Location
  • United States of America
Length
2 - 12 weeks
Need-based funding, Merit-based funding, General grants/scholarships, Payment plans, 529 Plan eligibility

Program Details

Activities
Backpacking Camping Hiking Kayaking Mountain Climbing Remote Exploring
Timeframe
Summer
Housing
Tent
Primary Language
English
Age Min.
16

Pricing

Starting Price
7200
Price Details
NOLS offers scholarships and accepts 529 savings plans, consortium agreements for federal financial aid, veterans' benefits, and AmeriCorps awards.
What's Included
Accommodation Activities Some Equipment Meals
What's Not Included
Airfare
Dec 14, 2023
Feb 07, 2024
19 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

Come join us at NOLS Alaska for an adventure in the Land of the Midnight Sun. At our campus, a 40-acre former dairy farm, you’ll enjoy fresh veggies from our on-site garden and breathtaking views of the Talkeetna Mountains and Chugach Range. In the field, you’ll learn one or more technical skills—backpacking, mountaineering, or sea kayaking—in the famed Alaska backcountry. Whether you’re paddling a sea kayak in Prince William Sound alongside massive glaciers, hiking across the vast tundra above the Arctic Circle, or mountaineering in the Chugach Range, you’ll marvel at the enormity of the Alaskan wilderness.

As you explore Alaska, you’ll recalibrate not only your sense of scale, but also your self-confidence and competence in the outdoors.

Video and Photos

Program Highlights

  • Wildlife you may see: caribou, moose, Dall sheep, wolverines, black and brown bears, and wolves
  • Skill selections: sea kayaking, backpacking, and mountaineering
  • Average group size: 12 students / 3 instructors
  • Earn transferable US College Credit

Popular Programs

Students rest on a glacier

A semester in Alaska will take you from forested coastlines to high mountain peaks, and the tundra and rivers in between. With almost 20 hours of daylight at summer’s peak, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the Alaskan wilderness. Whether this is your first time camping or you’re an experienced outdoorsperson, expect to try out and develop a variety of new skills on this expedition.

Students backpack past mountain vista

Dive into an unforgettable adventure in the northern wilderness. Backpack through Alaska’s famed mountain ranges and lush green valleys. Work your way up rugged peaks, pausing to admire sweeping views at the summit. Enjoy the long daylight hours of a northern summer as you hike across the tundra and cross braided streams. As you travel, keep your eye out for Dall sheep, moose, caribou, and wolves.

Students trek past mountain vista

Find your next adventure in the rugged terrain of southcentral Alaska, nicknamed the “mountain kingdom of North America.” Build your mountaineering skills while exploring the coastal Chugach Range, interior Alaska Range, or vast Wrangell-St. Elias Range. Enjoy nearly 24 hours of daylight as you travel across sweeping expanses of tundra, massive glaciers, and towering peaks.

Students sea kayak past glacier

This summer, set off on an unforgettable adventure in the rugged northern backcountry. Paddle alongside tidewater glaciers in Alaska’s famed coastal fjords, keeping your eye out for whales, porpoises, sea otters, seals, and sea lions. Backpack across the tundra and over high mountain passes. Enjoy the long daylight hours of a northern summer as you hike through lush green valleys and cross braided streams.

View from a sea kayak

Join a team of current and aspiring outdoor educators to expand your teaching and leadership skills. Backpack across the tundra and paddle past tidewater glaciers in Prince William Sound. Climb soaring peaks in Alaska’s Talkeetna Mountains or Chugach Range. Keep an eye out for Dall sheep, moose, and caribou, as well as coastal wildlife like sea otters, seals, and porpoises. Along the way, develop the skills you need to lead, manage risk, and teach in the wilderness.

