Photograph (above) taken by David Morgan
Sample Itinerary
Course start
Training phase of the canoe expedition (introductory lessons in canoeing, portaging, camp-craft, cooking over a fire and navigation)
Layover day at Basswood Falls
Main phase of the canoe expedition and rock climbing
Final phase of the canoe expedition
Students arrive back on base, clean gear and participate in ropes course, whitewater kayaking and a Personal Challenge Event. Parents/Guardians arrive.
Students participate in a local community service project while parents begin the family seminar
Reunion & family conference
Graduation and travel home.

Growing is tough, we get it. And when it comes to doing hard things, having a good crew matters. That’s why we built Intercept. Outward Bound's Intercept program is for families with teens who are facing challenging circumstances and need a reset. Parents can read more about that here. 

For students, these expeditions are specifically designed to help you disrupt your routines; have fun; make friends; and to discover tools to help you communicate, make positive decisions, and strengthen your relationships, both on course and when you get home. We’ll help you develop and practice these skills during exciting adventures where teamwork and your individual strengths will contribute to the success of your crew. And your family will join us for the last three days of the program, in a workshop with you and your instructors where you can demonstrate what you’ve learned and talk to your family about how to support your continued growth. 

  • Build skills, form connections: Learn and practice wilderness skills while working on interpersonal and group dynamics. Faced with the natural challenges of wilderness travel, students confront obstacles that require real-time, cooperative decision-making, respect and focused attention to detail – all of which are vital characteristics for life beyond the expedition.
  • Value strengths and strengthen values: Students are carefully mentored through the process of self-discovery as they are encouraged to take calculated risks and make choices with natural consequences. Developing different approaches to daily trials, seeking increasingly positive outcomes, students learn adaptability and experience the relationship between choices and consequences in the real world.
  • Demonstrate mastery: As the crew progresses, students are allowed to take on more leadership and decision-making responsibilities and all the joys and challenges that come with taking charge. Working both together and independently to achieve goals, students learn new skills to solve problems and succeed.
  • Bridge the gap: Students prepare to reunite with families and transfer Outward Bound successes to lives back home. This process involves two days of volunteer work and culminates with a facilitated conversation between students and their families.
  • What you’ll learn: Students come home with new communication strategies, improved conflict resolution skills and a keen awareness of themselves and others. 

With the support of Outward Bound’s Intercept program, and the dedicated involvement of both students and their families, relationships start fresh, perceived limitations are overcome, new opportunities emerge and new futures are created.

wilderness camp for struggling teens
Photo courtesy of Erin McCleary
teens learn cooking skills on backpacking course
Photo courtesy of Mikaela Hamilton
two people sit in a canoe on calm water while the sun sets behind trees on the shore
Photo courtesy of David Morgan

Students embark on an unsupported wilderness canoeing expedition, meaning, they carry with them everything they will need for a three-week adventure. Expert Instructors teach the art of paddling a canoe in a variety of conditions, as well as map and compass reading, route finding and Recreate Responsibly ethics. Groups navigate a variety of waterways such as lakes, rivers and marshland, enjoying the pristine air, water and forests of the untouched wilderness. Working as a team, students carry packs and canoes over portage trails that bridge the land between bodies of water or to get safely around challenging rapids. Traveling by canoe allows groups to go far past where motorboats operate. Once there, it is possible to quietly observe all the wonders around them, including bald eagles, moose and peaceful sunsets on mirror-calm lakes.

On scenic granite cliffs near the Boundary Waters wilderness, students enjoy rock climbing and rappelling on 50 to 70 foot cliffs, offering a variety of beginner and intermediate climbs that provide an ideal introduction to rock climbing. Regardless of a student’s rock climbing and rappelling background, everyone is sure to find challenge and success.

All Outward Bound rock climbing and rappelling experiences are carefully supervised and employ safety systems aligned with national standards. During climbing days, students learn about rock climbing equipment, safety and etiquette, belaying and climbing rescue techniques. Encouraged and supported by their group, students push their perceived limits and expand their comfort zones in a safe, fun and non-competitive environment.

The incredible ropes course is located 30 feet in the air and looks out over the top of the boreal forest. Students swing from Tarzan ropes, walk on tightrope wires and climb a cargo net before jumping on the zip line for an exhilarating ride back to solid ground. This opportunity creates space for students to individually challenge themselves while being supported by their team at the end of the expedition experience.

