Exploration Adventure (XA) trips are theme- or subject-based while sharing the same goal of Outreach Adventure and Adirondack Adventure to create a small-group bonding experience for incoming students.

Each trip is led by two student leaders, and many will be facilitated in part by a Hamilton faculty member or administrator. XA boasts a wide variety of trip topics, featuring something for just about everyone!  


Student leaders
The quaint town of Clinton, N.Y., happens to be bursting with talent and potential. What better way to kick off your four years on the hill than by getting to know some of the people and places that make the village at the bottom of the hill such a vibrant one? We’ll visit local standbys such as the Kirkland Arts Center and Clinton Pottery (maker of the annual Hamilton graduating class mugs) where we may have the chance to throw on the potter’s wheel. Later we’ll venture a bit further to the Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute, relax in a local coffee shop and check out nearby art shops, and visit an outdoor arts and crafts fair or art park. In addition, we’ll get our hands dirty (perhaps literally) through workshops with local artisans and opportunities to create our own art along the way. (Indoor camping in a church or community center)

An exploration of defining moments in the American understanding of freedom: abolition of slavery, equal rights for women, and the question of sovereignty for native peoples of America. Our travels will take us to such upstate NY treasures as the residence and burial site of Harriet Tubman (the new face-to-be on our $20 bill) and the Women’s Rights National Historic Park, both located in the Finger Lakes Region. In the Syracuse area, we’ll picnic (and swim?) at Green Lakes State Park and visit the Matilda Jocelyn Gage House (Underground Railroad site). We'll also explore local Hamilton connections at the Cultural Center for the Oneida Nation (the American Indian community who played a part in founding Hamilton College), and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and the Estate of Gerrit Smith (Hamilton College class of 1818) who was financial backer both for Frederick Douglass’ NorthStar newspaper and John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. Hiking and service projects may be included as part of the adventure! (Indoor camping in a church or community center)

Student leaders
We often interact with animals in our daily lives: our pets, the birds and squirrels outside our door, perhaps the horses in a field down the road. But what are the lives of these animals like, and how are their environments maintained? From the cows and sheep grazing in nearby fields to the animal rescue sites and zoos within a short drive, Hamilton is uniquely situated a short distance from both urban and rural settings, all of which include opportunities to view and interact with animals. On this adventure, we will visit an array of animal care facilities, including the Utica and Rosamond Gifford Zoos, Hamilton campus animal care facilities, animal rehabilitation and rescue centers, animal shelters, and a veterinary clinic. Through the trip, we’ll encounter animals in these various settings, and will learn about their housing and care practices and the people who make the wellbeing of animals their work. Educational and volunteer activities will be a part of the trip. (Outdoor camping)

Student leaders and Senior Director of Media Relations Vige Barrie
Inspired by the natural beauty of the Adirondacks wilderness, this trip takes participants to the original Adirondacks Great Camp for several days of sketching, painting, hiking, swimming, and exploring the flora and fauna of upstate New York. We will learn a few painting and drawing techniques, and use the trees, waters, birds, critters and other natural elements surrounding us as the catalyst for our own creative works. Our artistic endeavors will be interspersed with ample opportunity for hiking, paddling, swimming and time to take in the beauty and fresh air of the Adirondacks. Some art materials will be provided, but participants are encouraged to bring along a few of their own favorite materials if they so choose. This trip is open to all students, regardless of artistic background or experience. (Note: Participants on this trip will sleep indoors, but in a camp/wilderness setting)

Student leaders with retired Dean of Students and beekeeper Nancy Thompson and Professor of Biology Herm Lehman
Honeybees are fascinating and beautiful, wildly productive, essential to maintaining the world's food supply, and endangered. In this hands-on introduction to beekeeping, you will learn the essentials of establishing and caring for a hive and, in partnership with area beekeepers, we will remove, extract and bottle honey. There are few experiences as thrilling as working on a hive, safely ensconced in protective garb while completely surrounded by bees. Join us to learn about their world, and also a great deal about your own.  (Indoor and outdoor camping).

