Frequently Asked Questions

Small Group Outdoor Education

For over 30 years, Earthshine Lodge has been offering exceptional outdoor education programs, vacations, and retreats. Thousands of kindergarten through 12th grade students have visited the lodge for our memorable overnight field trip experiences and many of them return with their own kids! 

We provide a unique and inspiring learning environment for all learning styles. Our educators are knowledgeable, experienced and excited to work with your students. Our staff are passionate about outdoor education, and love getting kids excited about learning in the natural environment, helping them connect the real world with what they’re learning in the classroom. 

Located in beautiful Lake Toxaway, only a short drive from Asheville and Brevard, Earthshine Lodge is more than just a place to stay. The 76-acre property is ideally located near Pisgah National Forest, Gorges State Park, Nantahala National Forest and Dupont State Forest, offering access to all that western North Carolina has to offer!

In our Earth Explorers environmental science program, students will explore our immersive, 76 acre, outdoor classroom, and discover first hand how elements, plants, and animals work together to shape our world. Students will journey across a diverse range of natural environments, and visit multiple learning stations, each one focused on a different scientific principle. Every location offers hands-on learning, engaging games, and unforgettable experiences seeing earth science working in action.

What you’ll get to do:

  • Geology – Investigate the effects of geology on the ancient boulders of the Blue Ridge 
  • Botany – Examine and identify the plants and trees that make up our incredible forests in Western North Carolina
  • Hydrology – Delve into the water cycle, knee deep in a rushing creek (we’ll provide the water boots)
  • Ecology – Explore food webs and animal interdependency in one of the most biodiverse regions in North America
  • Genetics –  Experience animal adaptation, across multiple ecosystems, from ponds, to streams, to fields, to forests

With our Explore Appalachia history program, your group will travel back in time to the year 1840. Each day, you’ll be fully immersed in 19th century life at our Cherokee and Pioneer villages. Here, students assist with various “chores” to keep the villages running while their residents are out trading and at the mill. Students learn firsthand about the hard work of life in the middle of the 1800s, the interactions between the Cherokee and pioneers, and they will unlock valuable pieces about North Carolina’s past through this unique living history program.

What you’ll get to do:

  • Blacksmithing/Tool making
  • Spinning/Weaving
  • Fire/Candle Making
  • Archery/Tomahawk Throwing
  • Corn Grinding/Life in a 19th Century Cabin
  • Make and fire your own pottery beads
  • Syllabary – how Cherokee write their language

Small group outdoor education programs are offered Wednesdays through Fridays from September 16-November 13, 2020. Our Explore Appalachia history program and Earth Explorers Science programs will be offered alternating weeks. (So if you do one program and love it, you can come back for the other program!)

Our Earth Explorers science program is designed for 3rd – 6th graders.

Our Explore Appalachia history program is designed for 2nd – 6th graders.

There’s lots to explore on the Earthshine property! We have several miles of trails, creeks and a pond to explore, and we’ll provide a couple of self-guided activities. Children who are too young to participate in programming must be accompanied by an adult while on the property.

Outdoor education programs start on Wednesday at 11:30 am and end on Friday at 10:15 am.

There might be a few other groups also participating in the program. Each group that travels to Earthshine together will be considered a “learning pod” and will be socially distanced during activities from other pods that are on site. Instructors will sanitize all program materials and hand sanitizer will be readily available.
Yes! Adults get the chance to participate in all activities. We require one adult chaperone per group. (For larger groups, we require one adult chaperone for every 8 students in a group.)
Earthshine’s programs are designed to incorporate state educational standards in science and social studies. Our programs are integrated with core competency standards, and are an enriching experiential and hands-on opportunity for homeschool and microschool students, learning pod groups and virtual learners.

Historically, Earthshine has run programs rain or shine. If there is a concern of lightning, we always watch the radar and adjust as needed. We have some indoor spaces we use as rainy day classrooms, but more often-than-not, we encourage participants to put on the layers and rain gear so we can continue with programs as we’d hoped. 

Yes. Typically, we offer a program called Discovery during our
traditional Outdoor Education seasons. In the Discovery program,
groups participate in team building, low ropes, navigation,
communication, environmental stewardship, and leadership
activities. Our Discovery Program and tailor-made Exclusive Use Outdoor Education arrangements are available Monday-Wednesdays this fall. Call or email to arrange your private program: 828-862-4207 or

You’ll stay in a private room in our 8-room vacation lodge.
Each room sleeps up to 6 and has a comfortable queen bed, as well as a private bathroom. Each room has a loft with two twin beds and a small deck overlooking our 76-acre property. We can also provide two additional sleeping mats and linens to use in the loft.

