Nature Camp is not just for kids. We also have a environmental education summer camp Adult Session.

Who attends Adult Session?
Teachers and Educators looking to gain skills, understanding, and lesson plan ideas from their peers that they can pass on in their classes.  Retired life-long learners.  Garden club members. Home schooling Moms and Dads. College-age counselors from the Summer sessions for kids, learning from their elder educators (and teaching some classes themselves). Folks from all walks of life looking for an purposeful, educational vacation.

Dates for 2023: August 18-22 (Friday – Tuesday)
Theme: “Color in Nature”
Fee for 2023 Adult Session
is $360

Join us for an exciting environmental education experience for grown ups in the cool green mountains of the George Washington National Forest of Virginia. The five-day session features classroom lectures, field studies and craft projects. Classes are typically one or two hours in duration with most of the time spent outdoors or in hands-on activities. Structure is informal, with questions and input from other instructors and attendees encouraged. Our volunteer instructors include several former campers who are now professionals in the sciences. Field investigations will be complemented by discussions, workshops, and several craft activities.

Registration for Adult Session 2023 is now open. You may register online or by downloading, printing, and mailing a paper application by clicking the link below.

Register Now

Download registration form (pdf)

Adult Session 2023 Information
At Adult Session 2023 we will revisit a theme we last explored nearly 20 years ago, “Color in Nature.” A rich tapestry of hues, tints, and shadings awaits us in the late summer of the Big Mary’s Creek valley and beyond, and through walks, talks, discussions, workshops, and other activities, participants will learn why we see the colors we do, why we don’t see some colors that other organisms do, and what makes and contributes to the broad panoply of colors in the natural world.

The tentative lineup of classes and activities includes:

  • Eco printing on fabric
  • The colors we can’t see
  • Crimson fruits, golden flowers, and brown leaves: exploring the botanical palette of early fall
  • Ancient stone tool makers of the Blue Ridge
  • Making honeysuckle baskets
  • Nature writing
  • It’s not just all brown: the many colors of soil
  • Bulbs as companion plants
  • Owl territory
  • The colors that pollinators see
  • Making safe solar viewers
  • Appalachian stringband workshop

More classes, workshops, and other activities will be added to the schedule in the weeks and months ahead.

There will also be:

  • Field trip to Cowbane Wet Prairie Natural Area Preserve on Monday afternoon (August 21)
  • Morning and evening bird walks
  • Stargazing   ·
  • Sharing of favorite nature books   ·
  • Folk singing   ·
  • Short hikes around Nature Camp and vicinity   ·
  • Evening slide shows and discussions

General Information

• Participants are strongly encouraged to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

• Nature Camp encourages COVID testing before arrival and has tests on hand for those who desire one, but proof of a negative COVID test the day of arrival is NOT required.

For more information please visit our COVID-19 information page, or e-mail Nature Camp director Philip Coulling (director [“at” symbol] or call (540) 460-7897.

Registration begins at 3:00 PM on the first day of Adult Session. Although there are usually few events scheduled for that afternoon, many participants appreciate the chance to select a bunk, get settled, and acquaint themselves with one another and their surroundings before supper. We usually eat supper at 6:00 PM; if you arrive after this time, please come to the Lillian Schilling Building (the first building on your left, just up the road from the Staff House).  Not all attendees are able to arrive the first day, and we gladly welcome late arrivals.

Men and women reside in separate rustic, wood-frame bunkhouses, each of which is divided into two wings. The bunkhouses are equipped with metal double bunk beds (twin size) with foam rubber or cotton mattresses. Lower bunks are reserved for those who requested them. Cubbyholes with drawers are available for storing belongings; clothes may be hung on rods in each cubbyhole, although hangers are limited in number. The bunkhouses have screened windows, ceiling fans, and a limited number of electrical outlets, but no air conditioning or heating.

Men’s and women’s bathhouses (or “T-houses”) are located a short distance from each bunkhouse. Each T-house has hot water and houses four sinks, four shower stalls, and four flush toilets.

