals, classes, all-group or large group activities, and recreational activities including singing and skits.
  • An instructor will provide support, encouragement, active listening, information and activities for staff, students and teachers which fosters responsible membership in the community and provides for a safe and healthy environment.
  • Instructor shall be responsible for periodic work in a kitchen environment where they may be involved with food preparation, serving, cleaning, and maintenance.


When do students come to High Trails? Where do they come from?

Students come to camp generally from Monday through Friday, and they travel 2+ hours from all over the Los Angeles area to visit us. They will come up with their elementary school and teachers, who sponsors the trip. We get a huge range of students, both ethnically and socio-economically. Most of the students who come to camp pay for the trip themselves, though we offer scholarships to each school to help them out.

How many students go to High Trails? How long do they stay?

Our program runs September through May, currently hosting 100+ schools and 8,000+ students. We average about 120 kids per week in the fall, and 140-180 students in the spring at each of our two sites. The vast majority of our students are 6th graders, through we occasionally see 5th graders and every once in a while get to tower over those cute little 3rd and 4th graders. We offer 3, 4 and 5 day programs (running during the school week), with the most popular choice being the 5 day program.

How big are the group sizes?

In the field, we average 12-14 students per group. The cabins average out the same, but there are cabins that hold only 11 students and other cabins that hold up to 18 students.

What is the administration structure of High Trails?

There is a Director, Program Director, Medical Director, two Health and Support Coordinators (HSCs), and 3-4 Senior Instructors.  The Director supports the other admin and staff, interacts with the visiting school teachers, and maintains our relationship with the site. The Program Director acts as  Director when the Director is gone, teaches inservices, evaluates instructors, and develops programs. The HSCs and Senior Instructors take care of the nuts and bolts in the program and make certain the staff are supported when they are with students. The Medical Director and HSCs are responsible for the health and well-being of the entire camp community, and they also make sure program is running smoothly.

Is there room for advancement at High Trails?

Check out the Position Overview to see what’s available. The vast majority of our administrators started as an instructor at High Trails.

Why do you only hire college educated Instructors?

When we first started running program, many years ago, we had two sets of staff. Our Naturalists were college degreed folk who taught classes all day long. They had short breaks before and after meals, and ended their day of work after the last evening class at 9pm. Counselors were high school degreed people who slept with the kids at night and watched over them at meals. We noticed huge differences in the quality of experience the students received when they were with different staff; for the most part the Naturalists did a wonderful job of teaching, whereas the Counselors had a “babysitting” mentality. We had constant complaints about the Counselors from students, teachers, and Naturalists, and this split staff system created not only a huge rift in the camp community, but it gave us a program that was not consistent in the quality it delivered.

The first big change we made, way back in the Fall of 1998, was to eliminate the jobs of Naturalist and Counselor, and hire an all college degreed Instructor staff. These Instructors would rotate back and forth between the Field and the Cabins. We slimmed down the role of the Field Instructor and beefed up the role of the Cabin Instructor, making both of these positions valid teaching roles.

Now the Cabin Instructor could have a large chunk of time off during the day, and come back to a cabin full of students waiting to be taught classes like astronomy and nighttime wildlife. The Field Instructor could work all day and finally stop after dinner, giving them plenty of time to recharge before the next morning. The next week the Instructors would switch roles. This new system evened out the responsibilities for each position, gave everyone lots of time off during the week, provided a good amount of variety in the job, and created one cohesive staff team. We liked it, it worked great, and our staff love it. Our schools responded incredibly well; their students now were being watched, 24 hours a day, by a responsible college degreed professional. We are the only outdoor school that we have heard of that operates under this system. It gives us, what we believe, is the consistently highest quality program experience for students anywhere.

What is the staff like?

Staff are primarily in their early to mid twenties, in their first 1-5 years out of college. They are outdoor oriented, with interests like hiking, backpacking, biking and rock climbing being the norm. They tend to be open minded yet opinionated, but love hard work and a challenge. They believe in the environment, and are working towards ways to translate this belief into a valid lifestyle. They are as likely to be climbing at Joshua Tree, trying to summit a snow covered San Gorgoinio Mountain, or lounging in the desert sun in Indio at the Coachella Music Festival. This is a tiring and exhaustive job, and most staff will work one full year with us before heading off to their next adventure. We have on average 15-20 staff that return after one year for more fun.

