Leadership Adventure Semester
Spring 2022

Course details and location

  • February 28, 2022 – May 12, 2022
  • Ages 18–20
  • $16,500
  • 14 academic credit hours through Western Carolina University

This 74-day program will begin in Costa Rica. Students will spend two weeks learning and honing their whitewater kayaking, rafting, and canoeing skills among this country’s incredible biodiversity before transitioning to our basecamp in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. Western NC is consistently rated one of the top regions in the country for outdoor adventure, with more than a million acres of pristine wilderness and world-class backpacking, rock climbing, whitewater kayaking and canoeing, and mountain biking just a few steps out the front door.

During the semester, we’ll spend time in areas like:

  • Turrialba, Cartago
  • Pacuare River
  • Pejibaye River
  • Pisgah National Forest
  • Nantahala National Forest
  • Linville Gorge
  • The Foothills Trail in Oconee and Table Rock state parks
  • French Broad River
  • DuPont State Forest
  • Jocassee Gorges Wilderness Area
  • Gorges State Park

Academic credit through Western Carolina University

This Leadership Adventure Semester spring course will offer the ability to earn 14 hours of academic credit through Western Carolina University (WCU). The courses include:

  • Parks and recreation management (PRM) 254: Introduction to outdoor pursuits (four credits)
  • PRM 200: Introduction to rock climbing (two credits)
  • PRM 357: Wilderness first responder (four credits)
  • PRM 224: Survey of outdoor adventure activities (four credits)

Find more information, including how to apply as a non-degree-seeking student to WCU, here.

Wilderness first responder course

Not only is it important for outdoor enthusiasts to have a basic understanding of wilderness medicine, but the wilderness first responder course is also the standard minimum medical certification for outdoor leaders like guides, search and rescue professionals, and educators. (Adventure Treks alumni often go on to become instructor interns after having gained this certification.) It’s also an extremely beneficial course for anyone who takes extended backcountry trips and wants to pursue emergency medical training. Over 72–80 hours of classroom learning and hands-on scenarios, students will cover topics like:

  • Patient assessment systems
  • Risk management
  • Vital signs
  • Anaphylaxis, allergies, and airway management
  • Heat- and cold-related injuries
  • Spinal and traumatic brain injuries
  • Wounds and soft tissue injuries
  • Trauma and shock
  • Burns and blisters
  • Bites, stings, and wildlife safety
  • Splinting and patient packaging
  • Dislocations
  • And much, much more


Backpacking and advanced campcraft

Year after year, backpacking is the most highly rated activity at Adventure Treks for many reasons, including shared challenge, lack of electronic distractions, and what we call “shared humanity.” There’s magic in overcoming obstacles, and it’s even more powerful when challenges are shared with friends. Without electronics, people able to focus on what’s in front of them, and what’s important: themselves, their friends, and creating long-lasting memories. Students are able to step into different leadership roles, and backpacking highlights commonalities and interests that form strong, unbreakable friendship bonds. Backpacking offers opportunities for both type I fun (seeing beautiful views, having deep trail conversations, jumping into swimming holes) and type II fun (steep inclines, inclement weather, forgetting something and having to problem-solve)—both of which create rewarding, meaningful experiences.

Students will hike through the 500,000-acre Pisgah National Forest on several extended backpacking trips, honing such skills as:

  • Expedition management and safety
  • Orienteering, map-reading, and navigation skills
  • Leave No Trace principles
  • Camp set-up and take-down
  • Building temporary shelters
  • Fire-building
  • Backcountry cooking

Extended canoeing trips offer much of the same magic as backpacking, minus having the extra weight on your back! Students will learn basic techniques in Costa Rica and on Camp Pinnacle’s private Wolfe Lake, such as:

  • Essential canoeing strokes (forward and backward, J, C, pry, sweep, draw, cross draw, etc.)
  • Reading a river and flat water
  • Ferrying, eddying, and bracing

They’ll also practices skills like:

  • Loading and unloading canoes
  • Basic rescue techniques
  • River packing, camping, and portaging techniques

Students will become fluent in paddling skills and drills and river safety on flat water. They will then take the whitewater skills learned in Costa Rica on a multi-day wilderness canoe and camping trip along the 117-mile French Broad River Trail. Working together in tandem canoes is also a great way to improve communication and teamwork skills.

