At Risk Youth Program

Helping families reconnect, heal, and thrive

Wilderness Therapy: An Evidence-Based At Risk Youth Program For Boys

Our outstanding wilderness treatment center for focused groups helps boys thrive by establishing an emotionally strong peer environment, and the programming is tailored to meet the needs of pre-teens while maximizing the benefits of the wilderness environment. 

Middle school aged children need concrete experiences and teachable moments that help them to practice the critical thinking, problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills they’ll need to thrive as they enter their teenage years and young adulthood.

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Leading Single-Gender At Risk Youth Program Using Wilderness Therapy

We have designed our programming to empower boys to exercise agency for their needs and accountability for their choices. This improves participation in their relationships with family, peers, and school.

We provide a blend of therapeutic approaches, including individual and group experiential therapies designed to instill the skills and mindset for healthier and happier boys.

Your son will work with other boys of similar ages who face similar challenges, which can impact how he sees himself in relationships. Group conversations focus on topics relevant to this age and steer clear of more mature topics inappropriate for this younger group.

Ultimately, the purpose of this program is to produce emotional growth and establish positive behavior patterns that will disrupt troubling behaviors.

Students will learn to recognize and manage their needs and emotions, communicate in a healthy way, make thoughtful decisions, and resolve conflicts without aggression.

at risk youth program

Trails Truly Works

82% of students ages 9-13 reported an improvement in externalizing behaviors, such as rule-breaking and aggression, between starting Trails Carolina and one year after graduating.

Curriculum Matches Current Abilities

Trails uses an experiential therapeutic approach to engage middle school boys with lessons about their emotions, self-identity, and relationships with family. Therapy is woven into moments of play, school, equine work, culinary workshops, and group activities, allowing our expert staff to work with your child during moments of strong emotion. Often pre-teens boys express their emotions by shutting down or showing anger. Our therapists and Trails team lean into this conflict to instill new skills in a way that produces lasting change.

Your child will also benefit from the rich experiences of immersion in nature by taking part in wilderness expeditions, learning primitive living skills, participating in individual and group therapy, experiential science classes, equine relational programming and more.

During activities, therapists and staff help students set goals and stay on course, holding them accountable for their actions. Our staff is specially trained to let these students be kids while teaching them skills that will help them mature into their teenage years and emerging adulthood.

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Contact us today to learn how Trails Carolina can help your family

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


Meet our Primary Therapists


Wilderness Therapy

We believe that a wilderness setting enhances the benefits of therapy.


Lasting Change

We believe that practicing and applying the lessons learned in the wilderness to everyday situations promotes lasting change.


Family Involvement

We believe that families benefit from being involved in their child's process.

Wilderness Camp For Troubled Youth

Trails Carolina, one of the leading wilderness therapy programs in the troubled teen industry, offers an immersive wilderness therapy experience for teens between the ages 10-17 who are struggling with both behavioral and mental health issues such as defiance, anxiety, and depression. Trails Carolina’s wilderness therapy program is one of a kind because it combines experiential therapy, individually tailored clinical programming, academics, and family-focused therapy to help teens succeed.

Trails Carolina’s approach to wilderness therapy enables teens and their families to find common ground through a balanced set of therapeutic offerings designed to help teens grow emotionally and to heal. Trails Carolina is able to provide teens with these opportunities through the following:

Experienced staff: The academic program at Trails is Cognia and our teachers are able to help your child excel academically while in the wilderness. Our Therapeutic team is exceptionally experienced in providing help for struggling teens so that they can overcome any obstacles ahead. But our team’s greatest strength is their ability to work together to provide the most well-balanced care for our students.

Equine Relational Programming: While at Trails Carolina, the students will have the opportunity to participate in equine relational programming. This helps students to connect to their emotions and nonverbal communication skills. This ultimately helps them to be able to be better communicators at home with their family and allows them to think introspectively about their actions.

Majestic Setting: Trails Carolina is nestled into the heart of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina. Our campus is hidden away from society deep within the Pisgah Forest, which is one of the oldest virgin forests in the entire world. This serene, beautiful and wondrous environment allows our students to reflect, learn, and grow in nature.


Being immersed in nature and away from all distractions allows for teens to have the opportunity to disconnect from the world and reconnect with themselves.

They can grow, learn, and not just survive, but thrive in the real world. Trails Carolina offers many benefits, including:

Personal, reflective growth: While at Trail Carolina, teens have the opportunity to better understand themselves.

This transformation, which takes place in the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains can help them to be better about knowing themselves, understanding others and how their actions, words, and lives can impact others.

In the wilderness, these teens are allowed to take a step back, reflect and see the world from another’s point of view without any distractions.

Transferable life skills: Not only do teens learn hard such as how to pitch a tent, how to build and keep a fire going, as well as how to navigate through the wilderness, they also learn valuable life lessons which are transferable to the real world. Some of these include leadership, teamwork, respect, responsibility, and self-awareness.

Individualized therapeutic and academic programming: Individualized therapeutic programming is the crux of why Trails Carolina works so well. When the academics and therapy are specific to an individual, it creates an environment that is personalized which enhances learning.

