Join us on an epic journey to Alaska! Our 35-day Summer Program offers you an enriching fusion of wildlife and environmental volunteering projects, cultural immersion, and, of course, epic landscapes and trail hikes!
Alaska is by far the largest U.S. state by area, comprising more total landmass than the next three largest states of Texas, California, and Montana combined. Its mountainous and wilderness landscape makes it a popular destination for hikers and wildlife enthusiasts. Close to two dozen native languages are spoken here, with the indigenous population the highest of any U.S. state at over 15 percent. Our journey will have us learning about the cultures and history of Alaska, alongside all the incredible species that now call this epic landscape their home. Who doesn’t love a fluffy husky?!
Immerse yourself in Alaskan culture. Discover Alaska’s mountain landscape and explore incredible wildlife parks and preserves. Gain skills with lessons in sustainability, marine conservation, and the environment as well as hiking, dog sledding, rafting, and kayaking.
This summer program is perfect for high school graduates, college students and graduates, and gap year students, ideally 18 to 22 years old. Optional transferable academic credit is available to all participants.
Welcome! On arrival to Alaska, you will be met by your program instructors in Anchorage. After a comprehensive program briefing, we’ll immerse ourselves in the epic nature surrounding our new home base. Our days will be spent hiking the local tracks for panoramic views, exploring this epic city and its coastline and mountains, and getting to know our fellow participants. We’ve got an adventurous week ahead to get us started!
Our next 2 days will see us spending some time deep diving into the history, culture and wildlife of Anchorage. Anchorage is known for its cultural sites, including the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which displays traditional crafts and presents replicas of dwellings from the area’s indigenous groups. We’ve got 2 educational workshops planned at the center, giving us the opportunity to broaden our understanding and set ourselves up for an incredible journey through Alaska for the next 5 weeks.
We’ve also got some local hikes lined up to get our blood pumping! Time to take a look at Anchorage from the top of the tracks, we’ll grab our hiking shoes and hit the local viewpoints. On our last day in Anchorage, we’ll skip the boom-and-bust risk that came with the 1900 gold rush, but we’ll keep the wild-eyed optimism as we go gold panning! There are still many glints of gold flecks in the glacial streams near Anchorage. All we need is water, earth and a little gold rush optimism.
All aboard! We’re off to Seward, a breath-taking land shaped by glaciers, nestled between mountains and the ocean.
While we’re in Seward we’ll be hiking the stunning trails, experiencing the abundant wildlife, paddling the vibrant waters, and exploring this historic community. Our first few days see us settling in, and then hitting the Harding Ice Field hike. We’ll orientate to our new setting and get ready for a 3 day ocean project coming up.
Over the next 3 days we’re going to work and learn alongside the Ocean Alaska Science and Learning Center.
The Ocean Alaska Science and Learning Center promotes stewardship of the marine influenced ecosystems of Alaska’s coastal national parks through education and research and we get to be a part of it! What a place to learn about marine science and what we can do to help the ocean ecosystem grow and sustain. Be prepared to have your mind blown, get your hands a little dirty – and wet! – and learn all about the wildlife and nature in this beautiful place.
Our last few days in Seward will see us visit the Sealife Center, check out Cathedral Falls and go dog sledding! Experience the thrill of racing along a snowy trail behind a team of sled dogs. Not only is this experience exciting and super cute (how fluffy are huskies though?), but it will also give us an insight into life back in the 1900’s when dog sleds were the common mode of transportation. The Iditarod Trail was the conduit for these sleds transferring mail, provisions, and of course, gold.
We’re crossing over to Soldotna as we start to travel more extensively through Alaska. Soldotna is located on the western edge of the vast Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, a protected area spanning nearly 2 million acres and home to bears, moose, caribou, sheep, and many fish and bird species. In our first few days here we’ll visit the K’Beq heritage site for a workshop on the history and culture of the local area, go rafting down the Kenai river and get the run down on wilderness survival, ready to hit our next project with the National Wildlife refuge!
The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife habitat preserve located on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska. Originally created as a National Moose Range, this wildlife refuge now protects multiple large mammals and birds and has 2 large lakes and a river!
Our days here will be spent exploring and learning hands on. We’ve partnered with local rangers to learn about animal habitats, the ecosystem, how it relates to the local animals and what we can do on the day to day to help sustain this wonderous place. The time here will be filled with eye opening encounters to say the least! On our last days in Soldotna we’ll do what we do best in Alaska and check out the local trails! Learning to be explorers is never a dull moment when you’re in such an epic place full of nature .
We’re also taking a journey down to Homer and across to Peterson Bay Field Station. What an incredible opportunity! Peterson Bay Field Station is on the south shore of Kachemak Bay, on the edge of the wilderness and is accessible only by boat from Homer. Our week here sees us hiking (of course), kayaking, learning to forage and taking in all the wonderful wildlife and nature activities we can. We’ll take to the local beaches and trails to do a clean up and pack our rubbish bags. We’ll also immerse ourselves in the native history and culture of the bays where we call home this week.
Our last week of program will be spent in the small city of Homer, on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. We’re taking a few days to work at Wynn Nature Center, which is well-known for the abundant beautiful wildflowers that bloom continuously throughout the summer. We’ve also got a stint working with the Inspiration Ridge Preserve. It’s time to give back to all those epic trails we’ve been lucky enough to experience the last 5 weeks! Wherever we go over these 4 days, we’ll be surrounded by incredible landscapes, wildlife and everything we’ve learnt to love and expect from Alaska.
On our final few days in Homer, we will enjoy our program wrap while soaking in the nature on the local beaches. Sadly, the time has come to begin processing the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that the last 35 days have taken us on. Our lives are all somewhat chaotic right now, so we are sure that you will reflect on how amazing it was to have a chance to take a break from everything, learn about ourselves, but also prioritize time to experience and have gratitude for our own beautiful and historic culture and environment.
*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, laundry, rest, and explore independently with others in the group.
**Pacific Discovery reserves the right to alter and/or change the order of the itinerary, the focus of the projects or the activities themselves due to dates, availability, and safety precautions.
This gap year program is perfect for high school graduates, college students and graduates, and non-students, ideally 17-22 years old. Anyone with an average fitness level and an enthusiasm for the outdoors and new experiences will have a great time on this gap semester! You will need to be prepared for some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program, like trail building or the removal of invasive plants. As a guideline, you should aim to be comfortable hiking 4-6 hours with a backpack, but you don’t need to have had previous experience with any of the activities offered.
The program is a shared group experience. Join this program with an open mind and a willingness to work together with your group mates to make the program an amazing experience for the whole group. Additionally, the program will be as much about the inner journey of personal growth and learning about yourself as it is about what you will experience in the outer physical journey. We expect you to be open to learning and challenging your ideas and assumptions.
Our accommodation will be a mix of camping (tents supplied) and comfortable, clean hostels and lodges. Laundry and Wi-Fi facilities will be available most days, except during the weeks in the field on the volunteer projects and on expeditions. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.
Meals are fresh, tasty, healthy and varied. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are included in the program cost. Any snacks are at an additional cost, which we recommend budgeting around $15 per day for.
Food preparation responsibilities are shared by all students. It’s fun, social and often a highlight. An average day on program would consist of the following:
Camping meals will be adjusted to the cooking equipment at hand