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sierras1 Next Trip: TBA


This is a Burch Field Research Seminar called “The Walking Classroom: a Study of the Sierra Nevadas”. On this seminar, we will backpack over 300 miles through the second largest continuous wilderness area in the contiguous US – the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.

sierras2The program generally takes 42 days and starts in Yosemite Valley and ends in the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. The following parks are visited:

  • Yosemite National Park
  • Ansel Adams Wilderness Area
  • John Muir Wilderness Area
  • Kings Canyon National Park
  • Sequoia National Park

Along our route some of the superlatives that await us include:

  • One of the world’s highest waterfalls (Yosemite Falls: 2,425 ft., 739m);
  • World’s largest tree (General Sherman);
  • Highest peak in contiguous US (Mt. Whitney: 14,494 ft., 4,418m).

Photos from past trips


This program takes place about once every three or four years. The trip usually runs from the last week in June to around the end of the first week in August (approximately).

Award Opportunities

Please visit the Institute’s Awards + Scholarships page for more information on these awards


Approximately $3600 (excluding airfare)


Some of the coursework is done before and after the backpacking component of the program but the program is set up as a walking classroom. The course ENEC 208/HNRS 352 New Frontiers: Environment and Society in the United States (3 hours) is run largely as a seminar. Students also take ENEC 404/HNRS 351 Mountain Biodiversity (4 hours).


The following faculty are involved with the Burch Field Research Seminar, “The Walking Classroom: a Study of the Sierra Nevadas”:

  • Greg Gangi (IE)
  • Sarah Hamman – University of Texas
  • Lindsay Berk (MS from UNC in Geography)
  • Matt Simon

Contact Information

For more information about the Summer Field Program in the Sierra Nevadas, call Greg Gangi at 919-962-9805 or email