Staying in the lodge is a one-of-a-kind experience and families have
been vacationing at Earthshine for the past 30 years. Built in 1990 from original wood on the property, the lodge has all the architectural elements that you would expect from a rustic mountain lodge – stone fireplaces, antler chandeliers, creaky wood floors, rocking chairs, and two large decks with mountain views for miles.

We’ll serve you all meals from lunch upon your arrival until breakfast the day of your departure. 

Yes and yes. Please let us know at least two weeks before you arrive
if someone in your group has a food allergy or special dietary needs. 

You’ll get hot breakfasts and dinners, and soup and sandwiches for lunch. Our chef prepares delicious and healthy meals on site and we can accommodate all sorts of diets. 

Our two-story dining hall has been arranged to provide distance between each table. Groups have the option of taking their meals outside to one of our decks, patio or picnic area. Additionally, each group will be assigned a table (or set of tables) that will belong to your group – and only your group – for the duration of your stay.
Yes, we have Wi-Fi. Keep in mind that we’re at an elevation of 3,000 feet on top of a mountain, so internet is limited to web browsing and email. It will NOT support streaming or video meetings. Most guests are able to get cell service depending on the carrier.

Yes, but see above about our Wi-Fi capabilities. We’ll provide
unstructured time each day that can be used for schoolwork. Because of internet limitations, students will not be able to stream or use online classroom platforms.

We need at least 8 students to run this unique program, so invite your friends, neighbors and classmates! If you reserve a spot and the minimum isn’t met, don’t worry – we can offer you a spot in a future program or a refund.

Yes! We can arrange an exclusive use opportunity, which means
we’ll reserve the property just for your group and our educational
programs can be customized to meet your group’s needs. For more
information or to book an exclusive use opportunity, please contact
our Director of Outdoor Education, Ali Lien, at

Yes, we’d love to have you stay an extra night, through the weekend
or even longer! There’s so much to do on our property and in the
area. We want you to explore as much as possible, so we’re offering
15% off a future stay for our families who book a small group outdoor education experience. Call us at 828-862-4207 or email

Earthshine’s property isn’t just an amazing classroom; it’s an awesome place to explore and play! Several miles of trails on the property lead to amazing views or a peaceful creek. Spend an hour or two fishing for brim or catching bullfrog tadpoles at our pond. Play games (we’re currently BYOBG: bring your own board game) in the lodge or on one of our decks while soaking up mountain views from one of our decks. Or sign up for one of our Saturday activities, like a llama hike, Wilderness Skills, Nature Art, or Paint and Wine. 

As far as local activities…where do we start? This is western North Carolina and the hype you’ve heard is all true…and Earthshine is so close to all it has to offer! First of all: waterfalls. This area is home to 250 waterfalls! There’s hiking for all ages and abilities at nearby Panthertown Valley, Gorges State Park, Pisgah National Forest, Nantahala National Forest, and Dupont State Forest. Visitors from all over the world come to this area to mountain bike on Pisgah and Dupont trails and, if you just want to give mountain biking a try, there’s some great beginner trails and gravel roads. We’re close to several gorgeous rivers and the nearby French Broad River is a great place for a tube or a beginning paddle trip. The legendary Davidson River is well-known for its fly fishing and Headwater Outfitters, right down the road from us, offers amazing guided trips. Rest your legs and just soak in views as you drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Or check out some nearby mountain towns. Asheville, Brevard and Highlands all have their own flavor, whether you’re a craft beer connoisseur or a retail adventurer (i.e., shopping enthusiast). Earthshine is close to it all!

Of course, there’s TONS more to explore and our staff will happily share our local knowledge to get you on your dream adventure.

Masks are currently required in North Carolina per Governor Roy Cooper’s order. We ask all guests to wear a face covering in shared indoor and covered spaces, including hallways, dining rooms (upstairs and downstairs), the gift shop and the covered deck. Children under 11 years of age are exempted from the North Carolina state requirement for face coverings, but we encourage our young visitors to consider wearing masks, especially indoors, and when they interact with other guests or staff. We have designed our activities to be run in a way that keeps at least 6 feet of space between participants and instructors. Your instructor will let you know if you are participating in an activity where a mask is required or recommended. We ask that groups remain aware of keeping at least 6 feet of distance between themselves and other groups, as well as instructors. We request that each member of your group carries a mask on all activities in the case that individuals can’t stay 6 feet apart. Exceptions to mask wearing include: while eating or drinking, spending time in your room, walking around the property with your group, and relaxing in our outdoor spaces when you can keep at least 6 feet away from other groups. Individuals who qualify for an exemption from North Carolina’s mask requirement will not be asked to cover their faces. Please let us know if this applies to you or someone in your group.