What about staff training?

Plan on training for 2 solid weeks (you’ll have a weekend off…) when you start at High Trails. In the fall our training happens before program starts for the school year, while the other training may run right alongside program with students. We will teach you most everything you need to know to teach at High Trails, and you’ll get to know your coworkers and start to form a solid community. Training is long, intensive and tiring. It’s also rewarding, fun, and beneficial.

What can I expect as far as meetings, continuing education, and inservices?

We generally meet at 8am the first day of program and after some rousing games and songs have a “nuts and bolts” inservice, dealing with logistics, facilities, procedures, medical issues and more “fun” stuff. During the week each group of instructors (cabin and field) will be expected to meet once during their off time for 30 minutes to discuss the happenings of the week and any issues that have arisen. On the last day of program, once the students leave, we spend several hours cleaning up camp and maintaining our equipment. After this we have a program inservice, where we pump you with new information about your teaching and classes; from plants and water to teambuilding and lesson plans. We then have a final group meeting, where we all check in with each other, give individual and group thanks, and talk about important issues. We are generally finished and out of camp by 4pm on the last day of program.

How much time out of official “work” will I need to do?

At the beginning of the year, when you are making class props and learning lesson plans, you can count on putting in a decent amount of off work time – around two weekends – just to make certain you’re absolutely ready for teaching. Once you’ve jumped past this beginning of the year hurdle, we encourage you to still spend some time learning each week, both in and out of work. You will have work time, generally on the first and last day of program when we are waiting on students and busses, that you can use to do extra research and learning. The best teachers are the ones who consistently get excited about learning and content, and then pass along this energy to their students.

Can I teach anything I want?

No. We have a set lesson plan for every single class and you will have to teach from this lesson plan. Once you have this dialed down, you can use our level system and work on the Teaching Path. This is a system that requires you to score highly on a teaching evaluation, then allows you to revise lesson plans. This process lets us maintain a solid minimum baseline of class standards regardless of the experience or talent of the teacher. Don’t confuse Teaching Evaluations with normal full evaluations; every staff is automatically given a full evaluation every season (fall, winter and spring).

What classes will I teach? What is the discipline with students like?

The answer to these questions, and many more, can be found in the Schools and Parents section of our website. Take some time to explore the links and forms off of these pages; they deal with schools selecting classes, class standards and objectives, students filling out discipline forms, and much more.

What’s the weather like? Do you get any snow?

Spring and fall are wonderful, with the fall being in the 60’s and 70’s and the spring being the same. Winter is strange, with warm one day and freezing the next. Temperatures in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s are common, with an average of 70 inches of snow a year.

We do teach and run full program in the snow, so be ready to teach in all kinds of conditions. Please come ready to shovel snow in the winter…both at the site itself and at your house. Snow is fun, but it does take additional effort to make everything run smoothly.

What is the local flora and fauna like?

Both sites are located predominantly in a Ponderosa/Jeffrey Pine forest. The 7,000 foot elevation does give us a good variety of plants and trees, as we are a crossing zone between the pinion/juniper forests below us and the alpine areas farther above. You can count on seeing some desert like areas, with cactus, pinion pines, junipers, and sage bush. You will also see cedar trees, coulter pines, sugar pines, fir trees, live and black oak trees, willow trees, manzanita, and more. Most of the time you’ll see towering Ponderosa and Jeffrey Pines, with pine needles blanketing the ground. We are constantly amazed at the diversity of the flora in this area.

What wildlife will I see?

Lots of squirrels and chipmunks. Black bears and rattlesnakes make guest appearances in the fall and spring. At both sites we have seen many deer, raccoon, owl, bobcat, coyote, golden eagle, red tailed hawk, and more.

What is the landscape like?

Rolling hills, the occasional rock formation, views of 11,000 foot mountains and blue lakes, forests where the light doesn’t seem to shine through the canopy, and forests where you cannot escape the heat of the sun. At both sites there is an astounding variety of great places to take your students to explore and teach.

What is Big Bear (the nearest town…) like?

