Photograph (above) taken by Holly Noble
Sample Itinerary
Course start in El Paso, TX
Desert backpacking in Big Bend
Rock climbing
Final backpacking expedition
Base camp activities: service project, rock climbing and exploration of the “next-steps” in life. Family phone conferences
Canoeing expedition preparation and planning
Whitewater canoeing in Big Bend, exploring side canyons along the route
Second solo
Final phase of the canoeing expedition
Personal Challenge Event
Community service project. Parents/guardians arrive.
Students continue community service projects while parents/guardians begin the family seminar.
Reunion & family conference
Graduation and travel home.

Most College Savings Plans, including the 529 College Savings Plan, may be used to attend an Outward Bound expedition, thanks to a partnership with Western Colorado University. Anyone can register – you do not have to be a current Western Colorado University student. Registration is easy! Click here to learn more. 

Growing is tough, we get it. And when it comes to doing hard things, having a good crew matters. That’s why we built Intercept. Outward Bound's Intercept program is for families with teens who are facing challenging circumstances and need a reset. Parents can read more about that here. 

For students, these expeditions are specifically designed to help you disrupt your routines; have fun; make friends; and to discover tools to help you communicate, make positive decisions, and strengthen your relationships, both on course and when you get home. We’ll help you develop and practice these skills during exciting adventures where teamwork and your individual strengths will contribute to the success of your crew. And your family will join us for the last three days of the program, in a workshop with you and your instructors where you can demonstrate what you’ve learned and talk to your family about how to support your continued growth. 

  • Build skills, form connections: Learn and practice wilderness skills while working on interpersonal and group dynamics. Faced with the natural challenges of wilderness travel, students confront obstacles that require real-time, cooperative decision-making, respect and focused attention to detail – all of which are vital characteristics for life beyond the expedition.
  • Value strengths and strengthen values: Students are carefully mentored through the process of self-discovery as they are encouraged to take calculated risks and make choices with natural consequences. Developing different approaches to daily trials, seeking increasingly positive outcomes, students learn adaptability and experience the relationship between choices and consequences in the real world.
  • Demonstrate mastery: As the crew progresses, students are allowed to take on more leadership and decision-making responsibilities and all the joys and challenges that come with taking charge. Working both together and independently to achieve goals, students learn new skills to solve problems and succeed.
  • Bridge the gap: Students prepare to reunite with families and transfer Outward Bound successes to lives back home. This process involves two days of volunteer work and culminates with a facilitated conversation between students and their families.
  • What you’ll learn: Students come home with new communication strategies, improved conflict resolution skills and a keen awareness of themselves and others.

With the support of Outward Bound’s Intercept program, and the dedicated involvement of both students and their families, relationships start fresh, perceived limitations are overcome, new opportunities emerge and new futures are created.

Outward Bound is accredited with the American Gap Association and is the longest running program in this elite group dedicated to providing safe, meaningful and high-caliber educational experiences to students.

wilderness camp for struggling teens
Photo courtesy of Calvin Croll
wilderness program for at risk youth
Photo courtesy of Jesse Swedlund
wilderness expedition for at risk teens
Photo courtesy of Calvin Croll
texas big bend backpacking for struggling teens
Photo courtesy of Erin McCleary

At altitudes of 2,000-8,000 feet, backpack the vast Chisos Mountains and explore the Chihuahuan Desert, crossing mountainous terrain and traveling through water-polished canyons. The small group will hike both on and off trail, crossing mountain passes, exploring immense canyons and traversing a rugged desert where atmospheric clarity and wide-open spaces make distances deceiving and navigation challenging. While hiking, students will learn desert travel skills such as strategies for water management and environmental preservation and the finer points of balance and foot placement on rough terrain.

wilderness program for at risk youth
Photo courtesy of Jesse Swedlund
wilderness expedition for at risk teens
Photo courtesy of Anne Gringnon
canoeing expedition for struggling teens
Photo courtesy of Calvin Croll
wilderness camp for struggling teens
Photo courtesy of Holly Noble

After first learning basic whitewater strokes in calm currents, students are ready to begin the expedition. Paddling together, the group travels down-river through sections of calm currents and swift-moving whitewater rapids. The waters of the Rio Grande offer beginning and more advanced paddlers a progressive challenge and a perfect place to learn and hone skills.

Instructors assist students in mastering skills of paddling, scouting and running rapids. Students learn all the skills they need to move efficiently down-river, including an introduction to whitewater rescue techniques. As there are only two students in a whitewater canoe, everyone has the opportunity to "captain their watercraft." Students learn to adapt to the river and desert environments and reset their internal clock to rise with the sun and sleep with the moon.

at risk teens camp
Photo courtesy of Rachael Pace
teens learn leadership skills on outdoor course
Photo courtesy of Rachael Pace

During climbing days, students learn about general rock climbing equipment, safety and etiquette. Students have many opportunities to climb, belay and rappel while learning and employing safety systems that are compliant with national standards. The rock climbing sites provide a number of different route options including cracks, sheer faces and chimneys. Regardless of a student’s rock climbing background, they are sure to find a route that will engage them and encourage the expansion of their comfort zone.

