Adult Expeditions

Adult Leadership Expedition – North Carolina, Backpacking & Rock Climbing

Ages 18+  |  25 days  |  Starting at $4995
During this 25-day course, you’ll find yourself exploring North Carolina's wilderness while you paddle, climb, and hike.
Three people with backpacking gear, smiling.

Adventure First

At the National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), we know adventure. During this 25-day North Carolina Backpacking & Rock Climbing course, you’ll find yourself exploring North Carolina while you paddle, climb, hike and surf. Starting on our North Carolina-based campus, you’ll spend powerful days learning and exploring in NCOAE’s backyard, with all of our resources at our fingertips.

North Carolina offers the perfect setting for a month of immersion in the wilderness with considerable environmental diversity.

This course takes you to a variety of remote areas in the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains, including Pisgah National Forest, the 30-mile-long Art Loeb Trail and the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. You’ll may even explore the Grand Canyon of North Carolina, Linville Gorge, one of only two wilderness gorges in the Southern U.S. Summit Black Balsam Knob, a 6,240-foot peak in the Pisgah National Forest.

Much of your time will be spent mastering skills required to explore these mountain areas, including learning the basics of camp set-up, rock climbing, backpacking, kayaking and other technical outdoor skills.

During every other moment, you’ll be learning, sharpening, and practicing the skills to plan and lead adventure-based experiential education trips.


  • Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification
  • Leave No Trace (LNT) Trainer certification
  • Expedition planning
  • Wilderness Risk Management
  • Remote wilderness camp craft
  • Backcountry navigation
  • Expedition cooking and food planning

Course Details

25 days
Credit Hours
Wilmington International Airport (ILM)
Alternative drop off/pick up locations
Please contact the NCOAE office.
Register for Course
Skills Acquired
  • Further your knowledge and development as an outdoor educator/field instructor.
  • Discover in just 25 days whether outdoor and wilderness education is the career path best suited to you.
  • Acquire skills for an exciting job that takes you to pristine destinations in the great outdoors instead of an office cubicle.
Academic Credits

Your work during our 25-day North Carolina – Adult Leadership Expedition course is eligible for up to six college-level credits through The University of North Carolina – Wilmington including:

  • EVS 485 — Issues in Sustainability: 6 credits
  • EVS 592 — Issues in Sustainability: 6 credits
A group of people backpacking in North Carolina.


  • Gain new leadership and outdoor skills
  • Make new friends and lasting memories
  • Explore wild and remote North Carolina mountains from the trail to the rivers
  • Challenge yourself like never before
  • Eat amazing backcountry meals
  • Earn college credit

On the Map

  • Pisgah National Forest
  • Shining Rock Wilderness
  • Black Balsam Knob
  • Carolina Beach, NC

Talk to Us

Have any further questions about the course location, what you'll learn, or what else to expect? Contact us, we're here to help!



Departure DateReturn DateAvailabilityRegistration
July 6, 2023July 30, 2023Waitlist



Frequently Asked Questions

What is the North Carolina – Backpacking & Rock Climbing course?

The 25-day North Carolina – Adult Leadership Expedition course is a wilderness adventure which includes training in Wilderness First Responder training, as well as leadership development and the acquisition of technical skills.

You’ll visit a variety of remote areas while backpacking, kayaking, and climbing in the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains. Course areas may include the Pisgah National Forest, the 30-mile-long Art Loeb Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness, Black Baslam Knob, French Broad River, and more.

Where will we be staying?

We’ll be living in tents and enjoying our evenings in different areas most nights, identifying the stars and sharing highlights of our learning.

How different is the 25-Day course from the Semester course?

For the 25-day course, we pack a lot in by combining the acquisition of technical skills, with professional development and our core curriculum including our exceptional Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course. This shorter, more intense course allows for a wide variety of activities against the backdrop of lush greenery, winding rivers, and some of the oldest mountains in the world. If you’re looking for a less intensive stay in North Carolina with more time for additional exploration and adventure, we suggest you consider joining us for a semester.

How difficult is the Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course?

The WFR course involves a variety of technical medical information and hands-on training. Most graduates say the hands-on training is the most important part of the Wilderness First Responder course. The “real life” scenarios help you to understand how to use medical skills outside of the classroom. While the material is challenging and the course is demanding, our NCOAE instructors are some of the best in the industry. They want you to succeed, and they’ll take the time to ensure you thoroughly understand each concept during the course.

Beyond my tuition, what will I need to pay for in North Carolina?

Your tuition with NCOAE covers all major costs related to your room, board, and lodging, except when specified in the itinerary. You may request an optional meal out when we are in an urban area, which you would need to pay for separately. Additionally, you’ll need to budget a small stipend for your personal items, including souvenirs, extra snacks, and gifts.

What kind of food will I be eating?

Since we will be carrying all of our food with us, we’ll be eating many of the items that begin in their dehydrated forms; water weight is not something we want to carry. Expect meat, vegetables, fruits, grains, and even fresh baked bread and pizza! Of course, you’ll be making them all from scratch — learning to cook backcountry gourmet on the trail.

Do I need to buy any special equipment or clothes for the course?

Yes. NCOAE provides all necessary group gear and food, but you will want, or be required, to bring certain items for yourself. We encourage you to contact NCOAE with all of your gear questions as early as possible. Start planning now by viewing the NCOAE pack list for this course.

Are adult leadership expeditions offered in other locations or on different dates?

We offer Adult Leadership Expeditions in a variety of locations and during different periods throughout the year to accommodate the destination and schedule that works best for you. You can also explore Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, North Carolina , Patagonia, and Ecuador at various times of the year.

What is the average age of participants?

The average age range for this course is 18-23 years old.

How do I get in contact with an NCOAE participant/student during a course if there is an emergency at home?

If during regular business hours (8am-5pm EST), please call (910) 399-8090 and you will be connected to an NCOAE staff member in the office that will assist in connecting you with the NCOAE participant/student or help you navigate the reason for your emergency contact.

In case of an after-hours emergency and you need to contact an NCOAE student, please call (910) 399-8090 and press 9.

You will be routed to a live NCOAE member or an answering service that will immediately notify an NCOAE staff member who will assist in connecting with the NCOAE participant/student or help you navigate the reason for your emergency contact.

At NCOAE, emergencies are defined as:

  • Medical emergencies involving members of the participant’s family.
  • Urgent family matters requiring the participant’s immediate attention.
  • Unexpected travel disruptions affecting the participant’s return home.
  • Any situation posing an immediate threat to the safety or well-being of the participant’s family.
An instructor showing a student a map.

Participating in an NCOAE course has been one of the greatest experiences of my life!
It helped me to grow emotionally and taught me skills that I am able to transfer into my everyday life. I am truly grateful and lucky to have been a part of this program

Aaron Marshall, NC Teen Adventure Graduate