Gap Year? Yep! Gap Year!

Wilderness Adventures Leadership Institute: Fall Semester in the Rockies

At Wilderness Adventures, we believe that summer should never end. We love the learning, growing and adventuring that comes with a summer season in the outdoors. This Fall, we are excited to offer the inaugural Wilderness Adventures Leadership Institute Semester program for College Students. Spend your semester learning and improving your outdoor skills, expanding your leadership capabilities, backpacking in some of the most beautiful wilderness areas in our country, and gaining certifications that you will use for the rest of your life. Join like-minded students in an adventure that takes you away from your computer, and into the real world.

Dates: September 9, 2020 – November 15th, 2020 (67 day duration)
Arrival/Departure Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Price: $14,495


Activities: Backpacking, Sea Kayaking, Whitewater Rafting, Fly Fishing, Climbing, Leadership Education, Service 

Certifications: Wilderness First Responder Certification and CPR

Group Size: 8-12 students, 2 trip leaders

Ages: 17-22 year olds (must have completed high school)

Lodging: Camping, students will have the opportunity to shower and do laundry after every course section

States Visited: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Utah


Included in your tuition are the following:

  1. All activities, lodging and travel upon arrival
  2. All food throughout duration of trip
  3. A Wilderness Adventures shirt, face covering and water bottle
  4. Reading materials and supplies for course study
  5. Instruction on how to add Gap Semester to your resume

Click here to review the complete Terms and Conditions for Fall Semester

*Scroll to the bottom of the page for the application process*


Our alumni will tell you that over just three weeks on a Wilderness Adventures trip, they gained a lifetime worth of adventures. Now, imagine what we can accomplish together on an extended expedition. In the Wilderness Adventures Semester programs we aim to not only expose you to new skills, and to challenge you to leave your comfort zone, but to make you comfortable in those skills and grow as a leader. 

During this program, students will backpack into the wilderness areas of Wyoming, Utah, Montana and Idaho. Students will fly fish in some of the most famous terrain in the United States, and sea kayak in the nation’s first National Park, Yellowstone. Participants will have the opportunity to earn their Wilderness First Responder Certification in a 74-hour course, and receive training in outdoor education, team building, and leadership. They will whitewater raft on an adrenaline-filled adventure, and give back to the communities they are visiting through service. Most importantly, our students will gain confidence, life skills, and friendships that will propel them into adulthood. This semester is built for growth, life experiences, and realizing that learning can happen outside of the classroom and offline. 

Together as a team, this group of motivated college-students will seek to make the most out of their fall semester; gaining skills, memories, and knowledge that will last a lifetime, and prepare them for any challenge ahead.

Activity Descriptions


Throughout the semester, the cohort will embark on a variety of different backpacking trips in and around the Rocky Mountain West. During these trips, our focus will be on leadership training, team building, map and compass navigation, emergency preparedness, survival skills, wildlife safety, backcountry cooking, and outdoor education training. 

These backpacking trips will take place in 4 different states: Wyoming, Utah, Montana, and Idaho. While it is still warmer in September, we will explore areas such as Gros Ventre Wilderness, Jedediah Smith Wilderness, Beartooth Wilderness, Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness, and the Fitzpatrick Wilderness. As it becomes cooler, the cohort will move to Utah where it will backpack the Boulder Mail Trail. Each of these backpacking sections will offer unique challenges and rewards, as we hike our way to some of the most remote and beautiful areas in our country. 

Sea Kayaking

The sea kayaking portion will take place on Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park. Fall in Yellowstone is a special time. The crowds have dispersed, the elk are bugling and the park is teeming with wildlife. During our time on Yellowstone Lake, the cohort will rise with the sun, paddle across calm waters in the morning, and then hunker down at a backcountry campsite (only accessible by boat) in the afternoons and evenings. The lake is a watering hole for many animals and surrounded by some of the most remote parts of Yellowstone National Park. Our sea kayaking portion will allow the group to spend time fine-tuning paddling techniques, perfecting map and compass navigation on water, and becoming a team as each student works with a partner to paddle a single boat. 

Rock Climbing

The west offers some exceptional opportunities to hone your climbing skills. Whether you have climbed before or this is your first time, you will spend time learning all about this outdoor skill. Participants will get the chance to be coached on gear placement, anchor building, multi-pitch belay management, and will have the opportunity to do their own lead climb.

Whitewater Rafting

There is nothing like western whitewater. The landscape of the west is cut by water. A multi-day backcountry river adventure will be a core part of the fall course. Students will not only be along as passengers, but will learn the skills necessary to eventually row their own watercraft. Our group will take time to hone our paddling skills, becoming proficient on slow and fast moving water while also learning about how water has come to define the past, present and future of the west. 

