Southwest Instructor Course

Credit: Jared Steinman

Southwest Instructor Course

This 24-day instructor course combines foundational leadership training with a 19-day backpacking expedition in the Gila Wilderness. You and your coursemates will travel using both traditional and lightweight backpacking techniques in New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness—America’s first designated Wilderness area. Your Southwest Instructor Course will build on the outdoor and education experience you already have, while allowing you to fine-tune your teaching and leadership skills. Successful completion of this instructor course will prepare you to work wilderness backpacking courses for NOLS.

Applications for Spring/Summer 2020 Instructor Courses are now closed. Applications for 2021 Instructor Courses will open on August 15, 2020.

Take a look at the FAQs to learn more about instructor courses with NOLS.

Here is a sample of the instructor course questionnaire.



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All course information at a glance


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Equipment Deposit



24 days

Minimum Age

21 yrs.

Academic Credit

4 College Credits
  • 2 Outdoor Educator
  • 2 Leadership
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Leave No Trace - Master Educator


Course Description

Equipment List

Travel and Logistics


Tucson, Arizona

Fly in/out

Tucson, Arizona

Skills learned


Lightweight Backpacking

Additional Details

Prerequisite: Minimum of a 70-hour Wilderness First Responder and current adult CPR certification

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What Our Grads Say

“The NOLS experience—at least for me—crystallizes one universal truth about leadership: that the essential criterion for leadership is uncertainty. It is in these situations where true leadership is defined. NOLS empowers us to embrace uncertainty, to overcome obstacles and to see opportunity through challenge. NOLS reminds us to explore, to be curious and creative in our thinking and problem solving. NOLS highlights the value of mindfulness, reflection, and adaptability. NOLS reinforces the importance of compassion and empathy and reminds us that we are all is this together.” 

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