Program Reviews

4.43 Rating
based on 7 reviews
  • 5 rating 85.71%
  • 4 rating 0%
  • 3 rating 0%
  • 2 rating 0%
  • 1 rating 14.29%
  • Housing 4.3
  • Support 4.45
  • Fun 4.45
  • Value 4.45
  • Safety 4.45
Showing 1 - 7 of 7 reviews
Default avatar
KJ
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Great program

My daughter participated in this program in 2021. We bought the tuition insurance recommended by NOLS through AON. She unfortunately had an injury and needed evacuation. The evacuation was not too expensive as she did not need medical eval and flew out on a puppy helicopter. But 1/3 of her trip was cancelled. The AON insurance was a joke. I am still trying to get them to pay out the claim for her lost tuition . The policy was titled "Tuition reimbursment insurance" and AON had the audacity to say it does not cover tuition reimbursement, read the fine print! Unreal! DO NOT BUY AON insurance!
Here is the benefits listed on the policy and they will not pay!
Benefit Maximum Benefit Amount/Principal Sum
Part A – Travel Arrangement Protection
Trip Interruption .................................. 100% of Total Tuition
Travel Delay (up to $150 per day) ................................ $300
Baggage Delay ............................................................. $300
Part B – Travel Insurance Benefits
Accidental Death & Dismemberment ....................... $10,000
Emergency Medical Evacuation and
Repatriation of Remains…… ................................. $100,000

31 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Sarah
1/5
No, I don't recommend this program

Means girls and not worth the cost

I’d like to leave this review as a reference for anyone considering going on the two week women’s Alaska course. I hope I can give you a better idea of what my experience was like, so you can make an informed decision about if this course would be a good fit.

I had a really negative experience on the two week women’s Alaska course during the summer of 2022 (7/24-8/6). If you decide to take a NOLS course and go by yourself, I’d personally recommend not paying more than a couple thousand dollars for a course, and not take a course that’s longer than a week - that way if it ends up being a bad experience you can cut your losses.

On the two week women’s Alaska course, there was an issue with mean girls, specifically bullying. In groups of women, bullying commonly takes the form of gossiping and excluding others from the group. The instructors on the course did nothing to address this, and at no point in time even talked with the group about what NOLS policy is towards bullying/harassment. Looking back now, that was really bizarre, especially considering we were all strangers and didn’t know each other - this topic really should have been addressed.

One person in the course decided to gossip and say mean things about me to others in the group. Two of the instructors in the group realized the drama that was happening, and instead of addressing the group and reminding everyone that NOLS has a no bullying/harassment policy - they decided to instead gossip about the drama as well. Right in front of me. These two instructors were in their early/mid 20s and I guess didn’t have the emotional intelligence to understand that when a person in the group is being excluded and gossiped about, what you should not do is add to the gossip. It felt like I was in a sick reality TV show. In my normal life, the gossip and exclusion wouldn’t have bothered me that much and I could have just walked away from the toxic behavior. But because we were in a remote wilderness environment, there was a tribal element added to the dynamics, and being accepted by the group was subconsciously associated with survival.

The person doing the bullying/harassment went by they/them pronouns. The instructors had more than one conversation with the group about making sure we all try to get this person’s pronouns correctly. I don’t have a problem with that at all. But what I do have a problem with is the fact that there were no conversations during the course about NOLS having a zero bullying/harassment policy. Something doesn’t seem right about that.

Also, if you are neurodivergent or on the spectrum in any way I would recommend you not go on a traditional NOLS backpacking course. My experience was that the traditional backpacking course curriculum was not suited for my neurodivergence at all. My quietness was seen as ineptitude during parts of the course curriculum, and I was shamed and humiliated for being who I am as a neurodivergent person. It felt like there was this toxic environment on the course where loudness and aggressive/bullying behavior was viewed as competency and confidence. That’s not appropriate at all.

Additionally, I’d like to call out inappropriate behavior that happened in an insular environment with no accountability - one of the instructors acted completely inappropriately. In addition to gossiping about me with another instructor, she publicly read out my private feedback form, not respecting any kind of confidentiality. I hope NOLS can remind instructors that feedback forms are private and need to be kept confidential.

