Youth Behavioral Camps

Success For Your Child. Help For Your Family.

Behavioral Programs Meeting The Needs of 10-13 Year-old Youth

Summer camps for troubled youth are popular options for parents seeking help for a child struggling with mental health issues.

However, these types of camps may not be the most effective in supporting struggling pre-teens. While a typical summer camp may have some of the necessary components of an effective program for struggling youth, they may not have the expertise of a therapeutic wilderness treatment program.

Adolescence is a special, yet fragile time for children. Many parents struggle with the decision to send their child to a residential treatment center or wilderness behavioral camp, that’s why at Trails we work with you to make the process as transparent and smooth as possible. The Trails Team works to walk parents through the decision process.

Wilderness-based, therapeutic behavioral camps for youth are designed to help teens struggling with behavioral issues like defiance, anger issues, and social isolation. Wilderness therapy programs are overall better alternatives to boot camps for troubled teens due to their focus on evidence-based, trauma-informed practices and a holistic therapeutic approach.

90% of students showed improvement in Extremely Significant Symptoms of anxiety and depression 12 months after graduation

Research has shown that pre-adolescents thrive in predictable and structured environments like that of our Youth Wilderness Behavioral Camp Program.

We have designed our Youth Program to support the specific developmental needs of 10-13 year old youth, breaking the cycle of troubling behaviors and replacing them with more positive and mature decisions and relationships.

family reuniting - trails carolina reviews
Trails Carolina’s youth behavioral camps are dedicated to helping children & teens work through behavioral or emotional difficulties, build trusting relationships with their family and peers, and achieve academic success.
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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

It takes an exceptional soul to dedicate one’s life to kids that are in some of the most emotional, confusing, and tumultuous years of their lives.  We’ve gathered a team of therapists who take great pride and joy in specializing their work to this age group.

Our therapists demonstrate great compassion for the unique needs of this age group and they actively encourage and support each student to access their strengths and build upon them.

“It is so important to meet the kids where they are at,” commented Graham Shannonhouse, Owner and Executive Director of Trails, “We believe in the innate spark in every child and work tirelessly to build upon this.”


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.

Our Wilderness-Based Youth Behavioral Camps

We help students find internal motivation for change, which leads to long-term success when they rejoin their families. The Trails Youth Program for ages 10 – 13 includes:

  • Age-appropriate peer groups
  • Individual therapy with Primary Therapist
  • Realistic wilderness camp challenges to break the cycle of behaviors
  • Equine Programming where emotions and actions are matched.
  • Group Therapy and Family Therapy involvement
  • Residential base campus for a break from wilderness camp
  • Accredited Academics with certified teachers to keep up with schoolwork
bow-drilling activity at Trails wilderness treatment center

Curriculum That Matches Current Abilities

Our curriculum is presented in a concrete and linear manner so that our students can fully understand the information and move successfully through each individual phase.  Students are asked to keep a journal of different written and artistic topics, all of which are custom-made for this younger age.  At Trails wilderness camp, we understand that the ability to think abstractly is only the beginning of development of these younger minds.

The curriculum is very expressive, asking students to explore how certain situations make them feel, and consequently act.  In addition to our standard curriculum, every phase can be tailored to meet the individual needs of each student.

“I’m more accepting of the road ahead of me.” –Audrey T.

Youth behavioral camps -adolescent girl wearing a red coat and bandana headband pets a white horse.

No Hiding Your Feelings With Horse Therapy

Our wilderness camp equine programming works wonders with younger students.  Often times, younger kids are overwhelmed by their big feelings.  By forming a relationship with a horse and speaking to the interactions they have with it, students are given a reference point to explore some of those emotions and their related actions. 

Horses are unbiased animals and will provide unbiased feedback for a student.

When youth realize it doesn’t make sense to blame the horse for its actions (since horses have no agenda), students begin to shift that pattern of blame and, instead, learn to take responsibility for their actions and emotions.

wilderness programs for troubled youth

Realistic Wilderness Camp Challenges

Students at this age are just beginning to see their bodies changing and are trying to adjust to new levels of energy and coordination.  For this reason, Trails doesn’t expect 10-13 year-olds to complete wilderness camp program expeditions of the same length and intensity as in our Adolescents Program.

In our Youth Program we typically venture out on expeditions with shorter distances and fewer days between recovery periods.  Our Base Campus, which is rare for wilderness camp programs, provides a welcome change for students this age, rather than having youth in the wilderness camp for long periods.  We also make great use of day hikes—hikes that typically reward students with a waterfall-sighting or spectacular view, and on which they need not carry all of their gear.

Wilderness Camp can help struggling children to learn how to better cope with challenges. See why more parents choose Trails Carolina.


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 of wilderness therapy, 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.

What is wilderness therapy?

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.

The best wilderness therapy programs 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.

We offer programs designed for pre-teens ages 10-13 and adolescents ages 13-17. Our clinically proven methods work exceptionally well with:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Family conflict
  • Low self-esteem
  • Trauma
  • Social isolation
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide ideation
  • Adoption
  • Defiant behavior/Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • Gaming and technology obsession
  • Substance abuse
  • Attachment issues
  • Manipulative behavior
  • Poor academic achievement
  • Learning differences
  • School refusal
  • ADHD
  • Mood dysregulation
  • Autism (high functioning)


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.

Trails Carolina is not a traditional summer camp. Instead, it is a wilderness therapy program that is designed to help at-risk youth overcome challenges and build the skills needed to achieve long-term success.

The program combines traditional therapeutic interventions with outdoor activities and wilderness experiences, such as hiking, camping, and team-building exercises, to create a unique and immersive experience.

Students at Trails Carolina receive individualized care and attention, with small group sizes and personalized treatment plans.

Our program is offered year-round! The program is typically longer than a summer camp and can last from several weeks to several months, depending on the needs and progress of each student and family.

While participants in Trails Carolina can benefit from the same sense of adventure and connection to nature that is often associated with summer camps, the program is specifically designed to provide therapeutic interventions and support for at-risk youth.

After graduating from our wilderness treatment center, 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.

Learn more: Does wilderness therapy work?

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.