• United States of America
1 - 52 weeks
Need-based funding, Merit-based funding, General grants/scholarships, Payment plans, 529 Plan eligibility

Program Details

Backpacking Camping Hiking
Academic Year Fall Spring Summer Winter Year Round
Primary Language
Age Min.


Starting Price
Price Details
Scholarships, Financial Aid, and Academic Credit available.
What's Included
Activities Some Equipment Meals
What's Not Included
Oct 01, 2021
Aug 15, 2023
13 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

Come join us for the adventure of a lifetime! Start your expedition in the foothills of the Wind River Range at NOLS Rocky Mountain. Here in Lander, Wyoming, the first NOLS students started and ended their Wind River Wilderness course in 1965. Today, our campus is a hub for courses exploring the mountains, canyons, and rivers of Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. Before and after your course heads into the field, you’ll stay at the historic Noble Hotel located in downtown Lander, right near our world headquarters. Then you’ll begin your adventure in the backcountry: you might backpack along high mountain ridges, navigate whitewater rapids, break trail in snow-covered mountains, or navigate some of the most remote glaciers in the lower 48.

Video and Photos

Popular Programs

Student in the field

NOLS invented the outdoor semester, and these courses are where it all began.

A Rockies Semester will take you on a Wild West tour de force while giving you a complete set of skills to lead and teach in the backcountry, whether in the field of outdoor education or with your own friends and family.

student in the field

Head to the wilderness to grow as a leader. On this course, you’ll spend a month in the Wind River Range finding new experiences and places to explore every day. Climb high ridges and summit peaks carved by glaciers. As you travel from camp to camp, you’ll do all these things and more while learning the skills to live comfortably in the wilderness.

Students reviewing rock rescue systems.

The Wilderness Medicine and Rescue Semester is a unique blend of wilderness skills, medicine, rescue, leadership, and environmental studies curriculum. The semester starts with an intensive four-week Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) course, followed by nine field weeks of backpacking, a rock climbing and rock rescue camp, and either river travel and rescue or winter travel with avalanche rescue.

Student rock climbing

Divided into a fall and spring semester, this course offers the greatest variety of outdoor skills on any NOLS course. You’ll spend the year developing a deep skillset of interpersonal, leadership, and outdoor experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime. The varying landscapes you encounter will include striking red rock canyons in Utah, the unique river landscapes of the Southwest, slopes of fresh snow in and around the Tetons, and backpacking in the Galiuro Wilderness.

Students hike past a mountain vista

Explore a beautiful and rugged mountain range bordering Yellowstone National Park. Backpack through thick forests and high mountain passes formed by ancient volcanoes. Challenge yourself to climb rugged peaks, pausing to enjoy the sweeping views at the summit. Camp beside clear alpine lakes and practice your fly fishing skills. As you travel, keep your eyes out for a diverse array of wildlife: elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and grizzly bears, and more.

Instructor teaching a lesson

Learn with—and from—your fellow educators as you take turns leading hikes and discussions. Practice fundamental outdoor skills, like off-trail navigation, with an additional emphasis on how to teach these skills effectively. At the same time, practice giving and receiving quality feedback. Review the principles of minimum-impact camping and earn your Leave No Trace Master Educator certificate.

Student repels into slot canyon

Come learn how to teach in the world’s best classroom—the outdoors. This course is designed for people who want to become professionals in the field of outdoor education. Immerse yourself in a range of environments from camping in snow shelters to climbing granite domes. As you spend time in the outdoors, you’ll learn techniques for teaching in large and small groups, including facilitation and debrief skills.

Students hike past mountain vista

This summer, find adventure in the Rockies. Embrace new challenges as you backpack through Wyoming’s snow-capped mountains, climb granite crags, and paddle whitewater rapids on the Green River. Wake up to the sound of wind in the pines, then make breakfast on a campstove with a group of new friends. Summit rugged peaks and rock climb at world-class sites. Go fly fishing on clear alpine lakes, and learn about local ecology as you hike over high mountain passes.

