Lake Superior Sea Kayaking & Backpacking

Lake Superior Sea Kayaking & Backpacking for Teens

Break away from the usual summer routine on a supportive and challenging expedition.
This three-week, multi-element course features a backpacking section along the rugged North Shore of Lake Superior and a sea kayak expedition in the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area of Canada.

This exciting, challenging, and introspective adventure helps teens navigate toward independence by building their confidence, enhancing their ability to make good decisions, and fostering self-reliance.

This course is ideal for motivated teens looking for a personal challenge and to gain outdoor skills in the remote and unspoiled North Woods of Minnesota and Ontario.

A valid passport is required to attend this expedition.

Course Area

Canadian Lake Superior and Superior Hiking Trail

Canadian Lake Superior
The largest inland sea in the world, the clear emerald green waters of Lake Superior offer a great variety of paddling conditions to sea kayakers.

The Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (LSNMCA) is a wilderness archipelago along the Canadian north shore of Lake Superior. The LSNMCA is a rugged and pristine landscape of sparkling, clear water, cliffs, pebble and sand beaches, and numerous islands. It is the largest freshwater, protected marine environment in the world and an ideal destination to hone your sea kayaking skills.

Backpacking the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT).
The SHT is a 296-mile footpath that largely follows the rocky ridge line above Lake Superior on Minnesota’s North Shore from Duluth to the Canadian border. Well-marked trails, campsites, and challenging terrain make this a perfect way to start your trip while building teamwork, increasing endurance, and gaining general outdoor skills to prepare for the canoe expedition.

Classic Courses
No two Outward Bound expeditions are ever quite the same. Every crew is unique; every route is distinct; and every adventure is dynamic. But one thing remains the same. On each course, students rise to meet exhilarating natural challenges in some of the country’s wildest places – and find strength and determination along the way.

  • Build core skills: Learn and practice wilderness, teamwork and leadership skills. Form a crew that supports and encourages one another, and in the thick of challenges, discover there is more in you than you know.
  • 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, take on more leadership and decision-making responsibilities. Work together to apply new skills and achieve team goals during this final phase of the expedition.
  • What you’ll learn: Return home a stronger, more resilient individual. Discover increased self-confidence, improved leadership, and a desire to make a difference.

Please note that you will be required to have a valid passport in order to cross into Canada. If you do not have a passport or need to renew it, please start the process now as it can take weeks to receive your passport.

Listed below are a few of the activities:

Sea Kayaking

Student groups will travel to the Canadian north shore of Lake Superior to begin their sea kayak expedition from the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (LSNMCA). Students learn the art of paddling a sea kayak in varied weather, landing the craft in a variety of conditions, as well as navigating and rescue techniques. Instructors will share the secrets of handling and balancing your boat safely, regardless of the elements, and how to effectively teach these skills to others.

Students will develop their paddling skills as they bond as a group while traveling and camping along the rugged, rocky Superior shoreline. Additionally, they will experience challenging open water crossings where fog, waves, and weather necessitate the use of their newly acquired navigation skills.

Backpacking the Superior Hiking Trail

On the southern edge of the massive Canadian Shield, a granite rock formation that runs from Minnesota to Hudson Bay and the Northwest Territories, sits the largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior. The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) follows the northern shore of the lake from Duluth, Minnesota to Canada covering almost 300-miles along the low-lying Sawtooth Mountain range. You will spend four to six days hiking on the trail that meanders through dense boreal forest, offers awe-inspiring overlooks, and plunges into pristine river valleys. Well-marked trails, designated campsites, and challenging terrain make the SHT a great introductory backpacking experience.

Rock Climbing

During 3 climbing days, students learn about general rock-climbing equipment, safety and etiquette. Students have many opportunities to climb, belay, and rappel while learning and employing safety systems that are compliant with national standards.

The rock climbing sites provide a number of different route options including cracks, sheer faces, and chimneys. Regardless of a student’s rock climbing background, they are sure to find a route that will engage them and encourage the expansion of their comfort zone.


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, and enjoy the beauty of their surroundings unencumbered by the constant external stimulation of modern life. The duration of Solo depends on the course length and type, as well as the competency and preparedness of the student group. Students typically experience a 48-72 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 1-4 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

Ropes Course

Looking out over the top of the boreal forest, the High Ropes Course is an incredible obstacle course set 30-feet in the air. Students will swing from Tarzan ropes, walk on tightrope wires, and climb a cargo net before jumping on the zip line for an exhilarating ride back to solid ground.

Personal Challenge Event

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

The PCE is non-competitive triathlon-style paddle, portage, and run to show each student 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 VOBS 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.

Airlines Unaccompanied Minor service Fees

Please Note: Virtually all airlines, except United and Southwest, require that travelers age 14 or younger flying without a companion over the age of 18 pay for their Unaccompanied Minor service. This fee ranges anywhere from $40 to $75 each way. In most cases, the Unaccompanied Minor service is OPTIONAL for travelers between the ages of 15-17.
Please submit the Course Inquiry form or call (828) 239-2376 to discuss if this course is right for you.

Sea Kayaking and Backpacking
Dates Days Age Tuition Course #
6/14/16 – 7/5/16 22 16+ $4225 VMXJ-651
7/26/16 – 8/16/16 22 16+ $4225 VMXJ-652

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