Wilderness Orientation

UCSC's Wilderness Orientation (WO) has proven time and again to be an invaluable experience for incoming college students. Throughout the trip students are introduced to both wilderness travel and the approaching college environment, both within the context of a healthy group experience.

WO was founded in 1983 to deliver an incredible community-building outdoor experience to incoming students that allows them to:

  • Make friends and gain the confidence needed to dive into the college experience
  • Learn basic backpacking and sea kayaking skills
  • Have opportunities to discuss college life and unique features of a UCSC education with instructors
  • Learn about oneself through the triumphs and challenges of being in the wilderness

The beautiful, informal setting provides students with an excellent opportunity to form new friendships and discuss their hopes and fears for the upcoming UCSC experience.

WO Staff

The WO staff takes great pride in the program and strives to create meaningful experiences for all participants. Each hiking and kayaking group of 11-12 students is led by an instructor, an assistant instructor, and a student volunteer. All of our staff make safety their first priority. Each instructor is highly skilled in backpacking, rock climbing, expedition kayaking and group facilitation, and they are all trained in wilderness first aid. Many also work with Outward Bound and the National Outdoor Leadership School. Each leader works hard to encourage positive and supportive group dynamics. They are dedicated, energetic, and inspiring people.

2017 Trips:

1) A ten-day backpacking excursion into California's spectacular Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Backpacking Session 1: Aug 27 (1pm) - Sept 6 (10am)

Backpacking Session 2: Sept 12 (1pm) - Sept 22 (10am) 

2) An eight-day sea kayaking adventure in Tomales Bay located in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Sea Kayaking and Service Session 1: Aug 5 (1pm) - Aug 12 (10pm)

Sea Kayaking and Service Session 2: Aug 27 (1pm) - Sept 3 (10am)

Sea Kayaking and Service Session 3: Sept 12 (1pm) - Sept 19 (10am)

Registration for WO is first come, first served.

Thinking about registering for WO? Check out this thread about student experiences or this student-made video!

Special Note: Wilderness Orientation can be a physically and emotionally demanding experience. If you are under the care of a doctor concerning your physical or emotional health, please consult them before registering for this program.


Recreation Office
(831) 459-2806