Meals are held in the central meeting area and dining hall known as the Lillian Schilling Building (or L.S., named for the founder of Nature Camp). Most seating in the L.S. is on benches at picnic tables, but several folding chairs are also available.

A number of tent sites are available for those who would prefer to sleep outdoors, and several, somewhat more luxurious accommodations are located within a 15-minute drive of Nature Camp. Options include the Comfort Inn & Suites in Raphine (540-377-2604), the Osceola Mill B&B in Vesuvius (540-377-6455;, the Steeles Tavern Manor in Steeles Tavern (540-377-9494;, and the Sugar Tree Inn along Rt. 56 up the mountain from Vesuvius (540-377-2197;

Please note that Nature Camp is located in a narrow mountain valley. It is not uncommon to experience highs in the uppers 80s and lows in the 50s in either early June or late August. Humidity is nearly constantly high during the summer, and although there are clotheslines behind each bunkhouse, limited direct sunlight delays the drying of anything.

Essential items to bring include:
• clothing for the duration of your stay (there are no laundry facilities available except in the event of an emergency)
• sleeping bag or sheets (mattresses measure 74 x30″) and blanket
• pillow
• toiletry articles
• towel(s)
• flashlight or headlamp
• sweatshirt, sweater, or jacket
• poncho or rain jacket
• bathing suit (for swimming in the creek or swimming pool)
• jeans or other long pants
• at least 3 pairs of footwear: everyday shoes, boots or sturdy shoes for hiking, and water shoes (sandals and other open-toed shoes are not recommended because of the abundance of rocks and potential presence of snakes)

You may also wish to bring:
• mattress pad or cover (the mattresses at Nature Camp are high-quality foam mattresses with covers resistant to moisture and bed bugs, but the surface is slick)
• water bottle
• daypack
• camera
• binoculars
• field guides or other reference books (the library at Nature Camp has extensive holdings of field guides and other reference materials, which are available to Adult Session participants)
• insect repellent
• musical instruments
• notebook or journal
• pens, pencils, or art supplies
• stationery and stamps
• hand lens (Nature Camp has a supply of a dozen or so hand lenses which we use for botany and geology classes)
• small reading light to minimize disturbance to fellow residents of the bunkhouse
• Ziploc bags for collecting specimens
• small cushion for prolonged bench-sitting
• walking stick
• teabags and sugar substitute if you have a favorite flavor (we do stock several types of tea and one kind of sweetener, but not a wide range of choices)

Nature Camp provides all meals during Adult Session, from supper on the first evening through breakfast on the final morning. Vegetarian and vegan options are available at every meal, and every attempt will be made to accommodate other dietary restrictions (gluten-free, lactose intolerant, etc.).

The Canteen, or Nature Camp store, will typically be open once or twice during each Adult Session. Items for purchase will include Nature Camp T-shirts, coffee mugs, notecards, and bumper stickers. Payment may be made by cash or check only; Nature Camp cannot process payment on site by credit card.

For maps and driving directions to Nature Camp, please click here.

Relying upon GPS navigation is not recommended.

Please note that the road into Nature Camp crosses a narrow, stone bridge. So that we might maintain the limited sod that remains on the recreation field (on the left just past the swimming pool), please refrain if at all possible from parking on this field for the duration of the weekend. Parking is available along wide stretches of the road, on the volleyball court (gravel around adjacent to the swimming pool), near the canteen and up the road past the garage. Feel free to park temporarily along narrow stretches of the road while checking in and moving your belongings into the bunkhouses.

One of the favorite activities during Adult Session every year is the sharing of nature books. Participants are invited to bring up to three nature-related books (field guides, travel narratives, biographies, memoirs, etc.); during one evening each person is invited to take a few minutes to describe his or her books, which are then placed on a table for the remainder of the session for folks to browse. A list of all shared books will be circulated after the session.

One day each session is typically devoted to a field trip to a site of interest outside Nature Camp. Transportation is provided by multi-passenger van. The trip usually departs mid-morning and returns to Nature Camp in mid afternoon, with a full picnic lunch en route. The lunch stop includes restroom facilities.


