Photograph (above) taken by Rikki Dunn
Sample Itinerary
Course Start, introductory lessons in “camp craft”
Lessons on top-roping and belaying
Climbing, Rappelling
Backpacking, De-issue, Graduation
Depart for airport

It’s time to make your own adventure. Outward Bound’s Classic expeditions for middle and high school students are built with you in mind. Make new friends, sleep under the stars, and learn skills like backcountry navigation and how to cook a delicious meal no matter where you are. You’ve got this! Whether you’re in a raft or on a mountainside, you’ll learn what you’re made of – and you’ll see first-hand how far teamwork can take you. Join us for an unforgettable challenge and discover a whole new way to get outside.  

  • Build skills, form connections: Learn and practice wilderness, teamwork and leadership skills. Find connections with your crewmates based on support and respect (and fun too!), and in the thick of challenges, discover there is more in you than you know.
  • Value strengths and strengthen values: Uncover your unique character strengths, develop your leadership abilities and learn how to let compassion into everyday life by pushing your own limits and working alongside your peers.
  • Demonstrate mastery: As you gain confidence in new skills, take on more decision-making responsibilities. Work together to achieve team goals, solve problems and succeed both as individuals and as a group.
  • What you’ll learn: Your connections matter – working together to navigate challenges will quickly turn your crewmates into friends. Together, you’ll find opportunities to carry more weight (literally and figuratively) and make impactful decisions with accompanying consequences. It’s all about confidence, communication, and independence. 

After you come home, many of the character, leadership and service traits you uncovered on your expedition stay with you, helping you navigate your daily life with more resilience and success.

This course is appropriate for those new to backpacking as well as students with some experience who are interested in exploring new terrain. Each day presents opportunities to learn new skills and work closely with teammates to travel efficiently and accomplish tasks.

The course will begin by learning foundational skills such as camp setup, cooking and navigation. As students learn these crafts and develop trust with their group, Instructors will transfer ownership of the course to the students who will manage routes, the daily schedule, navigation, and other necessary skills for expeditionary travel.

rock climbing outdoor leadership course for teens
Photo courtesy of Micah Bowe
rock climbing expedition with outdoor leadership school
Photo courtesy of Micah Bowe
rock climbing camp for teens in california
Photo courtesy of Micah Bowe

The rocks section of this course is designed for all levels and will teach students the skills necessary to be effective top-rope climbers. The first lessons will set the foundation for belaying and movement on rock and progress toward more advanced skills, including rappelling. Students build trust and motivational leadership as they belay and are belayed by their crew in this base camping section of the course.

In order for profound learning to take place, there must be time to reflect on the experience. Solo is that opportunity, and that time can range anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours. It is a chance to experience solitude in the wilderness without distraction while also taking a break from the physical rigors of activities. Students experience short periods of time away from their group throughout the course for reflection.  These “mini-solos” are at solo sites chosen by Instructors to provide as much solitude as possible (within emergency whistle-signaling distance of other group members). Participants have all necessary equipment, food and water during their Solo time, and safety is always the top priority.

teens develop character on outward bound trip
Photo courtesy of Micah Bowe

Outward Bound courses vary in length from 4 to 85 days. On shorter courses, students receive an introduction to leadership skills, strength of character and a desire to serve, while activities fill most of the time and the pace is quick. With longer courses, the same outcomes and benefits are achieved with the opportunity to reach a more profound level of mastery as there are more chances to develop technical skills, receive and implement feedback and further personal development. However many days the expedition lasts, the strength and impact of the experience lasts a lifetime.

Joshua Tree National Park

Welcome to the high desert moonscape, where rugged mountains and desert plateaus were sculpted by wind and rain.  Three distinct ecosystems come together to form this land of extremes: the dark, cold, star-filled nights against warm sand and boulder-filled days. Students will travel through granite monoliths and through narrow canyons that have attracted travelers from around the world long before the park became a national park in 1936.

The Mojave Desert’s sunny fall, winter and spring weather is perfect for a week on the trail or basecamping below the next climb. Weather in the park is generally dry and rainfall is sparse, though unpredictable, irregular, and sometimes persistent thunderstorms do occur. Rare winter snow storms are possible and it is a unique experience to see this commonly dry environment blanketed in white. Temperatures can vary, averaging 50-70 degrees during the day to a cool 30 or lower at night. The wind can often make you grateful for your cozy sleeping bag and hot drinks each night.

Travel in the desert takes careful planning to ensure an ample water supply. Logistics staff place water and food caches around the park to enable extended backcountry travel in this unique wilderness. 

These regions are the ancestral lands of the Yuhaviatam/Maarenga’yam (Serrano), Cahuilla, Newe (Western Shoshone), Chemehuevi, Southern Paiute and Cocopah (Xawiƚƚ kwñchawaay) nations. We acknowledge them as the past, present, and future caretakers of this land, and also pay respect to their elders, both past and present. We recognize and continually support and advocate for the sovereignty of the Native nations of this territory and beyond. By offering this land acknowledgment we affirm tribal sovereignty, commit to working to support these tribes, and commit to holding Outward Bound California accountable to this work.


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.