GEMS: Crowning Jewel


For those GEMS who have spent many a summer at Mountain Shepherd, we present Crowning Jewel! This session invites GEMS back to Mountain Shepherd for five days of new and exciting outdoor adventures, leadership development, self-sufficiency and confidence to continue your passion outdoors after GEMS. Crowning Jewel challenges girls to use every skill they have learned at Mountain Shepherd over the past few summers to tackle their final challenge – confidence in planning their custom adventures. One example is base-camping at Hungry Mother State Park while adventuring to the highest point in Virginia – Mount Rogers, biking the famous Creeper Trail from Whitetop to Damascus, soaring over one of the longest ziplines in Virginia, and enjoy tubing on the New River.

What to Expect

Before GEMS attend Crowing Jewel, we’ll be in touch to discuss staring the planning process!

Campers should plan to spend the majority of the day outside – rain or shine. We teach campers how to dress appropriately for the weather (see packing list for specifics), including how to stay safe while hiking, tubing, biking, and ziplining. While onsite at Mountain Shepherd, we have parachute canopies set up on the property for rain and sun protection.

All GEMS campers are housed in Mountain Shepherd’s cozy bunk rooms with private bathrooms attached for a portion of the week. During GEMS: Crowning Jewel, we will camp together in tents at Hungry Mother State Park.

The adult to camper ratio is 3:10 or better depending on enrollment. Campers and adults move together between activities and during upper-level expeditions. There will be a female adult with your daughter throughout the day and quickly accessible at night. All staff are Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder trained.

Adventure Highlights

  •       5 days/5 nights
  •       Outdoor Fun!
  •       Hiking
  •       Camping
  •       Tubing
  •       Biking
  •       Ziplining
  •       Team-building
  •       All meals included
  •       Memories to last a lifetime
  •       Small group environment (10 maximum)
  •       Hands-on learning

Ready to embark on the next stage of your GEMS journey? Check out our other GEMS courses. 



What else should I know?

Who chooses this adventure? 
This program is designed for GEMS who have completed a minimum of 2 years of other GEMS camps.

What’s Included?


The only required items are comfortable, weather and activity-appropriate clothing, a pair of walking/hiking shoes or hiking boots, and river-appropriate footwear. Closed-toe shoes are required; no flip flops, sandals, or other open-toe shoes. To avoid blisters and other injuries, we don’t recommend campers bring brand-new shoes or boots to wear during camp. Our packing list specifies required items and offers some suggestions for optional items. We provide basic toiletries, towels and linens, and all outdoor equipment (please review the Equipment and Property Care policy regarding all supplied outdoor equipment).


Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks are provided daily. Campers enjoy delicious, balanced home-cooked meals, and we can accommodate for allergies and dietary restrictions as needed. We prefer that campers do not keep their own food in bunkrooms.

Yes, campers will learn which bugs are edible and how to identify them – but eating them is optional!

Overnight accommodations

All GEMS campers are housed in Mountain Shepherd’s cozy bunk rooms with private bathrooms attached for a portion of the week. During GEMS: Crowning Jewel, we will camp together in tents at Hungry Mother State Park.

Travel Arrangements

Each session begins on Sunday afternoon between 5:00 and 6:00 pm and wraps up on a Friday afternoon at 4:00pm.  Airport pick-up and drop-off from Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport (ROA) is also available with prior notice.

For directions to Mountain Shepherd, please visit our Contact page or check out the info sheet for this course.

What is the activity level of this camp? 


Your camper will spend the first part of the week exploring Mountain Shepherd’s 100-acre property, which borders the Jefferson National Forest. There will be lots of opportunities for hiking and learning around the property, which has varying terrain.

Your camper will camp and zipline near Hungry Mother State Park, hike on the Appalachian Trail, bike the Creeper Trail, and tube on the New River. The Appalachian Trail will have some steep, rocky sections, while the Creeper Trail will be mostly a gradual descent from Whitetop.

What should I pack for my daughter? 

