Despite living at Yosemite’s doorstep, many young people in the communities around the park lack access to the national park in their backyard. Barriers related to transportation, income or community perceptions can keep teens and young adults from experiencing the nearby Sierra wilderness.

WildLink helps break down those barriers and encourage underserved California youth to develop lasting connections to the natural world. This program offers teens a crucial first introduction to Yosemite through five-day, ranger-led backpacking expeditions into the park’s wilderness during the school year. In 2016, WildLink students explored Little Yosemite Valley, Hetch Hetchy, Cathedral Lakes, Clouds Rest and more. Along the way, they learned about topics such as water quality and fire ecology; practiced map-reading and other outdoor skills; and completed hands-on restoration and research projects.

WildLink also engages students in their home communities, through “ambassador projects” that reinforce connections between their local area and the natural world. The 2016 projects included a scientific study at UC Merced’s natural reserve, a clean-up effort at the Kings River, and a day hike in a neighborhood park.

After the academic-year program, a select group of WildLink alumni spend two weeks exploring careers in Yosemite. The 2016 “Career Connection” participants met with more than 20 professionals from the park and its partner organizations, helped with habitat restoration projects, saw Yosemite through the eyes of wilderness and wildlife experts, and more.

Your gifts supported a life-changing Youth in Yosemite Program that connects teens to nature in a national park — and in their own neighborhoods. Thank you for supporting your park!

Completed in partnership with Yosemite National Park, WildLink, NatureBridge and Balanced Rock.


Ken Watson

Wilderness Education Supervisor

Project Notes

WildLink includes family Outreach Visits; five-day Expeditions in Yosemite; local stewardship projects in schools and community centers; Wilderness Ambassador Projects; Yosemite Family Weekend; and mentorship and career opportunities for approximately 90 underserved youth annually.