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Southern Dharma Retreat Center
Southern Dharma Retreat Center Southern Dharma Retreat Center Welcome to Southern Dharma Retreat Center

Teacher-Led Retreats

Southern Dharma offers approximately twenty-five teacher-led retreats each year. Our season begins in March and ends with a New Year's retreat.

Southern Dharma retreats are distinguished by the isolated nature and natural beauty of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, by small retreat enrollments (approximately twenty-five participants per retreat), by the national and regional reputations of participating teachers, and by the dedicated support of resident staff.

All retreats at Southern Dharma are conducted in Noble Silence with scheduled periods of meditation practice, dharma talks, teacher interviews, working meditation, and personal time.

Many retreats are suitable for beginning practitioners, but participation in a few retreats is limited to people with extensive meditation experience.

Southern Dharma does not host private retreats or overnight visits between scheduled retreats.

Participation in Southern Dharma retreats is limited to persons eighteen years of age or older.

Registration and Fees

Online registration for each retreat opens four months before the retreat is scheduled to begin.

The registration fee of $85/night includes lodging and three meals each day.

At the end of each retreat, we encourage voluntary dana contributions to benefit participating teachers—who serve without pay. Because income from registration fees does not cover all of Southern Dharma’s operating costs, we also welcome contributions to benefit our operations and scholarship program.

Each registration deposit includes a non-refundable $100 registration fee. The full balance of each registration fee is due thirty days before the retreat is scheduled to begin—or at the time of registration when registration is made within thirty days of a retreat start date.

We require all guests to make reservations online.


Southern Dharma Retreat Center 25th AnniversaryThe Pali word dana connotes generosity—both the practice of generosity and the contributions made in the spirit of generosity. Southern Dharma perpetuates a long-standing tradition of dana practice by inviting retreat participants to make financial contributions to support the work of teachers and the operations of our center.

We reimburse teachers for travel expenses, but we follow a long-established tradition of not paying teachers for service. Teacher service at Southern Dharma is supported through dana.

We strive to keep registration fees as low as possible to facilitate retreat participation, and we provide generous scholarship support to people in need. Dana practice supports our mission.

We invite voluntary financial contributions at the conclusion of each retreat.

Waiting Lists

Southern Dharma maintains waiting lists for all retreats with closed registrations. Upon receipt of cancellations, we notify people on waiting lists that registrations are temporarily re-opened. Cancellation vacancies are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.


  • A registration deposit—minus the $100 non-refundable registration fee—is refunded upon request for cancellations made more than thirty days before a retreat is scheduled to begin.
  • All registration fees are forfeited for cancellations made thirty days—or less than thirty days—before a retreat begins.
  • In the event of emergency cancellations, Southern Dharma will consider a waiver of cancellation fees (less the $100 non-refundable registration fee) by timely written request accompanied by an explanation of circumstances.

Scholarship & Fellowship Support

Southern Dharma Retreat Center 25th AnniversaryThrough the generosity of friends and donors, Southern Dharma offers work-exchange scholarships to people in financial need.

Generous grant assistance from the Hemera Foundation enables us to offer fellowship support to qualifying educators and health care professionals.


Facilities and lodging at Southern Dharma include a meditation hall, guest lodge with dining room and library, three rustic one-person cabins, and four tent platforms. The rugged mountain setting and steep natural terrain of our campus are not conducive to handicap accessibility. Access to most facilities requires use of indoor and outdoor stairways.

Lodging is in shared rooms with common showers and bathrooms. We house fourteen people in double and triple rooms on the second floor of our wood stove-heated lodge and ten people in a third-floor dormitory (with beds separated by privacy partitions). All lodge rooms are furnished with twin beds; two triple rooms have bunk beds.

Guest accommodations outside our lodge include three small one-person cabins (one reserved for a retreat volunteer) and four tent platforms. The two guest cabins are heated by propane heaters but have no indoor plumbing or electricity. People reserving tent platforms must supply their own water repellant tents and sleeping gear. One-person cabins and tent platforms are located near a common summer shower house and a separate toilet facility.

Room and tent platform assignments are allocated through the registration process in the order received. Retreat participants must accept or decline housing options available at the time of registration. Southern Dharma reserves the right to consider special needs in determination of final room assignments.


Southern Dharma Retreat Center 25th Anniversary Meals at Southern Dharma are primarily vegan (vegetable based; no ingredients of animal origin) with occasional egg and dairy options available at meals. Registration fees include three buffet-style meals each day with lunch served as the main meal of the day. We offer a variety of dishes with each nutritious meal, utilizing as much locally grown produce as possible. Fresh-brewed coffee is available each morning. Instant coffee, a variety of teas (both caffeinated and non-caffeinated), and fresh fruit and light snacks are available at all times.

We accommodate gluten-free diets with notice provided at the time of registration

We provide retreat participants with extremely limited food storage and refrigeration space and no individual food preparation facilities. Due to space, facility, and staffing limitations, Southern Dharma cannot accommodate all dietary restrictions.

We require advance notification at the time of registration of any severe or life threatening food allergies. Many of these can be accommodated.

Arrival and Departure Times

Check-in time for all retreats at Southern Dharma is between 2:00-4:00 p.m. on the first retreat day.

