Northwest Explorer


Challenge Level: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Trip Details

  • Trip Start: Seattle, WA, USA
  • Trip End: Seattle, WA, USA
  • Age Range: 14 - 17
  • Trip Dates: 6/28 - 7/17, 7/22 - 8/10
  • Tuition: $4795 (airfare not included)

Trip Highlights

  • Hike and backpack in Olympic and North Cascades National Parks
  • Whitewater raft the Sauk River
  • Sea kayak and volunteer in the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound
  • Explore the vibrant city of Seattle

Trip Overview

Few regions in North America can compare to the geographical diversity and astounding natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. With snow-blanketed mountains, broad rivers, lush valleys, endless ocean, and abundant wildlife, the region is home to some of the world’s top outdoor recreation. Washington State will be your home for three weeks while you hike the snowy peaks of Olympic and North Cascades National Parks, raft the Sauk River, kayak the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound, and give back through a rewarding community service project. In this spectacular setting you will make new friends, achieve new heights, and expand your world with each day’s adventure.

Olympic National Park & Rafting the Sauk River

We’ll meet in Seattle and enjoy the rest of the day getting to know one another and preparing for our amazing backpacking adventure ahead. Our group will bond quickly as we spend our first days together breaking in our boots and packs amid the majestic peaks of Olympic National Park. After our first taste of backcountry living, we’ll continue north to spend a day rafting the Sauk River with professional guides.

North Cascades National Park Backpacking

From the Sauk, we’ll head to the vast wilderness of North Cascades National Park for backpacking and the community service portion of our trip. After a day of rest and preparation, we’ll load up our packs and head into the North Cascades backcountry for an exciting six-day trek. Every day will be a stunning adventure as we hike from unspoiled lowland forests to high alpine country where pristine lakes, glaciers, and snow-capped mountains abound.

Sea Kayaking and Community Service in the San Juan Islands & Seattle

Emerging from the backcountry feeling confident and accomplished, we’ll transfer to Puget Sound and trade in our packs for sea kayaks. The San Juan Islands will be our playground for three days as we hone our kayaking skills and explore this diverse coastal ecosystem with professional guides. We’ll camp on uninhabited island beaches, soak up the sun, and keep an eye out for seals, Bald Eagles, and orca whales. While here, we’ll also volunteer with a local organization to help keep the San Juan Islands pristine. We’ll finish up our trip back in Seattle where we’ll explore the sights for a day and enjoy a final, celebratory dinner in one of the city’s great restaurants.

Trip FAQs

Please see our General FAQ page for many more frequently asked questions and answers!

How physically challenging is NWX?

Given a rating of Challenge Level 6 (out of a maximum of 10), we consider NWX to be an intermediate hiking trip that any moderately fit, motivated student can successfully complete with appropriate preparation. Compared to similar hiking trips, we believe that NWX is slightly more challenging than our California Mountains & Coast trip (mostly because of the more extensive backcountry sections), but easier than our Scottish Highlands and Alps Explorer trips. The most challenging portion of this trip is often the first day or two of the five-night backcountry section, as the group will have heavy packs while they are carrying all of their food for this time. Please note that all of Apogee’s Challenge Levels are not scientific and are subjectively calculated by the Apogee staff.

What is the difference between front-country and backcountry hiking? What will the backcountry portions of NWX be like? How much weight will my child carry during the five-night backcountry section?

Generally speaking, the front-country is any area that is easily accessible by vehicles and day users. Hiking in the backcountry, on the other hand, involves hiking and camping in more remote locations without running water. Hiking and camping in the backcountry requires more preparation because of the need to carry in all food and equipment, and to treat drinking water prior to consumption. Our NWX trip has three backcountry excursions: a two-night backpack, a five-night backpack, and a two-night sea-kayaking expedition. Your child should expect to carry somewhere between 30 and 40 pounds in their pack during the five-night backcountry section.

Aside from the trip cost, what are the additional expenses for this trip?

Apogee’s tuition costs are meant to be all-inclusive and include all meal, accommodation, and activity fees. The most significant additional expenses on our Northwest Explorer trip will include travel to and from Seattle, a sleeping bag and sleeping pad, a backpacking pack, and hiking boots.

Should my child bring special gear for rafting or sea kayaking?

In short, no. Your child will be suitably prepared for rafting and sea kayaking (and all of the activities on the NWX trip) if you follow the packing list we provide. Apogee’s outfitters provide all rafting- and kayak-specific gear, and the packing list includes everything else that your child will need.

What luggage should my child check on the plane? What should be carried on?

This question is addressed in detail in our Travel Information document for enrolled students. Generally speaking, however, your child will be checking a soft-sided duffel containing the majority of their gear (including their empty hiking backpack), while carrying-on their sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and a few other travel essentials.

My child will be flying to this trip start. How will they connect with their leaders?

Please note that Apogee staff members do not travel with students; our trip leaders will already be in Seattle on arrival day and will stay in Seattle after the trip ends. Apogee staff and trip leaders will have a detailed flight itinerary for each student who is flying to the trip start and will be at the airport to greet them on arrival. Once students are with their leaders, they will call home to let their parents know they have arrived and are with their group. Please see our blog post for specifics regarding students traveling as Unaccompanied Minors. Further, we encourage you to coordinate travel with other attendees; we’re happy to put you in touch with other enrolled families from your region. We will provide enrolled families with a Travel Information document covering details specific to traveling to and from Seattle, including airport information and arrival and departure time windows. Please contact Apogee with any specific questions or concerns regarding drop-offs and/or pick-ups.

To check trip availability, please call 207.725.7025, or email for more information.