Share an amazing and memorable adventure in a remarkable wilderness setting. Learn wilderness skills and participate in service-learning. Reflect on God’s kingdom and live in intentional community. And leave having made meaningful and lasting relationships.

If you love adventure, the outdoors, and trying new and exciting things, Wilderness Orientation is for you—no previous wilderness experience needed! All that’s required is a willingness to try new things, a positive outlook, and good physical health. After reading about this year's trip options, scroll to the bottom of this page for more information about participating in a Wilderness Orientation.

2020 Wilderness Trips

More information

What to expect

Calvin's Wilderness Orientation program is a collaboration between the Student Life Division and the kinesiology department. As you plan ahead for your Wilderness Orientation trip, you should plan to:

  • Establish relationships: Build lasting friendships and an initial “Calvin community” with other new students!
  • Experience adventure: Share an amazing and memorable adventure experience in a remarkable wilderness setting!
  • Develop skills: Build outdoor proficiency in the areas of backpacking, sea kayaking, rock climbing, and/or cycling.
  • Grow and set goals: Offer time and space for spiritual reflection and goal setting for your transition into university life.
  • Have an “epic” experience: Leave the trip knowing that you accomplished something “epic” through physical challenge, service, intentional community living, personal reflection, acquisition of new adventure based skills. You will also have made meaningful and lasting connections with other incoming Calvin students!
Excellent Leaders

Each trip is directed by a full-time faculty or staff member of Calvin University. Along with the full-time employee, up to three highly trained and certified upperclass or graduate students will act as trip instructors/leaders. All Wilderness Orientation leaders are carefully selected. These leaders are selected for their:

  • commitment to safety,
  • ability to exercise strong judgment and decision making,
  • love for working directly with incoming students, and
  • passion for creating a highly memorable experience in a wilderness or urban context.

All staff members have training in general wilderness skills and activities that are specific to the trip they are leading. These staff members are trained on the following:

  • Staff have taken a ten-day wilderness medicine course through the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS/WMI) that certifies them as Wilderness First Responders.
  • All rock climbing sites are supervised by an individual who is a certified Top Rope Site Manager/Guide with the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA).
  • Paddle instructors have completed an American Canoe Association (ACA) open water/coastal sea kayaking course.
Class credit exemption

All students attending a wilderness trip will receive an exemption from one of three health and fitness core requirements (appears as PER 138: Wilderness Pursuits). Each trip is directed and instructed by a full-time faculty or staff member who specializes in Outdoor Recreation and Education. Along with gaining comprehensive skills in back country travel and living, students will gain specific skills in the focused outdoor pursuits around which the trip is built. As a part of Calvin's core curriculum, students will also spend time discussing and journaling on:

  • stewardship,
  • stress management, and
  • goal setting focused on personal wellness and developing lifetime “healthy habits”.
Epic routes and spectacular locations

All locations have been selected for their unmatched natural beauty, memorable setting, historic significance, environmental appropriateness for the specific outdoor pursuit, and ability to offer a challenging—but not overwhelming—wilderness-based experience.


Accommodations range from rustic cabins to a tent in the great outdoors. Tents are provided.

What to pack

Trip-specific packing lists will be provided prior to your trip. Extensive gear is not required for Wilderness Orientation.


All meals during the trip are included, except for lunches during the two travel days. You are encouraged to bring $25 to purchase food during travel.

Before you arrive
Steps to complete:
  1. Register yourself and your family members for one of three PASSPORT sessions (see “Registration” tab), making sure to also select Calvin’s “Wilderness Orientation Program.”
  2. Sign up by clicking on the trip you want to attend above, and register with a $100 deposit.
  3. Pay your enrollment deposit, if you haven’t already.
  4. Have a valid passport, if leaving the U.S. (students are required to have a passport or passport card to cross the border into Canada. This can be a fairly long process, so you will want to start the process right away. For more information regarding this, please visit this government website:
  5. Print out driving directions and a campus map (see our Information & Resources page).
  6. Be sure to check your email regularly for important information. Information for your specific trip will be emailed to your Calvin email closer to the date of your trip.
Forms and resources

Additional important documents

Frequently Asked Questions

When do I check in for my Wilderness trip?

If you're participating in the Base Camp trip, you'll check in from 3-3:30 p.m. on Day 1 of your trip. After checking in, you will meet with your wilderness group, do some team building, and then head out for camp. All the other trips will check in from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Day 1 of your trip. After checking in, you will eat dinner, meet with your wilderness group, gather wilderness gear, and receive other important information. You will sleep on-campus for the first night.

Can I sleep on-campus the night before I need to check in for my trip?

Yes. Students attending a Wilderness trip may sleep on-campus in the Knollcrest East (KE) apartments the night before they leave for their trip. Please note, however, that your account will be charged $35 for this additional overnight stay.

If we spend the first night on-campus, when do we actually leave for the trip?

Base Camp trip participants will leave from Calvin at 4:30 p.m. on the day that you check in. All the other trips will leave from campus at 7 a.m. on Day 2.

Since I live close to campus, can I sleep at home the first night?

No. All Wilderness trip participants are required to sleep on-campus for the first night. The trip leaders go over training during the time on campus.

When is the trip over?

All trips are scheduled to return to campus from 6–8 p.m. on the final date of the trip.

Can I move into my residence hall after the trip?

Only students attending a Wilderness Orientation from August 19–26 may move into their residence hall after their trip; all other students will move in Thursday, August 27. Students attending the August 19-26 trips may bring their furniture and belongings (in boxes) to campus with them before the trip. We will store all belongings while they are on the trip, and they can then move directly into their room when they return on the 28.

If my trip is scheduled from August 19-26, how does that affect PASSPORT and QUEST?

Your Wilderness trip will not affect PASSPORT or QUEST. If you are registered for PASSPORT III, you will arrive back to campus the night before your PASSPORT session begins. If you attended PASSPORTs I–II, you do not have any programming scheduled until QUEST begins on August 29.