The best way to get a handle on a town is to take a look at the newspapers, businesses and online communities available; for starters, head over to,,,,,,,,, and the local trails group,

Internet Access? Cell Phones? Laundry?

Our site has a satellite-based internet system in the main buildings, including the communal staff lodge (not the individual cabins). It works well for most internet perusing. You’re welcome to use this for your basic internet needs. Bring your cellphones with data plans and hotspots for more advanced internet usage. Living in Big Bear you can order high speed internet or see if any of your neighbors have unprotected wifi routers. Verizon cell phones work fantastic just about everywhere, with AT&T and Sprint coming in second and third place. With laundry, if you live at one of our sites we do have laundry facilities available. The houses in town are generally a good deal nicer than the cabins at camp, but there are no provided laundry facilities there…you’ve got to use the local Big Bear laundromats.

What is the school and work schedule like?

We run based on a normal, traditional school calendar. We have a week off at Thanksgiving, three weeks off over Christmas, and a weeklong (thank goodness…) spring break. Staff training generally starts in the middle of September, runs for two weeks, with the first students showing up the first week of October. As for your weekly schedule, the general rule is one week in the cabins, one week in the field, one week of time and a half, etc, and then right on back to the beginning. Things change constantly, so if you need a perfectly set schedule every week this isn’t the job for you.

Will I need a car? Will I need a 4wd?

Most of our staff have cars, most of them are not 4wd, and most of them do just fine all year long. As you bring your car, realize that we do live in the mountains close to 7,000 feet and our sites are at the end of long dirt roads. You will have to drive slow and carefully on our dirt roads, purchase basic snow essentials for your car (chains or cables, shovels, ice scrapers, etc.), and you will have to become a safe and competent winter weather driver. In the winter, our dirt roads will go through phases of snow, ice, slush, mud, water, and then back to dirt. We do our best to keep the road in good shape, but, as a disclaimer, there may be times in the winter when you might want to park your car and walk up the dirt road to camp.

It is possible to survive out here without a car, but you will have to be nice with words and gas money to the folks that do have cars. If you don’t have a car…you must live at one of our sites (you can’t live in Big Bear). Though we like bikes, and ride them a lot, they may not be the best source of transportation out here.

Budgets? Expenses? Paychecks?

You’re responsible for getting out here. Once you’re here, we cover your food during the program week, your housing for the duration of your contract, and your wage/benefits per our current level system. You’re responsible for utilities (they average about $50 per month, depending upon your house and conservation ethos…), transportation, food on the weekends, and any other incidentals that you need to live your life the way you want. Paychecks generally come out every two weeks, with normal Federal and CA taxes (as you elect) taken out of them.

Wait, can you give me all the nitty-gritty details about the pay?

Base wage is $85/shift. Of that $85/shift, $5 of it is set aside as an accrued deposit. This means that you receive this amount plus 10% interest on it at the end of your contract. If you do not fulfill your contract, this amount is forfeited. With this system, the take home pay (before taxes) is then $80/shift.

Staff work between 9 to 13 days per pay period, which is every two weeks. This variety in days depends on a variety of factors:

1. The length of program we have. We offer 3, 4, and 5 day programs. About 60% of our programs are 4 days, 40% 5 days, rarely do we have 3 days. If you are scheduled for the 4 day program, you then have a three day weekend.

2. The amount of extra work you take on. We have a couple different options for extra work (1.5 shifts, 2 shifts, climbing specialist). As general guideline you’ll work extra work every 3-4 weeks. The Fall is a little lighter in numbers, leading to it being more on the 9-11 days per pay period side of things. Come Winter we pick up steam, and it becomes more 10 – 12 days per pay period.

A couple of other considerations in what your pay checks will look like. We require all staff to have health insurance. If you have your own, a $75/month Health Stipend will be added to your paycheck. If you sign up for High Trail’s company health insurance, we cover 50% of it and the other 50% is taken from the paycheck. Depending on your demographic, 50% is about $150/month.

Lastly, housing. This is part of your compensation, however two variants on this. 1. Utilities are taken out of your paycheck once a month. Depending on which house you live in, how much gas and electricity you use, and how many roommates you have this is about $20-40/month. 2. Housing Deposit. This is taken out as $25/paycheck until $150 is reached. At the end of the year, when you move out, as long as you clean and leave your house in good condition, this $150 is returned to you.

