Sample Itinerary
Course start, gear check, team building activities
Canoeing expedition. Grab a paddle and learn to read the river. Master the teamwork of navigating the water together.
Return to basecamp
Complete Wilderness First Aid training while at basecamp.
Canyoneering expedition. Learn to navigate the iconic red-rock features of the Utah desert.
Opportunity for solo camping experience
Final expedition. Embark on student-led travel depending on group cohesion and skill progression.
Course end celebration and departure home.

Most College Savings Plans, including the 529 College Savings Plan, may be used to attend an Outward Bound expedition, thanks to a partnership with Western Colorado University. Anyone can register – you do not have to be a current Western Colorado University student. Registration is easy! Click here to learn more. 

Sometimes the noise of daily life makes it difficult to know what we really want, to set clear goals for ourselves, and to forge a path forward. Here’s your reset button. Our Pathfinder expeditions are designed to support students in increasing self-knowledge and awareness, improving goal-setting and decision-making processes, and developing perseverance and self-efficacy. As in the field, so in life: challenge yourself to dream big, then identify your steps to get there and start moving. We’ll put the map in your hands. You chart your path. 

  • Build skills, form connections: Learn and practice wilderness, teamwork, adaptability and leadership skills. Participants will have the opportunity to chart a path and pursue it with their own motivation as extra fuel.
  • Value strengths and strengthen values: Resiliency to recover from set-backs is a treasured and useful skill that will play a part in any Pathfinder expedition. Participants will explore answers to their most pressing questions about what they value, where their strengths lie and what direction their lives will take next.
  • Demonstrate mastery: As students gain confidence in new skills, they will take on more leadership and decision-making responsibilities and gain a deeper understanding of who they are as individuals. The entire crew will work together and individually to achieve goals, solve problems and succeed.
  • What you’ll learn: After spending 30 days in the wilderness, you’ll have mastered multiple outdoor skills and you’ll know what it takes to traverse mountain passes, climb the steepest cliffs and successfully navigate the challenges of the natural world around you. You’ll discover more about your true self and what you want to achieve, how you overcome setbacks and, most importantly, how to move forward to reach important milestones.

Return home after broadening your horizons, learning how to adapt to new environments and trying untested possibilities, with an action plan for the future. With newfound leadership potential, self-awareness, and problem-solving skills, you’ll be ready for your next big step.

At the beginning of course, students spend three days in the Moab, UT area learning about wilderness medicine. In this section, students have the opportunity to gain a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) certification, which is considered a standard for many entry-level jobs in the Outdoor Industry.

gap year canoeing program in the southeast
Photo courtesy of Ashley Perry
gap year outdoor leadership program in the southwest
Photo courtesy of Sophie Macmillan
gap year canoeing program in the southwest
Photo courtesy of Sophie Macmillan
gap year outdoor leadership program in utah
Photo courtesy of Ashley Perry
gap year canoeing program in utah
Photo courtesy of Mitch Stypinski
gap year outdoor leadership program in utah
Photo courtesy of Sophie Macmillan

The canoeing portion of this course is spent on the river learning to master canoe strokes and maneuvers while navigating various obstacles and hazards in the river – all while tuning into and learning the lessons of the river. Participants learn all the skills they need to move safely and efficiently down the river, including an introduction to canoe rescue techniques. As there are only two participants in a canoe, everyone has the opportunity to "captain their watercraft." Participants learn to adapt to the river and desert environments and reset their internal clock to rise with the sun and sleep with the brilliant stars of the Milky Way.

In places, the canyon rims rise hundreds of feet above the river, enclosing participants in a remote world of rushing water, delicate ecosystems and unbelievable beauty. Most courses get the opportunity to take day hikes away from the river and up to the canyon rim. These hikes provide stunning views, a change of pace and often the chance to see historic and Native American archaeological sites, petroglyphs, and jaw-dropping geological formations.

gap year backpacking program
Photo courtesy of Dillon Marks
gap year backpacking trip in the southwest
Photo courtesy of Dillon Marks
gap year backpacking program
Photo courtesy of Dave Erbe
gap year backcountry expedition
Photo courtesy of Dillon Marks

Exploring the canyon environment is done through backpacking, as well as hiking through narrow and picturesque slots. Backpackers carry everything they need – food, shelter, clothing and gear – allowing them to go deep into the wilderness where few people go. Backpackers feel a sense of freedom from deadlines and tasks as they grow accustomed to eating when hungry, setting up camp when tired, and having complete control over what they accomplish each day. The simplicity of hiking gives students the opportunity to focus both internally on their own thoughts and self-reliance, as well as externally to connect deeply with others as they talk, sing, problem solve, and spend time together without distraction. 

