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Base Camp Cullowhee



Find your next adventure.

Photo of WCU Students hiking Black Balsam Knob in the mountains of Western North Carolina


Base Camp Cullowhee gives you the opportunity to get out and explore the world around you. This is more than just a recreation program, you have an array of outdoor recreation trips, experiential education opportunities, and outdoor equipment rentals right at your fingertips.

Home to human powered adventure at WCU, there are over 9,000 experiences available per year so no matter what you seek, trip programs, guide services, rental equipment or conquering our indoor climbing wall, there's an experience for everyone. Discover first hand how adventures can be one of the best ways to learn.

Western Carolina University has been named Top Adventure College - Blue Ridge Outdoor Magazine (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019)

Ready for some human-powered adventure?

Come paddle a river, canoe a lake, climb the rocks, explore the forests and national parks. WCU is home to some of the most amazing rivers, waterfalls, granite domes, pristine national forests and national parks in the country. At WCU we aim to reach new heights! We offer a variety of half day and full day trips along with extended break trips such as fall and spring break expeditions! All trips and programs are planned and executed by trained students and our professional guide staff. All staff are highly qualified and hold certifications such as Wilderness First Responder, EMT, ACA Swift Water Rescue, American Mountain Guides Association, and more.

Schedule - Trips | Clinics | Events

Spring 2024 Schedule of Programs and Events

See our upcoming events on Engage

Base Camp Cullowhee provides the following services to enhance your outdoor experience at WCU!

Adventure Shop

Hours of Operation:

Fall and Spring Semester:

Monday: 10:00am-5:00pm

Tuesday - Thursday: 2:00pm-5:00pm

Friday: 10:00am-5:00pm

Summer Semester:

Monday-Friday: 10:00am-4:00pm BY APPOINTMENT ONLY

Who Can Rent Outdoor Gear:

Gear can be rented by any current WCU Student/ Faculty/Staff or Retiree. Any alumni or family member of current WCU students/faculty/staff must hold a current CRC membership in order to rent gear. Memberships can be purchased at the front desk of CRC.

How to Rent Gear:

Gear can be rented in-person from the Adventure Shop, located in the Campus Recreation Center, or by reservation. To offer the best service, and to keep our equipment in good condition, we ask that patrons allow at least 15 minutes to go over equipment with our staff for any rental pickup or return. Additional costs will be incurred for any equipment that is returned dirty, late, or damages.

Any reservation made less than 48 business hours hours in advance may not be responded to, and CRW does not guarantee equipment availability for late notice requests.

At this time cash, check, credit and debit cards are the only form of accepted payment.

Gear must be rented from Monday to Friday during normal hours of operation.  Here is list of our updated Gear Rental Prices.

Creating a Reservation:

Gear can be reserved up to one month in advance by using the online request form, by phone at 828.227.8813, or by visiting the Adventure Shop in the CRC during open hours. All reserved gear must be picked up at the Adventure Shop and returned at the Boat Shed during open hours. All gear requests are granted on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Please allow at least two business days for your request to be processed. Once your request has been reviewed by our staff, you will receive a rental confirmation email outlining the details of your rental . If you do not receive a confirmation within 48 hours of your request, please email us at basecamp@wcu.wcu or call us at 828.227.8813

Reservation Request Form


All cancellations should be made at least two business days prior to the rental start date, via email. If the Adventure Shop is not notified two days prior (enough time to make the gear available to other renters), up to a $10 cancellation fee might be assessed at the discretion of professional staff.  Cancellations can be made via email at 

Gear Pick-Up:

Gear can be picked up at Adventure Shop at the date and time of your reservation. Payment must be paid in full at time of equipment pick up. Please allow up to 15 minutes for our staff to assist with your rental and cover an overview of how to use the equipment.

Rental Return:

All gear must be returned during operating hours at the time specified on your reservation confirmation. No credit or refund will be issued for items not used or items returned early. Upon return, renter should allow 15 minutes to clean and inspect gear.  Gloves and cleaning supplies will be supplied.