Student leaders
Can’t decide between service or exploring the outdoors? Do both! Come explore, hike, paddle, and help maintain the National Historic Landmark Great Camp Santanoni in the Adirondacks! We will camp on picturesque Newcomb Lake near Santanoni and spend some time exploring the history and architecture of the Great Camp. In the mornings, we will build a new footbridge to reroute a trail near the Main Camp, while spending the afternoons hiking into the Adirondack Forest Preserve and paddling around Newcomb Lake. Sign up for this trip to experience a historic Great Camp and participate in trail maintenance and outdoor adventure in the Adirondacks! (Overnights in tents near Camp Santanoni)

Reading the news and scrolling on social media can paint a grim picture of the state of politics in the U.S. highlighted by division and political polarization. Open discourse, debate, and dialogue grounded in humility, respect, and curiosity can offer a path forward. This trip will work with the College Debates & Discourse Alliance to learn skills for discourse and practice dialogue and debate about various hot topics. We will also explore the political landscape of the community surrounding Hamilton College by meeting with local politicians. As a civic engagement project we’ll talk to villagers at the weekly farmer’s market to learn more about perceptions on voting and the local elections and will prepare a proposal for the mayor of Clinton with ideas to increase voter participation. (Student leaders with Assistant Director of Common Ground Kaity Stewart)

Student leaders
This trip will take us on a tour of various types of farms that serve their local communities. We will visit urban community gardens in Utica, the Hamilton College Community Farm, Old Path Farm, Lively Run goat dairy farm, The Piggery sustainable pig farm and farm-to-table butcher shop, and the Ithaca Farmer's Market.  Along the way, we will get first-hand, hands-on experience with an array of community farms, their practices, missions and ways in which they serve their local communities.

Student leaders with members of the Library & Information Technology team
Paper, ink, and type! Learn about the ingredients that go into bookmaking. In addition to spending time in Hamilton’s very own Dunham Letterpress Studio where we will learn how to set type and print, we will journey to pigment producers and creators, large-scale paper mills and small paper-making studios, and larger letterpress printing offices. Along the way, we will visit state parks, maybe take in a museum, and there’s good odds we’ll get ice cream. Having explored Central New York and the ingredients of books, students will collaborate to produce their own commemorative trip pamphlet in Hamilton’s letterpress studio.

Student leaders
Come one, come all to experience the endless stage of performing arts! Join us in discovering the various venues of the stage — recorded or live, comedy or tragedy, historic or modern. As we delve into film and theatre throughout this trip, we will engage with local improv troupes, historic theatres like The Stanley in Utica, film festivals, and more in the greater upstate New York area.   If anyone is feeling particularly inspired, participants will also have the opportunity to try their hand at performance with a local acting group or around the campfire.  We may even catch an outdoor movie and maybe do a little filming ourselves.  As the trip progresses, we will have the opportunity to speak with those behind-the-scenes, tour local sites, volunteer and, most importantly, be entertained through live performances.  (Indoor camping in a church or community center)

Student leaders
From fitness to summer afternoon socializing, career to weekly fan ritual, sports and games play many roles in our lives. On this trip, we'll explore sports and games from various perspectives, visiting local sites like the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, Utica Aud and some of Hamilton's own unique athletic and recreational spaces. Through these notable locales and more, we’ll delve into the history of the games America loves and the athletes we revere, including the roles of women and people of color, major events and figures, and connections to Hamilton and the region. But wait, there's more! Our adventures through these regional sites will be interspersed with ample time for our own outdoor sports and games matches, and of course, an evening of fun at the ballpark!

