Gap Semester I North Carolina – Pacific Northwest

Explore the mountains and rivers of North Carolina & the Pacific Northwest on a 60-day Gap Semester course!

Questions? Call NCOAE Support (910) 399-8090


From the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina to the Whitewater Rivers of the Pacific Northwest you’ll enjoy an entire semester of adventure travel! Gap Year / Semester programming with the National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) provides unparalleled adventure. Our 60-day Gap Semester offers the opportunity to explore rushing rivers and remote mountainside campsites, as you gain the skills and tools to expand your education and your view of the world.

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60 days

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Course Information

Adventure First

From steep mountain trails to world-class rivers, NCOAE's Gap Semester program is an outdoor enthusiast's dream.

The beaches and forests of North Carolina and the snow-capped volcanoes and rushing rivers of the Pacific Northwest serve as our classroom. Within this landscape, you’ll develop solid outdoor skills and explore issues in environmental sustainability.

NCOAE’s Gap Semester in North Carolina & the Pacific Northwest is for you if you want to explore the wilderness, while completing an array of trainings, including Emergency Management Technician (EMT), Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification, Leave No Trace (LNT) Trainer certification and more.

Join us as we explore the Appalachian Mountains of the Pisgah National Forest and the Atlantic coast — visiting remote barrier islands and gaining paddling skills.  We’ll explore North Carolina’s largest wilderness area, Shining Rock as you practice map and compass navigation, plant and animal identification, and backcountry cooking – eating wonderful food we prepare ourselves. Ford rivers and hike through a majestic forest landscape, while learning to manage the risks in these environments. Within this landscape, you’ll develop solid outdoor skills and explore issues in environmental sustainability, while integrating a sense of community and adventure.

Then head to the Pacific Northwest for Wilderness First Responder training.  After training, explore the breathtaking backcountry of the Three Sister Wilderness and head out onto the Deschutes River for a multi-day whitewater rafting adventure, as we develop leadership and outdoor technical skills!

Spend a semester with some of the best outdoor leaders in the industry. Gain mastery from their instruction based in the powerful NCOAE curriculum, with additional lessons in local environmental responsibility, critical thinking, communication, leadership, decision-making and teamwork. And at the end of this course, you’ll be able use these newly developed skills to travel the world!

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  • Duration: 60 days
  • Minimum Age: 18
  • Tuition: $9,600.00
  • Credit Hours: 6

Education Always

  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course
  • Wilderness upgrade for EMT – Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification
  • CPR – American Heart Association BLS Health Care Provider certification
  • Class B – Emergency Vehicle Driving Operations and Traffic Incident Management Training certification
  • Leave No Trace (LNT) Trainer certification
  • Teaching-level knowledge of the NCOAE core curriculum, including leadership, outdoor skill & environmental science lessons
  • Itinerary
  • FAQs
  • Credits
  • Outcomes
  • Downloads

Itinerary Highlights

  • EMT certification with Wilderness upgrade (W-EMT)
  • Leave No Trace (LNT) Trainer certification
  • NCOAE Curriculum for outdoor educators, teachers, and trip leaders
  • Gain experience in expedition planning, wilderness risk management, environmental studies, backcountry navigation, teaching in the wilderness, outdoor technology skills, and more

Why Take This Course

  • Develop Backpacking, Kayaking, & Whitewater Rafting skills
  • Advance your knowledge of environmental science & outdoor education curriculum— while learning in wild, beautiful places
  • Discover which areas of outdoor and wilderness education are best suited to your strengths
  • Aquire the skills needed to travel to pristine destinations around the world!

Where You’ll Be

  • Pisgah National Forest
  • Shining Rock Wilderness
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Deschutes Wild & Scenic River
  • Three Sisters Wilderness
What is the Gap Semester - North Carolina & Pacific Northwest course?

The Gap Semester – North Carolina to Pacific Northwest course is an 60-day wilderness adventure and experiential education course all rolled into one.  You’ll learn the skills you need to plan, prepare, and lead outdoor adventure-based experiential education courses. You will develop a wide-range of wilderness and leadership skills, including kayaking, raft guiding, backpacking, backcountry cooking, wilderness camping, travel planning, environmental and civic responsibility, leadership and communication styles, decision-making, and teamwork.

You’ll spend some of the semester in the Appalachian Mountains and the Pisgah National Forest sharpening your backpacking skills, and then head to the Pacific Northwest to develop valuable paddling and advanced backpacking skills. As you engage in various hands-on training sessions and wilderness experience, you develop the knowledge and skills to travel in remote backcountry locations throughout the world!

If you love spending extended periods of time in the outdoors, learning, and sharing your appreciation of wilderness and backcountry experiences with others, then this course is for you.

Where in North Carolina & the Pacific Northwest will our course visit?

Your course will begin our campus in Wilmington, NC where you will complete your EMT training.  Then, your group will head to the Pisgah National Forest for a backpacking expedition.

Next, your group will board a plane bound for Portland, Oregon.  After settling in at our Riverside Lodge, you will explore some of the most beautiful mountains and rivers in the world, from the snow-capped volcanoes of the Three Sisters to rushing waters of the Deschutes River.


Do I need to have any previous experience in outdoor adventure sports?

