This intensive, 9-week leadership semester course is an outstanding opportunity for students to immerse themselves in the rugged landscapes of the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness while experiencing a diverse curriculum of outdoor skills, leadership and character development.
Travel and study through two spectacular and dramatically different regions of the country while you acquire an extensive range of outdoor skills and a broad understanding of each area’s environmental and ecological challenges along the way. Begin your adventure in the north woods by backpacking along the Superior Hiking Trail, and continue your travels by canoe in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Once you travel south to the great American Southwest, you will backpack through the Chisos Mountains and navigate thrilling whitewater rapids in the canyons of Big Bend. In addition to the extended canoeing and backpacking expeditions, this semester course includes rock climbing, rappelling, and canyon exploration.
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This course starts within the next week. Please call us at 866-467-7651 to assess the possibility of applying for this course!
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JOIN WAITLIST Once a course has reached capacity, three waitlist positions become available. To join a course’s waitlist, click “Join Waitlist” to begin the application process. A $500 deposit is required. This $500 deposit includes a $150 non-refundable application fee and a $350 tuition payment. The $350 tuition payment is refundable only if you cancel your waitlist application or if an open position does not become available. If a position does become available, the applicant will be applied to the open position and the Application and Cancellation Policies of the Regional Outward Bound School will be followed, including forfeiture of the $500 deposit if you cancel 90 days or less prior to the course start date.
Waitlist applicants are encouraged to complete all required admissions documents while awaiting an open position. Positions may become available up to two weeks prior to the course start date. Applicants may only apply to one course. We recommend applying to a course with open positions instead of a course that is accepting waitlist applications. If you have questions, please call 866-467-7651 to speak with one of our Admissions Advisors.
CALL TO APPLY This means a course is very close to its start date. Although it is unlikely to secure a spot this late, you can call the National Admissions office at 866-467-7651 to discuss your options.
COURSE IS FULL When a course has reached maximum capacity, meaning all spots and the three waitlist spots are occupied, a course will read “Course Is Full.” This means applications are no longer being accepted.
CLOSED As a course nears its start date, the availability status may read “Closed.” In this event, a course roster has been finalized and applications are no longer being accepted or processed.
Course start in Ely, MN
Backpacking the Superior Hiking Trail
Canoe expedition in the Boundary Waters
Wilderness First Aid class
Community service, cleanup, personal challenge event
Travel by plane to El Paso, TX
Whitewater canoeing on the Rio Grande
Desert backpacking in Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park
Rock climbing and student planned final expedition
Community service, cleanup, personal challenge event, course-end ceremonies
Most College Savings Plans, including the 529 College Savings Plan, may be used to attend an Outward Bound expedition, thanks to a partnership with Western Colorado University. Anyone can register – you do not have to be a current Western Colorado University student. Registration is easy! Click here to learn more.
Develop outdoor skills. Enhance your leadership and communication abilities. Strive to increase your knowledge of the environment – all while learning wilderness travel techniques in a variety of stunning environments. The ultimate goal of our Gap Year expeditions is to help you develop the confidence, knowledge, and integrity essential for effective leadership. Whether you are learning how to safely tie in on belay, deciding as a group how to navigate through new terrain, or setting up a minimum-impact campsite for the evening, you’ll be honing and practicing skills for life.
Build skills, form connections: Amidst rugged natural landscapes, learn to lead and to follow; to give and receive feedback; and to trust in your own capabilities as you expand your technical and personal knowledge base. Find connections with your crewmates based on support and respect (and fun too!), and in the thick of challenges, discover there is more in you than you know.
Value strengths and strengthen values: Uncover your unique character strengths, exercise your independence as you gain life experience and learn how to let compassion in to everyday life by pushing your own limits and supporting your crew as you tackle obstacles together, big and small.
Demonstrate mastery: As you gain confidence in new skills and a better understanding of the natural world around you, take on more decision-making responsibilities. Work together to achieve team goals, solve problems and succeed both as independent individuals and as a group.
What you’ll learn: Examine your personal values and discover more about your true self. Hone your technical abilities as you become a master at ropes courses or swiftwater rescue techniques and Wilderness First Aid. Numerous certificates are available depending on the course, and up to 18 credit hours can be earned along the way.
Exploring new environments and building new connections will put your tenacity to the test. You’ll return with broader understanding of the natural world around you, deeper appreciation for small kindnesses and greater confidence in yourself and others that will serve you well long after you return.
Outward Bound is accredited with the American Gap Association and is the longest running program in this elite group dedicated to providing safe, meaningful and high-caliber educational experiences to students.
On the southern edge of the massive Canadian Shield, a granite rock formation that runs from Minnesota to Hudson Bay and the Northwest Territories, sits the largest freshwater lake in the world: Lake Superior. The Superior Hiking Trail follows the northern shore of Lake Superior from Duluth, Minnesota to Canada, covering almost 300 miles along the low-lying Sawtooth Mountain range. Students spend four to six days hiking on the trail. Well-marked trails, designated campsites and challenging terrain make the Superior Hiking Trail a great backpacking experience for all skill levels.
