Teen Expeditions

Teen Leadership Expedition — North Carolina, Backpacking

Ages 13–14  |  7 days  |  Starting at $1895
Discover North Carolina’s mountains, as you explore the wilderness on a summer backpacking expedition!
A group of teenagers at the top of a mountain.

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 in wild North Carolina!

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!

This 7-day backpacking teen adventure course is designed specifically to build sustainable lifelong leadership traits while simultaneously teaching you how to master outdoor survival skills. During this 7-day overnight camping expedition you’ll experience a one-of-kind excursion highlighted by hiking and backpacking through the gorgeous outdoor terrain of North Carolina. This wilderness leadership adventure is specially designed for teens, as NCOAE teaches lifelong skills that will resonate you beyond anything you can learn in a classroom.

During your expedition, you will have the opportunity to sharpen your backpacking skills, as you travel through the Appalachian mountain range, exploring rocky ridges and breathtaking mountain vistas. 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.


  • Leave No Trace (LNT) Awareness certification
  • Expedition planning
  • Remote wilderness camp craft
  • Backcountry navigation
  • Backpacking skills
  • Experience best practices in environmental and civic responsibility

Course Details

7 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 Backpacking skills
  • Explore the Appalachian mountain range
  • Challenge yourself in new and rewarding ways
  • Gain the skills necessary to explore the wilderness
  • Advance your knowledge of outdoor skills, leadership skills, environmental science, and more
Academic Credits

Not currently offered for this expedition.

A group of teenagers sitting and enjoying a view of mountains.


  • 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
  • The Art Loeb Trail
  • Black Balsam Knob

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





Frequently Asked Questions

What is the 7-day North Carolina – Teen Backpacking Adventure?

The North Carolina – Teen Backpacking Adventure is a multi-day wilderness adventure during which you’ll participate in backpacking and camping activities – while learning how to travel in the backcountry.

You’ll visit a variety of remote areas in the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains, such as the Pisgah National Forest, the 30-mile-long Art Loeb Trail, Black Balsam, and the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. Along the way, you’ll explore the rugged ridges of these mountain areas as you practice the basics of camp setup, backpacking, and other outdoor skills.

How far will I be hiking?

You and your group will travel more than 20 miles across mountains, cool mountain streams, and cascading waterfalls, practicing backpacking skills needed to explore rugged, remote areas around the world!

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 7-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 North Carolina on other multi-day teen expeditions!

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, crossing rivers, and climbing rugged ridges.

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 minimum and average ages of participants?

Students enrolled in this course are 13-14 years old.

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 in North Carolina?

Your tuition with NCOAE covers all major costs related to your room, board, and lodging, except when specified in the itinerary. Students 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 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.

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.

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