Trails Carolina Forever Changes the Lives of Both Students and Families

Some may speculate whether a wilderness program can help their child overcome tough emotional and mental issues. Those parents whose kids graduated from Trails Carolina say there is no question that the program in Toxaway, N.C., changed both the life of their child and their family forever. 

Trails Carolina is a wilderness experience camp for youth facing problems they are finding hard to handle on their own in their current environment. 

Parents’ Views

Families who have had experiences with the program said it made a dramatic difference in their lives. Some parents highlight their experiences here:

Peggy W. said the program saved her daughter’s life. The changes she saw in her brought joy to her heart.

Elaine B. another parent, said the program was one of excellence with everyone going the extra mile to ensure the youth understands things like trust and accountability. 

Families agree those involved in Trails Carolina are passionate about helping youth and families succeed.

Ralph W. said his son had tremendous personal growth while in the program and other parents said this program is different because it met the core needs of their child with empathy and compassion.

Carolyn H. “I am in awe of the staff here at Trails Carolina,” said the parent, adding the staff were not only knowledgeable but were kind and thoughtful.

What Makes Trails Carolina Different?

While there are many similar camps throughout the U.S., Trails Carolina is unique in that 86 percent of students showed improvement in their anxiety a year after graduation.  Ninety-three percent of youth demonstrated improvement in depression symptoms a year after graduating from the program. 

Other statistics show that one year after graduating:

  • Suicidal thoughts decrease by 98 percent.
  • Substance abuse decreased by 96 percent.
  • ADHD symptoms decreased by 97 percent.
  • Only 1 percent of pre-teen students showed disruptive behavior.
  • Aggressive behavior decreased in 98 percent of pre-teen students.  

Studies Prove Success

Trails Carolina has a five-year outcome study, done with help from the University of Arkansas, to show the efficacy of the program. The results were gathered independently from the program. 

Those results point to one distinctive difference in Trails Carolina from other programs that seems to be the mark of its success. Trails Carolina works with the family as much as the student.

Family Matters

Trails Carolina designs its programs around healing the family. It also focuses on showing the child how to transition what they learn in the program to their real-life world at home and how to build resilience within themselves so they can work through new challenges they are bound to face. 

Family support includes weekly calls with a parent coach to set long-range, big-picture goals and to help the family understand the child’s behavior and create strategies to better communicate once they get home. 

There is also a parent skills workshop so parents have all the tools they need to create and keep positive change in their relationship with their child. 

Parents also get weekly calls from the child’s primary therapist to keep them updated on their programs and challenges while in the program. This therapist also provides detailed information on parenting skills that can be used to alleviate relationship issues with the child. 

Current families can also participate in a weekly meditation/yoga class and a mindfulness class on Zoom weekly. These classes are designed to teach how to ground intentions and help parents exercise self-care while learning the same skills their children are practicing while in the program.

Trails Carolina also has an option for the entire family to stay four days in their Common Ground program at the end of the program. This is where families stay in an upscale home to spend time together with support from the program to use new strategies learned. It’s a great way to help youth transition back into everyday life. 

Ultimately, the program empowers both children and parents with new skills and approaches so they don’t fall back into the same patterns as before they came to Trails Carolina. 

What Trails Carolina Offers

Trails Carolina isn’t just a program in the woods. It includes licensed and credentialed therapists, customized treatment planning, aftercare planning, both individual and group therapy, family treatment planning, and an equine relational program. 

Each family is assigned to a parent coach that works with them to help everyone from parents to siblings to heal. It also has a school with accredited academics so your child doesn’t get behind. Students in the program often have a new excitement about learning after attending the Trails Carolina school. 

The school is a traditional classroom back at the base camp. This allows students to practice their skills learned in the wilderness in a true classroom environment so they can adapt more readily when they head home. 

This is an important element to the Trails Carolina program because youth tend to get frustrated over their struggles with academics. Academic issues can be a symptom of other problems whether they are behavioral or just not fitting with the child’s learning style.  The academic program is set up so credits transfer back to the youth’s home school. 


Trails Carolina has proven to go beyond the scope of wilderness camps to show its youth and their families their self-worth and capacity for change. It follows up with them after graduation to make sure the program is still working for them. For many families, finding Trails Carolina was a life-saving move.

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