Student leaders with Professor of Literature Onno Oerlemans and Professor of Geosciences Todd Rayne
Hamilton College is fortunate to be situated at the heart of a beautiful and varied network of country roads that are absolutely perfect for cycling. We will explore the landscape and villages around Clinton by road bike, on progressively more challenging rides. We will begin with a ride of about 20 miles to neighboring villages, understanding how the region has been shaped by geology (river valleys) and commerce (mostly dairy farming). We will then embark on hillier and longer rides, of up to 70 miles, exploring local waterfalls and lakes, hills and unusual farms. Our goal will be to give participants a deeper sense of the landscape they will be living in for four years, and to show them some of the best cycling routes in the country. Participants should bring their own road bikes (hybrid or mountain bikes are not recommended) and helmets, and be prepared for rides of up to four hours. While you don’t need to be a serious cyclist to participate in this trip, we highly recommend that you prepare for the trip by doing some training rides in the summer. (Outdoor camping)

Student leaders and Hillary Joy Pitoniak, Greenhouse and Invertebrate Care Technician
Spend a few days immersed in our amazing natural world and the creative ways in which our communities are striving to preserve it. While we may not encounter a real truffula tree, this trip includes visits to multiple facilities and projects that impact the local environment and whose efforts increase sustainability in various ways.  We’ll explore a composting facility, a “green” nature preserve, a CSA farm, a recycling plant and a green roof building.  Throughout the week, we will learn some of the innovative ways that communities are increasing their sustainability in the region. Each of the places visited will introduce a different facet of environmentalism and will allow us to see some of the many possibilities for each of us to impact our urban, suburban and rural communities in an eco-friendly manner.  (Outdoor camping).

Student leaders
This trip is an exploration of how conservation in the Adirondacks works, with a focus on learning about the different perspectives on conservation in the Park and experiencing why people work so hard to protect the nature of the Park. We will stay at and explore the famous Adirondack Loj, talk with both state and private conservationists, visit the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Whiteface mountain, and explore a Hamilton Alum-owned great camp. This trip will involve moderate day hikes (2-5 miles) every day, including some easy mountain ascents. On this trip, you will explore and enjoy the wilderness of the Park while learning about the contention behind protecting this unique land. (Outdoor camping)

Student leaders and faculty
Why do we play games?  What do they reveal about our lives and the ways we interact with one another?  On this trip, we will consider the many modes and functions of games: how they can represent various economic systems, teach us strategy and character improvisation, facilitate social bonding, build team-work dynamics and more! During the daytime portions of the trip, we will participate in brief discussions with some of our beloved faculty on probability, strategy, psychology, philosophy and economics.  These will inform how we play and analyze some of today’s most popular party/board games, as well as the interactions we share while playing.  Evening activities will include fun group dinners, workshop time when the group members will attempt to design and create an original game, and several social gaming opportunities in which trip participants will get to meet and play games with a sampling of upperclass students, faculty, staff and various other Hamiltonians in some of Hamilton’s finest social venues.  Finally, the week will conclude with an off-campus trip to a handful of regional gaming venues where we’ll be free to play/explore some new games, meet game designers and hopefully even participate in a new-release game demonstration! 

Student leaders and Associate Professor of Music Rob Hopkins
Nearly all of us have experienced live music at some point in our lives. But have you seen first-hand what happens behind the scenes to bring these performances to life? How do the music, setting, and feel of the performance take shape? On this trip, we will meet the people and venues that and shape the stories that musical performance can tell. The highlight of our adventure will be a visit to the beautiful Glimmerglass Festival, opera house and grounds, where we’ll watch a live performance of Porgy and Bess, meet members of the production crew, and sit in on a set changeover. We’ll also listen to music, learn about the origins of Porgy and Bess, tour a local theater and some of Hamilton’s newest art and music spaces, and maybe swing by the local farmer’s market or go for a light afternoon hike in the beautiful Otsego Lake region! (Indoor and outdoor camping)

