The mission of Outdoor Pre-Orientation is to offer a meaningful and exciting wilderness experiences that allows incoming students to, explore the outdoors, engage with other students to establish a network of peer support, and create a transition that better prepares students for life at Johns Hopkins University.

The Johns Hopkins University Experiential Education program offers various week-long Pre-Orientation outdoor experiences for incoming students facilitated by upperclassmen in the Experiential Education program. Our instructors have technical outdoor skills and interpersonal leadership skills through their training. Instructors are certified as Wilderness First Responders and CPR providers as well as completion of a 10- day Outdoor Leadership course. Participants will learn valuable outdoors skills, overcome new challenges, and learn about student life at Johns Hopkins University.  Throughout each of the outdoor experiences, including Backpacking, Climbing, White Water Kayaking, Canoeing and Hiking, and Multi-Element, the groups of incoming students will have the opportunity to create meaningful friendships before moving onto campus. You may even pick up a few back-country skills that will help you survive college. None of the trips require previous outdoor experience!

Outdoor Pre-Orientation Trip Descriptions

Appalachian Backpacking

On this trip, we will spend the week covering about 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail through Maryland’s beautiful and rugged section. Your group will camp in  shelters maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. When the shelters are full with thru-hikers, we will set-up tarps or sleep under the stars!

This trip is a great introduction to all things backpacking; including Leave No Trace outdoor principles, backcountry cooking, and the ins and outs of life on the trail.  During your Appalachian Trail adventure, you will also have the opportunity to try rock climbing.  Backpacker’s will spend a day climbing at Annapolis Rocks, which is one of the best scenic overlooks on the trail.

This trip is one of the more physically demanding trip.

Canoeing and Hiking

On Canoeing and Hiking Pre-O, the week is split between land and water.  We will spend three days backpacking on the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail, and then we will swicth into canoes and paddle and camp along the Potomac River!

For the days on river, you will learn the basics of canoeing, including paddle strokes and water features.  While you paddle and float down the Potomac enjoying the sun the final day you will run some exciting rapids.

For the backpacking portion, your group will camp in  shelters maintained by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. When the shelters are full with thru-hikers, we will set-up tarps or sleep under the stars!

This trip is a great introduction to all things backpacking and canoeing; including Leave No Trace outdoor principles, backcountry cooking, and the ins and outs of life on the trail.

Rock Climbing

On the Climbing Pre-O trip take your outdoor experience to new heights!

Spend the week rock climbing at various crags in Virginia and West Virginia, including the famous Seneca Rocks. This trip is geared towards beginner climbers, but experienced climbers are can be challenged too.  Our Instructors setup and pick climbs tailored to your experience levels .

Participants will learn all the basics from knot tying and belaying to rappelling and rope systems.  Each night you will return to camp to unwind, cook dinner and hand out with your new climbing partners.

Multi Element

If you are the kind of person who likes a little bit of everything, then Multi Pre-O is for you!

Each day you will get to try your hand at a new activity including, canoeing, backpacking, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting.  Every night, each of the five individual multi groups returns to base camp.  This allows for you to mingle with people outside of your small group, to hang out and play games around the fire and to meet new friends!

This trip is well suited for those looking for daily adventure with the ability to return to camp and relax.

Whitewater Kayaking

On our Whitewater Kayaking Pre-O trip, we will get you started in your own kayak and in no time you will be on a whitewater adventure. We will paddle numerous rivers in the Maryland and West Virginia area.

Throughout the week we will paddle class I to class III rapids, and then camp out each night. You will learn all about the sport of whitewater kayaking while working up to running more challenging rivers as the week progresses.

No experience is necessary, but participants should be comfortable with frequent submersion and have good swimming skills.

Other Pre-Orientation Options

If you are looking for other Pre-Orientation options there are three other great programs if Outdoor Pre-O is not for you. To find out more about these programs and to register, check out the Pre-Orientation program page.


HopkinsCORPS is an immersive, week-long community service and leadership development pre-orientation program for incoming first-year students. Through direct service, site visits with community organizations, reflection sessions, and leadership development activities, students learn about a variety of social justice issues relevant to Baltimore, then participate in fun group outings in the evenings to continue to explore their new community together. Participants move into their residence halls early, then spend the week living together at a retreat center located in the historic Mount Vernon neighborhood of central Baltimore. The program is facilitated by student leaders and staff from the Center for Social Concern, the community service and civic engagement center at Johns Hopkins.


HopkinsLEAD is designed to get students thinking and excited about who they are, what they’re passionate about, and what type of communities they want to develop at JHU. Throughout this program, incoming Blue Jays will develop the personal and interpersonal skills needed to be effective leaders. They will explore ways to get involved on campus, meet with leaders from across Johns Hopkins, and learn from community members who have realized their visions for a better Baltimore. After HopkinsLEAD, students will feel more connected to one another and more capable of enacting positive social change.

HopkinsLEAD is split into two parts. During the first part incoming students, returning student facilitators, and staff from Student Leadership and Involvement will travel off campus for a retreat focusing on value clarification, self-awareness, communication, and group formation. During the second half of this experience, the group will return to campus and the neighborhoods surrounding Johns Hopkins to continue learning how leaders on and off campus have put their skills and values to work.

This program is in its introductory year and is being limited to 20 participants. The cost of participation is $450 dollars, but generous scholarships are available. Students who are accepted to the program will move in to their residence halls on August 19th, be off-campus from August 20th – 21st, and then return to campus for the second half of the program from August 22nd to August 25th. A more detailed agenda will be available in June.

Please email Travis Olson, Coordinator for Leadership Development, at if you have further questions.

Habitat for Humanity

Each August, the JHU Habitat for Humanity chapter welcomes around 20 first-year students to the Johns Hopkins campus and Baltimore community. During this week-long program, we work closely with Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake on a Johns Hopkins-sponsored house, helping with everything from laying down flooring to building the walls of the future home. During our break days, we’ll explore the rich Baltimore culture, from the scenic Inner Harbor, to the artsy Mount Vernon, and the world-famous Lexington Market. Come be a part of an impactful organization and make long lasting friendships along the way!