How does my gender identity & expression impact my work at High Trails?

We welcome everyone to work at High Trails, regardless of their gender identity. We believe that part of learning how to all live together on one healthy planet (our mission) is being able to work, live, play with everyone. However, the reality of our business (overnight stays in cabins) and our customers (schools from a diverse background) is that our staff’s identity does impact our work.

In particular, complications arise in the cabin setting when the gender identity or gender expression of the Instructor does not match their biological sex. The cabin space is a vulnerable space for our students – changing clothes, showering, sleeping. For many students, this is the first time they are sleeping away from home. Therefore, the Cabin Instructor plays an essential role in bringing comfort and familiarity to the space.

In May 2021, we surveyed our customers (aka schools), asking them who their school population feels comfortable having as their Cabin Instructor. Here are the results.

  1. About 60% of the schools are comfortable with Instructors who are gender fluid, non-binary, have androgynous gender expression, or use they/them pronouns but have the same biological sex as the students being their Cabin Instructor. (Example: The Instructor identities as gender non-binary, uses they/them pronouns, is biologically female, so is in a female cabin.)
  2. About 10% of the schools surveyed said they were comfortable with a Cabin Instructor whose biological sex matched the students in the cabin but identified or expressed as the opposite gender as the students being their Cabin Instructor. (Example: An Instructor identifies their gender as male, uses he/him pronouns, is biologically female, so is in a female cabin.)
  3. About 10% of the schools surveyed said they were comfortable with a Cabin Instructor whose biological sex did not match the biological sex of the students in the cabin but identified or expressed as the same gender as their students being the Cabin Instructor. (Example: The Instructor identifies their gender as female, uses she/her pronouns, is biologically male or transitioning to be biologically female, so is in a female cabin.)
  4. The majority of schools shared that they do not want the topic of gender identity and gender expression to be central topics of conversation or the focus of students’ time at High Trails, as that is not why the school chooses to come to outdoor school.
  5. A significant minority of schools shared that many of their students have not been exposed to the concept of gender fluidity and trans-identity, and many parents do not want the first time their children learn about the concept of gender identity to be at outdoor school.

With this information and to stay in business with our customers, here is how we approach gender identity at High Trails this school year:

  1. Schools will choose if they are comfortable having a Cabin Instructor who identities and expresses as gender fluid or gender non-conforming. (#1 above)
    1. If they are comfortable with this option, great! We will schedule the staff member per their biological sex into a Cabin Instructor shift. Please note from our survey that this may be about 60% of schools; just enough schools to fairly regularly have the Instructor in the Cabin rotation and extra work.
    2. If they are not comfortable with this option, we will schedule the staff member for a Field Instructor shift.
  2. Schools will choose if they are comfortable having a Cabin Instructor whose gender identity and expression do not match their biological sex. (#2&#3 above)
    1. If they are comfortable with this option, great! We will schedule the staff member per the school’s preference for which group of students they work with. Please note from our survey results that only a small population of our schools may choose this option, severely limiting the instructors’ chances of working as a Cabin Instructor and extra work.
    2. If they are not comfortable with this option, we will schedule the staff member for a Field Instructor shift.
  3. Any Instructor may be scheduled to work as a Field Instructor for any school. In the field, students are in a similar setting as their school, where “learning to all fit together on one healthy planet” can happen smoothly in a less vulnerable space than the cabin.
  4. There is a set standard for which all staff may address the topic of gender identity as needed. As the focus of our program is environmental science, nature appreciation, and fundamentals of teamwork, this will not be a central topic that is discussed extensively or deeply. A simple explanation will be used. (#4& #5 above)

Final Note: If you are wondering about how this will impact you, please reach out to us! For everyone’s sake, let’s make sure we are all on the same page instead of having you arrive on-site, start training, and realize that this is not a good fit… Let’s talk about it!

Housing Inspections? Utilities?

Be ready for monthly housing inspections. Once a month you and your roommates will have to work together and thoroughly clean your entire High Trails provided lodging, and then a team (a member of administration, a support coordinator, and a random instructor) will inspect your house.

