Experts in adventures since 1973.

Our History

1975: Pausing at an old tree stump in Washington’s Olympic National Park.

Wilderness Adventures started in 1973 with Mike and Helen Cottingham’s dream of combining their love of the outdoors with their passion for education. What began as one trip with ten students for eight weeks across the western United States has grown to over 45 trips across six continents with over 25,000 alumni.

As idealistic school teachers, Mike and Helen saw great possibility for growth in their students, but a lack of room to grow in the traditional classroom setting. With the trust of ten students’ parents and a whole lot of enthusiasm, Mike and Helen packed up Wilderness Adventures’ first 15-passenger van and set out across the country. Each summer following, the trips grew, the staff multiplied, and Mike and Helen devoted themselves to helping young people discover the outdoors, and in turn, themselves.

Forty-five years later, Mike and Helen’s dream continues to prosper and thrive. Though the trips have grown to include much more than just ten students in the American West, our goals and mission have remained the same: to create life-changing adventures for young people in remarkable locations.

In early 2016, Mike and Helen passed the torch to Tom and Catherine Holland, educators looking to continue the legacy and the spirit of WA. With both history in the Jackson Hole area and extensive professional careers in child development, Tom and Catherine are thrilled to continue the legacy of Wilderness Adventures.

1977: The wreck of the steamboat S. S. Evelyn on the Yukon River.

1979: The first “row your own” whitewater trip for young adults down Idaho’s Salmon River