No. Previous experience is not required. NCOAE will teach you all the basics you need to know to thrive in the wilderness, and then let you apply them among your group of peers. We will train you in the skills necessary to become a competent wilderness leader.

How far will we travel each day?

While there are no predetermined distances, you may travel several miles one day and none the next. You will learn to embrace and appreciate the unknown and unexpected.

What activities will I engage in?

In addition to EMT and WFR trainings, you will engage in a wide range of experiential wilderness learning activities focused on outdoor technical skills, leadership skills, and environmental sustainability, including map and compass, wilderness navigation, paddling, backpacking, camp craft, backcountry cooking, kayaking, and wilderness risk management. Specific time included for relaxing and enjoying nature, journaling, engaging in rich cultural exchange, and reflecting in solitude.

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 pack list.

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

Physical preparation depends on your fitness level. You don’t need to be a triathlete to participate, but you will be responsible for carrying your own equipment and some of the group gear while maintaining a positive attitude. The backpacking section will require you to carry 40 pounds or more over rough and rugged terrain, through various environments. The paddling sections will require sitting and paddling for long periods of time and walking on rugged, slippery shorelines or through the water while carrying or pulling your boat.

How many people will be in my group?

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

Beyond my tuition, what will I need to pay for during the Gap Semester?

Your tuition 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, such as toiletries, personal snacks, as well as souvenirs and gifts.

How do I book my flight(s)?

You are responsible for your own transportation to/from NCOAE’s course area for the beginning and end of your course.

During the course, all transportation is provided.  You will receive instruction regarding travel to Oregon after enrolling in the course.  All Travel Arrangements during NCOAE programs are managed and facilitated by NCOAE’s trusted travel agency professionals, Travel Associates.  Travel Associates is a bespoke travel agency staffed by MaryJo Palmer and Heidi Cunningham, both seasoned Travel Advisors with years of experience behind them.  MaryJo and Heidi are based in Woodstock, Vermont but assist with customers based around the world.  While Travel Associates specialty is luxury travel, they are also highly skilled at complex itineraries and can provide guidance on everything from upgrades to Visas to Travel Insurance.  Upon enrolling in an NCOAE program, you will need to contact Mary Jo or Heidi at either 800-640-4137 or 802-332-3511, or by email at and  to secure your travel arrangements.

What is the average age of participants?

The average age is about 23 years, with a range between 18 and 60. The minimum age to enroll in the course is 18.

Will we have any free time to ourselves?

Part of every NCOAE course is the solo experience. You will have the opportunity to spend a set number of days alone in the backcountry to meet your personal needs and desired outcomes.

Additionally, you will have the free time on re-supply days, in-between expedition portions of your course.  You can use this time to run errands, do laundry, or spend some time alone relaxing and preparing for the next leg of your course.

Is the Gap Semester course offered in other locations or on different date?

We offer this course and others in a variety of locations and during different periods throughout the year to accommodate the destination and schedule that works best for you. If you are interested in an international experience, check out our 74-day Gap Semester course.  You can also explore Alaska, the Pacific Northwest,  North Carolina and Ecuador at various times of the year.

Is financial aid available? Can I earn college credits? How do I apply?

At this time, we do not offer financial aid.  However, if you are a college student you may be able to use your existing federal financial aid to help pay for your course, and you may receive college credits through a consortium agreement with NCOAE. If you are attending a college or university as part of a degree granting program, your advisor can determine whether your school will accept and transfer academic credits for participating in NCOAE courses from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. If it does, consult your financial aid office to determine if, how, and which funds may be used toward your NCOAE course costs. For more information on the consortium agreement process, contact

Academic Credit

Your work during our Gap Semester course is eligible for up to six college-level credits through The University of North Carolina – Wilmington:

  • EVS 485: Issues in Sustainability: 6 credits
  • EVS 592: Issues in Sustainability: 6 credits

Course Outcomes

This 60-day Gap Semester course is for you if you want to explore North Carolina & the Pacific Northwest! Throughout the course you will gain technical outdoor skills, leadership skills, and discover issues in environmental sustainability. The trip also is excellent experience if your career game plan includes working full-time as an outdoor educator with international experience.

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

You’ll backpack and paddle your way through a full semester of adventure – focusing on the concepts of self, community, action and impact.  Participate in an authentic learning experience, with hands-on education to create meaningful academic and personal connections.

A fundamental part of this course includes map and compass reading, wilderness navigation, water safety techniques, the fine art of setting up a campsite, “reading” rapids, paddle strokes and maneuvers, wave dynamics,  and more.

How will NCOAE help you get there?

You’ll be immersed in 60-powerful days of the National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education’s (NCOAE) Core Curriculum — an approach to facilitating, guiding and leading that is unrivaled in the industry.

On top of all that, we can pretty much guarantee you’ll have an advantage over others when you apply for entry-level job openings in the fields of outdoor education, environmental science, adventure-based education, backcountry guiding, search & rescue, ski patrol, college and university outdoor recreation programs, and others throughout the country.

Upcoming Dates / Reserve Your Spot

This Gap Semester – North Carolina to Pacific Northwest course is only offered through NCOAE, which is why we’re excited to offer it in our backyard.

Available Dates
October 02 — November 30, 2021