Community October 08, 2010
Wisdom Ranch

A long, remote, and stunningly beautiful road divides each young passenger’s life into two distinct halves: The troubled past is left behind in the rearview mirror, while Wisdom Ranch, at the road’s end, offers a chance for a fresh start. The secluded working ranch, nestled under the Pioneer Mountains of Idaho, soon becomes home to teenagers entering its residential program.

Wisdom Ranch is as multifaceted as its setting is down-to-earth. Academics, ranch work, outdoor education, and family living are not divided as separate entities. Everything in a resident’s day combines to support and encourage individual strengths and abilities. Ultimately, each student arrives at the goal: wisdom through experience.

The academic program, which is fully accredited by the State of Idaho, is taught through daily life. Hands-on experiences become opportunities to study biology, economics, history, and other academic subjects. A ranch operation with horses, mules, and 120 head of cattle affords ample opportunity to learn ranch skills such as roping, fencing, and branding. Mountain-climbing and river-rafting expeditions teach outdoor skills, success, and self-confidence.

Students live in small family groups with staff mentors. Each unit’s home is a pair of yurts, one where the students prepare their meals and the other for sleeping and personal space. The yurts provide opportunities to learn other ranch basics, too: They are solar-powered, with spring-fed water and woodburning stoves.

Each student’s own family is also actively involved in the program. Three-day workshops address family dynamics, communications, and relationship styles; and graduation culminates in a six-day Adventure Expedition organized by each student for his or her family.

Staff backgrounds reflect the richly diverse personality that is Wisdom Ranch. Among the group are a New York Times best-selling author, a cattle ranch manager, a Desert Storm Marine Corps leader, a renowned mountaineer, an English teacher, a survival instructor for the U.S. Air Force, a manager of a southern Idaho feedlot, wilderness instructors who specialize in working with youth, and recipients of advanced degrees from M.I.T. and Harvard.

Youth 14 years of age and older are accepted at Wisdom Ranch for residential stays of at least five months. Typically, the program targets students who realize they have lost their passion and need help learning to make different choices. For more information, contact Wisdom Ranch Admissions Director John Tucker at 208.788.8100 or visit the program’s website at




This article appears in the Summer 2002 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.