Pacific Northwest | Backpacking & Whitewater | Teen Leadership Expedition

Discover Oregon’s remote, technical terrain, as you backpack, paddle, and raft across rugged wilderness on a 12-day adventure for teens!

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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12 days

Course Information

Adventure First

Explore the rugged and remote Cascade Mountains.

With NCOAE’s Pacific Northwest 12-day Backpacking & Whitewater adventure course for teens ages 15-17, you’ll explore some of America’s most breathtaking terrain – the rugged, remote Cascade  Mountains. Our adventure begins and ends with Oregon’s wilderness, and in the middle you’ll find solitude. Travel along alpine meadows, cold-mountain streams, cascading waterfalls, and remote mountain passes. And, all of this provides the true mountaineering adventure of a lifetime!

This 12-day overnight backpacking and whitewater paddling adventure presents an experience unlike any other. This Pacific Northwest trek is designed specifically for teens and is ideal for anyone in search of learning how to become a better leader through a hands-on backpacking adventure experience. See the unmatched wonders of Oregon as you hike through the Cascade Mountains and paddle your way through the whitewater rapids.

During your expedition, you will have the opportunity to sharpen your backpacking skills, traveling into remote technical terrain as you spend several days hiking – high above tree line. Develop skills, allowing you to climb demanding peaks, including advanced backpacking skills, backcountry navigation, hazard assessment, and personal skill development. You may even get the chance to apply your new skills in the last few days of the course with a “graduation climb” up a mountain peak.

During this 12-Day course, you’ll find yourself exploring the heart of the Three Sisters Wilderness and paddling the Deschutes River. As you travel through the Cascade mountain range, exploring rocky ridges, breathtaking mountain vistas, and stunning whitewater – you’ll be learning, sharpening, and practicing your leadership and outdoor technical skills.

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  • Duration: 12 days
  • Minimum Age: 15
  • Tuition: $2,795.00
  • Credit Hours: 0.5

Education Always

  • Leave No Trace (LNT) training
  • Expedition planning and logistics
  • Whitewater paddling skills
  • Advanced backpacking skills
  • Remote wilderness camp craft, including backcountry cooking and food planning
  • Teaching-level knowledge of the NCOAE curriculum


  • Itinerary
  • FAQs
  • Credits
  • Outcomes
  • Downloads

Itinerary Highlights

  • Backpacking & Whitewater paddling techniques
  • NCOAE core curriculum
  • LNT Awareness training
  • Gain experience in backcountry travel planning, wilderness risk management, campsite selection, backcountry navigation, and more

Why Take This Course

  • Develop essential wilderness knowledge and skills — while living and learning in Oregon’s wild, beautiful places.
  • Explore the Cascade Mountain range’s alpine forests and rocky ridges
  • Paddle through the Deschutes River gorge
  • Immerse yourself in a wonderland of densely forested hills, cool mountain streams, cascading waterfalls, and stunning rock formations.

Where You’ll Be

  • Willamette National Forest
  • Three Sisters Wilderness
  • Deschutes River
  • Central Oregon
What is the 12-day Pacific Northwest - Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling teen adventure course?

The Pacific Northwest – Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling teen leadership expedition is a 12-day wilderness adventure during which you’ll participate in backpacking, kayaking, and whitewater rafting activities – while learning how to travel in the outdoors on a multi-day backcountry course.

You’ll visit a variety of remote areas in the Cascade Mountains, Deschutes River, and Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Along the way, you’ll explore the rugged ridges of these mountain areas as you practice the basics of camp setup, backpacking, whitewater paddling, and other outdoor skills.

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.

Is the 12-day course offered in other locations or on different dates?

We offer this course in a variety of locations and during different periods throughout the summer to accommodate the destination and schedule that works best for you. You can also  explore North Carolina on a 12-day summer expedition!

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 30 and 40 pounds at any given time. You will be hiking over rugged terrain and paddling down rivers.

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 ages of participants?

The age for this course is 15-17 year olds.

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  pack list for this course.

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

Your tuition with NCOAE covers all major costs related to your room, board, and lodging, except when specified in the itinerary. Each student should bring a small amount of spending money for personal items; such as souvenirs, extra snacks, and gifts.

What kind of food will I be eating?

Since we will be carrying all of our food, 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

Learning achieved through NCOAE’s 12-day Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling teen leadership expedition may be eligible for high school credits through Blueprint Education, an accredited distance learning school for grades seven through 12 with a mission of inspiring students to make better choices and be champions of their own learning.

Academic Course Hours and Credits

The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) curriculum maintains and exceeds U.S. high school standards for seat-time. Students may be eligible for the following high school credits:

  • Physical Education: Achieved through learning and showing proficiency in mountaineering, rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, surfing, standup paddle boarding, alpine, and/or backpacking activities.
  • Outdoor Leadership: Achieved through learning and showing proficiency in interpersonal development, small group dynamics, critical thinking, and decision making.
  • Environmental Studies: Achieved through learning about and showing proficiency in water conservation, astronomy, environmental sustainability, Leave No Trace (LNT), cycle of rain clouds, and oceanography.

In the beautiful Pacific Northwest, you’ll acquire self and group assessment and management skills.  This 12-day course will additionally expose you to a unique variety of environmental settings, as you backpack and rock climbing, explore mountains and rivers, and encounter remote flora, fauna, and landscapes.

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

This course will prepare you with the self-reliance and skill necessary to travel in remote locations. You will learn effectual communication skills, understand the importance of making positive personal choices for your life, and help you understand how to become an influential member of your community.

How will NCOAE help you get there?

The 12-day Pacific Northwest – Teen Leadership Expedition is the affordable adventure option if you are seeking extraordinary outdoor skill development, including: wilderness risk management, backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, 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 12-day Pacific Northwest - Backpacking & Whitewater paddling teen leadership expedition is only offered through NCOAE, which is why we’re excited to offer it the beautiful Oregon wilderness.

Available Dates
July 16 — July 27, 2022