Inspiring Connections Outdoors

ICO: Inspiring Connections Outdoors

Program Goals

  • Actively engage people in the outdoors through outdoor activities, including backpacking, car camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, rafting, service projects, skating, skiing, sledding, etc
  • Promote appreciation and protection of the natural environment through outdoor adventures and environmental education;
  • Create opportunities through outdoor experiences for personal growth and life style change, outdoor skills and leadership development;
  • and foster respect of self, others, and the environment.

Our 53 volunteer-run ICO groups nationwide conduct more than 900 outings for approximately 14,000 participants each year. By introducing participants to the transformative power of nature, ICO serves a key function within the Sierra Club and supports John Muir's assertion that people who experience wilderness firsthand are much more likely to preserve it for future generations.

Find a group near you!


One of the students who participates in the Chicago branch of Inspiring Connections Outdoors, Leopaldo Hernandez, talks about how ICO has shaped his relationship with nature. Check out his YouTube video!
—Leopaldo Hernandez, Chicago participant, soon to be leader.

"Sharing the beauty of nature with someone for the first time and seeing the smile on their face is the best feeling. It really inspires me when young people from our participant groups become involved with ICO to help share their experiences with others and become amazing trip leaders."
Watch his video.
—Vinny Abeygunawardena, ICO Raft Guide and Leader
"I have not been on another field trip where the students keep talking about their experience so much, where they grow as people and leaders so visibly, and where they are authentically willing to share their experiences and educate others of what they saw and learned, from the beauty that is California. I am looking forward to going on my eighth hike this year with the Sierra Club and can’t imagine my school year without this amazing adventure."
—Mr. Kevin Hill, teacher at St. Raymond School in Downey, CA

From our Blog

2 weeks 1 day ago
Here at The Planet, ­we tend to write a lot about the Sierra Club’s ICO (Inspiring Connections Outdoors) program. A volunteer-run network of trip leaders and partnered schools and social organizations, ICO has done an exemplary job of connecting children from low-income backgrounds with natural...
2 weeks 3 days ago
Some members of congress have a plan to reverse a growing trend that threatens the health and wellness of an entire generation. Call it indoorism, call it Nature-Deficit Disorder, call it whatever you’d like – kids are spending too much time inside. Legislation introduced by Senator Martin Heinrich...
1 month 5 days ago
When El Paso, Texas ICO (Inspiring Connections Outdoors) trip leader Richard Rheder was a boy, he lived near a small patch of woods, now a shopping mall. “That was the place to be,” he recalls. “That was where the fun happened.” But Richard’s “free-range” childhood, building forts and playing with...
1 month 3 weeks ago
One winter, while driving a bus full of kids from Sacramento toward Lake Tahoe, ICO (Inspiring Connections Outdoors) trip leader Valerie Eviner (above) made a short stop in a high-elevation parking lot for stretch after the long ride. Most of the participating kids had never seen snow before, and...
1 month 3 weeks ago
Twelve volunteer outing leaders spent two days together at our second Training-for-Trainers at NatureBridge in Sausalito, CA.  The 2015 Training Cohort hailed from California, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Washington, and Wisconsin and represented the vast variety of outings programs Sierra Club has...