Teen Expeditions

Teen Leadership Expedition — North Carolina, Backpacking & Whitewater

Ages 15–17  |  14 days  |  Starting at $3195
Discover North Carolina’s remote, technical terrain, as you backpack and paddle through the wilderness on a 14-day adventure for teens!
A group of teenagers on inflatable kayaks.

Adventure First

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!

With NCOAE’s North Carolina 14-day Teen Leadership Expedition, you’ll explore some of America’s most historic terrain – the majestic Blue Ridge mountains. Travel along cold-mountain streams, cascading waterfalls, and mountain passes, as you explore the Pisgah National Forest & the New River!

This 14-day North Carolina hiking trip is designed specifically for teens in search of developing into better leaders and mastering practical outdoor survival skills. The journey features an adventurous backpacking trek through the Appalachian Mountains, along with an adrenaline filled whitewater rafting cruise down the New River. This teen leadership expedition is perfect for those with a nose for adventure and a passion for the North Carolina wilderness.

During your expedition, you will have the opportunity to sharpen your backpacking, kayaking, and other skills including map & compass, river navigation, stove use, backcountry cooking and more. 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.

Explore the heart of the Appalachians, hiking over rocky ridges and discovering hidden swimming holes while learning, sharpening, and practicing your leadership and outdoor technical skills.


  • Leave No Trace (LNT) training
  • Expedition planning and logistics
  • Whitewater kayaking skills
  • Advanced backpacking skills
  • Remote wilderness camp craft, including backcountry cooking and food planning

Course Details

14 days
Wilmington International Airport (ILM)
Alternative drop off/pick up locations
Alternative drop off days and locations are available, as are pick up locations. Please contact us for options, costs, and additional information.
Register for Course
Skills Acquired
  • Develop essential wilderness knowledge and skills — while living and learning in North Carolina’s wild, beautiful places.
  • Explore the Appalachian Mountain range
  • Paddle along the New River
  • 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!
Academic Credits

Not currently offered for this expedition.

A group of teenagers ready for backpacking.


  • Gain new leadership and outdoor skills
  • Make new friends and lasting memories
  • Explore wild and remote North Carolina mountains from the trail to the rivers
  • Challenge yourself like never before
  • Eat amazing backcountry meals

On the Map

  • Pisgah National Forest
  • Shining Rock Wilderness
  • French Broad River
  • Carolina Beach, NC

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!

North Carolina Teen Expedition Program Video



No Activities found for Package (id:197) “TEEN NORTH CAROLINA, BACKPACKING & WHITEWATER – 12 DAYS (JULY 8-JULY 19, 2024) D”

No Activities found for Package (id:198) “TEEN NORTH CAROLINA, BACKPACKING & WHITEWATER – 12 DAYS (JULY 8-JULY 19, 2024) F”



Frequently Asked Questions

What is the 14-day North Carolina – Teen Leadership Expedition?

The North Carolina – Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling teen leadership expedition is a 14-day wilderness adventure during which you’ll participate in backpacking and kayaking activities – while learning how to travel in the outdoors on a multi-day backcountry course.

You’ll visit a variety of areas while you explore the Blue Ridge Mountains, New River, and Pisgah National Forest. 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 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 summer to accommodate the destination and schedule that works best for you. You can also explore the Pacific Northwest and Alaska on a 14-day summer expedition!

Who should take this course?

This course is best suited to those who want to challenge on a memorable summer adventure!

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. While backpacking, your pack will weigh between 30 and 40 pounds at any given time, while hiking over rugged terrain.

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 NCOAE 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.

What do I need to know about travel to and from the course location?

Arrival: Check-in will be between 10:00am – 10:30am ET at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education campus at 9809 River Rd., Wilmington, NC 28412. Programming will begin promptly at 10:00am. NCOAE staff will sign your student in, do a temperature check, collect any medication, and do a bag check to ensure your student has all needed items for the trip. After check-in is complete, you may depart.

If flying, please plan to arrive at Wilmington International Airport (ILM) on the day of your course, no later than 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time. A staff member from NCOAE will greet your child at the airport’s baggage claim area and provide transportation to NCOAE’s campus in Wilmington for check-in. To assist your child, you can view the map of ILM — including the location of the baggage claim areas — online at https://flyilm.com.

If you prefer booking a direct flight from the airport nearest to your home and the airlines do not offer a direct flight into Wilmington (ILM) from your location, NCOAE will provide a shuttle service to and from Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU), which offers the most direct flights into and out of North Carolina. Should you opt to fly your child directly to RDU, your child must arrive one (1) day prior to the course’s start date. And if flying directly to RDU, your child’s arrival time must be between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. the day before their course begins.

*Note about shuttle service and early arrival: NCOAE will charge a fee of $550 for shuttle service to and from RDU. Additionally, there will be a charge of $175 per student for arrivals the day before the course start date.

Departure: Student pick-up will be from 12:00pm-2:00pm ET on the last day of the course at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education campus at 9809 River Rd., Wilmington, NC 28412.

If flying, out of ILM, plan to have your child’s flight depart no earlier than 2:00pm ET on the day their course ends.

If flying, out of RDU, plan to have your child’s flight depart no earlier than 4:00pm ET on the day their course ends.

If choosing to pick your child up at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, please contact our office for time, location, procedure, and any additional cost that may apply.

How do I get in contact with an NCOAE participant/student during a course if there is an emergency at home?

If during regular business hours (8am-5pm EST), please call (910) 399-8090 and you will be connected to an NCOAE staff member in the office that will assist in connecting you with the NCOAE participant/student or help you navigate the reason for your emergency contact.

In case of an after-hours emergency and you need to contact an NCOAE student, please call (910) 399-8090 and press 9.

You will be routed to a live NCOAE member or an answering service that will immediately notify an NCOAE staff member who will assist in connecting with the NCOAE participant/student or help you navigate the reason for your emergency contact.

At NCOAE, emergencies are defined as:

  • Medical emergencies involving members of the participant’s family.
  • Urgent family matters requiring the participant’s immediate attention.
  • Unexpected travel disruptions affecting the participant’s return home.
  • Any situation posing an immediate threat to the safety or well-being of the participant’s family.

Request More Info


An instructor showing a student a map.

Hiking through the Pisgah National Forest with NCOAE while learning about Leave No Trace (LNT), wilderness travel and myself, all gave me a new appreciation for the wilderness and a growing passion for environmental conservation. My experience has changed my outlook on life and influenced my focus of study in college. Because of the NC Teen Adventure and NCOAE, I have decided to major in Environmental Studies at UNC Asheville. As my passion for the wilderness continues to grow I will be enrolling in more courses with NCOAE and maybe even apply someday to be an instructor.

Sabrey Franks, NC Teen Adventure Graduate

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