Rock climbing, mountain biking, and kayaking
Rock climbing

We’ll take advantage of the soaring granite domes in Pisgah National Forest, where students will learn concepts such as:

  • Knot-tying
  • Belaying
  • Rappelling
  • Anchor-building

We’ll also teach how to safely operate a climbing site; self-rescue; techniques such as movement and advanced knots; and how to manage problems like stuck ropes or lost gear.

Mountain biking

We’ll take advantage of the hundreds of miles of nearby terrain in Pisgah National Forest, DuPont State Forest, and at Ride Kanuga. In fact, western North Carolina is consistently ranked as one of the world’s top spots for mountain biking. Students will be assigned a mountain bike for the duration of their semester and will be in charge of their maintenance and repairs. Biking clinics will include:

  • Proper body positioning for climbing and descending
  • How to read the trail and pick a line
  • Balance and pedal strokes
  • Braking and shifting
  • Trail etiquette

Students will also learn basic repairs like fixing flats, repairing chains, replacing derailleur hangers, checking tire pressure, changing brake pads, etc.

Whitewater paddling

In Costa Rica, students will learn basics like:

  • Common strokes
  • Reading whitewater and picking a line
  • Surfing waves
  • T-rescues
  • Wet exits
  • Rolling and bracing
  • Properly swimming in whitewater

They’ll then have the opportunity to play around in western NC, whose rivers offer endless opportunities!

Local community service projects

Leadership Adventure Semester students will get to enjoy all that western North Carolina has to offer, and we believe service that truly benefits the area will help them appreciate their surroundings even more. LAS students will participate in multi-day service projects, including trail maintenance and building and river clean-ups.

Essential life skills

In addition to helping students become skilled and competent outdoorspeople, we believe young adults must possess a wide variety of skills and habits to help them live rich, independent, and self-reliant lives. Thus, we will also include educational and hands-on blocks for:

  • Basic carpentry, plumbing, and electrical
  • Basic auto maintenance and repair
  • Basic bike maintenance and repair
  • Cooking, menu-planning, budgeting, and kitchen management
  • Personal financial management
  • Interviewing skills and resume-building
  • Outdoor equipment maintenance and repair

Accommodations & all-inclusive tuition

Students will live at a lodge in Costa Rica, and then basecamp in western North Carolina for the duration of their semester (when they’re not camping during backcountry trips).

Adventure Treks gap semester tuition will include the following:

  • All meals and lodging
  • Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, and group gear
  • Technical gear for mountain biking, rock climbing, canoeing, and kayaking
  • Guided activities
  • Wilderness first responder course

Not included in tuition:

  • Medical insurance
  • Personal clothing and gear

How to apply

Step 1: Submit an online application.

You’ll complete the initial online application, which requires a parent’s email address to create a username and password; this email and password is how you’ll access the account for all paperwork.

Step 2: Secure your spot with a $3,000 deposit.

The $3,000 deposit must be made within five days of the initial online application and can be made over the phone with a credit card (plus a 2.9% bank processing fee), debit card (no processing fee), or checking account (we’ll need the account and routing number).

Step 3: Fill out a detailed application and set up a director interview.

Once we receive the student application and $3,000 deposit, students will complete a questionnaire and two essays and health form, and submit two professional and/or academic references. We will also schedule a director interview.

Step 4: Official acceptance!

As soon as the entire admissions process is completed, we will notify you as soon as possible regarding your official acceptance into the program.

*Terms and conditions for the Leadership Adventure Semester will apply.