Frequently Asked Questions
Like most programs, we look at the grade students are in for the current school year (or, the grade they’ll be finishing before their Adventure Treks trip)—not the grade they’re entering after the summer. In other words, the grade students are in as of September 2023. For example, if your child is in 7th grade for the 2023–2024 school year, take a look at our 7th grade programs.
Our trips are for students who are currently in the 7th through 12th grades (ages 13–18) during the 2023–2024 school year.
Adventure Treks is not an open-enrollment program; our screening process is in place to ensure a mutually good fit and to maintain the integrity of Adventure Treks’ communities. Our students come from all over the United States and world and have many different interests and hobbies. What’s most important is that our students are kind and friendly, and are excited and willing to make new friends, try new things, pitch in and do their fair share, go outside their comfort zone, and, of course, have a ton of fun. We are not a program where students feel forced to attend—our students must want to attend Adventure Treks.
To ensure this mutually good fit, new families fill out admissions forms, including a student questionnaire, parent questionnaire, and health history; new students must also provide at least one character reference from school. We may also ask to interview your child. Just as we encourage parents to do their due diligence when choosing a program, we also do our best to thoroughly screen our families to create the best possible peer groups and get to know our families before our students arrive for the summer.
Please read our terms and conditions for more information regarding our screening and application process.
Think of Adventure Treks as an adventurous step up from a traditional summer camp; while we still focus on having a ton of fun within an inclusive community, students take on leadership roles and collaborate to ensure both individual and group success. We don’t have one specific basecamp; rather, we travel in 15-passenger vans with a U-Haul trailer to different areas within a specific region to try all sorts of new activities, led by caring, experienced, and enthusiastic outdoor instructors.
We treat our students as the young adults they are and give them as much responsibility as is practical to help them grow. Our students have a real voice in their community and help guide the community and experience along with their instructors. It’s crucial that our students come to Adventure Treks prepared to share responsibilities and pitch in.
While we spend all of our time outside and camp in tents throughout the trip, we aren’t a hardcore wilderness program. Our priorities include building community, helping teens gain and improve 21st century skills, and having fun in a tech-free environment—and we do it all in the beautiful outdoors. Our goal is that students arrive home having had so much fun that they can’t wait to sign up again for the following summer. Get the quick download on Adventure Treks here.
A typical summer trip consists of 20–24 students and 5–6 instructors; we maintain an overall 4:1 or better ratio of students to instructors—the best in the industry! However, our groups may be smaller than our standard 20–24.
Students will participate in both big- and small-group activities, cycling through different small groups throughout the program. Why do we do this? Much of the bonding and magic happens in small groups; students get to know each other (and their instructors) on a deeper level, so it’s easier to make friends, find your voice, and become an important member of the group. (This also means that friends from home won’t spend every activity or day together, which allows them the opportunity to branch out and broaden their social circle. Read more in the next FAQ.)
Our goal is for every student to get to be in a small group with every other student and instructor throughout their time together. This mix of small and large group experiences is a key and unique element of our programs’ success.
Inclusive communities are what we’re known for, and the majority of our new students come without a friend. In order to preserve the unique nature of our program and in the interest of inclusivity, we limit the number of new students who have a pre-existing relationship, whether from home, school, or otherwise, to no more than two to three on any one program (depending on the size of the group).
Students who arrive together as friends from home will not spend every activity together in order to allow them the opportunity to branch out, make new friends, and help avoid mutually exclusive relationships. We believe (and our students and parents will agree) that making new friends has powerful benefits!
Unlike other teen programs, we don’t hire college students simply looking for a fun summer diversion (we feel that age group is better suited to gain experience as more traditional camp counselors). This is also why we don’t refer to our staff as “camp counselors”; we hire outdoor education instructors who have experience working outside and with teenagers and who truly care about and invest in our students’ personal growth and development.
