The Institute at Tremont, in the Great Smoky Mountains, has been serving the Walker Valley community for 50 years. It all started in 1969 when a group of local leaders and educators came together to turn a group of old Job Corps buildings, slated for demolition, into a residential environmental learning center. The idea was to offer hands-on outdoor discovery experiences accessible to everyone. The successful implementation has only grown stronger and flourished over the years, with programs for everyone – from young children to adults, and educators to the curious public.


Photo by Stephanie BowlingTo celebrate this golden anniversary, they have invited everyone to attend their annual Homecoming gathering on the weekend of October 12 – 14, 2019. A full weekend package is available online, which will include Saturday and Sunday night lodging in their dormitory. Four meals will be provided, including Saturday supper, Sunday breakfast, a sack lunch, and Homecoming dinner. Many informal activities have been planned, such as a campfire and moonlight walk, a waterfall hike, and a tour of Tremont’s new property in Townsend. Space is limited, so if you are interested, please go to to register.


If you aren’t able to make the homecoming celebration, there are many other ways to get involved with the Institute at Tremont. A popular fall activity is their Monarch Tagging program in Cades Cove. Each year monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico for the winter and Tremont Institute using tagging as a way to track their migratory patterns and monitor population status. Tremont has been tagging monarch butterflies for many years, and each year their volunteer pool grows because of its popularity with participants from every age group. Grab your butterfly net and play in the fields of Cades Cove, while also using a field guide to identify the different species. Monarch tagging is just one of several Citizen Science programs, which allows the public to gather hands-on experience with real scientific research. Other Citizen Science programs throughout the year include bird banding, salamander monitoring, phenology tracking, and otter spotting. If you are interested in volunteering and want more information about the Citizen Science programs, please check out http:/


The Institute at Tremont also has summer camps and adult programs which are open to the public. Summer camps start at age four and are available through high school ages. They have family camps which allow families to stay on-site and offer all kinds of outdoor activities. Leave the planning to the Tremont Institute and come and enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains in a structured and educational environment. They offer a Firefly Camp, which allows a parent or grandparent to accompany children from four to nine for a one, two, or three-night adventure. There are also discovery camps, science camps, and backpacking camps. Leave the kids for a unique camp experience while you and your spouse enjoy some private time alone in the mountains for the week. With so many different camp experiences, there is one for any family.


Not to leave the adults out of the fun, Tremont has a wide variety of programs for the older generation, as well. There are Road Scholar hiking trips, Sierra Club hikes, and a Women’s Fall Backpacking excursion. Twice a year, they offer photography workshops, which allow students to stay at the facility and sharpen their nature photography skills. They also provide Naturalist Classes and Certifications under the Southern Appalachian Naturalist Certification Program, which is a field-based program in Southern Appalachian ecology and interpretive techniques. The Wilderness First Responder course is led by instructors from Roane State Community College and meets the Tennessee Emergency Medical Services curriculum standards. If you love the outdoors, Tremont Institute has the program for you.


With 50 years of experience, the Institute at Tremont has been instrumental in serving our community with environmental educations resources and programs. Their journey is far from over, as new environmental concerns arise, they are prepared to teach the public how to get involved and make a difference. For more information on the Tremont Institute or any of their programs, please go to their website at