August Wilderness

Established in 1971, August Wilderness is one of the oldest and most respected pre-orientation programs in the country. This 21-day expedition, coordinated by our outdoor education program, builds confidence and connects you with other new classmates before the start of the fall semester—a great beginning to your four-year Earlham adventure!

Incoming first-year students have the opportunity to go road-tripping “out west” for backpacking in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. Forming lifelong friendships, gaining leadership training, and receiving an introduction to Earlham’s integrated curriculum opportunities (3 academic credits awarded) are just some of the benefits of this unique experience. For many students, August Wilderness starts off a rewarding relationship with the outdoor education program. Get started on this adventure by following us on Facebook and Instagram.

August Wilderness 2024

Backpacking in the Uintas Mountains

On this course you’ll receive an introduction to the essentials of wilderness travel, in addition to learning more about yourself, your new peers and leaders, and Earlham College. You’ll pick up skills that include minimum impact camping, mountain travel, map and compass navigation, and outdoor leadership. There will be lessons on geology, environmental ethics, and natural and cultural history (among others). Working hard, traveling over steep, rocky terrain with a pack on your back, in any kind of weather, you’ll find strengths you never knew you had!

A typical day during August Wilderness

Our hikes will typically be between five and ten miles a day, at elevations ranging from 8,000 to 12,000 feet. We will make our way along river valleys, travel broad glacier-carved basins, and ascend some of the highest peaks and passes in Utah. As the program progresses, you will take on increasing responsibility for yourself and for the group. There will be rest opportunities along the way to allow time for solitude and reflection. Toward the end of the course, you will test the skills you have acquired with student-led travel days, where you’ll make decisions with peers and rely less on input from your instructors.

Program details

This experience is a college-level, three-credit course. As such, there will be assigned reading and you will be expected to participate in all course discussions and related activities. In addition, there will be several assignments to complete in the form of journal essays and mini-presentations. Evaluation and grading on the course will be Pass/No Pass. Students will be given a written and oral evaluation at the midway point and at the conclusion of the course. The average group size is 9 students and 3 instructors.

At a glance

  • 21 days ( July 27 – August 16, 2024 )
  • 3-credit, experiential, field-based course 
  • backpacking in Utah’s Uinta Mountains
  • open to incoming first-year and transfer students 
  • no experience needed
  • application deadline for first-years:
    June 1, 2024
  • application deadline for transfer students:
    June 15, 2024

Apply today!

The value of August Wilderness goes well beyond the initial experience. In post-participation surveys, students report establishing early—and lasting—friendships, increased self-confidence, comfort with faculty and academic expectations, and a sense of readiness for the challenges and opportunities of college.

The 2024 application will open on February 1, 2024!

Program academics

August Wilderness is a 3-credit, experiential, field-based course that combines wilderness travel with study, observation and personal reflection. Readings, journal writing, skill assessments and group discussion provide the basis for academic credit, and the curriculum has three main emphases: natural and cultural history, environmental ethics, and leadership.

The areas we travel through are unique classrooms for natural history observation and interpretation. Students will learn to identify key species of the local biological communities while being introduced to big-picture ecological and geological processes, such as fire adaptation and glaciation. The cultural history of the area will also be explored, with a particular emphasis on changing patterns of land use.

Students will grapple with global issues surrounding sustainability and climate change, critically assessing human impact on both individual and societal scales. The course will explore contemporary land management, resource use and conservation efforts in the context of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Participants will learn Leave No Trace principles in the backcountry and will be given opportunity to reflect on how we might transfer this knowledge to minimize impact in our “frontcountry” lives.

Living in an intentional community, students will learn critical leadership skills, including effective communication, conflict resolution strategies, problem solving/decision-making, and developing self awareness. Students will explore their own distinctive leadership styles through “leader of the day” responsibilities and structured reflection activities.

We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.
We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.