Early registration is recommended, since the number of lower-bunk beds is limited. Camp is located about halfway between Staunton and Lexington, VA, east of I-81.

The $360  fee per person includes great food, lodging in rustic single-sex cabins, insurance, and all materials and supplies.  (Click here to view photographs of the Nature Camp facilities.) Tenting space is available for those who prefer not to stay in the bunkhouses.

For more information e-mail Nature Camp director Philip Coulling (director [“at” symbol] or call (540) 460-7897.

View the Nature Camp Adult Session Brochure (PDF)

Here we’re taught not only to appreciate things as they naturally are, but also to see the opportunity in what we do, and let the world slow down at the same time. This, I believe, is our constant, and the most powerful one of all: the ability to approach the world with refreshed positivism.

Will D., Gloucester, VA
Will D.Gloucester, VA

At a place with such a variety of people, much of what you learn is through conversation and not necessarily what you set out to absorb. I come back each year for an experience impossible to comprehend if not here. I come back to learn how to pursue the commitment we have to better lives for ourselves, our planet, and generations to come. I come back to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world. I come back because I don’t know what my life would be like without Camp.

Maggie J., Fredericksburg, VA
Maggie J.Fredericksburg, VA

Going to Nature Camp is no longer just a want. It is a necessity, an essential part of my summer. It holds a very special place in my heart, and it always will. I always leave with a sense of balance and well-being, having totally soaked in all the wonders and virtues and lessons and friends and learning and nature.

Emily G., Durham, NC
Emily G.Durham, NC

Going to Nature Camp has taught me many things. When I first went to Nature Camp, I could not tell the difference between a death angel mushroom and an oyster mushroom. I also could not have told you the difference between quartzite and limestone. Since going to Nature Camp, I can tell you these things and many more. Nature Camp is truly a wonderful place. From my first day to my last, I have the most fun I will have all summer.

Phoebe W., Fredericksburg, VA
Phoebe W.Fredericksburg, VA

Nature Camp is a true chance for immersion learning. My family has been amazed how many times the academic learning at Nature Camp has been connected to my school and home life.

Josh C., Williamsburg, VA
Josh C.Williamsburg, VA

I feel that there could never be any words to explain my feelings for Nature Camp. It’s a different world there: no TV, radio, cell phone, or anything from the real world. Nature Camp has changed my life forever. I believe that when people cross that tiny bridge going into camp, they become their true selves. They take their masks off and have a break from everything in the world.

Hannah S., Mount Jackson, VA
Hannah S.Mount Jackson, VA

There is just something special about Nature Camp. Maybe it’s the smell of being outdoors, the freedom of being away from your parents, or that you are at a summer for two weeks. I do not think those are the reasons why Nature Camp is so special. I think it’s the people you meet, the science things you learn about, and the pride and confidence you walk away with at the end of the session.

Kelsey G., Fredericksburg, VA
Kelsey G.Fredericksburg, VA

I have attended Nature Camp for four years and have never had a more rewarding experience. Nature Camp has taught me what one person who cares can do to make a difference. The hikes to Table Rock, the salamander searches at Buttermilk Springs, the breathtaking view from Lookout Rock, and of course the Sunday hikes to undiscovered mountain peaks are experiences one cannot have anyone else, and experiences I will remember forever. I have made friendships at Nature Camp that promise to last a lifetime.

Lucy A., Ruckersville, VA
Lucy A.Ruckersville, VA

There is a coveted two weeks in the heart of the summer that is called Nature Camp. It is the best thing that I do all year and is what I most look forward to. I grow mentally there more in two weeks than I do in the rest of the year.

Buck T., Fredericksburg, VA
Buck T.Fredericksburg, VA

For the past three years I have attended Nature Camp and loved it. Most four-year-olds, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, say a fireman, a ballerina, or an astronaut. When people asked me what I wanted to be, I replied confidently, “A nature scientist. I want to save the land.” Ten years later my answer still hasn’t changed.

Veronica P., Williamsburg, VA, Camper
Veronica P.Williamsburg, VA, Camper