At one point during the expedition students are provided a secluded spot to reflect alone, with all the food, skills and supplies they need, and are monitored by staff throughout the experience to maintain safety. We call this part of course, Solo. The Solo experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition and gives students the opportunity to reflect on their Outward Bound experience. Many students use this reflection time to make decisions about their future, journal and enjoy the beauty of their surroundings unencumbered by the constant external stimulation of modern life. The duration of Solo depends on the course length and type, as well as the competency and preparedness of the student group. Students find that Solo provokes profound and powerful learning in a short period of time and often becomes one of the most memorable parts of their Outward Bound course.

service projects for high schoolers
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
service day for struggling teens
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
teens service day
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
service learning for struggling teens
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble

Service is a cornerstone of every Outward Bound experience. From the seemingly small, daily acts of service to the environment and the expedition team to the post-expedition service-learning projects, students have ample opportunities to experience the value of giving back to the larger community. On the expedition, students are encouraged to practice environmental stewardship in the form of Recreate Responsibly ethics. Students also practice regular acts of service for their team, including preparing and serving meals, helping others put on or take off packs, or setting up shelters for the entire team.

After the expedition, students participate in two days of organized service to the community. These projects are designed to offer as much interaction with local communities as possible, as a way of exchanging cultural awareness and fostering a sense of connection to the larger world. The specific type of service project depends on local needs and opportunities but could include serving at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, senior center, nature center, or horse ranch for underprivileged youth.

struggling teens family seminar after outdoor course
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
teens reunite with parents after outdoor course
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
struggling teens reestablish healthy relationships
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
parents and struggling teens form bonds and connections
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
struggling teens reestablish family connections
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
struggling teens character development
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
parents and teens reconnect after outward bound course
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
struggling teens gain leadership skills on outdoor course
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
struggling teens build healthy relationships with parents
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
trust building skills with struggling teens
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
struggling teens develop character during outward bound course
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
families and struggling teens reconnect after outward bound expedition
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble

By the end of the course, students have made great strides. They have learned how to balance freedom and responsibility, how to be part of a team and how to make positive choices. They feel a sense of pride in themselves and their accomplishments and have a fresh perspective and outlook on their lives. But how do teens and families translate the incredible Intercept experience into lasting positive change? Parents or guardians are a critical link in the success of the Intercept experience and have the opportunity to think through their relationship with their teen by using a comprehensive workbook. At the intensive three-day seminar, Instructors help translate the student experience to parents and guardians, giving families an opportunity to practice tools and strategies used on the expedition, creating a solid foundation of understanding and support for the path ahead. 

As a part of the family seminar, families meet one-on-one with at least one of the expedition Instructors to learn how their young adult fared on the course. They hear a detailed account of what the course was like, the struggles and success of the group and how their young adult handled the challenges. Together, with an Instructor acting as a facilitator, families come up with a new agreement to guide life at home. The goal for the family is to re-establish healthy roles and connections, restore any past harm, rebuild trust and create clear expectations for the future. The goal for the student is to have a voice in the direction their life takes and to clearly understand and commit to their responsibilities in order to earn trust and more freedom at home.

Courses are offered in a variety of locations and for different lengths to provide a range of programming from which participants can choose the optimal experience for them. Longer courses allow for a full immersion into the Outward Bound experience, more time to practice wilderness travel and the opportunity to experience both success and failure to promote personal growth. The Intercept course in particular offers the opportunity to be fully removed from the temptations and triggers of day-to-day life and start fresh with new habits and new lessons. Students can expect to get comfortable living and working together in the wilderness while creating a solid foundation of skill sets that they can continue to build on after course. With the added support of parent or guardian involvement, students are really able to take lessons they’ve learned on course back to their home lives and implement the changes they want to see.

Photo courtesy of David Morgan
wildlife in the boundary waters
Photo courtesy of David Morgan
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble
Photo courtesy of Jacob Dority

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
Established in 1978, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is a labyrinth of lakes and rocks that has been specifically protected as a true American wilderness. No roads, power lines or motorized craft may enter its borders. Therefore, the Boundary Waters has changed little since its unveiling when the glaciers melted 10,000 years ago. 

Over one million acres in size, the BWCAW extends nearly 150 miles along the Minnesota/Canadian border. With over 1,200 miles of canoe routes, nearly 2,200 designated campsites and more than 1,000 lakes and streams, the BWCAW is an amazing place to experience the wilderness. It contains portage-linked lakes and streams, interspersed with islands, forests and ancient granite crags, offering outstanding opportunities for world-class paddling, solitude, remoteness, teamwork, adventure and challenge. It is also home to a healthy diversity of plant and animal life including massive white pine and cedar groves, black bear, timber wolves, bald eagles and river otter. The Boundary Waters has no piped water, prepared shelters or signs to point the way. Within these borders you can canoe, portage and camp as the native peoples and French-Canadian Voyageurs did before you. The Boundary Waters' paddling routes offer outstanding opportunities for solitude, remoteness, teamwork, adventure and challenge. These regions are the ancestral lands of the Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux) nations.


Getting Started

If you are ready to enroll on a course click the enroll button next to the course you wish to select or you can enroll over the phone by speaking with one of our Admissions Advisors (toll-free) at 866-467-7651.

To secure your spot on a course you must submit an enrollment form and $500 deposit that is applied toward the total cost of the course and includes a $150 non-refundable enrollment processing fee.