Retreats begin with an orientation program at 5:00 p.m. on the first retreat day followed by dinner at 6:00 p.m. A brief training period precedes an introductory program with the retreat teacher the first evening.

Retreats end with a mid-day meal on the last scheduled retreat day.

Teachers typically discourage late arrival or early departure. Late arrival and early departure requires teacher and center approval.

Daily Schedules

Most retreats are highly structured with schedules proposed by participating teachers. All retreats include daily periods of sitting and walking meditation, working meditation, dharma talks and instruction, and personal time. Most retreats include individual or group interviews with the teacher. Some retreats incorporate yoga, qigong, nature walks, or other movement or energy activities.

Noble Silence

The observance of Noble Silence is a hallmark of Southern Dharma retreats. Our mission provides for “an atmosphere of quiet reflection where one can nurture a sense of peace and uncover truths within the heart.”

Superfluous talk is not permitted during retreats, and use of cell phones and communications technologies during retreats is prohibited.

Work Weekends

Southern Dharma Retreat Center 25th AnniversaryTwice each year—in spring and fall—Southern Dharma offers two-night Work Weekends conducted in Noble Silence. In exchange for reduced registration fees, participants help with various seasonal maintenance tasks and participate in introductory retreat activities such as basic meditation instruction and practice.

The nominal registration fee to participate in Work Weekends is non-refundable.

Behavior Code

Retreat participants, staff members, and teachers agree to adhere to the terms of Southern Dharma’s Code of Behavior. Visitors, employees, and teachers agree to refrain from unnecessary communication; from false speech; from harming life or property; from taking that which is not freely given; from inappropriate personal relations; from use of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants; and from wearing distracting or immodest clothing. Smoking and the use of tobacco products is prohibited on the Southern Dharma campus.

Public Transportation

Public transportation from the towns nearest to Southern Dharma—Asheville to the southeast and Hot Springs to the north—is not available.

Travel by Car

Located near the community of Spring Creek in western North Carolina (Madison County), Southern Dharma is accessible by car about one hour northwest of Asheville and about half an hour south of Hot Springs.

Because GPS and internet-sourced driving directions are often erroneous for mountain driving, we advise visitors and guests to print and follow the driving directions from Asheville and Hot Springs available here.

Most visitors driving to Southern Dharma start out on divided interstate highways, proceed to winding two-lane state roads, and ultimately find themselves on the one-way gravel road leading up Hap Mountain to our secluded cove. We advise drivers on the gravel access road to use the lowest gear possible, to relax, and to maintain a slow, even (5-10 mph) speed through the small creek bed and up the various turns and switchbacks. We suggest that you avoid stopping on inclines and refrain from spinning tires.

When feasible, we encourage carpooling and promote ride offers and expressions of transportation needs through our online registration system. While we’re happy to facilitate carpooling communications, however, we cannot guarantee to provide rides to or from Southern Dharma.

We can usually arrange taxi service from Asheville by prior request. The cost for this service is about $130, excluding driver gratuity.

Rides from Southern Dharma to Asheville with other departing retreat guests can generally be arranged at the conclusion of retreats.

Travel by Air

Southern Dharma Retreat Center 25th Anniversary Southern Dharma is located about 1.25 hours by car from the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL). Upon request, we will try to facilitate carpooling between the airport and the retreat center, but we cannot guarantee rides. With advance notice, we can usually facilitate taxi service from the airport at a cost of approximately $130 (excluding driver gratuity). Rides from Southern Dharma to the airport with other departing retreat guests can generally be arranged at the conclusion of retreats.

To allow ample time for ground transportation, guests should plan flight arrival in Asheville before 3:00 p.m. on the first day of the retreat and flight departure no earlier than 3:00 p.m. on the last day.

What to Bring

Approximately thirty days before a retreat begins, we email registered guests a confirmation notice containing details of what you need to bring.

Unless you are flying, we ask that you bring your own sheets (for a single bed), pillow cases, and towels.

You will need indoor shoes, slippers, or socks to wear inside our lodge and meditation hall and outdoor shoes suitable for rugged terrain or hiking for outdoors. (If you plan to spend any time inside our kitchen, you will need to wear closed-toes shoes.)

We provide zafus, zabutons, meditation benches, chairs, and "sticky" yoga mats—but you are welcome to bring your own.

We recommend non-distracting, loose-fitting clothing—and various layers of clothing for variable temperatures and weather conditions. Some teachers prohibit shorts or sleeveless tops in the meditation hall.

Guests reserving tent platforms must supply their own water repellant tents, sleeping gear, and camping equipment.

Don’t forget toiletries, flashlights, and water bottles!

What Not to Bring

Southern Dharma prohibits the use of hair dryers (except for one low-decibel dryer we make available for guests to share), incense, candles, alcohol, tobacco and tobacco products, and all recreational drugs.

Out of respect for those with chemical sensitivities, we expect guests to refrain from using personal scented products such as perfume, cologne, or strongly scented toiletries.

In observance of Noble Silence, guests should not plan to use cell phones, computers, or electronic communications devices. (Most cell phone service is not accessible at Southern Dharma, and internet access is not available to guests.)

Emergency Contact

Retreat guests have 24-hour access to our office phone to make outgoing emergency calls.

Friends and family needing to make emergency contact with retreat guests may call our office phone night or day at 828-622-7112. A recorded greeting directs callers to a 24-hour emergency number.