Yes, it stinks that we have to take time out of the program and pay people to inspect your house. But…this lets us make sure you’re taking care of things, and more importantly, it helps you and your roommates get along better…it’s nice to live in a clean house (and you can count, at least, on your house being shiny clean at least once a month…).

If you don’t pass, we will hire someone to clean your house for you and take the cost out of your paycheck. Be ready, also, for us to charge you for your utility usage. We got tired of staff preaching conservation and environmentalism during the day and then leaving lights and heaters on at night. Sometimes, the best way to learn to conserve is to be hit in the pocketbook…utilities average about $50 a month (it depends on how much you use…).

What is Impairment Testing?

High Trails operates a program responsible for the active supervision of elementary aged children in an overnight outdoor education environment. To ensure that employees are free from any workplace impairments caused from Alcohol or Drugs, High Trails has in place an Impairment Testing Program. High Trails will randomly test 10% of its employees on the first Friday of each month. High Trails also reserves the right to test, at any time, individuals that they reasonably suspect are impaired from drugs or alcohol while on duty.

Are extra shifts (double, time and a half) always optional?

Much of the time our staff work single duty. We try as hard as we can to always make people happy…however, there are definitely times when people are scheduled on shifts that are not their first preference. As a disclaimer, you will be required, at various times of the year, to work all kinds of shifts…from single duty all they way up to double duty.

Where do you get your food? Is it local and organic?

Our food primarily comes from large suppliers like Sysco and USFoods. Every year we get staff into our program arguing that we should have more organic and local food. I agree. However…we haven’t found a way to make it work…yet. We’ve had staff do large amounts of research, and they have not been able to find farms close enough with a good selection of food. This is a drawback of running a kitchen at 7,000 feet and 45 minutes away from a “real” grocery store and gas station. Think you can find a way to make it work? We’re listening…

Can I Bring A Pet, Boyfriend, Girlfriend, Parent, Child, Etc to Live With Me?

Do they work here? If so, the answer is yes. Otherwise the answer is no. Human guests, on a short term basis, are welcome to visit.

I want some more information about your program…where should I get it?

Explore this website. Every page, every link…if you can’t find an answer, shout out to us.

The website makes everything there sound perfect. Is it really?

No. However…you will find with this program, and with just about everything in life, that it is what you make of it, and what you put into it. We want people that look at the glass as half full. We want people that overcome with positivity, build things up, and find good, creative solutions to problems. If you look at the glass as half empty, find yourself being pessimistic or negative, or always find yourself sitting around with your coworkers complaining about things…please look for employment elsewhere.

Our goal is that every rule, policy and decision at High Trails makes solid, reasonable sense. Most policies are out in the open, and if you take the time to ask us why something is the way it is, we’ll take the time to explain it. We’ve had 19+ years of staff walking through here donating all kinds of great ideas, so we’re getting somewhere. As with any company, though, some policies, especially personnel policies, are hidden away and shielded to protect individuals privacy and rights. This is when you have to trust us to make the right decisions and protect the greater interests of the program and community of High Trails.

One challenge we have, year after year, is in the type of people we attract. We want independent thinkers, energetic teachers, and bubble pushers. However, we’ve all got to work together, so we have to impress upon everyone that they have to be able to work within the system, and they have to be able to temper their own agendas with the mission of High Trails. Don’t misinterpret “Do Good and Fight the Man” and think that every policy, every rule, and every lesson plan is fair game for you to challenge. If you have good ideas and can find a way to fit it within the system that we have labored so hard to build, you’re in the right place. We’ll make you work for it and convince us, but in the end…if it makes sense…let’s do it. However, if your agenda or idea, no matter how well thought out, will push us off track, or if your approach and style makes enemies along the way…be ready for us to tell you “no”.

Our job in administration and leadership is not to be popular. Our job is to make the right decisions, the tough decisions, the long term decisions, that allow us to bring many thousands of students into the woods, and encourage them to spend their lives coming back.

Are you a non-profit?

Heck no. We are very proud of the fact that we are a small business, S-Corporation who has never taken a cent from anyone else to support the mission of High Trails. We started on a shoestring budget with no “angel” investors and have maintained this mentality as we’ve grown; as a result we run an efficient and smart business that is fortunate enough to work outside with kids and make a difference. We don’t have a huge board of directors overseeing our decisions, we do pay all of our local, state, and federal taxes to support the government and its programs, and we do pay competitive salaries to our staff. All of this while maintaining some of the lowest student tuition rates in our area. We have found that it is possible to run a program like ours without utilizing the government benefits afforded by a non-profit classification. Why take a donation when you don’t need one?

What’s the backstory of High Trails?

I came out to California in the late 90’s to run a small outdoor science school owned by a huge, not really kid based, foreign corporation. Soon it was obvious that the only way to make the program into what we envisioned was to go out on my own. So I did. Almost all of our schools followed us up out of the city and into the mountains as we officially opened High Trails in the Fall of 2000. Our first year was incredibly tough, but we were incredibly lucky and graced with a dynamite staff who were willing to give their all to a new program, making our first year a huge success. Our second year we grew over 50% and opened a second site in the spring. Once again we had a wonderful staff that made it all happen, and we now find ourselves heading into our umpteenth year, with two sites open for the full school year.

I graduated with a business degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1994, and decided (hoped) to use it in combination with all of my camp and teaching experience to eventually open some kind of outdoor teaching experience thing with kids. Somehow everything lined up and it all fell into place. Wow. Before coming to California, I bummed around Colorado, Utah and Arizona working as a camp counselor, a river guide, a ski instructor, a rock climbing instructor, a backcountry trip leader, a substitute school teacher, an adjudicated youth counselor, a rep for an outdoor gear maker, and many other not-so-glamorous jobs (can you say “drive a big brown truck delivering packages?). Now I spend my time sitting in front of a computer attempting to make us look and run like a real business. I’ve had the official title of “Director” since 1998 (yes, I’m getting old…), which means I do everything, from being the secretary, plumber, and web site developer to signing checks and signing up schools. You can find me during the year bouncing back and forth between our sites supporting the staff and helping our admin team maintain some semblance of organized chaos. If and when I get free time, I’m probably pretending to be a mountain biker, pounding diet coke so I can climb (hang) my way up some 5.12’s, or wondering for the 537th time what the guitar fingering is for a D7sus2 chord. – Driz

All The Jobs At High Trails

Field/Cabin Instructor

  • Number of positions: Lots. We have close to 9,000 students coming up this next school year. Probably more than this…
  • Pay/Benefits: $85-$190 a day, depending upon level and shift worked.
  • Returning Instructors are given an additional $5 per day added onto their daily wage rate.
  • Position Open: now.
  • To Apply – New Instructors: must follow the application requirements posted on the staff page of our website.
  • To Apply – Returning Instructors: If you’re interested in returning to High Trails, we’re interested in having you; provided that you have shown us, through your actions and decisions, that this is a good place for both of us. ‘We want our staff to learn and experience several things; the importance of having a strong and realistic work ethic, the joy of living in a positive and supportive community, the reward of exploring and appreciating nature, and the imperative necessity of being a lifelong learner and educator”. Take some time and tell us how, during your tenure at High Trails, you have exemplified these tenets of our mission, and how another year at High Trails will benefit you and what you want to do with your life. Note: please do not assume that you are guaranteed a position; we will be just as selective with returning staff as we are with new staff.
  • For more information check out the Instructor Job Description.
  • Application Deadline: open until all positions are filled, which is usually mid to late summer.

Senior Instructor

Sometimes, to acknowledge a really good teacher, we promote them into a position where they spend most of their time in an office dealing with paperwork and details. While this may work for some, there’s a lot to be said for just letting the good teachers be…Good Teachers. In an effort to acknowledge this and have good teachers around, we have the position of a Senior Instructor.

Senior Instructors will be expected to continually showcase excellent teaching performance. Because they are excellent teachers, they will go out a few times per month and get paid to do evaluations on another staff member teaching a class. Additionally, Senior Instructors will be expected to set take a positive leadership role during the portions of program when they are not directly teaching students. And yes, they do have small but significant administrative roles, primarily on the first day of program helping us with the whirlwind of student arrival chaos.

