Pacific Northwest | Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling

Discover Oregon’s remote, technical terrain, as you backpack and paddle 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

During this 14-day Oregon backpacking & whitewater paddling course, you’ll find yourself exploring Oregon's remote wilderness.

Starting in Bend, Oregon, this training takes you into the Deschutes National Forest, 1.8 million acres of wilderness area along the East side of the Cascade Range. Explore Three Sisters Wilderness Area, a breathtaking 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. You’ll explore remote sections of the Pacific Northwest that you never knew existed.  As you paddle and hike, you’ll be learning, sharpening, and practicing the skills needed to plan and lead outdoor adventure trips.

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  • Duration: 14 days
  • Minimum Age: 18
  • Tuition: $2,875.00
  • Credit Hours: N/A

Education Always

  • Leave No Trace (LNT) training
  • Expedition planning
  • Wilderness Risk Management
  • Remote wilderness camp craft
  • Backcountry navigation
  • Expedition cooking and food planning
  • Experience best practices in environmental and civic responsibility
  • Teaching-level knowledge of the NCOAE core curriculum
  • Itinerary
  • FAQs
  • Credits
  • Outcomes
  • Downloads

Itinerary Highlights

  • NCOAE core curriculum
  • Leave No Trace 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.
  • Immerse yourself in a wonderland of densely forested hills, cool mountain streams, cascading waterfalls, and stunning rock formations.
  • Acquire the outdoor skills needed to travel in pristine destinations around the world!

Where You’ll Be

  • Deschutes National Forest
  • Three Sisters Wilderness
  • Deschutes River
  • Cascade Mountain Range
What is the Pacific Northwest - Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling 14-day course?

The Pacific Northwest – Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling 14-day course is a multi-day course where you’ll learn the skills you need to plan and prepare for backcountry outdoor adventures. You will develop a wide-range of wilderness and leadership skills, including kayaking, rafting, backpacking, backcountry cooking, wilderness camping, travel planning, environmental and civic responsibility, leadership and communication styles, decision-making, and teamwork.

You’ll visit a variety of remote areas in the Cascade Mountains, Deschutes National Forest, Deschutes River, and the Three Sisters Wilderness Area. Along the way, you’ll explore these mountain areas as you practice the basics of camp setup, whitewater paddling, backpacking, 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 14-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 year to accommodate the destination and schedule that works best for you. You can explore Patagonia, Alaska, or the North Carolina at various times of the year.

How different is the 14-day course, compared to the Outdoor Educator and 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  Semester / Gap Year 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 world.  Explore 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.

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. 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.

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 Pacific Northwest -Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling 14-day pack list.

How do I prepare physically for the Pacific Northwest - Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling 14-day 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 15 students. We maintain an instructor-to-student ratio of no less than one instructor for every five students.

What is the minimum and average ages of participants?

The average age is about 21 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.

Academic Credit

Your work during the 14-day Pacific Northwest 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.

    In the beautiful Pacific Northwest, you’ll acquire self and group assessment and management skills.  This 14-day course will additionally expose you to a unique variety of environmental settings, as you backpack and paddle, 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 14-day Pacific Northwest – Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling course is the affordable adventure option if you are seeking extraordinary outdoor skill development, including: wilderness risk management, backpacking, climbing, rafting, 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 Pacific Northwest - Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling course is only offered through NCOAE, which is why we’re excited to offer it the beautiful Oregon wilderness.

    Available Dates
    September 02 — September 15, 2021

    You’ll develop your personal leadership style, gain wilderness skills, and learn effective tools for communication.