Enabling Explorers through the Explore Fund


Expanding access to America’s monumental landscapes goes hand-in-hand with protecting access to them. Everyone has a stake in keeping public lands public, but disparities prevent many would-be explorers and environmental stewards from enjoying the outdoors and associated benefits.

That’s why we’re working with the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, for The North Face Explore Fund. The North Face awards $500,000 annually to nonprofit organizations working in meaningful and creative ways to do two main things: encourage people to experience outdoor activities and develop a lasting love for our natural landscapes. Since 2010, we’ve provided $2.75 million across 500 grants to organizations that help thousands of people from all backgrounds get out there and start exploring.

“Once you experience a national park, you have a better understanding for how they enhance your life and can help your community,” said Susan Newton, senior vice president of grants and programs at the National Park Foundation. "Thanks to the support of The North Face, people are connecting with parks through innovative programming that plants the seed for a lifetime of park enjoyment and stewardship.”

Today, we’re excited to announce the grantees of the 2017 Explore Fund. These 43 distinguished nonprofit organizations work in powerful ways to encourage outdoor participation. Work that remains valuable as 2017 is proving to be a pivotal year for environmental policy, including threats to public lands protection and climate change action, among others.

“Part of our mission at The North Face is to help expand access to public lands so that more people can experience and enjoy the outdoors.” said Ann Krcik, senior director of outdoor exploration at The North Face. “We strive to inspire and enable people to turn to the outdoors as a source of enjoyment, athletic pursuits or even to build job skils.”

Inspiring a new generation of environmental advocates

This year, in recognition of the imminent need to protect our public lands, we gave 40 percent of our funding to programs encouraging environmental stewardship, they include:

TEENS, Inc.'s TeamWorks program provides under-served rural and urban youth in Colorado trail maintenance and restoration opportunities in Rocky Mountain National Park and other public lands. A focus on life skills and resiliency are core values of the organization. These outdoor experiences prepare the participants to be future outdoor leaders and stewards of their environment.

California Conservation Service Corps Foundation offers a program called “Women in the Wilderness,” which takes young women of color into Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks in California for an introductory, immersive, backcountry trek. The organization’s mission is to introduce more women of color to the outdoors and provide pathways for opportunities in natural resources management.

Helping nature help people

Just as we all gain from protecting our natural world, we also collectively benefit by allowing nature to take care of us. Hiking, camping, climbing and other outdoor activities help build self-confidence, and life skills. With this in mind, The North Face also awarded organizations focused on helping at-risk youth find new trails in life through outdoor exploration. Some of these include:

Project Avary makes a 10-year commitment to the children of incarcerated adults that uses the power of the outdoors to build environmental awareness, self-confidence, social and life skills. A variety of outdoor activities  – camping, backpacking and kayaking – allows the organizations to provide children and teens a safe place in nature for self-discovery, reflection, and to experience the restorative powers of the outdoors.

Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC) extends access to the wilderness, outdoor adventure, and environmental education programs for under-resourced youth and people with disabilities  – including those with visual or hearing-impairments, physical or developmental disabilities and life-threatening illnesses. Every year, more than 3,000 people join ETC to raft whitewater rivers, ski alpine meadows,and kayak the waters of the Golden Gate and Tomales Bay in California – all while building leadership skills and an environmental stewardship ethic.

OUT There Adventures is a Pacific Northwest based organization devoted to empowering LGBTQ youth by connecting them to the natural world through organized sea kayaking and backpacking trips that also include invasive species removal training. In this way, the organization helps young people unlock inner strength, resiliency and confidence while providing them with knowledge about public lands and how to protect them.

Other 2017 winners include Families in Nature, Conservation Corps, and Golden Eagle Audubon Society. Congratulations to these and the rest of the amazing organizations who are part of The North Face Explore Fund.


*We selected all Explore Fund grantees based on the projected impact, clarity of the proposal and alignment to the spirit of adventure and exploration. The Explore Fund reviews grants by individual merits and as part of a balanced portfolio that includes factors such as geography, type of program, target audiences, and more. For more information visit The North Face Explore Fund.