Pacific Northwest | Backpacking & Whitewater | Adult Leadership Expedition

Explore the remote Pacific Northwest, on a 25-day wilderness expedition!

Questions? Call NCOAE Support (910) 399-8090


If exploring the remote Pacific Northwest while earning your Wilderness First Responder certification sounds like the perfect adventure, the National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) Outdoor Educator course is for you.  You’ll spend weeks in the Oregon wilderness, exploring the mountains and rivers of the Pacific Northwest

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25 days

Course Information

Adventure First

Find yourself exploring remote sections of the Pacific Northwest that you never knew existed.

Starting in southern Oregon, this training takes you into the Willamette National Forest, 1.6 million acres of protected forest. The adventure continues to the Three Sisters Wilderness, a pristine 286,000-acre area managed by the U.S. Forest Service. From the east slope of the Cascade Mountains, you’ll paddle the Deschutes River, a tributary of the powerful Columbia River.

During this 25-day Adult Leadership Expedition, you’ll find yourself exploring remote sections of the Pacific Northwest that you never knew existed. While paddling, rafting, and hiking, you’ll be learning, sharpening, and practicing the skills needed to travel in remote locations throughout the world!

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  • Duration: 25 days
  • Minimum Age: 19
  • Tuition: $5,125.00
  • Credit Hours: 6

Education Always

  • Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification
  • Leave No Trace (LNT) Trainer certification
  • Expedition planning
  • Wilderness Risk Management
  • Remote wilderness camp craft
  • Backcountry navigation
  • Experience best practices in environmental and civic responsibility
  • Itinerary
  • FAQs
  • Credits
  • Outcomes
  • Downloads

Itinerary Highlights

  • Splash down the wild and scenic Deschutes River, as it flows to its confluence with the Columbia.
  • Spend days enjoying fun rapids, awe-inspiring mountain scenery, scenic side hikes, warm water, and wildlife sightings.
  • Camp along pebbly beaches, make your way across slippery boulders, and learn about the Pacific Northwest.

Why Take This Course

  • Develop whitwater paddling, kayaking, and backpacking skills
  • Advance your knowledge of environmental sustainability, outdoor skills, and leadership — while living and learning in the beautiful Pacific Northwest
  • Discover which areas of outdoor and wilderness education are best suited to your strengths
  • Acquire the skills needed to travel in pristine destinations around the world!

Where You’ll Be

  • Deschutes River
  • Willamette National Forest
  • Three Sisters Wilderness
  • Central Oregon


What is the Pacific Northwest Backpacking & Whitewater course?

The Pacific Northwest – Adult Leadership Expeditions is a 25-day program that takes you to the Pacific Northwest, where you’ll learn the skills needed to travel to pristine destinations around the world. You’ll learn about paddling, backpacking, backcountry cooking, wilderness camping, environmental sustainability, leadership, communications, decision-making, and more!


Where will we be staying?

Our course will begin and end at our basecamp, located on the banks of the Deschutes River in Maupin, OR. Accommodations for the majority of the course are in the backcountry and in wilderness settings. 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 difficult is the Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course?

WFR training includes instruction that combines technical medical skills and hands-on scenarios. Most graduates insist that the most important parts of the Wilderness First Responder course are the “real life” scenarios that challenged them to use their newly developed medical skills outside of the classroom. While the curriculum is demanding, our NCOAE instructors are some of the best in the industry. Our instructors will work with you to ensure you thoroughly understand each concept during the course, because they want you to succeed.

Is the 25-day course offered in other locations or on different dates?

Yes. The Pacific Northwest course offers you un=equaled access to remote wilderness and rugged areas of the Pacific Coast to help you on your path to becoming a wilderness educator. However, if the timing doesn’t work for you or the Pacific Northwest doesn’t appeal to you, NCOAE offers this course in a variety of locations and during different periods throughout the year. You can also explore Ecuador, Alaska, or North Carolina on a 25-day course. We want you to join us at a time and place that’s best for you.

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

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 paddle and hike?

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 WFR trainings, you will engage in a wide range of experiential wilderness activities focused on outdoor technical skills, leadership skills, and environmental sustainability, including map and compass, wilderness navigation, expedition planning, paddling, backpacking, camp craft, backcountry cooking, kayaking and wilderness risk management.  Specific time is included for relaxing and enjoying nature, journaling, 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 course 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 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 ages are the participants?
Beyond my tuition, what will I need to pay for in Oregon?

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.

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.

Can I take multiple courses?

Because each NCOAE course is different, you may find that you would like to link a variety of courses together. If that is the case, please give us a call, and we can help you decide the best combination of skill progression and destinations to align with your objectives. It’s always an adventure!

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

We know that an entire semester isn’t feasible for everyone, but we still want to share the magic of the Pacific Northwest with you. For the 25-day Adult Leadership Expedition, we combine the highlights of the river and the mountains with our noteworthy Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course. This shorter, more intense course allows for a wide variety of activities, while providing opportunities to explore the best of the Pacific Northwest wilderness. If you are struggling with the idea that a month may be too short, we suggest you consider joining us for a Gap Year / Semester course.

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 25-day Pacific Northwest – Adult Leadership Expedition 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

    Course Outcomes

    This 25-day course exposes you to a variety of terrain and will develop your skills in various environmental settings. You will paddle, hike and explore mountains and rivers, and encounter remote flora, fauna, and landscapes.

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

    This training will prepare you with the confidence and competence necessary to be a world-class backcountry traveler. You will learn and practice the tools to be an effective leader and make positive choices for your life and for your community. You’ll live, learn, and travel through some of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the western United States.

    You will return home confident in your ability to lead others and travel in the backcountry using your newfound skills.

    How will NCOAE help you get there?

    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, group management, and develop the ability to teach and share your appreciation of the natural environment with others.

    This 25-day Pacific Northwest – Adult Leadership Expedition and academic adventure is only offered through NCOAE, which is why we’re excited to offer it in Oregon.

    Upcoming Dates / Reserve Your Spot

    This 25-day Pacific Northwest course and academic adventure is only offered through NCOAE!