Student leaders
From the amazing outdoor sculptures of Storm King to the view from atop Mt. Greylock, great art and beautiful natural vistas go hand in hand. Bring your camera along for this trip! We will explore the amazing art museums and sculpture gardens of the Hudson Valley and beyond. Our home base will be on a beautiful property just outside of Albany. From there, it’s a short drive to see French impressionists at The Clark museum and the art of the Hudson Valley. We will ride trams and walk through the fantastical sculptures at Storm King. We will stroll through the shops and cafes at Beacon on the Hudson River. Finally, we’ll drive to the top of Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts for a short hike on the famous Appalachian trail before we visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Along the way, we’ll gather mementos of our explorations and use them to create our own synthetic cubist pieces.  (outdoor camping)

What makes a community?  Shared values?  Common culture?  Or perhaps simply location?  Do we choose and define the places we live in, or do they define us?  On this trip, we will explore these questions for both ourselves and for some of the unique "intentional communities" in our region--communities developed and sustained on the basis of philosophical, spiritual, or political ideas.  We will visit Lilydale, a spiritualist community near Rochester, NY and the Oneida Community, which was a religious community in the 19th century. We'll also check out a local co-operative space, and meet the people who create and engage in shared living environments.   (Student leaders)

Student leaders and Monk Rowe, Director of Hamilton’s Fillius Jazz Archive

Life is easier when you can improvise on the spot. The Jam Camp team will explore the fascinating practice of spontaneous creation by using voices, instruments, gestures, props and most importantly, our collective imagination. This trip will stay around Hamilton’s Campus, with plenty time for small hikes and possibly a local concert! There are limited instruments to borrow, so bring your own instrument (any level will work) and/or voice and an open mind for a splendid time. No previous experience in improvisation is required! (Indoor camping) 

Student leaders
Newspapers, film, and radio have long played a unique and vital role in the way we receive information and the shaping of public opinion. In small villages and large cities alike, local news media (or lack thereof) reveals much about the communities it represents and serves. Still, printed newspapers are seen as something of an endangered species in our increasingly digital world, and television and radio face charges of divisiveness and bias. At the same time, street photojournalism and individual stories have a new-found ability to capture national audiences via digital and social media. On this trip, we’ll discover the story of news media first-hand by meeting the people who make news their business and stepping into the behind-the-scenes of local media outlets like the Utica Observer-Dispatch, nearby television and radio news studios, and Hamilton College’s own print and digital publications. We will explore how stories are selected and presented by joining an editorial meeting, talking with local newspaper staffers, visiting a printing press, and working on our own street story. We may also have the chance to see our own work in print by the end of the trip!  (indoor and outdoor camping)

Student leaders with Assistant Professor of Literature (and letterpress printer) Andrew Rippeon
Today, we access information on multiple platforms; language and images surround us, yet we seldom think about the material element of that information unless the battery runs out.  On this trip, students will be introduced to the history and practice of an enduring, stubbornly analog technology: letterpress printing.  In letterpress, information isn’t just something you download, and language isn’t just something with which you read and write.  Quite literally built out of metal and wood, texts produced by letterpress encourage a visual, sculptural and tactile relationship to language and images.  Trip members will explore Hamilton College’s own holdings in print history and book-arts, and will also get a hands-on introduction to letterpress design, typesetting and printing.  We will travel to several regional letterpress studios and facilities, and the centerpiece of the trip will be our collaborative design and production — from molten lead through ink applied to paper — of the Hamilton College Honor Code.  Over the course of the trip, we will consider how this insistently material technology dating back more than half a millennium bears upon our experience of information in the twenty-first century. (outdoor camping)

Student leaders
What better place to seek calm, quiet, and centeredness than in the great outdoors? On this trip, we'll spend four days at the original Adirondacks Great Camp examining and practicing various forms of meditation and movement. Yoga, meditative practice, and dance will blend with hiking, paddling, swimming and time for reflection and journaling, all with the fresh air and inspiring natural scenery of the Adirondacks to inspire us. (Camping in cabins)

