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The National Environmental Science Center at Yosemite

Construction is underway on NatureBridge's new Henness Ridge campus -- the National Environmental Science Center at Yosemite (NESC). When complete, the first phase of construction will allow us to open the doors to the first 50+ beds.

The center integrates the latest design and energy efficiency concepts to provide a model of sustainability that, with 100% universal access, will allow all participants to interface with the next level of experiential education. From stunning buildings to the backdrop of Yosemite National Park, our state-of-the-art campus will provide the space, tools, and technology for participants to create new educational benchmarks. We are thrilled to share in this adventure with NatureBridge participants as we gear up to explore trails and discover this historically and ecologically rich area of Yosemite!

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Staying at the NESC

The buildings and grounds of the new campus are designed to be the ideal location for a residential environmental education for youth groups. 

  • Cabins: Designed to change access and configuration to optimize lodging accommodations for participants. 
  • Bath House: Equipped to accommodate 112 people;  The two sides are separated by males and females, each with their own low flow shower heads 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: Buildings and pathways around the campus have been designed to accommodate people with varying mobilities.
  • 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 will limit the need for fossil fuel consumption for such things as meal preparation and power generation.

Training and Teaching Destinations

The trail system at NESC allows NatureBridge participants access to numerous teaching spots--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 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, passes through the heart of the campus. Today these historic roads serve as wonderful paths with easy 2% - 5% grades; Connecting to seldom visited corners of the park.
  • Deer Camp Trailhead is located less than a quarter mile from campus and 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 Henness Ridge campus promises fresh learning opportunities for students to engage in authentic, place-based learning. These activities include:

  • Studying our sustainable campus
  • Discovering the unique cultural history of the area
  • Participating in investigations focusing on fire science curriculum
  • Cross country skiing and snowshoeing at Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area (YSASA) or right from our back door

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 60+ bed campus is the first phase of this outstanding project. The expansion of the center will involve building additional cabins, a formal dining hall, library, laboratory and classroom spaces. 

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. Half Dome 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, Tony Ebstein, at or 209-732-0139.

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Where to

Find Us

7730 Henness Ridge Road
Wawona, CA 95389