Student rock climbing

On this course, you’ll dive into learning leadership and rock climbing. You’ll start by backpacking deep into Wyoming’s Wind River mountains, where you’ll set up a base camp and learn the basics of outdoor living. As you begin the climbing skills progression, you will learn and practice skills like tying knots, belaying, and placing climbing protection. On the days when you don’t climb, explore the area’s clear lakes and forests of lodgepole pine.

Program Reviews

4.20 Rating
based on 5 reviews
  • 5 rating 60%
  • 4 rating 20%
  • 3 rating 0%
  • 2 rating 20%
  • 1 rating 0%
  • Housing 4.6
  • Support 4.2
  • Fun 4.4
  • Value 4
  • Safety 4.4
Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews
Default avatar
No, I don't recommend this program

Would Not Recommend

My son did the 30 day mountaineering course outside of Lander Wyoming in July of 2023. He was hoping to receive serious training in climbing and mountaineering. He was massively disappointed in the trip for a variety of reasons.
1. Poor screening of participants: one of the girls struggled with the hiking, and had to be evacuated by the group. She was clearly not prepared and had no concept of the demands. The evac had serious implications on the course routing, and severely impacted the climbing curriculum for the rest of the group. A problem that could have easily been solved by some early screening activities.
2. While weather (and evacs) negatively impacted the trip, NOLS apparently uses caloric restriction as a tool… not exactly sure what the intent of that is, but my 145 lb 6 foot tall son lost 14 pounds on the trip and was constantly hungry… obviously difficult to feed a bunch of teenagers, but a third food drop should have been organized. Not healthy for a growing teenager to lose 10% body weight.
3. My sons goal was to focus on mountaineering skills. He received a lot of lectures on how land ownership is inherently wrong, toxic masculinity, and pronouns. It seems like NOLS has gravitated more to politics and not just climbing. Ironically there was no hesitation to let my son carry a 72 pound pack (above weight normalized load expectations) but then complained about toxic masculinity. Politics aside, disappointing that the content was not purely hiking/climbing oriented.
4. Pricing: The course changed price by something like $600 several months after we signed up… seemed somewhat disingenuous. Then we got a $10 bill for damage to a group tent rental due to wind damage. Silly nickel and diming.
Our son left NOLS, went to Switzerland and paid a guide $3500 for a week of climbing… Matterhorn, Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Learned 10x the mountaineering skills for half the price. For a $6k course this NOLS course offers little value. If you’re into hiking and casual camping and talk about politics, probably a good course. If you are looking for true backcountry skills, NOLS is not the place to go.

  • Did meet some good friends
  • More politics than climbing
42 people found this review helpful.
Response from NOLS

Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with NOLS. We take all feedback seriously and invite you to reach out to us so we may look into this further. We can be reached at (800) 710-6657. We are committed to providing high-quality training and experiences for all our students.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Changed My Life

If you are reading this, GO FOR IT! When I arrived in Lander, WY for the Spring Semester in the Rockies (SSR) course, I’d never even owned a backpack before—I was straight out of NYC, lived my entire life in NYC, and the only wilderness I knew, was Central Park. With the guidance and extreme patience and knowledge of the instructors, I learned to be completely comfortable, and even enjoy, living in the wilderness. Most of all, I learned to appreciate the power of the natural world, and become a steward. This experience set the path for the rest of my life. I went on to graduate college the next semester, and straight into (what would become) career as a civil servant in the national parks. Before taking this course, I didn’t know we had national parks. I always look back fondly on the memories and experiences I had with NOLS.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Everything was unfamiliar! Wearing a backpack, camping, skis, sleeping in snow caves! hiking, climbing, caving, kayaking. It was ALL unfamiliar. Open mind is very important.
90 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

NOLS: Unleashing My Full Potential

When I first registered for my semester in the rockies I only expected to be receiving a furthering in my education, just a fun way to continue my college education. Upon arrival I quickly realized that this experience was going to be so much more than basic education. This course was going to enlighten me on how to interact and live with the world around me in a way that I had never thought of before. That is exactly what NOLS did.

Winter camping was rigorous and taxing ;however, It was rewarding to know that you were living efficiently in an environment that most people will never encounter in their entire existence. It is difficult to put into words the beauty of waking up every morning warm and cozy in an igloo with the bold Grand Teton Mountains quite literally at your doorstep.

