Wilderness Adventures

What Sets WA Apart?

By Wilderness Adventures May 1, 2024
Group of students with their arms around each other smiling.

Founded in 1973, Wilderness Adventures began as a passion project that combined a love for the outdoors with a commitment to education. Now, with over 35,000 alumni, our 50+ years of programming have been dedicated to executing life-changing adventures for young people in remarkable locations around the world. The core values of Community, Leadership, and the Natural World have remained at the heart of everything we do. While there are many great programs to choose from, we believe that legacy is what sets Wilderness Adventures apart.

Access to Spectacular Locations: Due to our longstanding relationship with the National Parks Service and National Forest Service, we are fortunate to hold some of the most exclusive wilderness permits across the country. We are one of two youth program providers permitted to operate within Grand Teton National Park. This allows us to backpack the iconic Teton Crest Trail on our Teton Crest program. Our permits span almost every designated wilderness area in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and many other stunning locations across the country – creating the opportunity for endless exploration!

We also operate in many incredible countries around the world. We have the privilege of many long standing partnerships with local guides in places like Costa Rica, Ecuador, Vietnam and Tanzania.

Living the Mission: Our mission is to “Do Something Wild – Inspire Growth and Wonder.” With our headquarters located in the wild and awe-inspiring Jackson Hole, Wyoming, we can’t help but live the mission of WA every day. The Tetons are in our backyard! On any given day, our Leadership Team can be found hiking, biking, fishing, skiing, or paddling in some of the same areas that our trips visit. Our Director of Operations lives in Girdwood Alaska, so he spends his weekends hiking and sea kayaking the same routes as our Alaska Southcentral and Alaska High Trails Trips. We also have offices in Salt Lake City, which is an outpost for Utah Red Rocks and Fall Gap in the Rockies, and our staff in Boulder pay frequent visits to The Rockies trips.

Commitment to Youth Development: While all of that experience certainly sets us apart, the real difference at WA is our commitment to youth development. First and foremost, our Trip Leaders are educators. When hiring, we prioritize looking for experience and passion for working with youth. These people work for WA because they want to create a life-changing experience for your students, and we hold them to a very high standard! AllTrip Leaders have a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and CPR certification. Many have additional certs like lifeguarding, EMT, teacher certs, etc. We have a two-week training at the start of each summer, where we teach our Trip Leaders everything else they need to know to be successful.

Building Community and Leadership: Your student will be a part of a small, close-knit, accepting community on their trip. The community on your student’s trip will make them feel accepted for who they are, will encourage them to take healthy risks, and cheer them on when they’re challenged. They will come away from the experience with a group of close friends (many trip groups stay in touch for years after their WA trip), and the confidence and experience to be able to create similar communities back home.

Within their community, each student will have the chance to lead. That means different things to different people – we’ll help your student discover their voice as a leader, in whatever way is authentic to them. When you’re on a WA trip, you’re constantly making decisions as a group – whether it’s simply what to eat for breakfast, or whether you can push towards the summit of the Grand Teton when you see clouds rolling in. This is the perfect opportunity to practice your leadership skills in a real-world, but safe and accepting environment.

Challenging Experiences for Personal Growth: Your student will do things every day that challenge them. To some, the challenge might be sleeping in a tent for the first time. For others, it might be climbing out of a crevasse on Matanuska Glacier. Either way, your student will have the opportunity to face those challenges and come out of it stronger and more confident.

Our Trip Leaders understand that all of these experiences are not a culmination, but rather a springboard for your student. Whether your student chooses to pursue outdoor experiences beyond their WA trips or not, the lessons learned and connections made will have a lasting impact on their life.

A Connection to the Natural World: Regardless of what WA trip you choose, your student will visit some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world. We instill a deep respect for the environment in all of our participants, teaching them about Leave No Trace principles and the importance of minimizing their impact on the places they visit. Many of our alumni go on to become advocates for environmental conservation, using the skills and knowledge they gained with WA to make a positive impact on the world around them.

A Chance to Unplug: At Wilderness Adventures, we believe in the power of disconnecting from the digital world to fully immerse oneself in the natural world. One of the defining features of our trips is the intentional absence of electronic devices, including phones. This unplugged approach offers numerous benefits that contribute to the transformative nature of our programs.

Without the distraction of phones and screens, students are able to fully engage with their surroundings and fellow participants. They can appreciate the beauty of nature, the sounds of the wilderness, and the joy of face-to-face interactions without the constant pull of technology. By removing the barrier of screens, our trips create a space for genuine, meaningful connections to form. Students have the opportunity to develop friendships based on shared experiences, mutual respect, and authentic communication. Disconnecting from screens and spending time outdoors has been linked to improved mental health, reduced stress levels, and increased feelings of happiness and well-being. At Wilderness Adventures, our unplugged approach is not just a policy; it’s a philosophy that shapes the way we approach outdoor education. By disconnecting from screens and reconnecting with nature, students embark on a journey of self-discovery, personal growth, and unforgettable experiences.

Room for Everyone at our Campfire: At Wilderness Adventures, inclusivity is at the core of our values. We celebrate diversity and are committed to creating a welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of their background or identity. Our community is made up of students from all over the world, representing a wide range of cultures, beliefs, and experiences. We believe that by embracing diversity, we can create a richer, more meaningful experience for all participants.

One of the things we are doing in an attempt to close the gap is offer financial aid through our non-profit, the Wilderness Adventures Foundation (WAF). The WAF helps lower socioeconomic barriers, enabling more people to participate in our programs. We also work with partner organizations to send students who might not otherwise have the means to join us. Additionally, we prioritize cultural competence among our staff and collaborate closely with local partners in our international programs, ensuring that we make a positive impact on the communities we visit.

Our commitment to inclusivity extends to our staff as well. We offer training on fostering inclusive environments, including racial diversity, LGBTQ+ inclusivity, and mental health awareness. We also provide opportunities for professional development and support for staff advancement. We recognize that inclusivity is an ongoing process, and we are committed to continuously improving and expanding our efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive environment for all.

Commitment to Risk Management: As parents of four WA students themselves, our directors Tom and Catherine Holland, understand the trust it takes to send your child on a program like WA. We take risk management extremely seriously. We have a 24-hour on-call line in case groups need support from our Leadership Team. We continuously update policies and procedures, participate in conferences, and cooperate with other programs to remain on the cutting edge of risk management in outdoor education. We are one of the few trip and travel programs to be accredited by the American Camp Association. Tom is also a regular speaker at the American Camp Association Conferences!

Personalized Service: As a small company, we are here to meet your needs. You can reach us any time to discuss your student. Under the leadership of our director, Catherine Holland, who is a registered dietitian, we are able to accommodate most any dietary restrictions your student may have. We provide regular photo updates so that you can see for yourself how your students’ trip is going.

Wilderness Adventures offers more than just a trip; we offer a transformative experience that inspires growth, builds confidence, and creates lifelong memories. With our experienced team, exclusive permits, and commitment to youth development, Wilderness Adventures is the perfect choice for young people seeking adventure, personal growth, and a deeper connection to the natural world. Whether your student is looking to explore the wilderness, develop leadership skills, or simply make lifelong friends, WA provides the perfect setting for them to thrive and grow.


By, Charlie Burnett (Director of Operations)