Adventure Treks is very proud of its instructor teams! Before our trips start, our instructors go through an extensive two- to three-week orientation and training specific to Adventure Treks. We have a high staff return rate, and all of our instructors are wilderness first responders at minimum. Read more about our instructors here.
The physical and emotional safety of our students and instructors is our number one priority. We make every decision regarding your child as if you were looking over our shoulder, but please understand that nothing in life can be considered 100 percent safe. To build independence and ensure normal teenage development, we practice taking reasonable and appropriate risks, while doing everything possible to minimize and mitigate those risks. Read more about our safety policy here.
We spend time in both frontcountry and backcountry campsites throughout the trip. Frontcountry camping is like car camping; we’ll be in established campgrounds with our vans nearby, and we’ll typically have access to amenities like a fire pit, picnic tables, bathrooms, and running water. In frontcountry sites, we usually have cell phone service (but not always). Backcountry camping refers to remote campsites, ones you can usually only reach by foot. Most of the places we camp are near water, like a river or lake, so that we have a water source for drinking, cleaning, and cooking. We usually do not have cell phone service in the backcountry. Most trips spend about half their nights in the front country, and half their nights in the backcountry.
When out of cell phone service, our director and administrative team are able to communicate with our instructors via satellite devices.
To maintain the integrity of our tech-free program, parents will not have the ability to call or text their child while at Adventure Treks.
Our instructors meet our students at the gate, and we constantly check for flight delays and other travel obstacles on every student’s flight. We strive to make traveling to and from each outdoor adventure as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Read more about traveling to and from Adventure Treks here.
We can easily accommodate gluten-free students, vegetarians, and most food allergies and dietary restrictions, but we are unable to accommodate strict vegan or kosher diets. Some trips may operate as nut-free (or free of another food) to accommodate severe allergies. Please call us at 828-698-0399 so we can discuss your child’s specific needs. You can read more about the kinds of foods we eat here.
Adventure Treks is the only program we know of that provides tents, sleeping bags and pads, backpacks, all cookware, and all technical equipment at no extra cost. You’ll need to bring hiking boots, clothing, and personal items like toiletries (enrolled families will have access to detailed packing lists for their child’s trip). Travel to and from Adventure Treks and program insurance are not included in tuition.
We want our students to feel fully immersed in their outdoor adventure, so we only allow them to use their cell phones to call home on designated days throughout the trip (typically about halfway through and on the last night). You can also expect a phone call from your child when they arrive at the airport and meet up with our instructors. We’ll note estimated days for calls home on the daily itinerary, but this may change due to many factors—we cannot guarantee exactly which days students will call home.
We intentionally limit communication so our groups can focus on the experience and build independence and resilience. We appreciate your support in this!
Of course, if there is an emergency or you need to contact your child right away during the trip, you can call us, and we will get your child to a phone as quickly as possible. There is an administrator on-call 24/7.
For all summer trips, all deposit payments are refundable through January 1, 2024. Between January 2 and February 28, 2024, deposits are nonrefundable. (If you’ve paid tuition in full and cancel by February 28, you forfeit the $1,000 deposit.) For cancellations that occur after March 1, 2024, deposits and tuition are nonrefundable. If you apply for a trip after March 1, 2024, and decide to withdraw the application during the admissions process, the deposit is non-refundable. Adventure Treks must be notified of all cancellations in writing.
You can view our cancellation policy in full here.
Your child will form deeper friendships during this trip than they have in their life. They will push themselves harder than they imagined possible and will love every minute. They will realize they are MUCH happier without social media. But when they return, they will experience AT withdrawals, so be prepared for at least a week or so of sulking. My daughter said it best when she said “everyone I met became my second family. I knew I would see you again but can’t believe I will never see my second family again.” Although she said she couldn’t be happier that she went, she wasn’t prepared for how sad she would feel the days after returning. She spent days looking through the photos laughing and then missing her friends so deeply. – Dorothy Ottolia, parent from Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
The teenagers who come to Adventure Treks are kind, welcoming, eager to learn, and hail from all over the United States and world. We prescreen our students and get to know our families, so our groups are full of positive young adults that will work well with each other. Adventure Treks places a strong emphasis on group dynamics and creating a supportive social environment, and our students reflect that. Read more about our students here.
