2020-2021 preview: Paul R. Christen High Adventure Base at Summit Bechtel Reserve

Choose your own adventure at the Paul R. Christen National High Adventure Base at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

Scouts and Venturers can select world-class action sports or take a trek in and around the majestic New River Gorge National River.

With world-class venues for BMX, skateboarding, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, “bikepacking” and more, there’s more adventure at SBR than any young person could pack into a week.

Spaces are still available for 2020 programs, though some weeks are full and others are filling fast.

Registration for the 2021 season, running from mid-June to mid-July (due to the 2021 National Scout Jamboree), is now open.

Here’s what else you need to know about planning a trip to this action-packed Scouting playground.

What is the Paul R. Christen National High Adventure Base?

It’s the BSA’s fourth and newest high-adventure base. It’s located at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

High-adventure at SBR comes in two flavors:

Summit Experience

This is the sampler platter.

It’s the only program that lets you try all SBR’s high-adventure activities: skateboarding, BMX, archery, high ropes courses, climbing, mountain biking, canopy tours and an aquatic activity (kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding or whitewater rafting). Each group will perform a half-day service project and get a thrilling ride down the 3,100-foot Big Zip.


Trek programs take advantage of one of the greatest natural resources in the eastern United States: the New River Gorge. Scouts and Venturers will camp in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains either along the river or off the trail overlooking the gorge.

  • New River Trek: A 50-plus-mile paddle trip on the New River. This includes four days spent in duckies (inflatable kayaks) on Class I to III rapids and one day spent on a whitewater rafting trip in Class III to V rapids. Participants spend four nights camped along the New River.
  • Polaris ATV Trek: Get trained at SBR’s Polaris OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) Center of Excellence before heading out on a multi-day trail ride through the backroads and trails of SBR. This includes four days total on ATVs with a Big Zip ride at the end. Note: You will get muddy.
  • Bikepacking: Think backpacking on mountain bikes. The trek includes 50-plus miles from SBR through the New River Gorge and ending up at one of the nation’s coolest small towns: Fayetteville, W.Va. Four days total on mountain bikes with a Big Zip ride at SBR at the end.

Serving the Scouts BSA members of all ages

Did you know that the Summit Bechtel Reserve also offers Scouts BSA resident camp?  The James C. Justice National Scout Camp at the SBR offers traditional merit badge and advancement-based programs with an SBR action sports flair making it a great option for troops that want a one-stop venue for all ages, ranks, and interests.  Troops can travel and camp together while sending youth to both high-adventure and Scout Camp programs, economizing travel costs and allowing troops more flexibility in addressing adult leadership needs.

Paul R. Christen registration for 2020 and 2021

For the site-based programs (Summit Experience), participants must be 13 by Sept. 1 of the year attending. For the offsite treks, participants must be at least 14 at the start of their trek.

2020: There are still spots available for 2020, but they’re booking quickly. Find pricing and the latest availability info here.

2021: Registration for 2021 opportunities is now open. Learn more and register here.

Other Paul R. Christen news you need

  • The New River Gorge treks — on bike or boat — qualify participants for the coveted 50-Miler Award.
  • Troops/crews can add a half-day whitewater rafting trip to any program (except the New River Trek, of course) for an additional fee.
  • Not high on high-adventure? Look into the James C. Justice National Scout Camp and John D. Tickle National Training and Leadership Center, also at SBR.
  • SBR will host VenturingFest 2020 and the National Law Enforcement Exploring Conference in 2020, and the 2021 National Jamboree.
  • These are the closest airports to SBR:
    • Charleston, W.Va.: 1 hour
    • Charlotte, N.C., and Pittsburgh: About 4 hours
    • Washington, D.C.: About 5 hours
  • SBR provides all program equipment and personal protective equipment like helmets, pads, PFDs, etc. SBR provides tents as well as cots. For trek programs, participants should bring a sleeping pad for the trail or river as they don’t use cots while out on the trek. Find more details on equipment and links to a planning guide for each program here.

About Michael Freeman 428 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.