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. In the great American Southwest, backpack through the Chisos Mountains and navigate thrilling whitewater rapids in the canyons of Big Bend. Then, make your way up north to backpack along the Superior Hiking Trail and canoe in the Boundary Waters. 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 may be full or preparing to leave in the next week. Please call us at 866-467-7651 to discuss your options.
Our Gap Year and Semester expeditions take you out of the classroom – and into the world. These courses are all about cultivating independence, developing technical skills, and engaging with the people and places around you. Learn from the best Instructors in the industry. Tackle challenges alongside a supportive crew of motivated peers. Amidst rugged natural landscapes, learn to lead and to follow; to give and receive feedback; and to trust in your own capabilities.
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.
Students explore the Chihuahuan Desert, crossing mountainous terrain and traveling through water-polished canyons. At altitudes of 2,000-8,000 fett, backpack the vast Chisos Mountains. The small group will hike both on and off trail, crossing mountain passes, exploring immense 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.
After first learning basic whitewater strokes in calm areas, students begin the expedition. Paddling as a group, students spend two weeks traveling downriver through sections of calm currents and whitewater. The waters of the Rio Grande offer beginning paddlers a progressive challenge 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 downriver. 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.
On the southern edge of the massive Canadian Shield, a granite rock formation runs from Minnesota to Hudson Bay and the Northwest Territories and helps to form Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water in the world.
The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) follows the northern shore of the lake from Duluth, Minnesota to Canada, covering almost 300 miles along the low-lying Sawtooth Mountain range. Students spend their days hiking on the trail, which meanders through dense boreal forest, offers awe-inspiring overlooks and plunges into pristine river valleys. Well-marked trails, designated campsites and challenging terrain make the SHT a great backpacking experience.
During three 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 engage them and encourage the expansion of their comfort zone.
Looking out over the top of the boreal forest, the high ropes course is an incredible obstacle course set 30 feet in the air. Students swing from Tarzan ropes, walk on tightrope wires and climb a cargo net before jumping on the zip line for an exhilarating ride back to solid ground.
Students complete an extended canoe expedition. This expedition includes learning the art of paddling a canoe in a variety of conditions, as well as map and compass reading, route finding, and Leave No Trace wilderness living principles. Groups navigate a variety of waterways such as lakes, rivers and swamps, 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.
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.
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 significant decisions about their future, journal, and enjoy the beauty of their surroundings unencumbered by the constant external stimulation of modern life. This semester course offers two unique solos of two to three days in length in the high deserts of Texas and in the springtime of the northwoods. 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.
Courses are offered in a variety of locations and for different lengths to provide a range of programming, from which participants can choose the optimal experience for them. Longer courses allow for a full immersion into 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 completely experience Outward Bound and 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 skill sets they can continue to build on after course. This independence easily transfers back to home, school and work with an increased confidence, direction and sense of responsibility and purpose.
Big Bend, Texas
On the border of Mexico, a powerful river and a mountainous desert unite in Texas’s Big Bend National Park. The vast Chihuahuan desert is an exotic place of spectacular multi-colored canyons and mountains — one of the last true desert regions in North America. The Rio Grande flows through its heart, forming the boundary between the United States and Mexico. The land itself is awe-inspiring, with canyons towering 300 to 1,200 feet over the river. Big Bend is the eighth largest national park in the lower 48 states, encompassing more than 800,000 acres of majestic mesas, canyons, cacti and weather-beaten desert.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
Established in 1964, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a labyrinth of lakes and rock that has been specifically 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 1 million acres in size, the BWCAW extends 150 miles along the 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. The BWCAW 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. The Boundary Waters paddling routes offer outstanding opportunities for solitude, remoteness, teamwork, adventure and challenge.
Superior Hiking Trail, Minnesota
The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) is a 296-mile footpath that largely follows the rocky ridge line above Lake Superior on Minnesota's North Shore from Duluth to the Canadian border. Well-marked trails, campsites and challenging terrain make this a perfect thru-hike destination.
National Geographic says the SHT “Is the best long hike in the country between the Continental Divide and the Appalachian Trail.” At its lowest elevation, along the lakeshore, the trail is 602 feet above sea level. At its highest point the trail is 1,750 feet above sea level and more than 1,000 feet above Lake Superior. The SHT is characterized by ascents to rock outcroppings and cliffs and descents into numerous river and creek valleys that feature abundant wildlife viewing opportunities.
Along the trail students stop and spend a day rock climbing at Shovel Point, which features towering 80-120 foot cliffs jutting right out of the lake. This dramatic site ensures memorable climbing for the novice and experienced rock climber alike.
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.