Challenge Course


Interested in checking out what the OEC's Challenge Course has to offer? Come see us for the following events!

Cosmic Zipline:

  • Saturday, September 12th, 9pm-12am
  • $5 per ride
  • Open to UNC students, faculty, and staff and the public!
  • Bring your friends and race each other down "Blackbeard," the OEC's 1,200 ft long double zipline under the New Moon, guided by glow sticks. There are only 80 spots available, so sign up soon!
  • Click here to sign up online to pay with credit card or visit the Campus Rec Main Office (SRC 101) to pay with cash or One Card. 

Click on one of the following for more information:

Program Formats
Low Course
High Course

Challenge Course Users
Employment & Training



What is a Challenge Course?

A Challenge Course is a combination of mental and physical challenges requiring groups to work as a team to accomplish goals. Through a series of fun and unusual activities, participants learn valuable information about themselves, each other and the group as a unit. By removing people from their usual environment and placing them in a new, unique setting, a challenge course experience fosters shared learning, openness and cooperation.


Directions to the OEC

Click here for directions to the Outdoor Education Center.


Program Formats

Though there are some consistencies to every experience at the COEC Challenge Course, each program is customized by Facilitators to address the specific goals and desires of each individual group. Programs range from four to seven hours in length and are available seven days a week (not including Holidays) General formats include:


  • Half day of lows (4 hour program)
  • Half day of highs (4 hour program)
  • Half day of lows with one high element (5 hour program)
  • Full day low/high combination (7 hour program first half lows and second half high elements)


Low Ropes Course

Facilitators guide groups through a progressive sequence of games, challenges, and trust building activities. This process promotes bonding, cooperation, communication and recognition of the group’s strengths and weaknesses. Throughout the program time is taken to debrief what the group experiences in order to transfer concepts learned in each activity to experiences in the office, classroom, residence hall or on the playing field. These discussions encourage group members to respectfully discuss what they saw, how they felt, how the team performed, communicated, collaborated. The process of planning, working, and discussing together as group ultimately brings the group members closer together.


The activities chosen for each group vary depending on demographics, fitness levels, group preference and the goals of the group (as discussed in the reservation process). Program plans can change throughout the day based upon the progress of the group and the safety mindedness of the participants. Not all groups will do activities that include spotting and lifting.


In addition to the countless icebreakers, initiatives, and fun games the COEC Facilitators have to offer, some of the constructed low elements at the COEC Challenge Course that you might experience include:


  • All Aboard

  • Islands/Mountaintops

  • King’s Finger

  • Mohawk Walks I & II

  • Nitro Crossing

  • Spiderweb

  • TP Shuffle

  • Trust Fall

  • The Wall

  • Whale Watch

  • Wild Woozy


High Ropes Courses

High course elements have traditionally been used as a tool to physically and mentally challenge individuals. While this is a feature of any high course experience, team building and group cohesion can also be accomplished. High course programs are great for groups who know each other well and for groups who want to learn more about each other. The intention of each program is to encourage members to push past perceived personal limits. No-one is ever coerced or required to do any challenge course element they choose not to do.


All challenge course elements (including high elements) are conducted with the utmost attention to safety. All necessary equipment such as harnesses, carabiners, helmets, and ropes are provided, managed, fitted and set up by trained Carolina Outdoor Education Center employees.


There are two different high courses available at the COEC, the Tree Course and Pole Course.

The Tree Course

The Tree Course is a variable circuit consisting of ten linear challenges built in trees approximately 20-35 feet high. The challenges range from climbing up or across different types of suspended ladders to walking from one tree to another on a combination of ropes and cables. Participants are belayed up the entry element by a COEC Facilitator until they reach the first platform. Once they reach the first platform, participants will transfer on to a static belay system called Lobster Claws. These Lobster Claws are used to transfer from one element to the next under the supervision and direction of trained Facilitators and with the help and watchful eye of a partner from their group. Partner pairs then proceed through each element of the course until they reach the Zipline exit of the course where a Facilitator will connect them to the Zipline that sends them whizzing through the trees to the exit of the Tree Course. Elements of the Tree Course include:


  • The Caterpillar (entry element)

  • The Pirate Swing

  • The Catwalk

  • The Grapevine

  • The Burma Bridge 

  • Sky Bridge

  • The Lilly Pad Walk

  • The Heebie Jeebie

  • Space Loops
  • Zipline (exit element)


The Pole Course

The Pole Course consists of four separate elements. Each element is executed independently of the others and all are belayed by trained COEC Facilitators. The Pole Course features high elements that are typically utilized with groups that choose the Half-day of lows with one high element program option. While not all of these elements will be incorporated as part of a half-day low/high experience, all of the pole course elements are available and may be selected for your group as part of a high course program. The individual elements are:


  • "Blackbeard" - The new doulbe (side-by-side) Zipline

  • The Power Pole (a.k.a. Pamper Pole)

  • The High Wild Woozie

  • The Flying Squirrel


Who can use the Challenge Course?

Groups that utilize the course include UNC organizations (athletics, Greek, academic, student clubs, residence life, staff, and faculty groups), local school groups, youth groups, religious organizations, sports teams, and businesses. Participants come in all ages, shapes, sizes, and levels of physical abilities. Any group that would like to play and have fun together, learn about each other and build a sense of community are likely to benefit from a day on the COEC Challenge Course.


There is no minimum Group size. However, in order to cover the staffing costs of running a program, there is a fifteen person minimum charge for all groups. Groups generally vary between 15 and 125 people and group size does play a role in determining what type of programs are available for each group. Please call or email us with specific questions about your group.


To ensure program safety, participants under age 13 or over 300lbs. are not permitted to participate on high elements


Download a list of past participants.

Fee Structure

Fees range from $15-$65/person based on the format and length of your program, as well as the number of people and UNC affiliation of your group.


There is no minimum group size. However, in order to cover the staffing costs of running a program there is a fifteen person minimum charge for all groups. Therefore, it is in the group’s best interest to bring at least fifteen participants if possible.




Becoming a Challenge Course Facilitator

Interested in working at the Outdoor Education Center? Please visit 

For questions about the Challenge Course, contact David Rogers at or 919.843.4632.
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