Teens struggling with defiance may have different therapeutic methods for dealing with this than other teens who may be struggling with different problems such as anxiety.

Family-focused programming: One of the ultimate goals of Trails Carolina is helping to repair the family unit. While their son or daughter is away in the wilderness, some programs offer family therapy sessions that help both the parents and the siblings work through problems which the family has been struggling with.

When the focus is brought back to the family, it can ensure lasting change when the child transitions home from a therapeutic program.

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do” – Eleanor Roosevelt

If your son or daughter is struggling with behavioral, emotional, or mental health issues like defiance, anxiety, or depression and it has started to impact their day to day lives, now is the time to examine possible options for treatment for your teen.

Wilderness therapy programs, which are inpatient mental health treatment programs, can help child or teen explore what is troubling them, why they are acting out, and how they can better relate to their family and friends.

Removing teens from their hectic lives, technology, peers, bad habits, distractions, and influences is one of the many reasons why wilderness therapy programs work.

Wilderness therapy programs may offer an array of therapeutic techniques including, but not limited to equine relational programming, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, group therapy, individual therapy, and mindfulness techniques.

Wilderness therapy programs accept students on a case by case basis. The selection usually depends upon the clinical programing of wilderness therapy programs and the behaviors exhibited by a potential student.

Some programs may accept teens dealing with more clinically complex issues while others chose to focus on students with more easily managed difficulties.

That being said, most all wilderness therapy programs provide therapeutic programming for struggling teens with behavior problems and emotional difficulties including:

Neurodevelopmental Disorders- These include Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Nonverbal Learning Disorder, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). 

School refusal- Many teens entering wilderness therapy programs are struggling with school refusal problems. Which is why wilderness therapy programs are great for treating teens who refuse school, who are frequently truant, or even suspended.

Substance experimentation or use– While most wilderness therapy programs deal with substance abuse in some degree, there are some wilderness therapy programs which are specified to help treat teens who are struggling with substance use issues, whether that be alcohol or marijuana use.

Defiance– Whether this is disruptive behavior in school and at home, wilderness therapy programs can help get to the root of these problems and address these issues in teens. This may also include Oppositional Defiance Disorder.

Anxiety– Social anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder can be crippling for teens. It inhibits their functionality around peers, in the classroom, at work and with their family. Many wilderness programs provide help for teens struggling with some form of anxiety.

Depression– Depression can be tough, especially with teens which is why wilderness therapy programs offer therapeutic help to teens who are struggling with this.

Trails has wilderness therapy programs designed for pre-teens ages 10-13, adolescents ages 13-17 and young adults 18-25. Our clinically proven methods work exceptionally well with:

We are passionate about helping students overcome challenges and reach their full potential, and committed to creating the most effective wilderness therapy program possible for students and their families. Our entire team is honored to dedicate their professional lives to changing the lives of troubled teens.

The average stay at our wilderness therapy program is 70-90 days.

Students will typically transition back home or to a step down type residential program (Therapeutic Boarding School or Residential Treatment Center, as examples).

Parents have multiple weekly touchpoints at the program. There is a separate program specifically designed for the involvement of the family.

We also provide in-person opportunities during a student’s time at trails for families to get on campus and do work with their child. We have some of the highest-rated family services within the industry. 

91% of students showed improvement in extremely significant symptoms of depression, 12 months after graduation.

91% of students showed improvement in extremely significant symptoms of anxiety, 12 months after graduation.

Learn more: Treatment For Anxiety In Teens: How Wilderness Therapy Can Help

79% of students reported experiencing a decrease in suicidal thoughts, 12 months after graduation.

Family Education & Growth

Comprehensive wilderness therapy program combined with a residential treatment base camp and accredited academics

Trails Carolina Wilderness Therapy

Helps Students Develop New Life Skills

Our unique wilderness program helps students learn new skills and resources to address their emotional, social, academic or neurological challenges and improve their well being.

Trails Carolina wilderness programs offer comprehensive and integrated therapeutic programs based on research and experience. The focus is on individualized strength-based treatment and family systems. We assess your child in the context of their relationships with therapists, staff members, peers, teachers, family members and themselves in the wilderness and base camp environments.

By observing how your teen interacts with different people, and in what contexts they thrive and struggle we’re better able to help them build successful behavior patterns and strengthen key relationships.

wilderness camp for troubled youth

Wilderness Therapy With The Practical Experience of a Residential Base Camp

Trails is unique in that it balances the benefits of wilderness therapy and adventure therapy programs with the practical experience of a residential base camp. Through the expedition experience, struggling teens are empowered. Through academics, wellness practices and equine programming, students leverage the lessons they’ve learned in other settings – further building their confidence and ability to build connections and sustain positive change.

Practicing skills across different environments in this manner is beneficial to your child’s long-term success, as they can learn to apply their skills even when their surroundings and influences change.

Without this key practice, your child may struggle in one circumstance and thrive in another, depending on what the environment is like, or who else is around them. The Trails’ wilderness program allows us to test and challenge the skills your child has gained to create stronger behavioral patterns, so your child can effectively express their emotions in healthier ways throughout life.