Another thing to note if you are considering going on this course - remember that anything can happen. Halfway through the course one of the women fell down a crevasse and fell a long way. When it wasn’t clear what state this woman was in, one of the instructors went down to try and help the woman, ended up getting hurt herself, and needed to be evacuated. There wasn’t an open weather window right away so it took a couple days for the plane to come in and do the evacuation. Keep in mind that if you take this course and get hurt, NOLS won’t pay for your evacuation unless you are an instructor - so before you commit to going, make sure you have money budgeted out in addition to the cost of the course - because anything can happen in a remote location only accessible by bush plane - and you just never know.

I would also recommend bringing your own garmin, and budgeting extra money for one, if you do decide to go. There was a point on the course where no one in my hiking group for the day had a garmin when we actually needed it (because the only garmin was in one of the instructor’s packs which was left at the bottom of a crevasse after she fell). Rescue gear had to be flown in to get the pack, where the garmin was located, out of the bottom of the crevasse. So bring your own garmin just to be safe, and if the instructors/organization try to tell you that’s not allowed, I would seriously rethink going on this course.

Looking back on this experience, it was not worth the cost. I regret spending several thousands of dollars on this course. If you do decide to take a NOLS course, maybe bring a friend with you in case group/instructor dynamics aren’t healthy or helpful for you. Two of the older women on the course went together as friends, and even then at the end of the course, one of the older women started crying during the group feedback session when she was talking about how scary the route selection was for the course. Which makes sense since two people fell, and the one instructor had to be evacuated.

I wish NOLS could have also given the option to complete feedback forms online after the course was finished - that way I could have given feedback knowing it was confidential, when I had time to decompress, and felt safe to give candid feedback outside of the unsafe and unhealthy group dynamics on the course.

Cons
  • Unsafe route selection
  • Bullying behavior
  • Not worth the cost
39 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. NOLS reviews reports and feedback after courses. We are committed to learning and providing high-quality training and experiences for all our students.

Default avatar
Leah
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

experiment

Living with the same 11 peers for seventy days forced me to clearly state my expectations. NOLS is a great place to fail. After growing up in Alaska, I have not felt as safe in the Alaskan wilderness as when I was with my NOLS instructors. This trust allowed me to reach for my comfort zone in terms of physical and emotional demands. With whom else can you loose your way in the Alaskan wilderness and have very little consequence? NOLS changed the way I live.

What would you improve about this program?
More readings. More lessons on what to do when things go wrong.
114 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Asa
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Life Changing

My semester in Alaska in 2013 was most likly the highlight of my life thus far. It changed me inside and out, and was a catlyst to many changes in my life. I would strongly encourage anyone even remotely considering it (and those who aren't yet) to do it. I could not have asked for anything better.

104 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Andrew
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Great Experience

My experience was amazing. waking up early and moving all day is the best. Every day is eventful and new. A semester in a tent was the coolest experience ive ever had. The meals were great and included a wide variety of options.

What would you improve about this program?
The bear protocol was really strict, this kinda took away from the ability to have self reflection time.
108 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Jack
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Leading a Rope Team for the First Time

During my NOLS Semester in Alaska, I was given the chance to lead a rope team over glacier travel. It was one of the most incredible experiences and will stick with me forever. The instructors were all great and very motivating. They pushed you to your maximum ability and taught you so much about the outdoors.

What would you improve about this program?
I think that my NOLS semester was one of the best experiences of my life. That being said I think that NOLS Alaska could improve by letting the students know what section they are going to start with before they arrive on the NOLS grounds.
113 people found this review helpful.
Default avatar
Zoe
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

MEGA semester in Alaska

The semester I spent in Alaska was the best decision I have ever made. With a group of 11 students and 3 instructors, we spent 23 days sea kayaking then 48 days backpacking and mountaineering. Though some days were long and taxing, the experience was one I couldn't have gotten anywhere else. Some highlights included river crossings, getting food drops via bush plane, summiting mountains, ice climbing, repelling into crevasses, kayaking with whales, and meeting unbelievably cool people -- this program is the best and I highly recommend it.

107 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers