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About Our Program


Foothill Horizons is a California Department of Education (CDE) and California Outdoor School Association (COSA) certified residential outdoor school in the foothills of the central Sierra near the town of Sonora. Amid 143 acres of forest, meadows and creeks, students learn about ecology, how to respect nature and how to cooperate with others while having the learning adventure of a lifetime!  We are owned and operated by Stanislaus County Office of Education and have been providing lifelong memories for students for over 60 years!


We teach!  At Foothill, we inspire connections to nature and one another.  Our school offers children a chance to learn science through hands-on, interactive lessons aligned with Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. Students experience a minimum of 5 hours of science instruction a day, equivalent to 5 weeks of science education in the average classroom in California. Students also develop social and personal skills such as teamwork, communication, responsibility and kindness through group living, daily team challenges and a collaborative learning environment. Children often see their first deer, forest, mountain stream or hawk during their stay with us.  We pride ourselves on providing all children with a safe and unforgettable outdoor experience.  In addition, all of our lessons address California State Science standards for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade and the Next Generation Science Standards 1, 9 & 8.  

We provide leadership opportunities!   Over 600 high school students each school year volunteer their time to be Counselors and role models for our overnight programs.  These amazing young leaders join their student group on hikes, during meals, during games and evening activities.  Their biggest responsibility is providing overnight supervision in the dormitories and helping to get their group to activities on time.  Each counselor is coached throughout the week and receives written feedback on their performance that may even be used as a Letter of Recommendation for future employment.  

We help prepare future professional outdoor educators with skills they need to be successful!  Each school year, we select at least 5 outstanding candidates for our Naturalist Internship cohort.  These individuals will learn student management skills, how to teach in the outdoors, best practices for writing lesson plans, contribute to the program operation behind the scenes and of course, teach students out on the trail.  This 9-month internship is an ideal training ground for those who want to pursue a career in teaching.


  • Skills for life! - Your child will be engaging in conversation, learning how to ask questions and make observations, working with others, sharing thoughts about the day over a meal, and overcome challenges.
  • Social and Emotional Growth! - Your child will make new friends, find a bit of independence by managing their time and decisions, and will get to try new things. 
  • Science knowledge!  Your child will get hands-on experience being a scientist by making observations, developing an argument based on evidence, and will begin to see the ways all things are connected.
  • Self Confidence! - Your child will discover that they are a strong and capable learner.
  • Memories that last a lifetime!  Climbing through the boulder caves, visiting the creek, hiking to the top of the Sky Tower to see the stars, singing together at Campfire... just to name a few.
  • Experienced staff!  Many of our Naturalists have been part of the Foothill Family for decades, so we know how to make your child's week the best ever. 
  • ... and of course... Over 60 years of tradition!   (Do you still have your name tag!?) 



Come one, Come all!  Visit the Foothill Horizons campus - for free - during our April 1, 2023 Open House from 10:00am-2:00pm.   Campus tours, hikes, Q&A, merchandise sales - AND - you'll get to meet some of the amazing Foothill staff members! 



Contact Us

Foothill Horizons
Outdoor School

21925 Lyons Bald Mountain
Sonora, CA 95370

Mission Statement

Mission Statement 

Foothill Horizons Outdoor school inspires connections to nature and one another. We provide an interactive outdoor science experience, a collaborative learning environment and personal growth opportunities through individual challenges. Foothill Horizons Outdoor School develops respectful global citizens dedicated to stewardship in their communities and beyond

Key Contacts

Jess Hewitt


Carol Christensen

Administrative Assistant


Assistant Director

Alex Frierson

Naturalist Coordinator