Rock climbing took me through a technical journey of skills and knowledge that I will continue to use in my personal life. The teaching was thorough and complete leaving me with the feeling that I could accomplish all that was taught on my own. Everyday was an unique adventure as you scrambled hundreds of feet up beautiful red sandstone rock outside Las Vegas, Nevada. This section demanded trust and smooth teamwork which quickly helped to unite the group of men around me. I feel that The NOLS rock climbing section has advanced my climbing career in ways that I could of never imagined.

In addition to my two favorite sections of the semester there were also a river, canyon, and wilderness first responder course. These courses were just as rewarding and full of adventure and helped to create a well rounded experience. I also thoroughly enjoyed building a strong group dynamic with my fellow course mates. You soon create some of your closest friends just a few weeks into the course and learn how to interact appropriately with these friends even under stressful circumstances

From this experience I have grown personally, learned many technical skills, made new friends and most importantly have seen how to be a leader and make wise decisions in any situation.

What would you improve about this program?
My only complaints for the entire program would have to be for the logistical aspects of the course. I felt a little uninformed on the front end of what to bring and what exactly I was doing. I felt that I wasn't able to prepare properly for my course. All this being said once I arrived at headquarters all my questions were quickly sorted out and I had a fulfilling experience
91 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Great Backcountry Experience!

My NOLS experience was just what I needed at the time. I had just transferred colleges and needed to make up some lost credits. NOLS offered me those credits and I was able to fit in a semester during the summer break.

My course consisted of Backpacking (85 miles over the span of a month) Rock Climbing (Vedauwoo, Devil's Tower, and the Needles) and Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking (on the Green River).

I went into my semester with an open mind. I had dabbled in each of the sections prior to my course, but never before immersed myself so fully in a skill. I left each section with a confidence in the hard skills as well as a better understanding of how I function in a group setting.

There were 15 students on my semester from all over the country between the ages of 17 and 21. We learned how to work as a team over those three months and 10 years later I'm still in contact with a few of them.

I enjoyed learning from the instructors as they taught various classes in the middle of a field, in the middle of a mountain range, far from any typical classroom setting.

What would you improve about this program?
Usable certifications. A wilderness first aid or responder would have been great. I know the fall and spring semesters offer certifications, but it would be nice on the summer semester as well.
96 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

A Rocky Semester in the Rockies

Nothing gets under my skin more than people referring to NOLS as a "life changing" experience. It's not. Please don't place that much pressure on three months of your life. Please be a more stable person that a course doesn't completely change who you are. However, I do think it's fair to say that NOLS gave me a new perspective. While I was going through it, I didn't feel like I was changing or getting a mind-blowing perspective. Years later now, I'm happy I did it because I learned a lot about group dynamics and I learned that I could do such a physically and emotionally challenging thing. It makes problems at work pale in comparison.
I also learned leadership skills because I had both good an terrible instructors. I still want to be more like the good instructors and I still kind-of want to punch the bad instructors.

What would you improve about this program?
I was very irritated by how the groups were formed. There were two groups leaving for their semester at the same time. One was all boys and they were athletic. The other group was mixed and the boys in this group were less athletic. As a girl, I was really frustrated to be in the slower group because I came into the experience ready to push myself physically. Unfortunately, my patience was pushed and I felt like I wasn't getting a fair value simply because I was a girl. On that note, NOLS wasn't proactive in instilling a positive learning environment for co-ed and there were several instances where girls were belittled, excluded, or sexually preyed upon.
98 people found this review helpful.
Response from NOLS

Thank you for taking the time to review your NOLS semester. We are glad to hear you still use some of the skills learned on your course, but feel badly that you were disappointed by the composition of your group and felt that a positive learning environment was not always maintained. NOLS does not separate semester groups based on athletic ability. We do, however, take into consideration gender mix to avoid isolating a small number of females or males in a group. This usually leads to positive outcomes for our students who feel both physically challenged and supported in their educational goals.

We take the physical and emotional wellbeing of our students very seriously. We invite you to contact us to further discuss your experience. We're available at 800-710-6657 in our admission department.

Questions & Answers