New Students

First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trips

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This trip built lasting friendships in three days. I still say hello by name to everyone on my FOOT trip, and a few of them are my close friends!  -Virginia Hassell, 2016

The First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trip (FOOT) program, which provides incoming students the opportunity to spend a challenging outdoor trip among the mountains and rivers of Massachusetts, is a fun way to smoothly transition from high school life to your new life at Amherst. Along the way, through candid camp conversations with trip leaders from diverse and engaged lives, you will pick up priceless, hard-earned advice on how to thrive at Amherst. Then you will return to campus before classes begin with a head full of fresh air, a handful of new friends, and a mountain of memories.

Some of my fellow FOOTies are now my closest friends here at Amherst. -Matthew Friedrich, 2015

On a FOOT trip, the rhythm of your day will be reset by nature, and your comfort and safety will be ensured by your exceptional upper-class leaders. These trips are a popular part of new student orientation, as they foster lasting friendships among students who may not have otherwise met. Beginners, don’t be shy! Even if you’ve never been on an outdoor trip, you are strongly encouraged to take part in the FOOT program!

The most important aspect of my FOOT trip was the bonds we made as a group. The trip gave me a chance to form friendships with people through a shared experience of nature and community, and because of this I am still good friends with many people from my trip. – Jack Muller, 2017

This website is filled with detailed information about the trips, trips leaders and trip sites and will answer many other questions you have.

I feel like my FOOT crew represented the diverse demographics of my Amherst class, so having time in a smaller group to get to know people from different countries and other backgrounds was so important.  -Lindsey Plummer, 2016


As a part of New Student Action 1, which begins May 30th, you will be given the opportunity to say that you would like to go on a FOOT trip for your LEAP program. You will be asked to rank your LEAP program preferences in AC Data ( 

By June 15, all new students (including new transfer students) need to: 
(1) log into AC Data,
(2) click on “Academic and Orientation Selections,” which is under “New Students,” 
(3) complete “The LEAP Program Selection” form. This form will ask you to list your top 5 choices for the LEAP program.
If you’re interested in going on one of the FOOT trips, then choose the FOOT program as your first choice! Based on your LEAP program preferences and other factors (for example, the number of students each program can accommodate), you may be placed in the FOOT program.
The Office of Student Affairs will let you know your LEAP program assignment in July. If you’re placed in the FOOT program, Jen Good-Schiff will contact you to gather more information about your specific preferences (for example, whether you’d rather go on a canoeing or hiking trip).

For information about the LEAP programs, including FOOT and the other 6 programs, click here ( For general information about completing the AC Data forms that are a part of New Student Action 1, click here:

We strongly encourage you to be a part of this program—there’s no better way to start off your four years at Amherst! Rank FIRST-YEAR OUTDOOR ORIENTATION TRIPS as your first choice on the Leap Program Selection form to increase the liklihood that you'll be placed in FOOT!


If you are placed in FOOT for your LEAP program, you will go on one of the following trips. In July we will contact the students who have been placed in FOOT to get information from about your specific trip preferences.

Hiking (Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced)
A Day on a Hiking Trip: You wake up in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. After climbing out of the tent or lean-to that you slept in, breakfast starts. Someone boils up water for oatmeal or hot cocoa, while the rest clean up the site and store their gear. After filling up your water bottles and lashing your packs on, you're out on the trail by 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. 

You'll be climbing on a designated trail, though sometimes it is crossed by rocks and big second-growth tree roots. Occasionally there will be clearings, but most of the trails cut through the heart of the forest, where you can smell the earth and moss heating up as the day continues. By noon you'll be seated up on the ridge with an almost 360-degree view, you'll be able to see the Vermont, New York and Connecticut landscape on a clear day while enjoying lunch. Once you've packed up the trash and food, taken a few pictures, and hung out for a while, you're back on the trail heading to camp. After hiking between eight and twelve miles with packs, the group enjoys getting to camp and taking some time to rest, though other hikes are possible if people still have the energy before dark. The group spreads out filling up water bottles, gathering firewood, pitching tents, and playing cards. The group works together to maintain the fire, cook dinner, and clean up before settling into conversation, marshmallows and stargazing.

Advanced Hiking Trip- This trip is suited well to those who have backpacked before, carrying all of their food, water and camping equipment with them (pack weight 30+ pounds). The distance for these trips will be around 12- 15 miles per day with elevation gains and losses (some significant)

Intermediate Hiking Trip-This trip is well suited for those who have some backpacking experience and/or are looking for a challenging trip. The distance each day will be between 8-10 miles with elevation gains and losses.

Basic Hiking Trip- The beginner trip is well suited to those who have not backpacked before or for students who just want to have an easier trip. The mileage each day will be between 6-8 miles per day with some elevation gains and losses.

canoeing%20%2709Wake up each morning to see the stillness of the water and the beauty that only is available at that time of the day. Your awesome trip leaders will help you prepare your breakfast and pack the boats for an intermediate canoeing trip with a 40‐mile downstream paddle. Take in the beautiful Connecticut River as it winds through farmlands and gorges from Vermont to Massachusetts. Snacking, floating and river games will keep the trip interesting and fun all day long, with lots of opportunities to ask questions about Amherst. Camp riverside on Thursday and Friday nights with dinners such as spaghetti or burritos and finish your trip on Saturday afternoon with the possibility of seeing bald eagles fishing, hawks soaring above or a trout bursting form the river to catch mayflies.
Hiking and Caving

Spend a beautiful day hiking in Thacher State Park near Albany, NY. The park is situated along the Helderberg Escarpment, one of the richest fossil-bearing formations in the world. Spend the next two days underground discovering the wonders of the Ward-Gregory Caves, and evenings with delicious meals, glow of a campfire and invigorating discussions with your trip leaders.

Primitive Living Skills

Building your own shelter, starting a fire with friction, animal tracking and finding wild edibles will make this a trip to remember. Following the "Leave No Trace" outdoor principles, your leaders will teach you all you need to know to survive and thrive in the outdoors! There's nothing better than sitting by an evening campfire that you started with no matches and sleeping in a dry, comfortable shelter you made yourself!

Rock Climbing, Hiking and Primitive Living Skills

This trip will give you an opportunity to sample three exciting outdoor adventures. Spend the first day getting to know your group while challenging yourself to a day of local rock climbing. Learn how to build a shelter, find water and track animals. You'll come away with a better understand of surviving in the woods. Enjoy evenings around the campfire with delicious food, great conversation, and bonding with your FOOT group. The third day will be spent hiking, trail games and beautiful views of Western Massachusetts.

Climbing and Trail Service Work

Connect to your new home and your local outdoor trail network on this rewarding and community-building trip. Spend the daylight hours relocating a trail, repainting blazes on trails, or building waterbars, then camp under the stars by a relaxing fire at night. Spend a day at a local rock climbing site, challenging yourself to the New England rock—a little work, and a lot of FUN.