Wilderness therapy programs have gained popularity in recent years as a non-traditional approach to treating troubled youth and young adults. One such program, Trails Carolina, located in the rugged wilderness of North Carolina, has garnered attention for its unique approach to therapeutic intervention.

While many participants have reported positive experiences and life-changing transformations, there have also been unsettling accounts of alleged misconduct and mistreatment within the program. In this article, we will delve into some of the most concerning Trails Carolina horror stories and attempt to separate fact from fiction.

The Emergence of Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness therapy is a therapeutic intervention that takes participants out of their familiar environments and places them in nature, often in remote and challenging terrains. The belief is that by removing individuals from their comfort zones and exposing them to the raw elements of nature, they can experience personal growth, self-discovery, and healing.

Trails Carolina: A Brief Overview

Trails Carolina, founded in 2008, is a wilderness therapy program located in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It offers a comprehensive approach to therapy, combining outdoor activities with individual, group, and family therapy sessions. Participants in the program range from adolescents struggling with behavioral issues to young adults dealing with emotional challenges.

Positive Experiences at Trails Carolina

Many participants of Trails Carolina have reported positive outcomes from their experiences. They attribute their growth and healing to the program’s holistic approach, which includes:

  1. Nature Connection: Immersion in the natural environment encourages introspection and self-discovery.
  2. Therapeutic Modalities: Trails Carolina employs licensed therapists who use evidence-based techniques to address individual needs.
  3. Team Building: Group activities foster a sense of belonging and cooperation among participants.
  4. Family Involvement: The program emphasizes family therapy to strengthen relationships and provide a support system post-program.

The Dark Side: Allegations and Horror Stories

While Trails Carolina has helped many individuals, there have been alarming allegations of misconduct and mistreatment. Some of the most prominent horror stories include:

1. Isolation and Lack of Oversight

Allegation: Some former participants claim that they were left alone for extended periods, feeling isolated and neglected by staff.

Response: Trails Carolina maintains that there are strict protocols in place to ensure the safety and well-being of participants. However, it is crucial to investigate any specific claims of neglect.

2. Physical and Emotional Abuse

Allegation: There have been reports of staff members using excessive force or employing harsh verbal tactics as a form of discipline.

Response: Trails Carolina asserts that all staff members undergo rigorous training and are expected to adhere to a strict code of conduct. Any incidents of abuse are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.

3. Inadequate Medical Care

Allegation: Some participants have raised concerns about the quality of medical care provided, citing delayed or insufficient attention to injuries or health issues.

Response: Trails Carolina asserts that they have trained medical personnel on-site and have established procedures for addressing medical emergencies. However, it is essential to scrutinize individual claims for accuracy.


Q1: Are wilderness therapy programs like Trails Carolina regulated?

A: Yes, wilderness therapy programs are subject to state regulations, and Trails Carolina, like other similar programs, must adhere to licensing requirements and safety standards.

Q2: How can I verify the credentials of staff members at Trails Carolina?

A: Parents and participants can request information about the qualifications and training of staff members. It is also advisable to verify the licensing and accreditation of the program itself.

Q3: What steps should I take if I have concerns about a wilderness therapy program?

A: If you have concerns about a wilderness therapy program, it is crucial to communicate directly with the program’s administration. Additionally, you can contact relevant state regulatory authorities and advocacy organizations for guidance.


Wilderness therapy programs like Trails Carolina can be transformative for many individuals, providing a unique opportunity for personal growth and healing. However, it is imperative to acknowledge and investigate any allegations of misconduct or mistreatment.

Parents and participants should conduct thorough research and ask critical questions before enrolling in any such program, ensuring the safety and well-being of those seeking help. In the end, the effectiveness of any therapeutic intervention ultimately depends on the individual needs and circumstances of the participant, and a well-informed decision is paramount.

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