Pathfinder Texas Big Bend Canoeing & Backpacking

Discover your strengths and learn skills that will shape your future
Specifically designed for young adults 18-25 who are searching for a direction in life. This 30 day Pathfinder expedition is your chance to gain leadership skills, define your values, be of service, strengthen the relationship with your family and – most important of all – discover what you are capable of.

The Rio Grande course offers paddlers and backpackers a unique opportunity to travel, learn, and grow in the American Southwest. Included in this Pathfinder Expedition is 12 hours of community service that is designed to offer interaction with local people as a way of expanding cultural awareness while practicing the ethic of service.

At the end of the course, participate in a facilitated family conversation – a dedicated time for the entire family to gain insight into your experience and discuss how your newfound knowledge will transfer back to your daily lives.

With all of the color and contrast the Rio Grande area has to offer, you’ll find this Pathfinder expedition to be an unforgettable wilderness learning experience.

Course Area

Rio Grande and Big Bend, Texas
The Rio Grande is one of the most remote and geologically interesting landscapes in the United States. It lies along the US-Mexico border in southwestern Texas. In this course area, Rio Grande River carves a huge sweeping bend through the area- giving the region its name, Big Bend. This 750,000-square mile wilderness area is an ideal setting for whitewater canoeing, desert backpacking, canyoneering, and rock climbing. You will experience delicate desert flowers existing alongside fossilized trees millions of years old while mountain passes give way to steep-walled canyons and cliffs.

Pathfinder Expeditions
Our Pathfinder expeditions are designed for young adults who are searching for direction. These 30-day expeditions help students explore their strengths and values, identify future goals and create an action plan for the future. Throughout the course, you’ll participate in structured goal-setting activities that help clarify priorities, strengthen character and define a new, self-directed path.

  • Build core skills: Receive hands-on training on the skills and self-awareness you’ll need to tackle the challenges ahead. Your crew, comprised of individuals with diverse skill levels and backgrounds, will support you – and encourage you to try new approaches and explore new roles.
  • Practice Outward Bound values: Learn to incorporate Outward Bound values into everyday life by pushing your own limits and seeking challenge as an opportunity for personal growth.
  • Demonstrate mastery: As the course nears the end, students take on more leadership and decision-making responsibilities. Work together with your crew to apply new skills and achieve team goals during this final phase.
  • What you’ll learn: Return home with an action plan for the future. With newfound leadership potential, self-awareness, and problem-solving skills, you’ll be ready for your next big step.

Listed below are a few of the activities:

Whitewater Canoeing

After first learning basic whitewater strokes in calm currents, you’ll begin the expedition. Paddling as a group, you will spend two weeks traveling down-river through sections of calm currents and whitewater. The waters of the Rio Grande offer beginning paddlers a progressive challenge — and a perfect place to learn and hone skills.

Your instructors will assist you in mastering skills of paddling, scouting, and running rapids. You will learn all the skills you need to move efficiently downriver. As there are only two students in a whitewater canoe everyone will have the opportunity to ‘captain their watercraft’. You will learn to adapt to the river and desert environments and reset your internal clock to rise with the sun and sleep with the moon.

Desert Backpacking

In the Big Bend region located along the Texas-Mexico border, you will learn to backpack through rugged desert up to mountainous terrain with elevations ranging from 2,500 to 7,500 feet! During the expedition, instructors will help the group learn safe desert travel, teaching them to plan the expedition around water management strategies. The crew will navigate “from tinaja to tinaja’, which are desert water sources vital to desert life. This is a rare chance to experience raw desert solitude in the presence of rugged mountains, canyons and mesas.

Rock Climbing and Rappelling

Regardless of your rock climbing background, you will be sure to find something that will both challenge and encourage the expansion of your comfort zone.

Instructors will teach the group about general rock-climbing equipment, safety, and etiquette before learning how to belay. The full day of rock climbing provides ample opportunities to climb, belay, and rappel over the edge while safely descending to the base of a majestic cliff band.


Weather and time permitting, the Solo experience provides an important break from the rigors of the expedition and gives students the opportunity to reflect on their Outward Bound experience. Many students use this reflection time to make significant decisions about their future, journal, or write letters to friends and family. The duration of Solo depends on the course length and type, as well as the competency and preparedness of the student group. Students on a Pathfinder Course typically experience a 24-48 hour Solo.

Regardless of Solo length, all students receive sufficient food, water, and shelter to keep them safe and healthy during Solo. Instructors choose Solo sites to offer as much solitude as possible while retaining some proximity to the group. While students spend the majority of their Solo time alone, Instructors do check on each student as often as needed, usually 1-3 times per day, to ensure that each student feels safe and comfortable. Solo is purposefully scheduled near the end of the expedition so students have plenty of time to acclimate to their new environment beforehand.

