Frequently asked questions

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What does GOALS stand for?Girls’ Outdoor Adventure in Leadership and Science.
Who runs GOALS?GOALS was started at UC Davis by a team of graduate and undergraduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and staff members. We are a student organization affiliated with the John Muir Institute for the Environment at UC Davis, and we have a partnership with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Our dedicated volunteer team works throughout the year on trip planning, curriculum development, fundraising, and much more to ensure a successful trip for all participants!
Who are the trip leaders and mentors?Using a rigorous application process, GOALS hires UC Davis students to lead our trips. Students and postdoctoral scholars also apply to be mentors for our program participants. In Sequoia, National Park Service scientists join the team for the backpacking trip.
How much does the GOALS summer program cost?Nothing! GOALS is completely free for all participants, thanks to a combination of grant funding, support from UC Davis, and community support.
What are the program dates for 2019?The 2019 GOALS program takes place July 13th-28th.
Are there other dates I need to be available besides the 16-day trip?Yes, there will be a pre-trip orientation hike on a weekend date in June. This date has not yet been set for the 2019 program.
I’m only available for half the trip dates. Can I still participate?Unfortunately, no. Due to the remote location of the backpacking program, it is extremely challenging to arrange for late arrivals or early departures.
What is backpacking?Backpacking is a combination of hiking and camping – you carry all of your camping equipment with you as you hike to different locations to spend the night! GOALS provides all the gear for the entire summer program, including the two short backpacking trips.
Where does the trip go?The trip starts and ends in Davis, California on the campus of UC Davis. Most of the two-week trip is spent in the backcountry of Sequoia National Park.
Does GOALS provide transportation?We provide all transportation from UC Davis to the national park and back. If you have trouble getting to UC Davis for the trip or for the pre-trip orientation hike, please reach out to us at, and we will work to make sure you get the transportation you need!
Will I be able to use my cell phone or call home on the trip? How will my family know I’m safe?You will not be able to use your cell phone on the trip – there is no service in most of the park, and we ask participants to leave their phones at home. However, you’ll have the opportunity to call home on a pay phone after the first backpacking trip. Trip leaders carry multiple communications devices and are in daily contact with GOALS and National Park staff. In the event of any unexpected circumstances or emergencies, GOALS staff will contact family members.
What are meals like during the trip and who cooks? Can dietary restrictions be accommodated?Scholars work as teams to prepare meals for each other. Meals you might eat include bean and cheese burritos, mac and cheese, and campfire hot dogs. Don’t worry if you’ve never cooked before – your trip leaders will teach you everything you need to know to prepare delicious backcountry meals! We can accommodate a range of dietary restrictions. You will be asked about your dietary restrictions once you are accepted into the program.
How early do I have to wake up?Most days, you’ll wake up at 7 and go to bed around 10. Though this might be slightly different than what you’re used to at home, you’ll be enjoying days full of new experiences in Sequoia National Park!
Can I take showers or do laundry on the trip?You will be able to shower when you’re in the dorms at UC Davis. Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to shower in Sequoia National Park at the end of each backpacking trip, and you’ll be able to do laundry at the end of the first backpacking trip.
How long are the hikes?The length of hikes varies throughout the trip. Some days you won’t be hiking at all, other days you might walk two to three miles with a day hike, and on a few days you’ll be carrying a heavy backpacking pack for 5-6 miles uphill.
How do I apply? What are the application dates?See our application page for more details.
How many scholars will be on the trip?8 scholars are accepted into the summer program.
When will I know if I’ve been accepted or not?Application decisions will be sent in April via email. Unfortunately we only have 8 spots for the summer program, and we get many amazing applicants! We hope to offer more programming in the future!
How old do I have to be to participate in GOALS?All applicants must be rising high school juniors. That means starting 11th grade the fall immediately after the summer program.
Who can participate in GOALS? GOALS is an opportunity for people who have had that experience of walking into a classroom, a lab, or an outdoor space and finding that no one else looked like them. If you’ve doubted that you belong in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) or the outdoors, GOALS is for you. We particularly encourage people of color, trans, nonbinary, genderqueer, and LGBTQ+ people to get involved with GOALS: this is for you! GOALS seeks to create a nurturing environment for scholars to grow as scientists and leaders while exploring, sharing, and celebrating the many facets of our identities, including:
  • Race and ethnicity,
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity,
  • Cultural background and upbringing,
  • Hometown and family dynamics,
  • Personality,
  • Socioeconomic status or class,
  • Languages spoken at home,
  • Education level of family members,
  • Immigration status,
  • Body size and ability,
  • Religious or spiritual identity, and
  • Other identities and life experiences.
Do I need to live in the Sacramento area to apply to this program?Yes, you must live within 35 miles of Davis, California. However, we are a partner organization of the growing ScienceGALS network, which offers programs in: Please check out our alternate opportunities page for even more programs!
I’ve never been camping or backpacking before. Can I still participate in GOALS?Yes! You don’t have to have any outdoor experience to participate in GOALS. To make your first camping/backpacking trip a safe and positive experience, the GOALS program includes pre-trip activities including local hike and a day-long orientation that will help prepare you for your backcountry experience. GOALS staff are also available via email and text before the trip to answer any and all of your questions.
Do I have to play sports, hike, or have a certain fitness level to participate in GOALS?You don’t have to play sports or have hiking experience to participate, but all our scholars must be able to hike for up to 6 miles carrying a heavy backpack. It’s okay if you’ve never done this before – we can help you prepare before the trip!
Do I need to own my own camping equipment?No special equipment is necessary to participate in GOALS. GOALS provides all of the outdoor equipment – from tents and stoves to hiking clothes – and you’ll even get your own pair of hiking boots to keep so you can continue your adventures long after the program ends.
Is it safe to go backpacking? Should I be worried about wild animals?GOALS trip leaders are experienced backpackers who also have wilderness first aid training, and are well-prepared to keep you safe in the backcountry. Our backpacking routes have been designed with input from National Park staff, and we always stay on marked trails so that nobody gets lost. Although we do not expect any emergency situations to arise, GOALS trip leaders carry multiple communications devices and will alert both GOALS and National Park staff in the event of an emergency. Additionally, we will have GOALS staff on call if any emergency situations arise at home and parents/guardians need to get in touch with their scholar. In terms of wild animals, the main way to keep both animals and people safe is to keep a safe distance and make sure animals do not eat human food. You’ll learn about safe wildlife encounters early in the trip and practice safe wildlife viewing techniques throughout. Some wildlife you may see include deer, beavers, pika squirrels, chipmunks, and yes, the black bear. Black bears are generally skittish and non-aggressive, and do not bother humans as long as we don’t feed them. We take safety precautions to keep both animals and human safe by storing our food in bear-proof containers.
How is GOALS funded?We are funded through a combination of private donations and grants. We have received grants from National Geographic, the American Association of University Women, and the John Muir Institute for the Environment at UC Davis. If you are interested in donating to GOALS, you can find more information on our donation page.
I’m a UC Davis student. How can I get involved?We are always excited to have new members. Please check out our Get Involved at UCD! page.