Student leaders and College Archivist Kathy Collett
Enjoy fun times and good food the 1840s way! Hamilton College has been tucked away in the hills of New York for over 200 years. What was life like on the Hill and in the United States in the 1800s when the college was chartered? Participants on this trip will get a taste of daily activities, culture, and work in the 19th century through hands-on projects, interactive workshops (blacksmithing, maybe?), and time to wander some of the area’s cultural repositories. We’ll visit sites like the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, where we can explore a 19th century style village, and the Cultural Center for the Oneida Nation in Oneida, NY. We’ll also have a chance to do canning and bread baking, and of course, taste some of the results! Bonus: meet and pet a pony! (*19th century slang for great fun and food) (indoor and outdoor camping)

Student leaders with Professor of History Maurice Isserman
In the 18th century, upstate New York was the scene for some of the bloodiest and most significant battles ever fought on the North American continent.  The struggle to control the strategic waterways of the Hudson River, Mohawk River and Lake Champlain was a decisive factor in both the French and Indian War of 1754-1763, and the American Revolution of 1775-1783.  We will walk the battlegrounds and stand on the battlements of those wars, as we immerse ourselves in the dark and bloody days of 18th century frontier warfare during visits to Fort Stanwix, Fort Ticonderoga, Saratoga National Historical Park and other sites. (outdoor camping)

Student leaders
Inspired by the original “Philosopher’s Camp at Follensby Pond,” a gathering of 10 notable artists and intellectuals in the wilderness of the Adirondacks, this trip unites art, literature, nature and preservation in a setting that is at once inspiring and humbling.  Journey to the Adirondacks to camp, visit local artists and conservationists, hike or walk through the hills, trees and waters of the region, and get your creative and intellectual juices flowing.  Reflection and creative art and writing projects will be a part of the adventure. (outdoor camping)

Student leaders and S. Brent Rodriguez Plate, Associate Professor of Religious Studies/Cinema and Media Studies

Jesus, Moses, Siddharta, and Mohammed all had significant experiences in the wilderness. These experiences shaped their lives and the religious traditions that they helped found. To understand these wilderness experiences better, this trip will operate in tandem with the fall semester Hamilton course, "Religion in the Wild" (Religious Studies 155). We will do readings in conjunction with our trip, walking through trees and leafing through pages of ancient philosophers, modern artists, poets, and mythmakers. Our orientation trip will serve as a stepping stone for further in class discussions through the semester. We will read from and about philosophers, mystics, and spiritual seekers who have gone to untamed spaces for inspiration.  (Outdoor camping) (Only those students who take this trip will be allowed in the class, making for a unique learning experience.) 

Student leaders
Local cheeses, snapshots, and the beautiful Finger Lakes region come together on this trip, focused on experiencing the natural bounty that central New York has to offer. Learn new photography tips and tricks and you wander the hills (and waters) of the Finger Lakes and taste some of the local cheeses, produced from Upstate and Central NY dairy farms. We’ll spend time hiking, exploring, and photographing the sparkling waters, natural beauty, and the unique sites, farms and fields of the region. In addition to sampling cheese and snapping photos, we’ll also check out a few regional treasures, like the MacKenzie-Childs studios and barns in Aurora, and Light Works in Syracuse. This trip is open to photographers of all skill levels and camera types. While we suggest that all participants bring along their own camera (any level will work), there may be some equipment available to borrow. (Outdoor camping)

Student leaders
Ever wonder how an idea can grow into a world-changing organization or business? Social innovation involves finding novel solutions for the most pressing social issues. This trip will introduce participants to successful entrepreneurs and community organizations in nearby Utica. But that’s only step one! We will get hands-on practice with identifying social problems, brainstorming creative solutions, developing action plans and learning how an idea becomes a reality. Participants will also have the option to connect with people and resources at Hamilton College to start their own projects after the trip.