Late, Missing, or Damaged Gear:

Renters will be charged a late fee at the daily rate for every day the gear has not been returned.  This will continue until the gear is returned.  If the gear is not returned within two weeks of the scheduled return date, the renter will be charged full retail value of the item and shipping costs.  Renters will be charged full retail value and shipping costs for any missing equipment.

If any gear is damaged due to improper use, a staff member will record the participant’s information, explanation, and put the equipment to the side so it is not used again before professional staff look it over.  Severity of damage and associated fees will be determined by staff on all equipment.  The patron will be assessed replacement fees for gear that is lost, stolen, destroyed, or damaged beyond the point of repair. Patron can pay immediately upon returning gear to the Adventure Shop or will need to come back to pay within the next 2 weeks. Failure to return gear or pay the gear replacement charge within 2 weeks will result in loss of BCC gear rental privileges until the gear is returned or charge is paid. Failure to return gear or pay the gear replacement charge by the last day of academic classes each semester will result in the equipment replacement charge being charged to the partron's WCU account. Due to the expensive cost of some gear, with approval from professional staff, a payment plan can be created for patron to make payments on lost or damaged gear. At this time, credit and debit cards are the only form of accepted payment.

Gear Resources:


Stand Up Paddleboard

Mountain Biking


Climbing Wall

Hours of Operation

Fall and Spring Semester:

Monday-Thursday: 4pm - 8pm | Friday: 4pm - 7pm

Summer Semester:

Monday and Thursday: 4pm - 7pm

Climbing Belay Clinics (offered Fall/Spring semesters)

Wednesdays: 6pm - 8pm

The Climbing Wall at the Campus Recreation Center offers an elevated experience with one of the tallest walls in the UNC system.  At just under 50 feet in height, the climbing wall has over 1,500 square feet of space to boulder, top-rope climb, and lead climb, with 7 rope lanes - 4 of which are equipped for sport lead climbing.

New to Climbing?  We offer belay clinics that orient and introduce novice climbers to the essential skills and basic gear necessart to get started safely at our wall, all at no extra cost.  Additionally, for those desiring that next growh edge, we offer lead climbing clinics a few times a semester, and look forward to offering unique workshops centered around the learning areas of our participants.

Register for Belay Clinic

Lead Climbing Clinics (offered Fall/Spring semesters)

Select Saturdays: 9am-1pm

Lead climbing and lead belaying are complex activities that require the anticipation of a number of factors not present in top-rope climbing.  A greater understanding of and ability to manage risk while using more complex belay methods and protection systems are some of the key skills that a lead climber most posses.  Those wanting to lead climb at the WCU climbing wall must demonstrate the ability to safely and comfortably lead climb at the 5.8 standard or higher as well as belay a lead climber with a GriGri. In order to complete a skill check off for lead climbing, one must have completed the Lead Climbing Clinic with Base Camp.  There are those exceptions for students with prior experience, to challenge the lead climbing test.  Students are required to setup an appointment with Outdoor Programs professional staff or Climbing Wall GC.

Register for Lead Clinic

Kids Climbing Dates

Kids Climbing Night is offered up to two times a month, on Friday's from 5:00pm-7:00pm during the Fall and Spring semester. Kids can climb under the supervision of a parent or guardian. Please check in at the Campus Recreation Center (CRC) front desk when you arrive. The cost is $5.00 per child.

Policy Reminders -

  • All special programming to include, Kids Climb and any other special climbing wall group must adhere to the following age requirements – Minimum age to climb at the CRC wall is 4 years of age, unless otherwise approved by climbing wall staff.  All children 17 and under must be accompanied by a supervising adult at the wall.  Consent from parent/guardian is required for climbers under the age of 18.
  • The minimum age for belaying is 12 years old.

Check our program schedule for specific dates.

