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Overnight Camps for Teens & Preteens

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2013 - 2014 Recommendations


Whitewater rafting camp for teens

May 2014

My 16-year-old son would love to go to a sleep away camp that focuses on whitewater rafting. Can't seem to find one online. Anyone know of such an animal? Kid who wants to get wet


Please look into ARTA (http://www.arta.org/). They are a nonprofit rafting company that has week-long junior training trips in CA and UT for teens. My son did the UT trip 4 years ago when he was 15. He absolutely loved it. He went rafting with the company the following year in Idaho and then took the real guide training course with them last year when he was 18. He may be guiding this summer. As a parent, I couldn't be more comfortable with the company.Tell them I recommended them. Linda B
YMCA Camp Jones Gulch has a teen adventure/travel camp that may be just what you're looking for! I just found out about this camp yesterday and signed my 14 year old adventure seeking boy up for 2 weeks. Camp is based near Big Sur and transportation to and from the Bay Area is $40 if you need it.

Here's the White Water rafting camp description: ''White Water Rafting Adventure (Session 3; $695.00 July 6-11) Entering grades 7-12 . In a high adrenaline adventure, thrill seeking teens rally inflatable rafts down the Middle Fork of the American River. Experience impressive rapids down miles of crystal clear water. Between rafting we will explore areas around James Marshall Park, go mountain biking, and enjoy access to a beautiful swimming pool and natural river swimming hole. Swimming proficiency is recommended but not mandatory.'' www.ymcasf.org/campjonesgulch/what_we_offer/youth_and_teens/teen_adventure_camp Each week has a different theme. They all look great and I see good reviews online. Best of all it's pretty cheap for sleepaway camp and everything is included. tjda


Outdoor/ camping summer camp for 13yr old boy

April 2014

Seeking recommendations for my 13 yr old nephew for a summer camp that is outdoors, camping, perhaps (easy) back-packing in northern california. I want a camp that will introduce him to the wonders of nature, while having a good time. (He doesn't go out in nature much now.) Any suggestions welcome, pls tell your experience if possible. Also, he's a brown-skin boy so would be nice if there is some diversity.... ariana


Check out the wonderful Camp Augusta near grass valley. They are great. I go for family camp
Hi Ariana, I highly recommend a small residential camp in the Sierras called Camp Jack Hazard (www.campjackhazard.org). Its program includes easy backpacking, but really it is a simple, old-school summer camp with arts-and-crafts, nature hikes, campfires, a swimming pool, and a ropes course. They get kids familiar and comfortable with the outdoors because the location is so spectacular (north of Yosemite, near the Sonora Pass). A week spent doing fun camp stuff at this location gives kids the chance to just love being outside in the beauty of it all, gets them over squeamishness about dirt, bugs, etc., and teaches them some basic outdoor skills (Leave No Trace philosophy, for example).

Every kid also goes backpacking with their cabin group on a relatively easy 2-night overnight backpacking trip. Because of the location and the camp's long history of operation in the region (they celebrate 90 years this year), they are able to send every backpacking group on a hike that is relatively easy but feels like real backpacking and ends up in a location that it an excellent reward for the effort (alpine meadows, creeks, peaks, etc). Even the young kids (as young as 6 yrs) go on mini-backpacking trips (usually only hiking within the camp facility but to a place where they can sleep under the stars).

Camp Jack Hazard primarily serves the Central Valley (operates out of Modesto) and so represents the diversity you see there, including much greater socioeconomic diversity than you generally see in the Bay Area. Side benefit for Bay Area families: it is dirt cheap compared to locally operating camps ($495 for a week of sleep-away camp).

Full disclosure: I once worked there (eons ago) and now help with operations serving on the board of directors. My 12 year old (daughter) has been several summers and loves it. I'm sending my six year old to the mini camp (3 nights) this year, and I would definitely hesitate sending a kid that young to a sleep away camp anywhere else, but this place is magical. Stephanie


Our 12-year-old boy will be attending a session at Camp Chrysalis this summer. They have different options, like Big Sur, Mendocino and the Sierra, for different lengths of time. Caveat: I have no direct experience with this camp, but my son is attending with a friend whose family has experience with it and raves about it. Other friends recommend it also and it has good reviews on BPN. As for brown-skinned campers, sorry, I don't know, but you could certainly email the director and ask. anon
I am replying to the recommendation for Camp Chrysalis. My kid attended a few years back. We found it to be a camp where a lot the staff has known each other for years and some are relatives of each other, and where many of the campers know each other or know the staff previous to the camp, and it is not a large camp. My kid went to camp without any previous relationships to the staff or other campers, and would recommend going with a buddy or buddies. anon
Didn't see the original post but I just spent a weekend researching sleepaway camps for my 13 year old boy. We decided on YMCA Camp Ravencliff on the Eel River. They have a ''teen week'' for 13-16 year olds. Looks like your basic traditional sleepaway camp, rustic cabins, swimming on the river, canoes, camp games, hikes, etc. but tailored for the teen crowd. We also signed up for a week at YMCA Camp Jones Gulch teen adventure/travel camp. Different theme each week from White Water Rafting to Backpacking to Surfing to Horses. They also offer a traditional residential camp without the travel. My son can't wait.

