The Best Survival and Wilderness Schools in the USA: Find Training Near You

One of the best investments I ever spent was enrolling in a 3-day survival school course with my family.  Not only did we get to learn a lot of new skills while enjoying breathtaking nature, but we also met a lot of like-minded people.  Some of them went on to become good friends!

If you are ready to push your boundaries and become more self-reliant, here are some of the best survival schools in the states.

Boulder Outdoor Survival School

Sick of living in the modern world where everyone is reliant on tech gadgets for survival? BOSS survival school will give you a welcome break from all that.  The school focuses on primitive living skills, and you can expect to live at basecamp with just hand-made materials.  It is fun, educational, and a good vacation too.

  • Location: Utah
  • Duration: 4-28 day courses
  • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Primitive survival
  • Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • Family Friendly: No
  • Website: Boulder Outdoor Survival School

Maine Primitive Skills School

This survival school markets itself as the “center for wilderness awareness, survival, self-reliance, and nature connection.”  A lot of people will prefer the “earth living” focus over the doomsday mentality, which is used at other survival schools.

  • Location: Maine
  • Duration: Mostly 1-5 days
  • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Foraging, earth living, wilderness survival
  • Level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Family Friendly: Youth survival camps offered
  • Website: Maine Primitive Skills

Sigma 3 Survival School

Sigma 3, or “the Institute for Self Reliance,” is one of the best-known survival schools.  They offer a huge variety of courses, from weekend wilderness retreats to customized classes. Everyone I’ve talked to who has taken their survival classes has been very pleased with the instructors and the information learned.

  • Location: Primarily in Missouri, Virginia, Colorado, Arkansas, and Florida. International courses are sometimes held.
  • Duration: From 1-day walks to 7+ days
  • Types of Survival Classes Offered: SERE, wilderness training, anti-abduction and defense, wild plants, survival fishing, trapping, and more
  • Level: Complete beginner to advanced classes available
  • Family Friendly: Some classes, yes
  • Website: Sigma 3

Ancient Pathways

Based in Arizona, Ancient Pathways is best known for its primitive skills courses, such as how to trap, track, and survive with tools you can make yourself.  They are also one of the best places to learn desert survival skills.  You don’t have to worry if you aren’t advanced – there are all levels of courses.  For more advanced people, there are survival classes like “knife only” and field courses.

  • Location: Arizona
  • Duration: 1-day, overnight, and multi-day courses available
  • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Primitive survival, wilderness survival, bushcraft field courses, desert survival
  • Level: Beginner to advanced
  • Family Friendly: For kids 14 years and up
  • Website: Ancient Pathways

Thomas Coyne Survival Schools (formerly the Survival Training School of California)

Thomas Coyne offers some basic wilderness survival courses, but this is the survival school you want to go to for EXTREME experiences.  In those all-weather survival courses, you won’t be allowed to use a sleeping bag or munch on Snickers bars that you hid in your pockets.  The survival school is very affordable for the level of skill taught.

  • Location: California, yearly courses held in Alaska
  • Duration: Mostly 1-8 days
  • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Skill-based courses (map reading, navigation, basic survival skills, etc.), field courses, bushcraft courses, medical and tactical courses, private survival courses
  • Level:
  • Family Friendly:
  • Website: Thomas Coyne Survival Schools

Mountain Scout Survival School

If you live in New York and don’t want to commit to a longer survival course, Mountain Scout Survival School has a lot of 1-day classes to choose from that cover wilderness survival to emergency prepping.  The nice thing is that many of the courses focus on specific topics, so you can go to build one specific skill instead of trying to learn everything at once in an intensive field course.

  • Location: New York
  • Duration: Mostly 1-day courses
  • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Level: Wilderness survival, bugging out, tracking, navigation, family emergency preparedness, fire, women’s survival
  • Family Friendly:  Children allowed but courses designed for adults
  • Website: Mountain Scout

Wilderness Awareness School

This is a survival school of people who love nature.  There are shorter courses on tracking, bird language, edible plants, plant medicine, and other topics that will help you survive while getting closer to nature.  There are also intensive survival courses that go through several months.

  • Location: Washington State
  • Duration: 1-3 days; intensive courses last 9 months but are broken into weekend segments
  • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Wilderness survival, nature
  • Level: Beginner to advanced
  • Family Friendly: Youth programs available  
  • Website: Wilderness Awareness

Aboriginal Living Skills School

Run by Cody Lundin, this is a renowned survival school that will turn anyone into a survivalist.  I like how there are specific skill courses available, as well as intensive survival courses.  Cody focuses on primitive survival skills, which means the focus will be much more on exploring indigenous cultures than surviving SHTF disasters.

  • Location: Arizona
  • Duration: Mostly 1 day to 1-week
  • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Primitive skill-focused courses (fire, trapping, edible plants, desert survival…) and adventure courses
  • Level: Beginner to advanced
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Website: Aboriginal Living Skills

Jack Mountain Bushcraft School

If you are looking for a more intense survival school for learning wilderness skills, Jack Mountain Bushcraft school has “semesters” that last 2 months.  You can even get college credits for these courses!  There are also some “folk school” classes which only last a few days where you can learn skills like knife making.

