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Wilderness Trips

Friendships. Adventure. Challenge. Course Credit

Every summer, incoming students may choose to begin their Calvin education on a Wilderness Trip. Travelers share this intensive experience with a small group of other new students, and explore their own limits, forge new friendships, and develop a new awareness of their Creator.

Wilderness Trips can be enjoyed by students of all experience, fitness, and ability levels. Caring and well-trained leaders help students navigate new outdoor challenges, and assist students in setting goals for their first year at Calvin. All students will enjoy the emotional, physical, and spiritual rewards of successfully completing a vigorous adventure. And, they receive one course credit!

Scroll down to read our FAQs and view photos from last year's trips!

For questions about Wilderness Trips, please contact Jessica Stehouwer:

Register on your New Student Portal

Note: Admitted students who have paid their enrollment deposit will find the Wilderness Trip registration on Step 5 on their New Student Portal.

2024 Wilderness Trips

Take a Look: What To Expect

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Should I sign up for a Wilderness Trip?

    Without a doubt! Signing up for a Wilderness Trip is not just an opportunity, but a transformative experience that sets the tone for your journey at Calvin University.

    Countless participants rave about its impact and the unforgettable memories it creates. It's more than just a trip; it's a gateway to personal growth, new friendships, and unforgettable adventures. Don't miss out on this incredible opportunity!

    No prior experience is necessary to participate in any Wilderness Trip. We strive to offer a variety of itineraries with varying degrees of difficulty. All trips are designed for any outdoor experience level. Please read the trip descriptions to better understand what the level of difficulty is for each trip. If you have any questions about picking the right trip for you, please contact Jessica Stehouwer.

  • How do I register? What if a trip is already full?

    If you want to go on a Wilderness Trip adventure with us—and you should!—you need to be admitted to Calvin and your enrollment deposit must be paid. You will see the option to register on Step 5 on your New Student Portal.

    We encourage you to register soon! Space on these trips are on a first-come, first-served basis. If the trip you want is full, please sign up for another trip and contact Jessica Stehouwer to ask about a waitlist.

  • Do I need previous outdoor experience?

    No. In fact, many participants have little or no experience. Trips are designed to teach all necessary skills. We welcome all levels of experience!

  • What is a course credit exception?

    All students who participate in a Wilderness Trip will receive a PER (physical education and recreation) course exemption. This is different from a course credit since you won’t receive a course credit, rather you will be exempt from one of your mandatory PER courses.

  • Is it true students won’t have phones on a Wilderness Trip?

    It’s true. We’ve found that without phones, students have better capacity to connect with nature and enjoy what we are doing together. Students have told us they enjoyed not having their phones for a week and were grateful being able to disconnect!

    Note: Trip leaders will have phones and contact information in cases of emergency.

  • What should I do to prepare for a Wilderness Trip?

    It is a great idea to start moving your body regularly before your trip as you will be active throughout the week. We also encourage you to look at the packing list early and start gathering the gear you will need.

    Packing list pending.

  • Can we accommodate special diets? What should I do if I have a specific food allergy?

    Yes, we can accommodate special diets. For us to be able to properly accommodate your dietary restrictions, we need to know what they are. It is important to indicate any food preferences/allergies/intolerances on the health form you will receive. If you have any other dietary concerns, please contact Jessica Stehouwer.

    For your safety, any food allergies MUST be listed on your health form. Leaders and staff leave for training with all food packed up and ready to go one- to two-weeks before participants arrive. We need to know about any food allergies before this time so we can plan accordingly.

    However, please do not let a food allergy alter your decision to participate in a trip. Cooking in the backcountry and adjusting for food allergies is quite easy. Every year, trip leaders accommodate participants with peanut allergies, tree nut allergies, gluten allergies, dairy allergies, lactose intolerance, etc.

  • Should I bring my medication on a Wilderness Trip? I have asthma or other medical conditions; will my wilderness trip experience be affected?

    Please bring prescription medications you normally take and consult with your doctor regarding any complications that may arise.

    For common conditions and illnesses, Calvin trip leaders have first aid kits stocked with over-the-counter medications to help manage symptoms such as headaches, allergies, etc. which may arise during the trip. However, if you are prone to allergies, etc., and prefer a specific brand of medication, we recommend bringing it.

    For your safety, all of your medications must be listed on your health form. It's important we have accurate information in case of an emergency.

    If you have asthma or another medical condition, please talk to your doctor about concerns you have and be sure to list them on your health form.

    If you have any questions, please contact Jessica Stehouwer.

  • Are there toilets on these trips?

    Although this depends on each trip and each site, most of the time there will not be toilets. Leaders will teach the group Leave No Trace principles, how to dig “cat holes,” and proper backcountry hygiene while on trails.

    If you have any questions, please contact Jessica Stehouwer.

  • I'm still not sure. Why should I sign up?

    These trips are great. Why?

    • Build new friendships
      Every student is in a small group of 8–12 incoming students with 2–3 leaders who are current students, recent graduates, or Calvin faculty/staff.
    • Spend time outdoors 
      Enjoy time to hike, climb, paddle, cook, sleep, and experience God's creation beauty before fall semester starts.
    • Experience new adventures
      You'll be encouraged and supported by your fellow participants and your leaders.
    • Enjoy personal growth
      Not only will you learn skills and personal confidence, these programs push students out of their comfort zones, fostering resilience, confidence, and a sense of achievement.
    • Receive a PER credit exception
      Every traveler receives a physical education and recreation (PER) course credit exception. (This will make more sense when you register for classes.) But that makes these trips an even better value!


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