GEMS Shining Bright enables girls to find courage, build confidence, and show compassion for others. This five-day overnight experience  is designed for girls going into grades 6th-9th, with backcountry survival skills training, environmental education, and adventure activities. During Shining Bright, girls discover the seven survival priorities: positive mental attitude, first aid, shelter, firecraft, signaling, water, and food. This experience introduces girls to the parallels between each survival priority and their lives in the “front country.” Girls explore their own personalities and communication styles, as they gain an appreciation for teamwork and positive social interactions.  Girls leave camp Shining Bright, ready to take on new challenges!

What to Expect

Mountain Shepherd’s gorgeous 100-acre campus provides an immersive wilderness experience, with comfort close at hand if needed. During a five-day overnight experience, GEMS learn the practical skills associated with each survival priority. GEMS gain an appreciation for their natural and social surroundings through fun — and deceptively educational — activities. After five days, GEMS leave with confidence and compassion, knowing more about themselves and how they interpret and interact with their world.

This camp is mostly outside, we have parachute canopies set up on the property for rain and sun protection, and have the option to head inside the beautiful Mountain Shepherd Lodge in case of severe weather.

All GEMS campers are housed in Mountain Shepherd’s cozy bunk rooms with private bathrooms attached. During GEMS: Shining Bright, there are opportunities to camp together in tents on the property for campers who are comfortable doing so.

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.

“My daughter returned from GEMS full of excitement, stories, and dare I say joy. Thank you for creating this opportunity and targeting the very audience who needs it most. Thank you for actually SEEING my daughter and inspiring her to face her fear, not of the wilderness but of people, and come out stronger on the other side. She had an amazing experience and I am grateful for it.” ~ Heather B.

Adventure Highlights

  •       5 days/5 nights
  •       Outdoor Fun!
  •       Survival Skills
  •       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?

Outdoor experience levels do not matter. Campers with no experience, weekend day-hikers, and seasoned wilderness warriors are all welcome to partake in the Girls Empowered experience. No matter what experience you arrive with, we hope each girl leaves feeling empowered by the benefits of outdoor learning.

This program is designed for girls entering grades 6 and up. Each session is open to mixed age groups for a unique peer-to-peer experience. For example, GEMS: Shining Bright sessions are ideal for girls entering grades 6-8, while GEMS: Digging Deeper and GEMS: Rock On sessions may each have a combined group of girls entering grades 7 and up.

What’s Included?


The only required items are comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and a pair of sturdy sneakers, walking/hiking shoes, or hiking boots. 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. During GEMS: Shining Bright, there are opportunities to camp together in tents on the property for campers who are comfortable doing so.

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? 

Easy to Moderate

Your camper will spend 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.

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
  • Backpacks (multi-day and daypacks)
  • Sleeping bags, sleeping pads
  • Tents, hammocks
  • Flashlights, headlamps
  • 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
  • Educational fun and adventures!

Required Items for Campers to Bring:

  • 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
  • 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) wool is best for hiking
  • 2 sets of pajamas – 1 lightweight set, 1 warmer set
  • Rain jacket with taped seams – “Waterproof ”
  • 1-2 pairs of comfortable, broken-in, closed-toe 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.
  • 2 pairs of appropriate shoes is ideal in case one pair needs to dry out.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • 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!

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) • Sunglasses, sun hat or baseball cap
  • Flip-flops for use as shower shoes only
  • Swimsuit
  • Extra pair of eyeglasses and/or contact lenses
  • Bag for dirty laundry
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Disposable camera or basic point-and-shoot camera
  • 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.