  • Location: New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont
  • Duration: Mostly longer classes from 1 week to 9 weeks
  • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Bushcraft, folk skills (primitive skills), outdoor skills, self-reliance workshops
  • Level: Intermediate to advanced
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School

    If you aren’t quite ready to disappear into the wilderness with nothing but a knife, Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School is a good option for learning basics.  You will learn which insects are edible (but won’t be required to eat them) and can even stay in lodges.  It’s also a plus that this is one of the more affordable survival schools.

    • Location: Virginia and Oregon
    • Duration: Mostly 1-3 days
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Leadership and team building, outdoor skills, wilderness first aid, bushcraft essentials
    • Level: Mostly beginner
    • Family Friendly: Yes
    • Website: Mountain Shepherd

    Alderleaf Wilderness College

    This is one of the more comprehensive survival schools where you can get certification and college credits (certificate in Wilderness Skills and Education and Ecology).  This is great if you want a career outdoors.  For people who want to improve their skills, weekend courses are available.

    • Location: Washington
    • Duration: Weekend courses, week-long courses, and a 9-month certification program
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Wilderness survival, traditional ecological knowledge, wild edibles, permaculture, wildlife tracking
    • Level: Intermediate to advanced
    • Family Friendly: No – Must be at least 18 to attend
    • Website: Alderleaf Wilderness College  
    Alderleaf survival school

    Other Survival Schools

    I haven’t checked out the reviews of these survival schools.  However, they seem to be reputable and offer a good course selection.  If you have tried any of these survival schools, let us know about your experience!

    Practical Primitive

    • Location: New Jersey
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Bushcraft, wilderness survival, self-reliance, primitive skills, traditional living
    • Website: Practical Primitive

    True North Wilderness Survival School

    Wolf College

    • Location: Washington
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Mostly kids camps
    • Website: Wolf Camp

    Hawk Circle

    • Location: New York State
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Mostly for youth and family retreats
    • Website: Hawk Circle

    Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracker School

    • Location: New Jersey, some online courses too
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Wilderness survival, primitive cooking
    • Website: Tom Brown Jr’s Tracker School

    First Earth Wilderness School

    • Location: Missouri
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Bow and arrow, tanning, hunter-gatherer, other primitive skills
    • Website: First Earth Wilderness School

    Ancestral Knowledge

    • Location: Maryland, DC area
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Primitive skills, family workshops, youth programs
    • Website: Ancestral Knowledge

    Earthworks Wilderness Survival Training School

    Twin Eagles

    • Location: Idaho
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Wild edibles, bow making, primitive skills, youth programs
    • Website: Twin Eagles

    Adventure Out

    • Location: California
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Desert survival, snow caves and winter survival, fire, arrow making, kayak building, stone tools, and youth programs
    • Website: Adventure Out

    The Human Path

    • Location: Texas
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Primitive skills, wilderness survival, herbal medicine, off-grid, homesteading
    • Website: The Human Path

    Nantahala Outdoor Center

    Learn to Return

    • Location: Anchorage, Alaska
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Offshore survival, rescue, medical,
    • Website: Learn to Return

    Teaching Drum Outdoor School

    • Location: Wisconsin
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Natural living, primitive living, wilderness skills
    • Website: Teaching Drum Outdoor School

    Reevis Mountain School

    • Location: Arizona
    • Types of Survival Classes Offered: Natural healing, self-reliance, growing your own food, traditional living
    • Website: Reevis Mountain School


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  1. I’m in Southern Maryland. I’ve been watching “Dual Survival” for years (with a college notebook full of info on the episodes I think I can use – not on Asian jungle scenerios, but yes on Appalachian Mtns, forests, & Western desert areas), and have a shelf full of survival manuals of all kinds, re-read often. Putting the intellectual info to work would be useful, I think. So, can anyone recommend a good basic survival course in Charles, St. Marys, & Calvert Co. MD, and south on Rt 301 between King George Co., VA & Richmond?

  2. Hello,
    I’m writing from an Air Force Range in central florida. I am part of the environmental wing and we do a lot of outdoor work in rough terrain. my boss has asked me to find a course that will come to our range (Bombing range) and teach us basic survival skills with emphasis on dehydration, hot weather, critters from this area.
    You would have to come to us as we would have probably 30-50 people attending. Is this something you could do, what would you charge? Thank you, Kathy

    • HI Kathy,

      I was with 1CEVG and did ground directed bombing and range scoring while I was in the Air Force. While this might be finding you a little late, I run a Wilderness Survival School in South Carolina and would be glad to help you guys as you need it. Being aware of the conditions you guy are probably working under we can customize training for your specific need. I and some of my instructors would be glad to come down and help at cost.
      Tom Weathers

  3. I live in Tampa FL I a marine-84 ITo 84 want to challenge myself I am 61 I have a logo of equipment I really need to test myself, I feel this world is heading in the wrong direction so I want to learn for myself and family.

  4. I’m writing my capstone project for my HR degree and have decided to use a hypothetical survival training camp as my business plan foundation. I’m having difficulty finding the statistical data this paper requires online but I seem to have been able to find pieces that lead me to where I need to be. I need data to show the size of the industry and I see that you have a database of survival schools in the United States. Could I get a number of the total amount of schools? Thank you so much in advance for your help!

  5. Can you possibly recommend a good school near Eastern TN? (zip code 37694) I’m retired military but need to start very basic then would like to progress into a 2-3 month course. Also trend more towards “primitive” than motels and motor homes.

    Also . . . . what have you heard about STRATEGIC SELF-RELIANCE AND DEFENSE SCHOOL in Henderson, TN.

    Seem good but I can’t find any reviews.


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