Students may have mixed feelings leading up to Solo: nervousness and hesitation regarding the unknown but also excitement to rest, reflect, and test their new skills while alone. Students find that Solo provokes profound and powerful learning in a short period of time and often becomes one of the most memorable parts of their Outward Bound experience.


Service is an integral part of the Outward Bound curriculum. We encourage service to the environment in the form of leaving campsites cleaner than we find them and practicing Leave No Trace® ethics throughout the expedition.

Preparing people to be of service to others -the giving of yourself and your time to individuals, the environment
and communities — is one of the core values of Outward Bound. Additionally, students have a structured opportunity to put giving back into action through 2 days of community service that is an integral part of their course.

Service in Texas is designed to offer as much interaction with local people as possible, as a way of exchanging cultural awareness. The specific type of service project depends upon the structure of your course and local needs and opportunities. Service projects could include helping paint and clean in a border town or working in a local wilderness area.

Personal Challenge Event

Time and weather permitting, the Pathfinder course will end with a Personal Challenge Event (PCE) that is a final individual physical feat.

The PCE is a non-competitive run to show students how their mental and physical stamina has grown as a result of their wilderness expedition and training regime. Students celebrate the completion of their PCE and wilderness expedition with a final banquet and graduation ceremony at the basecamp.

Please submit the Course Inquiry form or call (828) 239-2376 to discuss if this course is right for you.

Visit the Voyageur Outward Bound School frequently asked questions page to learn more about the application process, scholarships, what to expect, how to pack and where your course begins.

Upon enrollment on a Voyageur Outward Bound School course students receive a day-by-day course itinerary, detailed packing list, and detailed arrival and departure information specific to their course.

Scholarship Info

Our Scholarship Program is guided by a single principle: Every person should be given the opportunity to experience adventure and challenge, develop character and compassion, and learn leadership skills and service ethics, regardless of financial ability.

Moreover, we bring together diverse groups of students to instill cultural understanding and teamwork skills that enable them to become principled leaders.

Thanks to generous donations from alumni, parents, corporations, foundations, and others, Outward Bound awards up to $3.7 million in scholarships to 6,000 students each year.

The Voyageur Outward Bound School scholarship program is need-based and in order to be considered, applicants must first enroll on a course, pay a $500 deposit and check a box noting that they are interested in a Scholarship. The deposit payment is applied toward the total cost of the course and includes a $150 enrollment processing fee (usually non-refundable). After the applicant enrolls, a Course Advisor will send them a Scholarship Application along with the other enrollment materials. The applicant is required to submit a copy of their most recent 1040 tax return along with the completed Scholarship Application. The average scholarship is 15-30% off of the posted fee. If the applicant receives an Outward Bound scholarship but it’s not enough for them to participate, Outward Bound will refund their $500 deposit, including the $150 enrollment processing fee.

In some cases, applicants can schedule a payment plan with the Voyageur Outward Bound School rather than paying for the whole course in one lump sum. In cases of payment plans, final balances are due at least 90 days prior to the course-start.

Packing for a Voyageur Outward Bound School course

In general, Outward Bound provides sleeping bags, sleeping mats, rain gear, and all group cooking, camping and traveling equipment. Students need to provide their own clothing, footwear, toiletries and a few other items, like a headlamp and water bottle.

Traveling to and from the Voyageur Outward Bound School

MN Courses:  In most cases, but not all, Voyageur Outward Bound School students meet in the Duluth International Airport baggage claim at 1:00 PM on the first day of the course. Students typically return to the Duluth International Airport around 11:30 AM on the last day of the course and should plan to fly out any time after 1:00 PM to account for check-in and security clearance.

TX Courses:  In most cases, but not all, Voyageur Outward Bound School students arrive in El Paso, TX the day before their course officially begins.  Students spend the night in a local hotel (not included in course-cost) as directed by their Course Advisor. Students typically return to the El Paso International Airport around 1:00 PM on the last day of the course and should plan to fly out any time after 2:00 PM to account for check-in and security clearance.

Explicit travel directions will be shared with you after you enroll on a course.  Students should refrain from making travel plans prior to being approved for their course and receiving travel details for their specific course as the exact details may differ slightly from the directions listed above.

Please submit the Course Inquiry form or call (828) 239-2376 to discuss if this course is right for you.

30 – Day Expeditions

Dates Days Age Tuition Course #
1/15/17 – 2/13/17 30 18 – 24 $5295 VRPF-761

Courses fill quickly! Speak with a Course Advisor today.

FormAssembly.com : Error

Sorry, we’re having a technical issue.

Try refreshing the page. If the problem persists, please email us at support@formassembly.com

Thank you for your patience.