Outdoor Action Program
at Princeton University

Celebrating 25 Years of Wilderness Adventures

Last page update 03/09/99.

Hikers on the Long Trail in Vermont If you enjoy spending time in the outdoors, learning new skills, and meeting new people, then the Outdoor Action Program (OA) may be an important part of the Princeton experience for you. The Outdoor Action Program is an important vehicle for students to explore the natural world both as an extracurricular activity and in relation to specific academic interests.

Outdoor Action is Princeton's outdoor education program, which is administered by the Princeton-Blairstown Center. Throughout the year, OA offers a wide variety of outdoor trips and training programs that are open to all members of the University community. An OA trip may bring together students from all four classes, graduate students, faculty, and staff in an exploration of the wilderness. Many lasting friendships at Princeton begin on OA trips.

OA is recognized as one of the leading University outdoor education programs. Numerous other colleges have developed their programs based on Princeton's Outdoor Action Program.

In all of its activities, OA is committed to protecting the environment and maintaining our valuable natural resources. This is an essential part of the philosophy of all of our trips and programs.

Outdoor Action offers a unique way to explore the outdoors. Many of the students who become involved in Outdoor Action have little or no previous outdoor experience. All of the skills you need to feel comfortable in the wilderness can be learned at Princeton. People become involved with OA for recreation, to learn new skills, meet new people, or take a break from academics. Students who specialize in field sciences such as Biology and Geology find that OA offers them valuable training for their academic interest. Others interested in environmental education, literature, history, writing and other areas find new opportunities to explore their interests in the natural world. A number of students have integrated their interest in the outdoors with their academic pursuits in their Junior and Senior independent work. 

Outdoor Activities/Trips

Outdoor Action trips include such activities as:

The trips are offered from a beginner level, for those just starting the activity, to intermediate and advanced trips for people with previous experience. During the semester, there are numerous day trips and overnight trips on weekends, ranging from a two-hour bike ride around Princeton to a weekend canoeing trip to Assateague Island. During semester breaks, there are multi-day trips that range from a four-day cross-country skiing trip in Vermont to a five-day whitewater kayaking course. The breadth of the program provides opportunities for everyone to explore the outdoors and learn new skills. Many OA activities are accessible to disabled individuals. Contact the Program Director for more information.

In addition to the many trips that OA offers, there is an extensive array of seminars, training workshops, speakers series, and films on a variety of outdoor and wilderness oriented topics. These programs include such topics as:

  • Planning a Backpacking Trip
  • Animal Tracking & Nature Observation
  • Bicycle Maintenance & Repair
  • Weather for Outdoorspersons
  • Minimal Impact Camping
  • Map & Compass Skills
  • Winter Camping Techniques
  • Wilderness First Aid
  • Eskimo Rolling a Kayak
  • Whitewater River Reading
  • Rock Climbing
  • Telemark Skiing Techniques

Leadership Opportunities

Outdoor Action trips are led by students who have completed an extensive program in outdoor leadership that includes training in backpacking, wilderness camping, group dynamics and leadership skills, wilderness first aid, and outdoor safety. Completion of these courses allows students to lead day and multi-day hiking and backpacking trips. There are also specialized leader courses for bike touring, rock climbing, caving, whitewater canoeing and kayaking, cross-country skiing, and winter camping.

The leadership experience of working with a group is valuable beyond the bounds of Outdoor Action and many OA Leaders find that teaching others about the outdoors is one of the most special parts of their time at Princeton. Many leaders use their outdoor skills to work in a variety of outdoor programs during the summer and after Princeton as well. Outdoor Action leaders have been instructors at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and at Outward Bound Schools across the country.

Wilderness Activities and Areas

There are a wealth of wilderness areas easily accessible from Princeton for a variety of outdoor pursuits. New Jersey has a number of state forests and parks with extensive hiking trails. The Delaware River and its many tributaries offer both flatwater and whitewater canoeing and kayaking. There are a number of local rock climbing areas in addition to the artificial Climbing Wall on campus. Bike touring is popular throughout the state and there are several caves for spelunking.

There are numerous areas for backpacking, bike touring, and whitewater paddling nearby in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia. The Shawangunks, one of the top rock climbing areas on the east coast, is only two and a half hours from Princeton. During the winter, cross-country skiing and winter camping are superb in northern New York and New England.

Longer OA trips (7-10 days) at the end of the school year may travel as far north as Canada for canoeing, and as far west as the Colorado Rockies for backpacking.

Other Resources

Outdoor Action has an extensive supply of camping and wilderness equipment to provide to participants who may not have their own. The OA Equipment Room is also open twice a week during the semester for equipment rental to those interested in running their own trips.

OA Climbing Wall The OA Climbing Wall is an indoor rock climbing practice facility that provides year round training opportunities for people interested in the sport. Outdoor Action has an Adventure Course on cmpus for team building activities. OA utilizes Lake Carnegie and adjacent creeks for canoe and kayak instruction and slalom gates are hung during the fall and spring for training purposes. During the winter, Dillon Pool is used to teach Eskimo rolling and pool slalom.

OA has a library of over 500 books, guidebooks, and maps that are available for borrowing. A trip planning service is available to help people plan their own outdoor trips. The OA Newsletter is published twice each semester with information on upcoming trips and programs. The OA We Site provides information on the full range of OA activities and instructional information about the outdoors.

Frosh Trip Program

Frosh Trip ProgramEach fall OA offers a special program for first-year students. The Outdoor Action Frosh Trip is a six-day wilderness camping trip held the week prior to Orientation Week and involves either backpacking, canoeing, or bike touring. Participants travel in groups of ten with two upperclass leaders in wilderness areas in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. Each year over 600 first-year students start Princeton with the OA Frosh Trip. It is an excellent way to meet other students and learn about Princeton, as well as spend an enjoyable time in the outdoors. Lasting friendships and learning about Princeton are fundamental parts of the program. Many students find the Frosh Trip so enjoyable that they continue their involvement with Outdoor Action throughout the year and many choose to become OA Leaders.


Alumni Outdoor Programs

Summit of Mt. PrincetonOutdoor Action has expanded its activities to include wilderness educational programs for Princeton Alumni. The purpose of these programs is to bring together alumni from different classes in an exploration of the wilderness combined with an educational program. Special Alumni Programs also provide for interaction between alumni and current Princeton students. Programs are developed by the Board of the Friends of Outdoor Action, an alumni membership support group. Members receive early notification and discounts on Alumni Outdoor Programs through Tiger Trails, the Friends of OA Newsletter.

Alumni membership dues ($20.00/year), made payable to Princeton University, are tax-deductible and can be mailed to:


Outdoor Action Program
The Armory
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544

Outdoor Action trips and activities are only open to Princeton University students, faculty, and staff. Specially listed activities are open to Princeton University alumni and their families.

All online information at the Outdoor Action Web Site is protected by copyright laws. You may set up links to material found at the Outdoor Action Web Site. Printed versions of the material may be distributed for nonprofit educational use as long as no fees are charged for the material, attributions are made to the author, and no content changes are made. Commercial use of this material either in electronic or printed form is prohibited without express written permission from the author. Copyright 1995 - 2004, all rights reserved, Rick Curtis, Outdoor Action Program, Princeton University. Send your comments and suggestions on the OA Web Site to Outdoor Action