Cycle Shop

Hours of Operation:

Spring Semester:

Monday: 2:00pm - 5:00pm



For additional maintenance, students can book a maintenance request time and drop off their bike in person. Please stop by the Adventure Shop for more information.Have a technical issue with your bike?  Don't have the time to wait?  You can drop off your bike at the cycle shop by completeing our Bike Maintenance Reservation form.

The Cycle Shop also offers bike rentals.  To rent a mountain bike patrons can come by the Adventure Shop to setup a rental.

The Base Camp Cycle Shop is your one-stop shop for all your cycling needs. Students have access to a fully equipped bike shop and trained technician to assist in repairs and answer questions. Whether a road bike, mountain bike, or something in between, we have the tools and knowledge to keep the cycling adventure going. Don't forget to ask about our monthly clinics ranging from basic bike maintenance to essential mountain biking skills. BCC also offers mountain bike rentals to explore nearly 7 miles of the WCU campus trail system.

Bike Fix-It Stands and Air Pumps

WCU also has two Dero Bicycle Fix-it Stands and Air Pumps located across campus and are free to use.  For maintenance issues please report to

Fix-It Stands & Air Pump Locations

  1. Campus Recreation Center
  2. WCU Tunnel Entrance/Softball Stadium Parking Lot

Listing of local gravel rides

Trail System

Another campus feature we’re proud to share with the Western Carolina University community is our WCU Trail System. At nearly 7 miles long, this trail was designed for hikers and mountain biking. Enjoy!

WCU Trail System Map

Teambuilding and Team Development Course

These programs are built around fostering teamwork and communication skills. WCU's Team Development Course, located behind NCCAT near the Wildflower trailhead, is a series of structured activities consisting of ground-based initiatives and elements that serve as a proving ground for teamwork. Teambuilding, as the name, might suggest, is team-centered initiatives concocted from a series of game-like challenges. Unlike our Low Ropes Course, we can make Teambuilding happen anywhere considering that it utilizes very little hardware.

For more information on booking a program please contact the Parks and Recreation Managment Department.

Ski and Snowboard Shuttle

Get outside and enjoy the winter in Western North Carolina. Shred some powder every Friday night during the months of January and February. Outdoor Programs offers ski shuttle services to Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley, NC! Make the best out of the winter and hit the slopes with Base Camp Cullowhee.

REMINDER - Those students wanting to drive themselves are required to submit a completed Driving Waiver prior to the ski shuttle date they are wishing to attend.

For more information on dates and times check out our Trips Calendar.

Base Camp has a variety of programs that will meet you where you are at.  BCC is not a club and you do not need a membership to join. Stop by our Adventure Shop located in the Campus Recreation Center and let our staff help you get started. We specialize in small group instruction, minimal impact techniques, traveling light and most importantly building community!  Below is a list of programs that are offered throughout the year.

First Ascent - New Student Wilderness Orientation Program

First Ascent is WCU's Wilderness Orientation program created to offer unique outdoor adventures specifically for incoming students. These programs also offer students the opportunity to move on to campus early, familiarize oneself with resources and start building a community of friends that helps ease the transition into the college experience. It's the perfect way to start your climb at WCU!

The program offers two different options:

  1. Wilderness Experience
  2. Base Camp Adventure

Find more information and register

Outdoor Guide Development Program (OGDP)


The Outdoor Guide Development Program (OGDP) is an outdoor leadership training program open to all WCU students offered during the Fall semester.  Students are eligable for academic credit through PRM 486 (4cr) Field Experience. OGDP is an immersive program that provides a smooth transition and educational process to become a Base Camp Cullowhee (BCC) Trip Staff. Certificates of completion will be given to those students participating in a formal assessment of their skills and qualifications as pursuant to best industry practice and established Base Camp Cullowhee Lead Guide and Instructor competencies.

