and hands-on environmental science

The Environment cornerstone combines OA’s signature place-based environmental education with transformative wilderness adventures like no other. A backpacking trek across Black Balsam provides inspiration for nature journaling in English class. The confidence you build while navigating rapids on the French Broad River echoes the skills you gain while discussing climate justice in Environmental Science and conflict resolution in CIRCLE class. Here, you will find your place both in the stunning natural world and in the modern conservation movement. Here, your education will embody your generation’s ever-growing power to find sustainable solutions and create positive change.


Wilderness Expeditions and Outdoor Programming

At The Outdoor Academy, the Blue Ridge Mountains are more than just a backdrop. Over the course of your semester, they will grow to become a second home. You and your classmates will spend a quarter of your semester off campus exploring our surrounding public lands while backpacking, rock climbing, and whitewater canoeing. No prior experience is required, and by the end of your semester you will have the skills to live comfortably, communicate effectively, and manage risk carefully in the backcountry.



Camping in lush temperate coves, hiking exposed grassy balds, navigating verdant rhododendron thickets, and exploring the temperate rainforest unique to the Southern Appalachians.


Paddling your way back through time, exploring geology, and picking your own route through rapids on one of Earth’s oldest rivers while learning to appreciate the power of an undammed river.


Honing your technique on our campus rock wall or local climbing gyms before heading out to experience some of the best climbing in the Southeast on Looking Glass and Cedar Rock.

Building Skills

Spend the semester progressing and perfecting skills on each of our backcountry adventures. You’ll even get a chance to learn specialized skills such as shelter building, cooking over a fire, and navigation.

enf_oa_icon_-11Your instructors will teach you at whatever level you are starting from. So, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced outdoorsperson, you’ll find plenty of support and new challenges. Additionally, you’ll find that you gain much more than just technical skills while in the backcountry. Our wilderness adventures also develop leadership, teamwork, and a deep connection to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

You’ll learn not just how to survive in the wilderness but how to thrive and be a leader both on and off the trail.

The Outdoor Academy Faculty


Become a Leader in Conservation and Environmental Justice

Environmental education is built into every aspect of our school. Our curriculum empowers students to find their place in the world, realize practical sustainable solutions, and create positive change. The Intellect cornerstone combines with Environment during Science and English class, with projects testing the biodiversity of our campus and essays uncovering each student’s own Sense of Place here in the mountains. A thriving Garden to Table program brings together Craft as well, allowing students to gain valuable knowledge of gardening, cooking, and food preservation.


Outdoor Programming By the Numbers

OP days per semester
Nights spent on end-of-semester solo
Over 100,000 acres of public lands
within 10 minutes of campus
143 acres of campus forest preserved in a conservation easement
Explore OA’s Four Cornerstones