mission vision & values

Our Mission – What We Do

Big City Mountaineers provides transformative experiences through connections to nature that strengthen life skills and build community for youth from disinvested communities

Our Vision – Where We’re Going

Inspiring youth nationwide to embrace their self potential

Group of Hikers

Our Values – What’s Important

  • Respect: we operate from a place of deep admiration and care for the people, partners and the natural world we work with, seeking to cultivate relationships built on care and reciprocity
  • Inclusivity: we seek to foster a sense of belonging among those who experience barriers to accessing a full and dignified life based on their identities
  • Collaboration: we invite in wide ranging thoughts, opinions and experiences
  • Self-Discovery: we believe in making the time and space for exploring personal development


In the summer of 1989, Jim Kern founded Big City Mountaineers after a serendipitous turn of events opened up a spot on an upcoming backpacking trip to Montana. Looking to share the transformative wonders of natureJim invited a child who otherwise wouldn’t have had the means or opportunity for such an experience so far from home.

Over the course of that week, the seeds that would grow into Big City Mountaineers were planted. Jim realized that everyone deserves to have an opportunity to discover the lifechanging experience that nature offers and set out to make it possible.  

Since then, Big City Mountaineers has worked alongside the transformative powers of nature to leave a lasting impact on the lives of youths from underrepresented communities. By providing free, fully outfitted, and professionally led backcountry trips, we’re able to give young people ages 12 to 18 the opportunity to connect with nature and develop their strength, skills, and resilience. A powerful experience and education that is rooted in nature challenges them to go beyond what they thought possible and explore different parts of themselves.

Over the last 35 years, weve conducted nearly 1000 expeditions, served over 11,000 youths, organized 5,000 volunteers, and provided nearly 42,000 nights under the stars for the youth we serve. Big City Mountaineers is headquartered in Colorado but engages youth in six cities across the country, including Birmingham, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle.  

With gratitude, we acknowledge that we operate and organize on the traditional and ancestral lands of many native people:


Muskogee, S’atasoyaha, and Shawandasse (Birmingham)

Massachusett and Pawtucket (Boston)

Ute, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Shoshone (Denver area)

Sioux and Anishinabewaki (Minnesota)

Ohlone, Ramaytush, Chochenyo, and Muwekma (San Francisco Bay Area)

Duwamish (Seattle)

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