Celebrating 50 Years in 2021

In 2021, NatureBridge celebrated 50 years of igniting self-discovery and inspiring stewardship of the natural world for more than 1.5 million young people. Fifty years of ensuring access to national parks with experiences that have inspired students to become scientists, policymakers, park rangers, artists, teachers, community leaders and advocates for the natural world. 

Today, NatureBridge’s mission is even more critical as we face urgent challenges—a growing climate threat, increasing screen time, less time outdoors and a trend away from science.

Explore our National Park Classrooms

For over 50 years, learning has come alive at NatureBridge. Our overnight, environmental science programs take youth out of the classroom and into national parks. Each of our locations gives students the opportunity to apply environmental science in a real-world settings while strengthening ties with one another and to nature. Scroll over our locations on the map to learn more. 

50th Anniversary Map
Olympic National Park
Founded 1987

Boasting three distinct ecosystems—alpine ridges, temperate rainforest and rugged coastline—Olympic National Park is a NatureBridge classroom filled with opportunity for exploration and discovery.

Each year on the shore of the glacially-carved Lake Crescent, over 4,000 students learn from and connect with Olympic’s awe-inspiring landscape.

NatureBridge acknowledges that our programs take place in the ancestral homelands of Tribes, Bands and First Nations. For Olympic, that includes the Klallam/S'Klallam, Makah, Quinault, Quileute, Skokomish, Hoh and the Queets tribes.

Yosemite National Park
Founded 1971

In the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, Yosemite National Park is home to the flagship campus of NatureBridge, originally known as the Yosemite Institute.

Every year nearly 12,000 students witness Yosemite's iconic views—towering granite domes, stunning mountain ridges and gushing waterfalls. Our multiple teaching sites allow for unparalleled access for students.

NatureBridge acknowledges that our programs take place in the ancestral homelands of Tribes, Bands and First Nations. For Yosemite, that includes the Mono Lake Kutzadikaa Tribe, Bishop Paiute Tribe, Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation, Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians, Bridgeport Indian Colony, North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California and the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Founded 1977

Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area sits modern day Marin Headlands.

Each year over 10,000 students explore Rodeo Beach and the trails of the Headlands, challenge themselves physically, build meaningful relationships, and discover a caring relationship with the natural world.

NatureBridge acknowledges that our programs take place in the ancestral homelands of Tribes, Bands and First Nations. For Golden Gate, that includes the Coast Miwok, Graton Rancheria and Ohlone people.

Prince William Forest Park
Founded 2012

Prince William Forest Park is the largest green space in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

NatureBridge provides nearly 2,000 D.C. youth the opportunity to discover the wonder of the natural world, just 35 miles from the city.

NatureBridge acknowledges that our programs take place in the ancestral homelands of Tribes, Bands and First Nations. For Prince William, that includes the Doeg/Monacan, Patawomeck and the Piscataway.

Learn more about our locations and history

From opening campuses across the country to launching our first Diversity Initiative to breaking ground on the National Environmental Science Center, NatureBridge has been hard at work for 50 years.

Download Our Infographic

50 Stories for 50 Years

Learn more about the people who helped write NatureBridge's history and those who are shaping our future in our year-long series, #50Storiesfor50Years. Here you will discover more about our programs and initiatives beyond our residential environmental science programs. Browse all stories in the series here.

Quote Wall

NatureBridge changed my life and the hundreds of students I brought to NatureBridge for more than 25 years. I treasure the moments, experiences and lessons learned from all the incredible people I've had the privilege to know. Thank you. I'm forever grateful.


Kim, teacher

NatureBridge's 50th anniversary is significant to me because it illustrates the long history of NatureBridge, and the large number of students that have been changed because of its programs. To me, it shows that NatureBridge is here to stay and will continue to provide amazing opportunities for hopefully 50+ more years!


Ryleigh, NatureBridge student

NatureBridge is committed - more than any other outdoor education organization I know - to creating future generations of environmentally conscious leaders. Every student who completes a NatureBridge program is imparted with science and leadership skills to last a lifetime, along with positive experiences in America’s national parks.


Kate, NatureBridge educator

As I reflect on the 50 year history of NatureBridge, I am grateful for the memories that my students, chaperones and I have experienced over the past ten years. NatureBridge has taken us BEYOND a typical school field trip. Our annual adventures have allowed us to immerse ourselves in nature, connect to ourselves and one another, and learn so much from NatureBridge's excellent field educators. Thank you, NatureBridge, for your dedication to providing us an exceptional experience year after year; we can’t wait to return in 2022!


Lori, school administrator and chaperone

It is essential that all children are given the opportunity to form genuine connections to the environment. Barriers in access can get in the way of fulfilling careers, feeling safe in the outdoors, and the mental and physical health benefits of being outside. Shout-out to NatureBridge for working to dismantle barriers in access!


Alison, NatureBridge student

I love NatureBridge for supporting my kiddo in outdoor education over the years at Coastal Camp, especially this year. What a gift to be exploring the outdoors with your incredible educators after a stressful school year.


Laura, parent

In my experience as a funder of nonprofit organizations, it says a lot for an organization to have made it 50 years. We need NatureBridge. We need to continue to show the importance and the connection we have to nature. Not only for our health and development, but to develop the next generation of advocates to protect and preserve these spaces for everyone.


Caroleigh, supporter

I am impassioned about youth who are our hope for the future, and caring for the environment, without which we will have no future! NatureBridge has demonstrated its commitment to both and will continue to do so for many many years to come!


Michael, NatureBridge Board Member

Every trail group has been an opportunity for an individual to make life changing connections with their environment.


Alejandro, NatureBridge educator

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Where We Come From

In April of 1971, a group of students from Laguna Blanca School in Santa Barbara took a week-long trip to Yosemite with their teacher, Don Rees. That trip inspired the founding of Yosemite Institute—now NatureBridge—and five decades of overnight environmental education in our national parks. 

Where We're Going

As NatureBridge enters its second half century, we draw upon a tradition of educational innovation to keep our programs relevant and impactful. 

Equity and Inclusion

NatureBridge began its scholarship program in 1997. Today over 45% of students attending our programs receive scholarship assistance. Even through the COVID-19 pandemic we have continued to develop our equity practices through a partnership with Justice Outside.

Climate Science Education

At NatureBridge, we believe it is imperative students learn about and discuss global climate change. NatureBridge students learn how climate change is already impacting parks from studying fire science in Yosemite to understanding the retreat of glaciers in Olympic National Park and sea level rise in the Marin Headlands. Our programs develop participants’ environmental science and climate literacy, as well as the critical thinking skills necessary to assess the constantly emerging evidence, theories and perspectives related to this complex subject.

NatureBridge is designing a Climate Science Lab to be located at our Golden Gate Campus. The lab will be a first of its kind within the National Park Service and in the field of residential science education. Students will engage in scientific investigation to better understand the causes of and issues related to climate change and about actions they can take in their home and community to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. Knowledge of action strategies can make climate change less overwhelming for children and is a key predictor of positive environmental behavior.

Distance Learning

While connecting students with nature in national parks will always be central to our work, NatureBridge recognizes distance learning can strengthen students’ connection to the outdoors. The pandemic provided an opportunity to develop a distance learning program in support of the schools we serve. In the future, distance learning innovation will allow us to reach students who might never have the opportunity to visit a national park due to economic or geographic barriers.


Our in-person events may be on pause but you can still connect with NatureBridge online. Keep checking back for more virtual events in 2021.

Celebrate 50 years of NatureBridge with a gift