Student leaders
In this adventure, we are introduced to the lyrical side of upstate New York through local production, management, and performance of various types of music. We will explore the behind-the-scenes of recording studios, meet professionals in the recording industry, visit local indie record shops, and, of course, listen to live performances, including an outdoor music fest! Upon returning to campus, we will take a visit to the campus radio station, WHCL, where we will get a close-up look at station management and campus broadcasting. Those interested will have the chance to learn how to create and host their own radio show during their time at Hamilton. While there may also be opportunity for us to casually record our own tunes in the studios we visit, musical experience is certainly not required for this trip — only interest! (indoor camping)

Student leaders
Journey to the Hudson River Valley, the historic waterway that inspired the first American art movement.  As we wind our way along the river and through the Catskill mountains, we’ll visit sites such as Hudson River School founder Thomas Cole’s home and Frederic Church's Iranian- and Victorian-inspired home, Olana.  We’ll also explore other artistic nooks and crannies of the Hudson Valley, including the small arts village of Woodstock, to get a taste of more modern arts movements still alive in the region.  Camping, sketching/painting and hiking will be a part of the adventure. (outdoor camping)

Student leaders
Not long ago, Utica was in the midst of an economic downturn as major employers left the city and residents relocated. Now, a growing immigrant population and new emphasis on local art and culture are driving revitalization efforts in the city. Just 60 miles to the west and a bit larger, the city of Syracuse has seen a new growth in community arts, education, housing and other social and structural innovation over the past decade. How do these changes come about? Who is behind them? How can you enact similar changes in your own communities (the communities you participate in)? On this trip, we will explore all of those questions and get a taste of both the public face and the behind the scenes of community, governmental and social organizations working to revitalize city life in Syracuse and Utica. Volunteering and other hands-on projects may be included as a part of the trip. (indoor camping)

Student leaders with Director of Special Collections Christian Goodwillie
Upstate New York was the scene of intense religious revival during the early nineteenth century. People living in this newly settled land sought a personal connection with the divine and assurance of their salvation. These yearnings manifested themselves in revivals of religion, the germination of new religious sects, and at least one entirely new religion. The waves of revivalism swept the region like a wildfire, leading one observer to dub upstate New York “the burned over district.” Additionally, secret societies, such as the Freemasons, made a major impact on the region, providing a non-sectarian social nexus in which settlers could bond while learning esoteric principles and rituals. This trip will bring participants to the sites of three of the most prominent upstate religious movements: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Oneida Community, and the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing (Shakers). We will also visit the Masonic Lodge in Aurora, New York, which is completely intact to 1819, and still in use by the Masons. Students will get a unique opportunity to experience the historic built environments created by these groups and visit natural locations in forests and on hills where they encountered the divine. (Student leaders with Director of Special Collections Christian Goodwillie - Trip leader Christian Goodwillie is one of the nation’s leading experts on American communal religious utopias, and has also recently published a book on early architecture and art of the Freemasons in Upstate New York.)  (outdoor camping)

Student leaders and Director of the Counseling Center David Walden

What do you want from your time at Hamilton? This trip, held by the calming waters of Raquette Lake, is about connecting to the wild soul of the Adirondacks as well as your own wild soul- a deeper source of knowledge that can help answer questions about what you want from your college experience. We will be engaging in reflection, exploring metaphors, journaling, having fun adventures (maybe some mild hiking, possibly some canoeing or kayaking), and making contact with soul based knowledge that can help you establish a better relationship with yourself and the natural world around you.

Student leaders
In this adventure, we will together be searching for the perfect balance between motion and rest. Through yoga and reflection, we will discover the relationship between peaceful body and mind, both inside and outside the yoga studio. Our daily practice will be guided by a local teacher and student leaders. This trip does not require any previous yoga experience and strives to unite the practice with journaling, meditating and reflection. (outdoor camping)


Contact Name

Tessa Chefalo

Assistant Dean of Students for Student Engagement

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