Responsible Travel

Backroads and the Adventure Collection

We're proud to acknowledge our membership in the Adventure Collection, along with, Canadian Mountain Holidays, Geographic Expeditions, Lindblad Expeditions, OARS, Off the Beaten Path, Bushtracks Expeditions, Natural Habitat, Micato Safaris and NOLS. While completely independent, members of the Adventure Collection strive to bring the many corners of the globe to you in a variety of distinctive vacations that suit your individual preferences.

As members of the Adventure Collection we enthusiastically and wholeheartedly agree to the Adventure Collection's five Strategic Principles of Responsible Travel and continue to integrate them into all aspects of Backroads. The Adventure Collection adopted the following principles in November 2003. Click on each principle to learn about Backroads' implementation.

Strategic Principle I

Members have specific ongoing projects that further the overall concept of responsible travel.

As an international travel organization, we view the world as our community. Since Backroads was founded in 1979, we've made it our business to support the areas where we travel and the communities where we live, through financial aid, material donations, people power and education. In the 21st century, we've broadened our reach to include more regions worldwide, while narrowing our focus to communities and organizations most meaningful to our staff and to our guests.

In the past several years, through our Backroads Community Partnerships Program, we have donated well over one million dollars to worthwhile causes.

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Strategic Principle II

Members have a clearly defined strategy regarding accountability in their offices.

Backroads wants to be a good neighbor and partners with the communities where our offices are located. To that end, we strive to be economically productive, socially responsible and environmentally friendly. We encourage our staff to be considerate and culturally and environmentally conscious. We bear in mind the rights of the local population, respect local laws and customs and try to employ local staff whenever feasible.

Some examples of how we strive to be accountable in the communities where we have our offices:

  • Donating leftover food from our trips to local food banks.
  • Encouraging our leaders to serve their home communities when not leading trips.
  • Participating and supporting local bike-to-work days.
  • Participating in recycling programs, both in our main offices and warehouses and satellite operations.
  • Promoting community service on our Intranet.
  • Providing a physical space for employees to promote community service opportunities.
  • Providing staff with "flex days" that can be given over to volunteer service. Our goal is to have 100% of our staff involved in community service.

Through our Community Partnerships Program, we support the following worthwhile causes in the San Francisco Bay Area, where our main headquarters are located:


  • Alliance for Education
  • Bay Area Discovery Museum
  • Children's Community Center Berkeley
  • Fare Start
  • Spectrum LGBT Center
  • Over one hundred individual school donations


  • American Cancer Society - San Francisco
  • Friends of Crisis Nursery/Alta Bates Summit Foundation
  • Hearts of Gold: Enhances the lives of NYC's homeless mothers and children
  • MARC: Lifehouse
  • Marin Breast Cancer Watch
  • San Francisco Auxiliary (Lucile Packard Children's Hospital)
  • St. Helena Hospital Foundation
  • Taylor Family Foundation: Pediatric AIDS


  • High Museum of Art
  • Marin Theatre Company
  • Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
  • San Francisco Opera Guild
  • Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Foundation
  • Sun Valley Center for the Arts

Backroads is committed to a sustainable vision and strategy and measures its investments by monitoring social, environmental and financial performance. Though Backroads is a small company, we try to reach out in a large way by creatively using our resources where they'll do the most good.

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Strategic Principle III

Members have a clearly defined strategy regarding accountability in the communities where their trips take place.

Backroads understands that our guests travel to the destinations we offer because of their natural and cultural beauty. We practice a "take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints" philosophy. We also understand that regions are in different stages of development and we match our giving accordingly.

In North America, the interests of our guests and staff generate many of the causes that Backroads supports and has supported in the past. The causes are either located in the places where our guests live or the places where we run our trips.

In the past few years, we've donated over one million dollars to worthwhile causes. Each of the following organizations has received between $2,000 and $11,000 of support from Backroads.

