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Our Campus

A path curving around an outdoor dining patio under a pergola
The outdoor terrace of the Dining Commons is used for dining as well as occasional classroom.

The Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation is located on the grounds of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. Here, students work directly with Smithsonian scientists and George Mason University professors, learning to save species and their habitats.

The SCBI is about an hour’s drive west from Washington, D.C., nestled alongside the 196,000-acre Shenandoah National Park. The facility covers 3,200 acres of forest, grassland, and pasture. This active research facility houses a range of endangered mammals, birds, and amphibians, creating an extraordinary hands-on environment for learning about wildlife conservation.

Front Royal

Aerial view of campus buildings nestled next to mountain, fields, and streams
An aerial view of campus, with nearby Front Royal in the distance.

Picturesque Front Royal, Virginia, is situated on the Shenandoah River and is between Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Massanutten Mountain to the west.

All four seasons are beautiful here, with flowering buds in the spring and spectacular foliage in the fall. Temperatures average 35 degrees Fahrenheit in winter and 76 degrees Fahrenheit in summer; fall and spring both average in the 60s.

The Great Outdoors

People in three canoes paddle down a forested river
Canoeing is a popular weekend pastime for SMSC students.

The landscape and climate are ideal for outdoor enthusiasts.

You can enjoy extensive hiking options along the Shenandoah National Park’s 500 miles of trails, 101 of which are part of the Appalachian Trail. Discover open vistas, dramatic waterfalls, and miles of wilderness or take a scenic drive along Skyline Drive and explore the nearby Skyline Caverns.

Front Royal was designated the “Canoe Capital of Virginia” in 1999. You can enjoy canoeing, kayaking, tubing, and paddle boarding on the Shenandoah River. The river also boasts good smallmouth bass fishing throughout the year.

The Shenandoah River State Park, just eight miles south of town, features miles of riverfront and mountain trails for hiking and mountain biking, as well as cabin rentals, a zip line, and tent camping.

Around Town

For indoor activities, the Town of Front Royal offers a variety of restaurants as well as boutiques and antique shops to explore. Festivals and community events flourish throughout the year featuring food, vendors, and live entertainment.

Getting Here

The SCBI is conveniently located near the junction of Interstates 66 and 81. It’s approximately 1 hour from Dulles International Airport.