Provided by Mountain Shepherd:

  • Shampoo, conditioner, body wash
  • Towels, washcloths, sheets, blankets, pillow
  • Sunscreen, insect repellent
  • Feminine hygiene products (limited supply for “just in case”)
  • Basic over-the-counter medications & first aid products
  • Daypacks
  • Sleeping bags, sleeping pads
  • Tents, hammocks
  • Flashlights, headlamps, helmets
  • Camp field journals
  • A growing GEMS library of age-appropriate books to borrow!
  • All other necessary outdoor equipment for program
  • Yummy meals, snacks, and drinks
  • First Aid Kits
  • Educational fun and adventures!

Required Items for Campers to Bring For Camp:

  •  5 pairs of comfortable, outdoor-appropriate shorts (not too short, not too tight)
  •  5 short-sleeved t-shirts (non-cotton, quick-dry fabric is ideal for outdoors)
  • 1-2 long-sleeved t-shirts
  • 1-2 pairs of jeans or long pants (not yoga pants, leggings, or sweatpants)
  • 1 sweatshirt, light sweater, or fleece jacket
  • 7 pairs of underwear (5 days + extra)
  • 2-3 sports bras, if needed
  • 7 pairs of socks (5 days + extra)
  • 2 sets of pajamas – 1 lightweight set, 1 warmer set
  • Rain jacket with taped seams – “Waterproof ”
  • 1 pair of comfortable, broken-in, closed-toe shoes (in addition to river shoes)
  • No sandals or flip flops; lace-up athletic sneakers or hiking boots are preferred over shoes like Vans, Keds, Converse, Toms, and other slip-ons.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Baby wipes, “Wilderness Wipes,” flushable wipes, or facial wipes
  • Hairbrush and hair accessories as needed
  • Feminine hygiene products, if necessary (we keep an emergency supply)
  • Deodorant, if necessary
  • Eyeglasses and/or contact lenses, contact lens solution
  • Refillable water bottle (32 oz. is ideal)
  • Prescription medications in original container with dosage information
  • An open mind, positive attitude, and sense of adventure!

For Water-Based Activities: 

  • 1 pair of quick-dry shorts or board-shorts (not too short, not too tight)
  • 1 lightweight, quick-dry shirt for sun protection
  • 1 swimsuit (one-piece or two-piece, comfortable, “function over fashion”)
  •  Sun hat or baseball cap, sunglasses
  • 1 pair of old sneakers or closed-toe sandals (KEEN brand-style) *in addition to pair above
  • 1 lightweight towel – microfiber or quick-dry camp towels are great!

Optional/Suggested Items (Remember: You only need enough for 5 days!):

  • Any personal toiletries, sunscreen, insect repellent (especially if you have sensitivities to general products)
  • Flip-flops for use as shower shoes only
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses and/or contact lenses
  • Bag for dirty laundry
  • Flashlight or headlamp with spare batteries
  • Disposable camera or basic point-and-shoot camera (waterproof or with a protective case/pouch)
  • Books, magazines, small crafts, instruments, coloring books, puzzles, card games – bring things to share with the group!
  • Stuffed animal or other comfort item such as photos from home
  • Cell phone – can be brought but will be stored by staff in safe space and given to campers for plenty of opportunities to call parents (Only Verizon-connected cell phones will operate at Mountain Shepherd.)

Equipment and Property Care Policy:

Campers are responsible for the equipment issued to them and should care for it like their own. Equipment is expected to be returned in the same condition in which it was issued. Campers should be proactive about contacting staff to fix damaged equipment. Issued equipment varies depending on the GEMS level, but may include: backpacks, tents, knives, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camping stoves, flashlights or headlamps, first aid kits, and other gear provided by Hollins University Outdoor Program (HOP) or Mountain Shepherd.

Campers are expected to respect Mountain Shepherd property, indoors and outdoors. Bunks and bathrooms should be kept tidy, trash should be put in garbage cans, and gear should be stored properly. While outdoors away from Mountain Shepherd, campers and staff will practice Leave No Trace ethics.