All Outward Bound rock climbing and rappelling experiences are carefully supervised and employ safety systems aligned with national standards. During climbing days, students learn about rock climbing equipment, safety and etiquette, belaying and climbing rescue techniques. Encouraged and supported by their group, students push their perceived limits and expand their comfort zones in a safe, fun and non-competitive environment.

At one point during the expedition students are provided a secluded spot to reflect alone, with all the food, skills and supplies they need, and are monitored by staff throughout the experience to maintain safety. We call this part of course, Solo. The Solo experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition and gives students the opportunity to reflect on their Outward Bound experience. Many students use this reflection time to make decisions about their future, journal and enjoy the beauty of their surroundings unencumbered by the constant external stimulation of modern life. The duration of Solo depends on the course length and type, as well as the competency and preparedness of the student group. Students find that Solo provokes profound and powerful learning in a short period of time and often becomes one of the most memorable parts of their Outward Bound course.

Service is a cornerstone of every Outward Bound experience. From the seemingly small, daily acts of service to the environment and the expedition team to the post-expedition service-learning projects, students have ample opportunities to experience the value of giving back to the larger community. On the expedition, students are encouraged to practice environmental stewardship in the form of  Recreate Responsibly ethics. Students also practice regular acts of service for their team including preparing and serving meals, helping others put on or take off packs, or setting up shelters for the entire team. After the expedition, students participate in two days of organized service to the community. These projects are designed to offer as much interaction with local communities as possible, as a way of exchanging cultural awareness and fostering a sense of connection to the larger world. The specific type of service project depends upon the structure of the course as well as local needs and opportunities. Service projects could include helping in a border town or working to improve a local wilderness area.

By the end of the course, students have made great strides. They’ve learned how to balance freedom and responsibility, how to be part of a team and how to make positive choices. They feel a sense of pride in themselves and their accomplishments and have a fresh perspective and outlook on their lives. But how do young adults and families translate the incredible Intercept experience into lasting positive change? Parents or guardians are a critical link in the success of the Intercept experience and have the opportunity to think through their relationship with their child by using a comprehensive workbook. At the intensive three-day seminar, Instructors help translate the student experience to parents and guardians, giving families an opportunity to practice tools and strategies used on the expedition, creating a solid foundation of understanding and support for the path ahead. 

As a part of the family seminar, families meet one-on-one with at least one of the expedition Instructors to learn how their young adult fared on the course. They hear a detailed account of what the course was like, the struggles and success of the group and how their young adult handled the challenges. Together, with an Instructor acting as a facilitator, families come up with a new agreement to guide life at home. The goal for the family is to re-establish healthy roles and connections, restore any past harm, rebuild trust and create clear expectations for the future. The goal for the student is to have a voice in the direction their life takes and to clearly understand and commit to their responsibilities in order to earn trust and more freedom at home.

Courses are offered in a variety of locations and for different lengths to provide a range of programming from which participants can choose the optimal experience for them. Longer courses allow for full immersion into the Outward Bound experience, more time to practice wilderness travel and the opportunity to experience both success and failure to promote personal growth. The Intercept course offers the opportunity to be fully removed from the temptations and triggers of day-to-day life and start fresh with new habits and new life lessons. Students can expect to get comfortable living and working together in the wilderness while creating a solid foundation of communication, problem solving and decision making skills that they can continue to build on after course. With the added support of parent or guardian involvement, students are able to take lessons they’ve learned on course back to their home lives and implement the changes they want to see.

Photo courtesy of Mikaela Hamilton
Photo courtesy of Erika Jabas
Photo courtesy of Mikaela Hamilton
Photo courtesy of Rachael Pace
Photo courtesy of Ben Koshnick
Photo courtesy of Mikaela Hamilton

Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park, Texas
Along the U.S.-Mexico border in southwestern Texas, a powerful river and a mountainous desert unite in Texas’ Big Bend park system. The Texas course area is one of the most remote and geologically interesting in the country. The Rio Grande River carves a huge, sweeping bend where Big Bend National Park earns its name. This 750,000-square mile wilderness is the eighth largest national park in the lower 48 states and a desert backpacking and rock climbing paradise. In this region, delicate desert flowers exist alongside fossilized trees millions of years old. Mountain passes give way to steep-walled canyons and cliffs. The land itself is awe-inspiring, with canyons towering 300 to 1,200 feet over the river. It is one of the last true desert regions in North America. Much of this rugged land has remained unchanged for centuries. Hundreds of species of birds and a healthy diversity of other animal and plant communities thrive within the splendid isolation of ancient limestone canyons, juniper and mesquite-covered mesas and coal-black night skies. These regions are the ancestral lands of the Jumanos, Yoli (Concho), Pescado, Mescalero Apache and Chiso nations.


Getting Started

If you are ready to enroll on a course click the enroll button next to the course you wish to select or you can enroll over the phone by speaking with one of our Admissions Advisors (toll-free) at 866-467-7651.

To secure your spot on a course you must submit an enrollment form and $500 deposit that is applied toward the total cost of the course and includes a $150 non-refundable enrollment processing fee.