OGDP focuses on giving students the necessary skills, knowledge, and awareness to become competent outdoor instructors and guides. OGDP Foundations, Outdoor Essential Technical Skills Day and the Technical Field Training are at the core of becoming a trip leader and are offered during the Fall semester. OGDP is also Base Camp's professional development for current staff working as trip leaders and focuses on improvement in technical skills, leadership, and interpersonal skills.

Becoming an outdoor leader and educator is a lifelong journey that starts with developing a core set of skills and knowledge. It is more than just being a climber, paddler or backpacker. OGDP gives you the confidence and tools necessary to pursue a life full of human powered adventure. Whether you want to become a trip leader with Base Camp Cullowhee, work for an outdoor guide service, or just looking to refine your outdoor leader toolbox; OGDP has something to offer everyone.

All students are required to register for OGDP prior to participation. 

Academic Credit with Parks and Recreation Management

NOTE - The academic credit tie is not being offered during the 2023-24 academic year.  If you express interest in obtaining academic credit via PRM 486 Field Experience, please email Jeremiah Haas,

Students interested in OGDP can learn more by stopping by the CRC Adventure Shop or emailing

OGDP Schedule - Fall 2023

OGDP Workshops / Training Date Time Location
Foundations Workshop Day 11/5/2023 8:00am-2:00pm WCU Campus - Outdoors/Classroom
Essential Outdoor Skills Day  12/3/2023 8:00am-5:00pm WCU Campus - Outdoors/Classroom
OGDP Technical Field Training 12/16-12/19/2023 8:00am Pisgah National Forest

OGDP Curriculum

1. Foundations & Essentials: OGDP begins with the Foundations workshop day. Foundations are series of small workshops that focus on the awareness of appropriate attitudes, knowledge, and skills as it relates to outdoor leadership with particular emphasis on the relationship between people, the environment, and equipment. This dedicated workshop day is offered once in the semester and will be taught in a classroom and partially outdoors. 

The Outdoor Essentials Skills Day is a day dedicated to learning all the camp-craft skills requried to be a competent outdoor leader in the backcountry.  This day will help prepare you for our 4-day mini-expedition at the end of the program. Dates for both of these workshop dates are listed above.

2. Experience Base Camp Cullowhee: Sign up for 1 outdoor program day trip, or attend one overnight extended trip as a participant. One can participate in this experience at any point during their progress through OGDP, Fall, Spring or Summer. During these trips you will learn about how a Base Camp trip runs, you will see first hand how the instructor team works together and also learn about some of our popular outdoor destinations. The Base Camp Cullowhee program calendar is available on our website or at the CRC Adventure Shop.

3. Overview of Trip Leading & Technical Field Training: The final phase of OGDP is completing an overview of what it means to be a trip leader with outdoor programs and attend a 4-day technical field training (backpacking) which will focus on teaching and reviewing all the necessary technical skills and interpersonal skills one needs to have in order to move into a trip leader role. Students will work 1:1 with professional staff to check off on their competency checklist, provide a self evaluation of their skills and receive a final instrcutor evaluation for the training.

4. Medical Certifications: The following certifications are required to work for WCU Base Camp Cullowhee: Wilderness First Responder (Lead Guides), Wilderness First Aid (Instructors), Basic First Aid (Apprentices), CPR/AED (Everyone), NC Epinephrine Administration, and WCU Van Driver Training. It is the student's responsibility to obtain these certifications prior to working. CRW offers CPR/AED courses in-house.

5. Apprentice: After completing Foundations, participating in BCC programs, completing the Field Training, meet with professional staff and check off on your competency checklist and obtain required certifications, you will be ready to start your journey as a Trip Apprentice. Trip Apprentices are hired as staff with CRW and Base Camp Cullowhee. Apprentices are paid $9.15/hour. Responsibilities include: help plan logistics, teaching flow, manage safety and help to facilitate a quality experience for patrons. Once you are an Apprentice, students will receive emails and newsletters regarding opportunities for trip leading.

