Wilderness School

Experiential Education That Keeps Kids On Track

Trails Carolina's Wilderness School Setting for Accredited Academics

Something extraordinary happens at Trails Carolina. . . the natural environment coupled with a residential wilderness school setting fosters self-reflection, instills hope, and promotes true healing, all while keeping kids on track academically.

Our wilderness therapy programs for youth at Trails Carolina wouldn't be complete without our Wilderness School for Accredited Academics.

Located at our residential base camp in Western North Carolina, the Trails Carolina wilderness school offers experiential education programming to give students the opportunity to learn in a natural environment while earning academic credits. Our accredited academic programming keeps students on track for traditional school subjects like English, Math, and Science.

In addition to offering opportunities to earn transferable school credit, our wilderness school teaches students the basics of primitive living skills such as building and lighting a campfire. Field courses range from lessons in wilderness skills to basic survival training and other outdoor skills.

The youth programs at Trails are designed to provide an experience-focused and holistic approach to education, focusing on the development of the whole person through academics, outdoor adventure, and therapeutic support.


The Importance of Accredited Academics in Wilderness Therapy Youth Programs

school refusal

One of the main benefits of Trails Carolina's wilderness school is its accredited academic program. Although it might seem obvious to include academic programming in residential youth programs that are offered year-round, not all nature-based therapy programs or residential programs do.

Accredited academic programming provides students with academic rigor and structure, which is crucial for maintaining and improving their academic success while enrolled in a residential program. Federal and state accreditations also ensure that the academic program meets federal and state academic standards, giving students a recognized and valuable credential upon completion.

Trails Carolina has many accreditations & memberships. The academic program at our therapeutic boarding school is accredited by Cognia, formerly AdvancEd. This accreditation not only ensures that our academics are high quality but also ensures the successful transfer of coursework to a student’s home school. The Cognia teams regularly perform on-site reviews to ensure we maintain high instructional standards.

Wilderness Schools: Curriculum and Educational Approach at Trails Carolina

Trails Carolina academic curriculum is designed to meet state academic standards and is tailored to each student's individual needs. The academic program at the school is delivered through a variety of methods, including experiential learning, project-based learning, and traditional classroom instruction. The educational approach at the school is designed to be engaging, immersive, and student-centered.


Targeted to Adolescent Needs

Within the adolescent and teen programs, we divide groups by gender and age, as appropriate. Using segmented peer groups allows each individual to share and discuss issues and concerns in a more open, comfortable environment with peers who can relate. This also allows us to meet the individual where they are at in their therapy and education.

There is incredible power in a peer group struggling with similar challenges led by experienced staff guiding them towards healthier behaviors.  This age group is on the cusp of adulthood, and this means it is a critical time for making better choices and seeing better results.

Whether your child is depressed, demonstrating manipulative behavior, refusing school, experimenting with substances or obsessed with technology and gaming—Trails’ wilderness school and wilderness therapy program can help.

Our Residential Program Groups

At Trails Carolina, we provide a supportive, healthy environment for a variety of age groups to receive treatment for various behavioral and mental health issues. Our residential therapy programs include options for preteen boys (10-13), preteen girls (10-13), teen girls (14-17), and teen boys (14-17).

Wilderness Therapy for Boys 10-13

Wilderness Therapy for Girls 10-13

Wilderness Therapy for Girls 14-17

Wilderness Therapy for Boys 14-17

We believe that segmenting groups by age and gender allows our team of mental health professionals, residential and field staff, and accredited academic educators to provide more focused and effective personalized care to each student. Additionally, evidence shows that using segmented peer groups helps students learn to build positive relationships among their own peers. This makes the transition back to traditional school settings easier for young people. And it helps our students learn how to interact and build healthy connections for life!

The Benefits of Learning in a Wilderness Environment

The wilderness environment offers numerous benefits for students. The natural setting provides an immersive and engaging learning environment that promotes curiosity, exploration, and discovery. Being in nature has also been shown to reduce stress, increase focus, and improve mood, all of which can have a positive impact on academic performance.

Growth in the Wilderness

In the wilderness, negative behaviors carry negative consequences and positive behaviors carry positive consequences. It may sound simple, but this naturally occurs in therapeutic wilderness living.

Over time at our wilderness school, the students begin to understand and take ownership of their actions, leading to greater long-term success.

Powerful lessons are learned on the trail. Experiential activities trigger peak experiences, helping students harness their own internal strength and self-confidence. These experiences serve as significant breakthrough moments of self-actualization and insight.

therapeutic wilderness program

Benefits of Exercise

The psychological benefits of physical exercise are well-documented. Regular exercise can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression, dramatically improve self-esteem, and encourage an overall positive outlook.

For this reason, outdoor exercise is a daily part of the Trails wilderness school program. While at Trails wilderness school, students enjoy hikes, horseback riding, as well as a variety of experiential activities. Students push their physical limits while reaching new pinnacles of self-discovery and confidence. Our use of regular exercise sets us apart from boot camps for teens.

Everything we do at Trails Carolina is meant to prepare students and families to transition their wilderness experience into the real world and create a bright future.

How Trails Carolina's Wilderness School Prepares Students for the Future

Trails Carolina's Wilderness School prepares students for future success by providing them with a unique and valuable educational experience. The program's combination of accredited academics, outdoor adventure, and therapeutic support helps students develop the skills, knowledge, and self-awareness needed to succeed academically and in life.

Survival Skills: The Great Outdoors & Managing Everyday Life

Our acadmic and therapeutic programming offers outdoor adventure activities that are designed to challenge students physically and mentally.

These activities help students build life skills such as leadership, teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and resilience. These skills are valuable not only for academic success but also for success in life.


Repairing Family Relationships

It’s common for families to feel frustrated and angry. Many parents feel like they have lost their child and worry that their relationship with their child is irreparably harmed.

This is why Trails wilderness school has an unparalleled focus on the entire family with wilderness training, skill development, and family support.  While your adolescent child develops new, healthier behaviors at Trails wilderness school we work with the parents and siblings to provide support and education on how to make changes at home.

With weekly calls shared with other Trails families and led by our Family Therapist, plus calls with Primary Therapists, and Family Camp weekends, there is no shortage of opportunities for families to move the family dynamic in a more positive direction.

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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