Gap Semester

Gap Semester — North Carolina

Ages 18+  |  42 days  |  Starting at $8195
Explore North Carolina from the mountains to the coast on a 42-day Gap Semester course!
A view of the sun peeking out through the clouds and mountains.

Adventure First

From the Appalachian Mountains and whitewater rivers of North Carolina to the Atlantic Coast,  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 42-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.

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

Explore the wilderness, while completing an array of trainings, Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certification, Leave No Trace (LNT) Trainer certification and more. 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.

This 42-day gap semester program is the perfect North Carolina adventure as it is designed specifically to help develop teens and those preparing for college to develop and fine tune the traits needed to become better and more efficient leaders. Here you’ll learn countless outdoor survival skills while earning a wilderness first-aid certification. This semester long adventure is the perfect program for anyone who loves the great outdoors.

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!


  • Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certification
  • Leave No Trace (LNT) Trainer certification
  • Earn up to 6 credits traveling the backcountry
  • Gain experience in wilderness travel, risk management, environmental studies, and backcountry

Course Details

42 days
Credit Hours
Wilmington International Airport (ILM)
Alternative drop off/pick up locations
Please contact the NCOAE office.
Register for Course
Skills Acquired
  • Develop Backpacking, Kayaking, & Whitewater Paddling skills
  • Advance your knowledge of environmental science & outdoor education curriculum— while learning in wild, beautiful places
  • Acquire the skills needed to travel to pristine destinations around the world!
Academic Credits

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
A woman with backpacking gear, holding a map.


  • Gain new skills in leadership, expedition travel and emergency medicine
  • Make new friends and lasting memories
  • Explore wild and remote North Carolina mountains from the trail to the rivers
  • Challenge yourself like never before
  • Earn college credit

On the Map

  • Pisgah National Forest
  • Shining Rock Wilderness
  • French Broad River
  • Coastal North Carolina

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!



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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Gap Semester – North Carolina course?

The Gap Semester – North Carolina to Pacific Northwest course is a 42-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, backpacking, backcountry cooking, wilderness camping, travel planning, environmental and civic responsibility, leadership and communication styles, decision-making, and teamwork.

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 will our course visit?

Your course will begin our campus in Wilmington, NC where you will complete your WFA training. Then, your group will head to the Appalachian Mountains for backpacking & river expeditions.

Finally, your group will head to the Atlantic coast to experience coastal kayaking & surfing before departing.

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 WFA & LNT 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 NCOAE pack list for this course.

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.

What is the average age of participants?

The minimum age to enroll in the course is 18. The average age is about 23 years, though we get students from a wide range of ages.

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 60-day Gap Semester course. You can also explore Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, North Carolina, Patagonia, 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

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