This course will begin with lessons in basic travel and camping techniques. Along the way, students learn Leave No Trace techniques, map and compass navigation, and camp craft as they get a feel for the human and natural history of the area. Students backpack along canyon rims and through deep canyon bottoms, sometimes shedding their backpacks for smaller daypacks to navigate into jaw-dropping narrows or explore thousand-year-old cliff dwellings and rock art. Crews camp on expansive rock slabs with views of the otherworldly landscapes and stop along the way to explore microclimates and canyon ecosystems. Most importantly, students spend time in an incredible area where modern life has been stripped down to the essentials of travelling through a landscape of rock, sand, sky - feeling the sunshine on their face and watching the sun set as the Milky Way lights up the night sky over this magical landscape.

In order for profound learning to take place, there must be time to reflect on the experience. Solo is that opportunity, and can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours or more, depending on course length and type, as well as the competency and preparedness of the student group. Weather and time permitting, 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. With all the food, skills and supplies they need, students are given a secluded spot to reflect alone and are monitored by staff throughout. Students often find that Solo provokes profound and powerful learning in a short period of time and often becomes one of the most memorable parts of an Outward Bound experience.

Participants follow Leave No Trace ethics as service to the environment and do acts of service while leading and supporting fellow participants. Students develop a value of service, seeing the impact of their actions firsthand and transfer this desire to serve their communities back home. Past projects have included working on a goat farm, building trails, cleaning trash and debris from natural spaces, working with a local community garden, and removing invasive species.

Whether an 8-day course or an 80-day course, all Outward Bound expeditions are focused on building character and leadership skills. Short courses are a great option for students looking for an introduction to the outdoors or for those who need a quick recharge. On shorter courses, students learn camping and expedition basics, as well as the skills specific to the course activity. Students get to know fellow crew mates surprisingly well as they share this immersive and intense experience.

On longer courses, Instructors progressively hand over more of the decision making and leadership of the expedition to the crew, allowing each person to test the new technical and interpersonal skills they have learned. Through the dynamics of an evolving group setting, students have more freedom to investigate who they are and how they want to develop personally. All along the way, students will experience a wide variety of some of the most beautiful wilderness in the U.S. and the world.

gap year outdoor leadership program
Photo courtesy of Dillon Marks

Course areas may vary and will include some, but not all of the locations listed below.

Labyrinth Canyon of the Green River, Utah 

Courses will launch on the Green river in two person canoes for 68 miles through Labyrinth Canyon. The river enters Labyrinth Canyon slowly, named for the serpentine path it carves as it dives deep into the redrock sandstone that characterizes southeastern Utah and the Canyonlands area.  The canoes provide students with great freedom and maneuverability. While many canoeing skills are transferable to other paddle sports, the small craft demands a high level of coordination and collaboration. During this phase of the course, Instructors introduce students to the most important elements of the river life: environmental stewardship, outdoor cooking, first aid, natural history of the river canyons, the night sky, and of course, paddling skills. These regions are the ancestral lands of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute) nation.

Canyon Country, Utah  

The most spectacular aspects of the Utah landscape are the hidden treasures found within its vast canyon networks, formed by millennia of wind and water. The canyons are composed of a spell-binding labyrinth of alcoves, fins, pinnacles, buttes, towering walls, ledges and arches just waiting to be explored on course. Canyoneering courses also venture into narrower, deeper chasms sometimes as narrow as two feet wide with walls rising several hundred feet on each side.  These sandstone slot canyons are a geological playground for scrambling and teamwork. These regions are the ancestral lands of the Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute), Pueblos, Southern Paiute, Diné, and Hopi 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.