Landmark Learning

In 1996 Mairi and Justin Padgett had the idea to create a school that focused on emergency medical training and swiftwater rescue. As outdoor guides since the late 1980’s they wanted to influence outdoor guide education in western North Carolina. As Mairi and Justin attended graduate school at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC, Justin became immersed in the county emergency medical services.   By 2000 Landmark Learning had a home on a thirty acre parcel of mountain property in a remodeled cabin circa 1900. 2001 brought the Downstream Campus, complete with primitive student housing and connecting road systems. Landmark Learning had a home and began welcoming students from across the country to our beautiful mountains.

Program focuses by 2006 included wilderness medicine, emergency medical technician intensive, leave no trace, wilderness lifeguard, swift water rescue, canoe instructor development. The relief medic program began around this time in conjunction with our sister school Mingai, Ecuador South America.

In 2007 Landmark Learning became a partner of NOLS Wilderness Medicine adding to our current affiliations with the American Canoe Association, Starfish Aquatics Institute, Leave No Trace and the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services.

The partnership with NOLS allowed the Leader in outdoor education to hold its capstone WEMT course in the state of North Carolina. Now, the 3-week EMT Intensive is complimented with a 4th week during which advanced patient care considerations are applied to remote and austere settings, without access to rapid transport. Four of these experiences, listed as NOLS WEMT 3+1, are held each year at Landmark Learning.

The Landmark Outdoor Educator Semester is another combined course experience, a 6+ week consolidated training eligible for up to 12 hours of college credit through Landmark’s partnership with Western Carolina University. WCU students and Continuing Education students can elect to receive credit and supplement their outdoor resumes at the same time. The extensive course lineup includes the NOLS Wilderness EMT 3+1, Leave No Trace Master Educator, ACA Swiftwater Rescue and ACA Introduction to Canoeing Instructor, SAI Wilderness Lifeguard, and an Introduction to Single-Pitch Climbing with Fox Mountain Guides.

The Landmark Foundation incorporated in 2015 as a 501(c)(3) to support Landmark Learning student services and scholarship funding. The Landmark Foundation is supported through grant writing, alumni giving and charitable gifts.

2016 brought the completion of the Upstream Campus providing Landmark Learning an 8,000 square foot lodge housing our state of the art classroom, office spaces, and dining facilities. Residential housing for students was positioned on the mountain above the Cane Creek Lodge. Landmark Learning now has the ability to run two separate programs simultaneously on both campuses.

As of 2019 Landmark Learning provides employment to over 50 employees serving more than 3000 students each year across the globe. Two decades after our inception we are meeting our mission “to be the leading resource in education and training for the outdoor industry through our dedication to a culture of cooperation that builds national standards”.

To find out about all the courses Landmark Learning offers and to register online, visit

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