Alaska | Backpacking

Discover Alaska's remote, technical terrain, as you backpack through rugged wilderness on a 14-day adventure.

Questions? Call NCOAE Support (910) 399-8090


At the National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE), we know adventure. Immerse yourself in outdoor adventure, while learning the technical skills to travel & explore remote destinations!

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14 days

Course Information

Adventure First

Alaska is synonymous with adventure.

With NCOAE’s Alaska Backpacking course, you’ll explore remote territory on a rugged route that is distinctly Alaska. Our adventure begins and ends with Alaskan wilderness, and in the middle you’ll find Alaskan solitude. Our route takes you across remote glaciers, cold-mountain streams, high-mountain passes, and wide-open tundra. All of this provides the true backpacking adventure of a lifetime, with food and supplies airdropped by helicopter to remote locations.

During your expedition, you will have the opportunity to sharpen your technical wilderness skills, backcountry navigation and leadership skills.

During this 14-Day Alaskan Backpacking Course, you’ll find yourself exploring the heart of the least visited National Park in the United States. While traveling more than 50-miles across mountains, glaciers, and tundra, you’ll be learning, sharpening, and practicing the skills to plan and lead adventure-based experiential education trips.

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  • Duration: 14 days
  • Minimum Age: 18
  • Tuition: $3,010.00
Available Dates

Education Always

  • Leave No Trace (LNT) training
  • Expedition planning and logistics
  • Remote Backpacking
  • Wilderness camp craft, including backcountry cooking and food planning
  • Ice and snow gear and travel techniques
  • Itinerary
  • FAQs
  • Credits
  • Outcomes
  • Downloads

Itinerary Highlights

  • NCOAE core curriculum
  • LNT Awareness training
  • Gain experience in expedition planning, wilderness risk management, environmental studies, backcountry navigation, leadership in the wilderness, outdoor technology skills, and more
  • Fly-in backpacking and remote Alaska trekking

Why Take This Course

  • Advance your knowledge of environmental science and outdoor education curriculum — while living and learning in Alaska’s wild, beautiful places
  • Discover which areas of outdoor and wilderness education are best suited to your strengths
  • Acquire the career skills needed to travel in pristine destinations around the world!

Where You’ll Be

  • Wilderness of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve — America’s largest National Park Anchorage, Alaska


Where in Alaska does this course take place?

Beginning in McCarthy, Alaska, you’ll fly to a remote base camp in Wrangell – St. Elias National Park, relying solely on yourself and your group for everything.

Wrangell is the largest and least visited National Park in the United States. Spanning 13.2 million acres it’s as big as Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Switzerland combined. The park stretches from sea level to the top of one of the tallest peaks in North America — Mount St. Elias (18,008 feet).

You will be traveling and living in an area that is so remote, the only way in or out is by bush plane. Food and supplies will be airdropped at remote locations.

How far will I be hiking?

You and your party will travel more than 50 miles across mountains, glaciers, snow-melt streams, and tundra, practicing the skills to plan and lead adventure-based experiential education trips.

What wilderness skills will I develop during this adventure?

The 14-day Alaska Backpacking course begins by helping you develop foundational outdoor and adventure education skills. You will learn wilderness medical skills and gain hands-on experience in expedition planning, logistics, backpacking, backcountry cooking and food planning, remote wilderness camp craft, ice and snow travel techniques, environmental and civic responsibility, backcountry navigation, wilderness risk management, Leave No Trace (LNT) outdoor ethics, leadership and communication styles, as well as decision-making and teamwork. You will return home confident in your ability to travel and explore remote places around the world!

What level of experience do I need to take this course?

No prerequisites are required. Throughout the course, you will acquire the knowledge and skills required to complete the course and to teach others how to navigate and thrive in the wilderness and in life in general.

Who should take this course?

This course is best suited to those who want to challenge themselves in Alaska’s remote, rugged conditions.

How different are is the 14-day course, compared to the Outdoor Educator or Semester courses?

If you’re looking for a longer course with more time for additional exploration and adventure, we suggest you consider joining us for an Outdoor Educator or Gap Year / Semester course. You’ll go even more in-depth, combining the highlights of local topography, geography, and culture with our exceptional Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course.

These courses allow for a wide variety of activities against the backdrop of lush greenery, winding rivers, and some of the oldest mountains in the worldExplore the mountains to the sea, while earning the top certifications required in the outdoor industry, such as Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification, Leave No Trace (LNT) certification, AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association) Single Pitch Instructor training, American Canoe Association (ACA) Swift Water Rescue certification, and ACA ‘Trip Leader’ certification in Sea Kayaking.

What do I need to do to physically prepare for this course?

You do not need to be an “Ironman” to participate in this course. That said, you will be required to carry your own pack, with your own gear and some group gear. Your pack will weigh between 40 and 50 pounds at any given time. You will be hiking over rugged terrain, crossing rivers and glaciers, making high altitude ascents, and negotiating deep valleys and steep ridges.

Will we be traveling in bear country?

Yes, Wrangell – St. Elias is home to all three species of North American bears. The Wrangell is land of harsh landscapes in which bears like to travel looking for food. Statistically, it’s unlikely that you will encounter a bear in this 13.2 million-acre park, but it’s possible.

That said, NCOAE follows recommended best practices to mitigate the risks associated with bear encounters. You will learn and practice these risk management techniques as part of the course.

What is the average group size and instructor/student ratio?

Each group has two or three instructors and eight to 12 students. We maintain an instructor-to-student ratio of no less than one instructor for every six students.

What are the minimum and average ages of students on the 14-day Alaska - Backpacking course?

The minimum age for this course is 18 years, and the average age is about 30 years. Typically, participants range in age from 25 to 34 years old.

What gear and equipment do I need?

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 14 day Alaska Backpacking pack list.

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

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 on our backs, 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.

Academic Credit

Your work during the 14-day Alaska course may eligible for up to three college-level credits through The University of North Carolina – Wilmington.

If you are interested in earning additional academic credit for a course, learn more about our Outdoor Educator and Gap Year / Semester courses which may be eligible for up to six college-level credits.

Course Outcomes

This 14-day course is strenuous and will test your route-finding skills, stamina, and ability to excel in the outdoors. You will bushwhack, travel steep side-hills, navigate challenging terrain, cross multiple ice-cold streams and rivers, and encounter untouched flora, fauna, and landscapes.

Where do you want to go (physically, mentally, socially, academic, etc.)?

Traveling through Wrangell – St. Elias National Park will allow you to rely on yourself and your fellow outdoor leaders – for everything. Additionally, you’ll learn environmental and civic responsibility, backcountry navigation, wilderness risk management, outdoor ethics, leadership and communication styles, as well as decision-making and teamwork. You will return home confident in your ability to lead others and guide, and instruct groups in the backcountry using your newfound skills.

How will NCOAE help you get there?

The 14-day Alaska Backpacking course is the affordable adventure option if you are seeking extraordinary outdoor skill development, including: wilderness risk management, backpacking, backcountry cooking and living, and expedition planning. Best of all, you’ll advance your opportunities to travel in the wilderness, and to affect positive changes in the world.

Upcoming Dates / Reserve Your Spot

This 14-day Alaska Backpacking course and remote adventure is only offered through NCOAE, which is why we’re excited to offer it in the remote Alaskan wilderness.

Available Dates
July 18 — August 01, 2021

You’ll develop your personal leadership style, gain wilderness skills, and learn effective tools for communication. Finally, you will acquire skills with self and group assessment and develop the ability to teach and share your appreciation of the natural environment with others.