Five Of the Country’s Best Wilderness Camps for Teens

Although camps at troubled teen programs can be utilized year round, spring is the perfect time to take advantage of these great opportunities to help your teen grow while focusing on the outdoors.

Warmer weather and ample time off of school, such as spring break, make this time of year ideal to explore a teen wilderness program. These programs can teach your teen valuable survival skills, as well as put them around peers in a similar state, and counselors to help them work through their issues in a safe space. See below for suggestions for some of the best wilderness camps the U.S. has to offer.

Wingate Wilderness Therapy Program. With two separate programs designed specifically for troubled teens or troubled young adults, this top-rated wilderness program is part of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs and located in gorgeous Kanab, Utah. The treatment includes a philosophy of natural consequences to motivate teens to choose good behavior versus being punished for breaking the rules. They use a combination of individual, group and adventure therapy to help teens work through issues like depression, anxiety or substance abuse.

Redcliff Ascent. Also located in Utah, this gorgeous program in Enterprise has been featured in the New York Times, on A&E television and CNN. The Redcliff approach describes itself as not “exciting or glamorous,” but rather therapy based on every aspect of the camp. Their treatment is twofold, first taking the teen out of the disruptive environment, then reintroducing them after working out the developmental issues.

Rite of Passage NW. With a focus on empowerment through learning life skills, this wilderness therapy program located in Washington teaches troubled youth how to recognize their true potential, and rise to challenges. The dedicated staff follows a specific model that ensures that the students thoroughly comprehend their lessons, and can apply them when out in beautiful settings.

Open Sky Wilderness Therapy. Located in Durango, Colorado, this wilderness camp focuses on creating “authentic connections” between its staff, troubled teens and their peers. They also create confidence throughout the program by creating a series of tasks that lead to success, and celebration when completed. They employ only those that “truly enjoy” working with youths, and have a special ceremony dedicated to each one at the completion of the camp's designated tasks to inspire confidence in the outside world.

Bluefire Wilderness. Located in Gooding, Idaho, this camp offers not only wilderness therapy for troubled teens but also equine therapy, where children and teens can work with horses. Working with a non-verbal species such as animals fosters problem-solving skills, personal responsibility and teamwork. Students learn how to approach these large animals, build relationships, and care for those who can not care for themselves.