About the Program

Trip Snapshot

Dates:DaysAgesCostRound Trip
7/1 - 7/29
2913-17$3,500Austin or Dallas, TX
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Want double the time in the mountains? This EPIC Adventure combines the Ultimate Ozarks 15 day trip with our 16 day Blue Ridge trip. The Ozarks provide the opportunity for an extended multi-day paddle trip down America’s First National River – but prepare to pick up the pace when we travel east towards the Appalachian Mountains! In the Blue Ridge, experience action packed whitewater day trips with lots of rapids on guided rafts. This 29-day trip of a lifetime will put over 50 miles of trail under your boots during three backpacking trips. Get ready for an incredible journey to explore wild caves and waterfalls, zip line, and perform service work to positively impact the natural environment!

More Info

We will paddle 40+ miles over several days down the Buffalo River in Arkansas, setting up camp and stopping to check out some of the side hikes and waterfalls dotting the iconic bluffs. Once we make it over to the Appalachian Mountains we’ll switch from flat water multi-day river trips to day-long whitewater rafting trips. The Nolichucky River Gorge whitewater rafting trip is an adventurous 9 miles of action with 25+ Class II-IV rapids. Starting just below the headwaters of the river, this trip winds through the deepest river gorge in the South along the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee, surrounded by towering cliffs and flowery rhododendron. The headwaters and tributaries that feed the river are all from the slopes of Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain on the entire East coast. In addition to that rafting trip we will also take on the The Ocoee River. This Class III – IV section water is full of huge splashy rapids with big action from start to finish! There are over 26 adventure class rapids on this 5 mile stretch of river with names such as Grumpys, Double Trouble, Tablesaw and Diamond Splitter, which make it one of the South’s most popular rivers. The Ocoee River was also home to the whitewater sports for the 1996 Summer Olympics!

As with all of our trips that contain a backpacking element, we observe teens learning the most about themselves on the trail. In both the Ozarks and Blue Ridge, campers will be hiking through a forest, but each region is actually quite different in other respects. Arkansas trails are not as well maintained as they are further east, but they make up for it by being a little more remote and steeper than the trails in North Carolina. Campers will knock out about 50 miles of trails over the course of the three backpacking trips along with several day hikes, yielding a huge sense of accomplishment.

Teens will also get to participate in three days of service oriented activities ranging from river cleanups to invasive species removal when we partner with local conservation groups.

This combination trip gives teens the opportunity to maximize personal growth, test their skills and resolve, develop confidence, and return with an absolutely unforgettable wealth of great memories!

29 Day ArkeRidge+ Service ItineraryNo Previous Experience or Expensive Gear Required!
Day 1Welcome to Camp / Team Building
Day 2EPIC Wilderness Clinic / Day Hike to Swimming Hole
Day 3-64-day Backpacking Trip
Day 7Service work removing invasive species from the area
Day 8Service work working on watershed preservation
Day 9-13River Clinic and 5-Day River Trip
Day 14Meet up with the Blue Ridge Campers and Laundry
Day 15Zip Lines Smoky Mountains
Day 16Day Hike to River Overlook
Day 17-18Overnight Backpacking Trip to Eagles Bluff
Day 19Caving / Laundry
Day 20Whitewater Rafting - Nolichuky River
Day 21Service Day with River Link
Day 22-26 Backpacking Trip, Waterfalls, and Sliding Rock
Day 27Whitewater Rafting - Ocoee River
Day 28EPIC Banquet, Pack and Clean Gear, Travel
Day 29Depart for Home

Activities

First things first, the staff will teach campers knot tying, shelter building, cooking methods, water purification, Leave No Trace ethics (LNT), how to select a proper campsite, and back country and front country safety. In addition, we also spend time teaching campers how to plan routes, basic orienteering, outdoor leadership, risk management skills, and how to maintain proper hygiene.  We believe strongly in hands-on learning and make every effort to put campers into real world situations where staff can mentor students in real time. Understanding of these concepts ensures campers are not only prepared for our adventures together, but also leave the program with a greater sense of confidence.

Perhaps the most challenging, but also the most rewarding, component of the trip is backpacking. Teens consistently learn more from backpacking than anything else we do at camp. Days begin by preparing breakfast and filling water bottles before beginning the day’s hike. On a typical day, teens will hike 4-6 miles before making camp. Hikes are challenging but designed to suit everyone’s varying abilities.  This is not a boot camp so don’t worry. Campers are given leadership roles each day and the gear is divided around the group equally. Campers usually make camp around 3-4 pm each day so they have plenty of time to build shelters, filter water, cook, and build campfires.  Campers will prepare their food over campfires or with backpacking stoves, cooking things like pancakes, quesadillas, pita pizzas, and many more fun meals. In fact, many camp parents tell us their camper comes home and cooks for them! We build shelters from tarps or if the weather is nice we just sleep under the stars. To celebrate the end of our backpacking trip, we enjoy a well deserved dinner at a local restaurant. The sense of accomplishment and bonding that occurs on a backpacking trip can’t be overstated.  The stories and experiences that come from our backpacking trips are often the ones that become EPIC!

For our multi-day kayaking trip we will adventure down the Buffalo River. Running the Buffalo River’s rapids then enjoying the quiet pools of clear water, it will not take long to see why this river became the first National River in the United States. Located in the heart of the Ozarks, the river is surrounded by cliffs, isolated wilderness, and amazing views. It is not uncommon to see elk and possibly black bears as well as over 400 species of animals and birds in the area. Campers are given comprehensive instruction on proper kayaking techniques prior to beginning our adventure. Once we head out, we will be self sufficient for the remainder of the trip cooking and camping along the way on the banks. Traveling by water is one of the oldest forms of adventure and this trip is certain to be full of it!

Located at the edge of the Smoky Mountains, this zip line trip is action packed and exhilarating. Discover the tree tops as you zip along a 1300-foot long zip line 120 feet above the river! This is sure to get your adventure juices flowing.

This hidden place is perched 2000 feet above the Nolichucky River overlooking one of the Class IV rapids we will raft. From here the rafts will look like little rubber ducks floating down the river! We will hike down to the rim of the second deepest river gorge on the East coast, crossing several creeks and streams along the way. A great way to warm up and get ready for our multi-day backpacking trip.

For many campers this is their favorite part of the trip. Guided by a local guide who knows every corner of the cave, campers will adventure deep into a natural cave with nothing but a headlamp for light. Instead of lighted walkways, teens will find muddy passageways requiring campers to crawl, climb, slide, and squeeze in order to discover the many hidden treasures that lie deep below the surface. This is a wild cave loaded with stalactites, stalagmites, soda straws, waterfalls, and much more to inspire amazement! Some crazy facts about the cave we will explore: remains of a saber tooth tiger were found inside, members of Jesse James’ group used it to hide, and Native American artifacts dating back 8,000 years have been discovered here!

The Nolichucky River Gorge whitewater rafting trip is an adventurous 9 miles of action with 25+ Class II-IV rapids. Starting just below the headwaters of the river, the trip winds through the deepest river gorge in the South along the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee, surrounded by towering cliffs and flowery rhododendron. The headwaters and tributaries that feed the river are all from the slopes of Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain on the entire East coast.

The Ocoee River  (Class III – IV) is an awesome, big water river with huge, splashy rapids. It is action packed from start to finish! There are over 26 adventure class rapids on this 5 mile stretch of river with names such as Grumpys, Double Trouble, Tablesaw and Diamond Splitter, which make it one of the South’s most popular rivers. The Ocoee River was also home to the whitewater sports for the 1996 Summer Olympics!

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