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The Center for Adventure Leadership

Outdoor education program for all

Outdoor education programs exist at various college campuses in one form or another, but if I had to pick one it would be the Center for Adventure Leadership at Asbury University in Wilmore.

Asbury is a liberal arts university with a variety of degree programs, but its Center for Adventure Leadership is unique in that it allows recreation majors to combine classroom-based courses with technical field courses in rock-climbing, rappelling, caving, canoeing, backpacking, wilderness travel, and medicine. Students can even earn a minor in adventure leadership. And they can become certified as Wilderness First Responders, people who are trained to respond to just about any accident or emergency that might occur in the backcountry.

There’s no one more qualified to lead the Center than its director, adjunct professor Trent Ellsworth, a rugged outdoorsman who, with his wife, Emily, spent time in the Colorado mountains leading wilderness programs. Ellsworth is an instructor in the American Mountain Guides Association and a certified Wilderness First Responder, trained in whitewater, cave, and high-angle rescues. He’s spent at least a thousand days and nights in the backcountry as a wilderness leader.

Other facets of the curriculum at the Center include Archways, an orientation program in which all new students are offered wilderness excursions to the Daniel Boone National Forest with the goal of preparing them for entry into the university.

Another branch is student-focused in which students plan and coordinate regular trips into some of Kentucky’s most beautiful natural areas.

Opportunities are offered to the general public as well. You can go on a guided day trip or weeklong expedition—and there’s no shortage of places within a day’s drive of Asbury to take advantage of, such as the Red River Gorge National Geological Area.

The Center will tailor the program to everyone from individuals looking to gain confidence in the outdoors to groups interested in team-building skills. Also, custom-designed curriculums are offered along with the outdoor adventure itself, such as campus-based professional development and conference-style events.

The Asbury University Challenge Course is also available to the general public.

Located high atop the spectacular cliffs known as the Kentucky River Palisades, the course is comprised of ground level and high courses. The low course includes problem-solving initiatives designed for support and teamwork. The high course is a series of linear rope challenges (some 25 to 35 feet high) constructed to build confidence and also encourage team support. As if this wasn’t enough, the course includes a zip line and a giant swing.

My head is spinning looking at all the options the Center for Adventure Leadership offers. Asbury University should be commended for “thinking out of the box” by creating such an in-depth adventure education program for students and anyone else desiring to challenge themselves in the great outdoors.

Insider tips:

For more information go to or call (859) 858-3511 ext. 2491. Pricing for general public is based on the customized design of the adventure.

Photo courtesy of Asbury University

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