Completing an extended canoe expedition includes learning the art of paddling a canoe in a variety of conditions, as well as map and compass reading, route finding and Recreate Responsibly principles. Groups navigate a variety of waterways such as lakes, rivers and swamps, as well as working as a team to carry packs and canoes over portage trails when transitioning from one lake to another or to get safely around challenging rapids. Traveling by canoe allows groups to go far past where motorboats operate. Once there, it is possible to quietly observe bald eagles, moose and peaceful sunsets on mirror-calm lakes.
During climbing days, students learn about general rock climbing equipment, safety and etiquette. Students have many opportunities to climb, belay and rappel while learning and employing safety systems that are compliant with national standards. The rock climbing sites provide a number of different route options including cracks, sheer faces and chimneys. Regardless of a student’s rock climbing background, they are sure to find a route that will encourage the expansion of their comfort zone.
An intensive three-day Wilderness First Aid certification course teaches students the essentials of wilderness medicine and managing backcountry emergencies, providing them with skills to be safe and self-reliant.
After first learning basic whitewater strokes in calm currents, students are ready to begin the expedition. Paddling together, the group travels down-river through sections of calm currents and swift-moving whitewater rapids. The waters of the Rio Grande offer beginning and more advanced paddlers progressive challenges and a perfect place to learn and hone skills.
Instructors assist students in mastering skills of paddling, scouting and running rapids. Students learn all the skills they need to move efficiently down-river, including an introduction to whitewater rescue techniques. As there are only two students in a whitewater canoe everyone has the opportunity to "captain their watercraft." Students learn to adapt to the river and desert environments and reset their internal clock to rise with the sun and sleep with the moon.
Explore the Chihuahuan Desert and backpack the vast Chisos Mountains at elevations 2,000-8,000 feet. The small student group will hike both on and off trail, crossing mountain passes, exploring immense water-polished canyons and traversing a rugged desert where atmospheric clarity and wide-open spaces make distances deceiving and navigation challenging. While hiking, students will learn desert travel skills such as strategies for water management and environmental preservation and the finer points of balance and foot placement on rough terrain.
Service to the environment and to others is one of the core values of Outward Bound. Students are encouraged to practice service to the environment; leaving campsites cleaner than they found them and practicing Recreate Responsibly ethics. Designated service projects are coordinated with land managers like the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service to collaborate on land restoration projects while other projects may be based in the local community. Students develop a value of service, seeing the impact of their actions firsthand, and transfer this desire to serve to their communities back home.
The Solo experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition and gives students the opportunity to reflect on their Outward Bound experience. Many students use this reflection time to make decisions about their future, journal and enjoy the beauty of their surroundings unencumbered by the constant external stimulation of modern life. The duration of Solo depends on the course length and type, as well as the competency and preparedness of the student group. With all the food, skills and supplies they need, students are given a secluded spot to reflect alone, and are monitored by staff throughout the experience to maintain safety. Students find that Solo provokes profound and powerful learning in a short period of time and often becomes one of the most memorable parts of their Outward Bound experience.
Longer courses allow for a full immersion in the Outward Bound experience, more time to practice wilderness travel and the opportunity to experience both success and failure to promote personal growth. The Semester course in particular offers the opportunity to achieve success in multiple course areas and activities. Students can expect to get comfortable living and working together in the wilderness while creating a solid foundation of skillsets they can continue to build after course. This independence easily transfers back to home, school and work with increased confidence, direction, and sense of responsibility and purpose.
Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park, Texas Along the US-Mexico border in southwestern Texas, a powerful river and a mountainous desert unite in Texas’ Big Bend National Park. The Texas course area is one of the most remote and geologically dynamic in the nation. The Rio Grande River carves a huge, sweeping bend where Big Bend National Park earns its name. This 750,000-square mile wilderness is the eighth largest national park in the lower 48 states and a desert backpacking and rock-climbing paradise. In this region, delicate desert flowers exist alongside fossilized trees millions of years old. Mountain passes give way to steep-walled canyons and cliffs. The land itself is awe-inspiring, with canyons towering 300 to 1,200 feet over the river. It is one of the last true desert regions in North America. Much of this rugged land has remained unchanged for centuries. Hundreds of species of birds and a healthy diversity of other animal and plant communities thrive within the splendid isolation of ancient limestone canyons, juniper and mesquite-covered mesas and coal-black night skies.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota Established in 1964, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is a labyrinth of lakes and rock that has been protected as a true American wilderness. No roads, power lines or motorized craft may enter its borders. Therefore, the Boundary Waters wilderness has changed little since its unveiling when the glaciers melted 10,000 years ago.
Over one million acres in size, the BWCAW extends 150 miles along the Minnesota/Canadian border. With over 1,200 miles of canoe routes, nearly 2,200 designated campsites and more than 1,000 lakes and streams, the BWCAW is a truly amazing place to experience the wilderness. It contains portage-linked lakes and streams, interspersed with islands, forests and crags. It has no piped water, prepared shelters or signs to point the way. Within these borders students can canoe, portage and camp in the spirit of the French-Canadian Voyageurs of 200 years ago. Paddling routes offer outstanding opportunities for solitude, remoteness, teamwork, adventure and challenge.
If you are ready to enroll on a course click the enroll button next to the course you wish to select or you can enroll over the phone by speaking with one of our Admissions Advisors (toll-free) at 866-467-7651.
To secure your spot on a course you must submit an enrollment form and $500 deposit that is applied toward the total cost of the course and includes a $150 non-refundable enrollment processing fee.