Because we’ll be engaged in different outdoor activities throughout each trip, our students have the responsibility to be physically fit to attend Adventure Treks. We know physical fitness looks different for everyone, but it’s important to come prepared so that you and your fellow students can succeed. One student not coming prepared with physical fitness will negatively impact the entire group.
In the months leading up to your trip, we recommend participating in physical activity at least a few times a week (if you don’t already) to increase your stamina and endurance. This might be hiking, jogging or running, biking, playing soccer or basketball, or anything else that helps your cardiovascular fitness. It’s also a great idea to load your school backpack with textbooks, lace up your hiking boots, and hike around the neighborhood or on nearby trails a few times a week!
Most of our students come to Adventure Treks not knowing anyone before their trip. You’ll begin to make friends as soon as you arrive at the airport (and our instructors will be there to help). By the time the trip is over, you won’t want to leave your new community! Most of our students remain friends long after their summer ends.
That’s OK! Most of our first-time students don’t have experience in most of the outdoor activities that we do*. Our instructors work closely to teach you the skills that you’ll need. By the end of the trip, you’ll be a pro at setting up camp, cooking in the backcountry, and more! If you do have some experience, our instructors will be happy to help you improve your existing skills.
*All new students applying for the Alaska Expedition or Leadership Summit must have previous backcountry experience (e.g., multi-day backpacking trips) and attend an interview with an Adventure Treks director to ensure a mutually good fit.
You’ll be camping in tents during your adventure, and you’ll be surprised at how well you sleep. You’ll be with two other people of the same identifying gender in a four-person tent. When conditions allow, we sleep under the stars.
You’ll be able to shower about once a week throughout the trip. We know this might sound intimidating, but don’t worry! You’ll always be able to wash your hands and face regardless of our location, and many of our students bring travel wipes. We also spend a lot of time around rivers and lakes, so you’ll be able to rinse off often. We do laundry on all trips, and you’ll pack enough clean clothes to last you until laundry day.
Adventure Treks provides everything you need for the activities on your trip, including a backpack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent, mess kit, and group and technical gear. There are no rental fees for extra equipment. Each trip will have a specific and comprehensive packing list for you to follow (available to enrolled families in spring).
The trips available to you are based on your age and grade, interests, and outdoor experience. Everyone has a variety of trips to choose from. For more information, visit our 2023 teen adventure camp schedule.
Nervousness about flying is completely normal, and we understand that it can be a little uncomfortable, especially if it’s your first time. We can assure you, though, that you are in good hands. Our directors and instructors will be at the airport to greet students (often right at the gate), and we constantly check for flight delays and any other travel obstacles to keep you informed on the day you are flying. We make traveling to and from Adventure Treks as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Read more about airport days here.
At Adventure Treks, our students have an unbelievable amount of fun—all without the use of their cell phones! We unplug from technology so that we can connect with our natural surroundings and each other and build strong, inclusive, and kind communities. And we promise that you won’t even miss your phone.
You will get to bring your cell phone for travel days and for phone calls home to your family once or twice throughout the trip.
If you have any other questions, please contact us 828-698-0399! We are happy to hear from you.
Ellie has grown so much as a person with AT. She has become more independent and allowed herself to be vulnerable, which helped her to learn how to accept help and support. The friendships she has made are lifelong and memories she will carry with her forever. Every year, Ellie thinks she has met the most amazing people and the next year it probably wouldn’t be the same… but every year she finds new and meaningful relationships which gives her confidence in her ability to make friends and build a meaningful relationship. I can’t thank AT enough top to bottom for all the amazing experiences Ellie had during her four years. She now has a lifelong love for the outdoors and knows how to build a community of friends. – Terri Cain, parent from Mason, OH