North America

  • Alliance for Education
  • American Cancer Society - Sky Baron Ball
  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Heart Association
  • American Paralysis Association
  • Aspen Youth Experience
  • Banff Centre
  • Baycrest Centre (Barrie to Baycrest Ride)
  • Break the Cycle
  • Center for Attitudinal Healing
  • Centrum Arts and Creative Education
  • Challenged Athletes
  • Cheekwood
  • Child and Family Institute
  • Children's Aid Society
  • Children's Chorus of Washington
  • Edgewood Center for Children and Families
  • Family Caregiver Alliance
  • Family House
  • Fare Start
  • Goldman Institute on Aging
  • Guardian Angel Settlement
  • Guardsmen
  • Helen Hayes Awards
  • High Museum of Art
  • HIV/AIDS Care Program
  • Image for Success
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
  • Make-a-Wish Foundation
  • Miami Project to Cure Paralysis
  • Mountain Parks Heritage and Interpretive Association (MPHIA), (Canada involved since its inception and the current president of the association is our Canadian Operations Manager)
  • National Kidney Foundation of Southern CA
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society
  • National Sports Center for the Disabled
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
  • Phoenix Children's Hospital
  • Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
  • Planned Parenthood of CT
  • Run for the Rainforest
  • San Francisco Opera Guild
  • San Diego Challenged Athletes Foundation
  • San Diego Chamber Orchestra Guild
  • Second Harvest Food Bank
  • Spectrum LGBT Center
  • St Luke's Hospital
  • Summer Search
  • Sun Valley Center for the Arts
  • Tahoe Adaptive Ski School
  • Taylor Family Foundation - Pediatric AIDS
  • Theater For A New Audience
  • Tim Horton Children's Camp (donated sleeping bags, tents, camping equipment)
  • Town of Banff (donated kids helmets, bikes and water bottles to local races and school programs)
  • Trips for Kids, USA
  • UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • United Way
  • V Foundation for Cancer Research
  • Wilderness Center
  • Youth Alternatives, Inc

The following examples outside of North America show more of what we do on trip:


Bhutan: We include a note in our Travel Planners letting guests know that if they'd like to leave "gently used" warm clothing behind, it is very much appreciated. Also, leaders often pack their older fleece and other sturdy clothing, and then leave it behind at the end of the season.

Latin America

Baja, Mexico: Support of local children's bike club. 

Costa Rica: Financial support of the Rainmaker Conservation Project, a privately owned rain forest reserve that spans over 1,530 acres of 80-90 percent virgin forest. The project forms part of the Quepoa Biological Corridor, and is one of the last remnants of primary rain forest in the Central Pacific (along with Corcovado National Park). It is a biodiversity bank for 70 percent of all the flora and fauna species found in Costa Rica, and careful preservation of the forest is their foremost goal.

Peru: We financially support the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, as well as other museums and sites we visit including: Cathedral, Church of San Blas, Qoricancha, Temple of the Sun/Convento de Santo Domingo and Museum of pre-Columbian Art, as well as the archaeological sites of Tambo Machay, Q'enko, Sacsayhuaman, Pisac and Ollantaytambo.

In Ollantaytambo, we visit a local school, Divino Maestro, and join in sing-alongs and visit classrooms. We facilitate collections from our guests that are put toward school supplies and games.

In the Sacred Valley, we visit the small indigenous community of Huilloc, where we support local weavers and take part in a cultural dance with the children. In the same community we bring fruit and bread for the locals as well as school supplies (each week it is something different: crayons, pencils, books, paper) for the children.


France: Financial support of the Caen Memorial Museum, offering summaries of points of 20th-century history: biographies, major events, objects and religion. To date, over 80 titles have been brought out in French and English, enabling the public to gain insight into a particular aspect of history, particularly World War II.

In addition to the above examples, virtually all of our trips include donations to local museums, natural history centers, indigenous peoples organizations, national park associations and other service organizations.

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Strategic Principle IV

Responsible travel education guidelines are considered in developing of departures offered by members.

Backroads believes that by educating our staff, guests and community partners we can naturally further the cause of responsible travel. To this end we try to:

  1. Minimize waste on our trips by using recycled materials and non-paper products as much as possible.
  2. Practice the "Leave No Trace" ethic on all our trips, and highlight this in our materials.
  3. Prepare travelers to minimize their impact while visiting sensitive environments and cultures.
  4. Organize annual training seminars for our leaders that emphasize deep cultural and natural-world knowledge of the area.
  5. Purchase, consume and highlight local foods as part of our experience.
  6. Design our trips and activities to connect our guests to local cultures.
  7. Support local artisans by bringing our guests to their workshops.
  8. Use locally owned suppliers whenever feasible.

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Strategic Principle V

Members are committed to a systematic review of their corporate performance regarding responsible travel.

By supporting and helping to develop the Adventure Collection responsible travel strategies we believe we will continue to improve upon that which we have always cherished: the natural and cultural world. Representatives from our Leader Development, Trip Operations and Logistics & Transportation departments meet on an annual basis with Tom Hale, the Founder and President of Backroads, to review our progress and outline areas for improvement.

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Why Choose Us

In the past several years, through our Backroads Community Partnerships Program, we have donated well over one million dollars to worthwhile causes.