  • Number of positions: 4 total. Rotation through iterations of the position: SI Cabin Instructor, SI Boards, SI Evenings, SI Float. Take a look at the Job Description for more details on the rotation and what each shift entails.
  • Pay/Benefits: current Level, with an extra $15 added on to your pay level.
  • To Apply: check out our staff generated application suggestions. If you do not currently work at High Trails, we ask that you follow the same initial application process as the rest of our staff in addition to the above requirements.
  • For more information check out the Instructor Job Description and the Senior Instructor Job Description.

Health and Support Coordinators

Heport Coordinator? HASC? Really, it’s a coordinator that can also support the Medic. As a coordinator, you’ll be an integral part of the administrative team at High Trails. From giving the respect speech to students on the first day to leading the teacher hike to making sure evening programs are running smoothly, you will be all over program checking in with everyone. You’ll also fully support the Medical Director and act as a secondary medic, being ready to step in with medical situation at the drop of a hat. For all of this, you must have a WFR (or higher) medical certification. For more information check out the Health and Support Coordinator Job Description.

  • Number of positions: 2 total on a two-week rotation spending one week as a coordinator and one as a field/cabin instructor with the students.
  • Pay/Benefits: current Level, with $30 added on to your current Level pay.
  • To Apply: check out our staff generated application suggestions. If you do not currently work at High Trails, we ask that you follow the same initial application process as the rest of our staff in addition to the above requirements.

Program Director

Take everything that the coordinator position does and add some. The Program Director steps up with a vision and plan for teaching and inspiring our instructional staff throughout the school year. They are secondary in charge of the entire program when the Director steps off property, so be ready to Lead and Manage all of the staff. They teach inservices. They perform class evaluations. They make sure our Project Areas are perfectly maintained. And a whole lot more. For all of this, you must have a WFR (or higher) medical certification. For more information check out the Program Director Job Description.

  • Number of positions: 1 total
  • Pay/Benefits: current Level, with $40 added on to your current Level pay. Salary is paid based upon 5 days for each program week with students or staff training. Actual amount scheduled at program may be less, which allows for you to work the occasional bit out of program and feel good about it.
  • To Apply: check out our staff generated application suggestions. If you do not currently work at High Trails, we ask that you follow the same initial application process as the rest of our staff in addition to the above requirements.

Medical Director

The Medical Director makes certain all students have a safe and healthy experience at camp. When not dealing with immediate medical needs, the Medic assists the Site Director in all aspects of the program.

The Medical Director is in charge of the overall training, supervision, and management of the Medic team at High Trails. They are the primary school contact and the lead in projects, inservices, student and parent concerns, and health care plan maintenance. This is a serious administrative position, with a lot of responsibility attached to it; you will learn all sides of making a business “fun stuff” in the outdoor education world. For more information check out the Medical Director Job Description.

  • Restrictive Qualifications:  Licensed by the State of California as a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN).
  • Number of positions: 1
  • Pay/Benefits for a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN): $3000 per month base salary for 9 months of program. Actual amount scheduled at program may be less, which allows for you to work the occasional bit out of program and feel good about it. 1 week at Thanksgiving, 2 weeks off at Christmas, 1 week off at Spring Break. Private single room in a house on-site, food when program is in session, health insurance. See Job Description for full compensation package.
  • To Apply: check out our staff generated application suggestions. If you do not currently work at High Trails, we ask that you fill out this initial application:


Lead, manage and teach at your own outdoor education program of 25+ staff and 4,000+ students in the mountains near Big Bear Lake, CA. Site Directors provide the character, supervision and inspiration that make our program eye-opening for students and life-changing for staff. The three most important qualities of a High Trails Director: powerful leadership skills, wicked organizational skills, and a strong ability to work independently. For more information check out the Site Director Job Description.

  • Restrictive Qualifications: you must have a WFR, EMT or higher medical certification.
  • Number of positions: 1 total.
  • Pay/Benefits: Annual compensation package is estimated at $52,500 a year, with a traditional school year schedule and lots of time off.
  • To Apply: check out our staff generated application suggestions. If you do not currently work at High Trails, we ask that you follow the same initial application process as the rest of our staff in addition to the above requirements:

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