This College Will Let You Earn Credit While Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Emory & Henry College in Virginia is offering students this unique opportunity to earn college credit — even if they currently attend a different school.
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Published on June 26, 2023
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  • An Emory & Henry College program will give students the chance to earn college credit as they hike the Appalachian Trail.
  • The Semester-A-Trail program includes workshops and training. It also provides students with hiking gear and a budget for the trail.
  • Students from any institution can transfer to the school for the program while retaining their enrollment at their home institution.

The mountains and valleys of Appalachia aren't a typical college classroom — but students at Emory & Henry College are able to earn credit while trekking through the region's breathtaking forests.

Emory & Henry College, a private university located in far western Virginia, is allowing students to earn college credit while attempting a long-section hike of the Appalachian Trail as part of its "Semester-A-Trail" program. Applications are already open for students interested in the program, and will close Aug. 1.

The program will begin in the spring semester of 2024, and it will include a course in wilderness first aid and other training workshops. Students will also be given a hiking kit with "top-of-the-line backpacking gear and footwear," as well as an on-trail budget.

The program isn't just open to Emory & Henry students. Students can transfer in from any college to participate in the Semester-A-Trail program, and they will be allowed to "retain their enrollment privileges at their current academic institution while enjoying the benefits of being an E&H student," according to the program website.

"This is the definition of exceptional hands-on learning in a gorgeous outdoor lab," Emory & Henry Director of Outdoor Programs Jim Harrison said in a press release.

Outdoor experiential learning has been on the rise in recent years.

The John Templeton Foundation last year awarded a $1.4 million grant for researchers from various universities and the nonprofit outdoor education group Outward Bound to study the impact of outdoor education on students. That three-year project is set to take place at various programs offered by Outward Bound, which runs outdoor education programs in 34 countries.

Outdoor recreation is also a growing field — the industry accounted for $689 billion in gross output and 4.3 million jobs in 2021, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Colleges have embraced the rising interest in backpacking, camping, hiking, and a slew of other outdoor activities. The University of Denver and the VF Foundation announced a Leadership in Outdoor Recreation Industry program last year.