Fly Fishing 

The group will have the opportunity to attend a two-day fly fishing seminar. During the first day of the fishing seminar, the group will learn about entomology, trout diet, fly selection, fly casting, and knot tying. In the afternoon the group will practice catch and release etiquette and have a casting competition. Our outdoor classroom is the perfect place to put the lessons learned immediately to good use. On the second day, the group will practice fly tying, continue the conversations from the day before, and start fishing.

For the remainder of the trip, students will have the option to hone their new found fly fishing skills in the other activities they will do. While backpacking and sea kayaking, there will be many opportunities to fly fish in these areas, and to practice the art of fly fishing throughout the adventure. 

Service Work

During this semester, the cohort will have the opportunity to work on several service projects in the outdoors. One example of these activities is working with the National Forest Service in the Bridger Teton National Forest. 

Bridger Teton National Forest encompasses the Bridger Wilderness, the Gros Ventre Wilderness, and the Teton Wilderness. The land contained in the forest includes some of the most coveted mountaineering routes in the US, essential habitat for flora and fauna from grizzly bears and wolves to wildflowers and sedges, and amazing geologic features such as landslides and hot springs. During one of the group’s backcountry expeditions they will assist with trail improvement and trail building projects in the Gros Ventre Wilderness. It will be hard work, but the end goal will be more sustainable access to the wilderness for public users such as hikers, mountaineers, hunters, and fishermen. The group will see the impact of our work in the smiles that they receive along the trail.

Wilderness First Responder Certification (with CPR)

This 74-hour course will be conducted by Wilderness Medicine of Utah, a long-time partner of Wilderness Adventures. This course will be conducted over 6 days, and will cover a wide range of topics relating to medical emergencies in the wilderness and decision making, as well as practical simulations to prepare students to apply their new knowledge. 

This course will take place in two parts. The first will be a “classroom” setting where the cohort gathers together to learn material and watch demonstrations by instructors. The second part of this course will take place during a backpacking section of the trip. Students will use this time to apply their skills, practice in simulated emergency scenarios, and work with the materials they would realistically have with them in the backcountry.  

Upon completion of the course, and a satisfactory assessment, students will earn their Wilderness First Responder Certification and CPR certification, both valid for 2 years. 

Core Outdoor Leadership Curriculum

During their time with WA, participants will also be engaged in active learning about outdoor education and its correlation to their own leadership capabilities. Topics of study will include group dynamics and facilitation, decision making skills, diversity equity and inclusion in outdoor settings, and expedition behavior. Yes, hard skills will be taught all throughout the course, advancing each person’s wilderness knowledge, but there will be a critical emphasis on the personal growth of the individual as a leader. Texts and curriculum will guide the journey, and students will actively participate in readings and studies as they build toward their own capstone project to be completed in the final stages of the course. 

COVID-19 Considerations

It is important to note that it is possible to be exposed to COVID-19 when travelling to or on any Wilderness Adventure program. Because of the risk associated with this pandemic, Wilderness Adventures will be taking special precautions to help mitigate the risks this virus poses. These precautions include, but are not limited to: all participants being tested before the trip begins, strict social distancing for the first 2 weeks of the semester, possibly amended social distancing tactics for the remainder of the semester (if all participants are symptom free), limited interaction with the public, masks being worn during specific activities (i.e. driving, cooking, interacting with anyone outside of the group, etc.), frequent temperature and health checks of all participants, weekly sanitization of vehicle and gear, and frequent, consistent hand-washing and hand sanitizing. 

We understand and recognize that not all families and participants’ practices look like this outside of Wilderness Adventures. However, in order for our programs to be successful, it is crucial that these CDC guidelines and practices are followed throughout our semester. We are responsible together for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 on our programs, and require that these practices be taken very seriously by all who attend. 

This summer, we have been testing our new policies and procedures on a few overnight expeditions as we readied ourselves to hit the trail once again. 

Application Process

Wilderness Adventures is based on the community experience of the trip group. Consequently, we will work diligently to assemble an exceptional group of young adults for this expedition. To be considered for the program, an applicant must have the following:

  • The want and desire to be on the trip
  • A past history of being a great teammate
  • An interest in connecting with others and learning more about oneself
  • Wilderness Adventures Essential Eligibility Criteria (see end of document). 

This program will require an application, due to a limited amount of spaces available. If you are interested in applying, please send the following to

  1. Email Subject Line: “Full Name: Fall Semester Program Application”
  2. Two letters of recommendation, if a WA alum, these will be waived and we will reference past student evaluations of trip behavior and performance
  3. Statement of interest. Why are you interested in joining this group? What do you bring to the group? What do you hope to gain out of the experience?

Once we have your application, we will review, and be in contact to discuss next steps.