6. Instructors and Lead Guides: Depending on your skill level, apprenticing enough trips, obtaining proper certifications and progress on competency checklists; students may be asked to join BCC as an Instructor or Lead Guide. The process of completing OGDP is different for every student. Our goal is to meet you where you are at, allow you the time needed to build confidence and the necessary outdoor skills prior to stepping into a leadership role. You will go through a field checkoff, at which time BCC trip staff will make sure you complete all necessary skills on your checklist.

OGDP also offers an exemption process for those students coming in with a wealth of knowledge, skills, certifications, and experience. The program also offers exemptions for students who are majoring in Parks and Recreation Management (PRM). For more information on exemptions please contact Jeremiah Haas

7. Outdoor Essential Clinics: Once a student becomes a trip staff with BCC, it is required that staff keep up with their professional development in order to keep the quality of instruction and risk management high and to offer top-notch programming to our patrons. These FREE workshops teach you the essential skills for becoming an outdoor leader. There are a series of both Technical and Soft skill focused clinics and staff have to choose 1 from each category, during both Fall and Spring semesters. This is a total of 4 workshops over the year. OGDP Candidates and BCC Trip Staff can register for clinics at the Adventure Shop, located in the CRC. You can attend Essential Clinics at any time.

Kayak Roll Clinics

Hours of Operation

Fall and Spring Semesters

Thursday's 7:30p.m. - 9:30p.m.

For exact dates, check our our program schedule

Learning how to whitewater kayak? Base Camp Cullowhee can help! We offer free roll clinics in Reid Pool select Thursdays of the semester to help you perfect your roll so when it comes time to transfer those skills to the river, you are ready.  Let our trained staff work with you 1:1 to help perfect that roll.

Guests of WCU affiliates can obtain a Guest Pass at the CRC front desk. Your receipt is required for entry into the pool.

Base Camp has a variety of events to please your outdoor adventure appetite.

  • Tuck River Cleanup
  • Annual Outdoor Gear Sale & Swap
  • Outdoor Adventure Speaker & Film Series
  • Rock and Rumble Bouldering Competition - USAC, Collegiate Climbing Series
  • Where is Base Camp Located?
    BCC is located on the first floor of the Campus Recreation Center.
  • What are the Adventure Shop Hours?
    Monday & Friday 10am - 5pm, Tuesday-Thursday, 2pm - 5pm
  • How do I sign up for Base Camp?
    Base Camp is not an organization you sign-up for. A lot of our programs, such as the climbing wall and roll clinics, are free to students. We do offer numerous trips that you can sign-up for and each trip is a certain, reduced, cost for students. We also provide outdoor gear rentals for students, faculty, and staff, for a fee.
  • How do I sign up for trips?
    To sign-up for a Base Camp trip, you can either come to our Adventure Shop located in the Campus Recreation Center or, you can sign up online.
  • How much does it cost to rent gear?
    Each item that we rent comes at a different cost depending on the item and how long you want to rent it. We have items anywhere from $2.00 to $45.00. See rental rates for more information.
  • What are the Climbing Wall Hours? 
    Fall/Spring Hours: Monday-Thursday 4pm - 8pm, Friday 4pm - 7pm 
    Summer Hours: Mondays and Thursdays 4:00pm - 7:00pm
  • Who can sign-up for a Base Camp Trip?
    Any WCU student, staff, or faculty are eligible to sign up for trips.  Guests, or an individual not directly affiliated with WCU, are ineligible to register for and participate in BCC trips. 
  • What are the difficulty levels are Base Camp Trips?
    The majority of our trips cater to beginners. However, for most trips, participants are expected to be in good physical shape in order to participate in the activity. 
  • Is Outdoor Programs permitted to operate on US Forest Service Lands?

Outdoor Programs holds Special Use Permits with the US Forest Service, for the following ranger districts - Nantahala, Pisgah and Grandfather.  Outdoor Programs is permitted to operate on National Forest Service Land. This permit states: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in its programs on the basis of race, color national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status.  To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call 202.720.5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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