Teen Expeditions

Teen Leadership Expedition — Pacific Northwest, Backpacking & Whitewater

Ages 15–17  |  14 days  |  Starting at $3295
Discover Oregon’s remote, technical terrain, as you backpack, paddle, and raft across rugged wilderness on a 14-day adventure for teens!
A group of people rafting down a river.

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 Pacific Northwest 14-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 14-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 14-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.


  • 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

Course Details

14 days
Portland International Airport (PDX)
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 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.
Academic Credits

Not currently offered for this expedition.

A group of teenagers wearing life jackets and helmets.


  • Gain new leadership and outdoor skills 
  • Make new friends and lasting memories 
  • Explore Oregon’s wild and remote high desert from the river to the trails 
  • Challenge yourself like never before 
  • Eat amazing backcountry meals 

On the Map

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

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 14-day Pacific Northwest – Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling teen adventure course?

The Pacific Northwest – Backpacking & Whitewater Paddling teen leadership expedition is a 14-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 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 North Carolina or Alaska on a 14-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 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 PT at Portland International Airport (PDX). NCOAE staff will sign your student in, collect any medication, and do a bag check to ensure your student has all needed items for the trip.

If flying, please plan to arrive at Portland International Airport (PDX) on the day of your course, no later than 10 a.m. Pacific Time. A staff member from NCOAE will greet your child at the airport’s baggage claim area, sign them in for their course, collect any medications they may have, and do a bag check to ensure they have everything they need for their course.

To assist your child, you can view the map of PDX — including the location of the baggage claim areas — online at https://www.flypdx.com.

Departure: We provide a shuttle for the group that morning back to Portland International Airport (PDX) where your journey home will begin. Student pick-up will be from 12:00pm – 2:00pm PT at PDX baggage claim on the day your course ends.

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

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.

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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