Wilderness Leadership Course

Wilderness Leadership Course

About the course

This two-week backpacking trip teaches high school students outdoor leadership, interpersonal leadership, and encourages them to invest in their own intrapersonal growth.

The first four days are focused on learning and developing skills in map reading, route planning, Leave No Trace ethics, first aid, cooking, nutrition, hydration, risk management and decision making.

On days five through twelve, participants rotate through leading their group after demonstrating proficiency and competence in skills learned during the first few days. 

Throughout the twelve days, participants will continue to practice their leadership skills, build a strong team and refine their outdoor skills. Additionally, they will continue to learn about the area they are backpacking into including: natural history, cultural history, geology, plant identification, and biological habitats.

This trip takes place in the Elwha River Valley, the largest watershed on the Olympic Peninsula, and the site of the largest dam removal project to date. The unique human history of this area and the inspiring story of the restoration that is in progress make this route truly special.

We provide all needed gear, including boots and clothing if notified 4 weeks ahead of time. Food from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last day is provided. Transportation is provided from the meet location in Edgewood and back.

Highlights from the 2023 Wilderness Leadership Course


Leadership – Wildlife – History

Difficulty Level

Intermediate: Moderate elevation gain and loss, 14 days, up to 60 miles on a sometimes uneven and steep trail.


Two weeks (14 days)

2024 Schedule:

July 8-July 21: 1 spot left

August 5-August 18: 8 spots remaining

Click here to apply

Price: $1500 per person

Includes gear rental, food, transportation, and all entrance fees, permits, and passes.

25% of the total trip cost is due at sign-up, with the remainder due one month before the trip date. You are welcome to pay in installments, contact trips@sahaleoutdoors.org to set up a payment plan.

Our mission is to make outdoor recreation accessible to all. If you cannot afford the total trip cost, send us a brief message to request a sliding scale pricing form.

    Trip Details

    • Day 1: Gear up day
      • Meet at Sahale Outdoors
      • Gear fitting, classroom, and orientation
      • Visit the Elwha Museum
      • Camp at trailhead
    • Days 2-4: Learn and develop skills
    • Days 5-11: Leadership rotations
    • Day 12: Exit and debrief
    Learning Goals
    • WFA
    • LNT
    • Team building
    • Backpacking
      • Shelter
      • Fire building
      • Stoves
    • Plant and wildlife ID
    • Geology
    • Map reading
    • Route planning
    • Route leading
    • Natural History
    • Cultural History
    • Env. science
    • Goal Setting
    • Meet Location: Edgewood, WA
    • Meet Time: 9 AM
    • Pick-up Location: Edgewood, Wa
    • Pick-up Time: Approximately 4-6 PM, guides will reach out to guardians to communicate ETA
    Gear Provided
    • Tent
    • Backcountry sleeping pad
    • Multi-day backpack
    • Sleeping bag
    • All meals from lunch the first day through lunch on the last day
    • All entrance fees, permits and passes 
    • First-aid kit and satellite phone
    • Group kitchen and food service gear
    • Water bottles

    Photo Gallery

    Indigenous Land

    Lower Elwha Klallam

    “Always respect your Elders, yourself, and your children/spiritual beliefs.”

    “Help someone who needs it whether or not you like them.”

    “Take care of and respect Mother Earth – take only what you need.”

    “Live in honesty and truth.”

    “Never fear death – you were born to die.”

    “Every part of this earth is sacred.”

    Lower Elwha Klallam Traditional Values

    The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, along with Washington State and the National Parks service, currently conducts habitat restoration in the Elwha watershed, facilitating the rebirth of the river following the largest dam removal project to date. The tribe’s award-winning restoration crew has been working since 1994, revegetating floodplains, removing invasive species, recreating fish habitat, and rebuilding ecosystems destroyed by roads, dams, and other industrial structures.

    The Lower Elwha Klallam speak a dialect of the same language spoken by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. Historically spoken across a wide area of the northern Olympic Peninsula, from the Olympic Mountains to the south of Vancouver Island, by 1990, there were only eight speakers of the Klallam language left. Since then, the Tribe has used documentation, recordings, and transcriptions to revive the language. Today, Klallam is taught at the Port Angeles High School and through adult classes, is used during community events, and has numerous educational resources available, including a dictionary, computer games, and even Wordle.

    Before the European invasion, the Klallam stewarded the northern Olympic Peninsula, using the Elwha River and a network of trails between villages to stay connected. Messengers would run the trails between villages with news and announcements, and Klallam families would travel up and over the Olympic Mountains to gather plants, hunt game and visit relatives. They had both seasonal and year-round villages along the shores of the Strait and the Lower Elwha River.
    To the Klallam, the Olympic Mountains were sacred and revered.

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