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The National Environmental Science Center at Yosemite

The National Environmental Science Center (NESC) is a state-of-the-art world-class facility in a World Heritage Site: Yosemite National Park. It inspires young people to explore big ideas for some of our most pressing environmental challenges. Surrounded by hiking trails that represent the footfalls of time—the first peoples and land stewards, the African American Buffalo Soldiers, the Chinese laborers, the Euro-American loggers and conservationists—the NESC is placed at a crossroads of Western history. 

Built to a LEED Platinum standard, the buildings themselves provide teachable moments in treading lightly on the land. Located within a landscape shaped by fire, it is a living laboratory of ecosystem health and a mosaic of ecosystems and diverse cultural stories. It is a model of sustainability and resilience in the natural world. Most of all, it envisions the next 100 years of young people and NatureBridge programs yet to come. It is a home for hope.

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Staying at the NESC

The buildings and grounds of the new campus are designed to be the ideal location for residential environmental education for young people. 

  • Cabins: Designed to change access and configuration to optimize lodging accommodations for participants. 
  • Bath House: Two sides with single units equipped to accommodate 112 people; each with water saving low-flow shower heads on timers and a gray water collection system.
  • Dining: Family-style meals are served in the dining hall. Meals are prepared by NatureBridge culinary staff.
  • Universal Accessibility: Universal access buildings and pathways around the campus provide opportunities for people with varying mobilities to stay and explore. 
  • Architecture as Education: Designed to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard. As part of the design there are a number of features that will reduce the energy needed on campus and limit the need for fossil fuel consumption for such things as meal preparation and power generation. The campus is located in a previously disturbed area of the park away from sensitive resources.

Training and Teaching Destinations

The trail system at the NESC allows NatureBridge participants access to a number of inspiring educational opportunities—forest study plots, nine distinct Sierra Nevada habitats, breath-taking views of the South Fork Merced River watershed, a former homestead and a historic National Park Service fire tower.

There are three main routes departing from campus, connecting NatureBridge participants directly to miles of established trails and the Yosemite Wilderness and Sierra National Forest.

  • Wawona Wagon Road: Established in 1853, Wawona Wagon Road accesses a variety of habitats, including a lush meadow system and evidence spanning nearly 6,000 years of human history.
  • Sugar Pine Railroad Line: Dating back to the early 1900s, Sugar Pine Railroad Line passes through the heart of the campus. Today these historic roads serve as walking paths with easy 2-5% grades, connecting to seldom visited corners of the park.
  • Deer Camp Trailhead: Located less than a quarter mile from campus, Deer Camp Trailhead allows participants to access some of the less frequented southern reaches of Yosemite’s wilderness.
Students learning at NatureBridge's National Environmental Science Center
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New Learning Opportunities

The NESC promises new learning opportunities for students to engage in authentic, place-based learning. These activities include:

  • Participating in investigations focusing on fire science curriculum
  • Discovering the unique cultural history of the area, including an historic NPS fire lookout
  • Cross country skiing and snowshoeing at Badger Pass or right from our back door
  • Exploring the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, the largest of Yosemite’s three sequoia groves
  • Understanding sustainable building practices and how to live lightly on the land at the campus

Find out more about the new curriculum we are developing for the NESC. 

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Long Term Vision

The new campus will ultimately grow to a capacity of 224 participants. The 56-bed campus is the first phase of this project. The expansion of the center will involve building additional cabins, a formal dining hall, classroom with library and laboratory, administrative building, commercial kitchen, an NPS fire station with an onsite wildland fire crew, two outdoor amphitheaters, and outdoor campfire ring. 

The NESC will take the place of our Crane Flat campus. The National Park Service plans to restore the area around Crane Flat to its natural state once NatureBridge has fully vacated. Curry Village will continue to be a lodging option for participants in addition to the new campus.

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Contact Us

For more information about the NESC, contact the Outreach and Enrollment team at or 209-336-0089.

To arrange a campus tour during your scheduled NatureBridge program, notify Operations Manager Molly Sennett, at or 209-732-0139.

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Where to

Find Us

7730 Henness Ridge Road
Wawona, CA 95389