Hidden Villa Ranch in Los Altos was a close second. They have a great program for 8th-10th graders (but my son didn't want to backpack). I was a camper there many years ago and absolutely loved it.

Here's the blurb ''As Farm & Wilderness campers, teens build close relationships within a small group, living at the primitive Hollow Oak campsite at Hidden Villa for nine days and going on a three-day mid-session backpack trip to Black Mountain. While on the trail, campers work toward team-building and achieving group goals. Campers and counselors care for the farm animals (cows, goats, pigs, sheep, chickens). Each day they choose from a variety of activities—hiking, swimming, archery, arts and crafts, sports, or gardening. Evenings are spent storytelling, sharing music, taking a night hike or a moonlight swim.''

*The YMCA camps are about $600 a week, everything included! They have scholarships too if needed and really cheap or free transportation to and from Berkeley. Hidden Villa also on the more affordable side of sleepaway camps. Loving the Y


Overnight summer camp for vegetarian boy

Dec 2013

My son would like to attend summer camp in 2014, and I'm trying to find a place that offers vegetarian meals. Does anyone have any good suggestions within three hours of the Bay Area? He will be 10 years old next summer.

My daughter, who is two years older, has attended three different Girl Scout Camps and they do a great job with special diets. Before each meal, they announce that vegan and vegetarian meals are available at the dining window and she was satisfied with the food. In particular, she liked Skylark Ranch the best, followed by Deer Lake, if anyone is looking for recommendations. I'm hoping to find a similar overnight camp for boys: fun, reasonably priced, traditional camp with vegetarian meals on offer. Any suggestions? Thank you! Jenn


You might try Full Belly Farm - they do one week summer sleepaway camps. It's about 2 hours from the East Bay and a really amazing place. (They are a CSA). While I'm not sure if the meals at camp would be solely vegetarian, I'm sure there would be a lot of vegetarian options. We recently signed our kids up for a half day kids-camp thing, part of the annual Full Belly Hoes Down, and they had a blast. They're vegetarian, and the lunch that day was veggie. I don't see anything listed on the site yet for camp in 2014 (fullbellyfarm.com) but I'm sure they'll put info up eventually, or you can email them via the site. -- likely parent of a future Full Belly sleepaway camper

2009 - 2012 Recommendations


Outdoor/backpacking camp for teen daughter

March 2011

Does anyone know of an outdoor or backpacking camp that lasts for a week at the beginning or the end of the summer? My daughter wants to go to Stage Door Conservancy which will take from July 5 to August 14, so we're trying to fit a week or two of outdoor camp in to balance that out. anon


Well, it only touches on your date, but the program is so Excellent it's worth it, check out Camp Unalayee at www.gocampu.org Unalayee's been taking teens backpacking for 62 years, has a rare setting in the uncrowded, pristine Trinity Alps Wilderness, and offers the only Wilderness Immersion (not just toe wetting) program for teens around. Seena

Kayak, canoe or rafting summer programs

Nov 2009

My 16 year old son would like to spend a few weeks canoeing or kayaking this summer and we are looking for recommendations of programs. Thanks


My daughter had a fantastic life-changing 4 weeks kayaking around southern Alaska with NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) last summer. They learn so much more than just kayaking. See www.nols.edu. Anna

Summer adventure experience for 17-year-old boy

May 2009

I am looking a weeklong, or longer, outdoor summer adventure experience in CA for my 16 (17 year old in the summer) boy. I want him to have an experience away from Oakland this summer, and experience a different, healthy reality. He's gone white water rafting before and loved it. Can anyone recommend a reputable program that is not over-the-top expensive? Michele


If your son is not already a member of a local Boy Scout troop, I would highly recommend it for anyone with a love of the outdoors and a concern for the environment. My son joined Boy Scouts as soon as he turned 11 (was not involved in Cub Scouts) and it has been a wonderful experience all these years for him. These are some of the activities he has been involved in:
  • monthly outdoor outings for hiking, camping, & bicycle trips -- to Bay Area state parks and national recreation areas (Point Reyes, for example);
  • summer backpacking trips;
  • a week long trek to Florida for canoeing: http://www.bsaseabase.org/
  • a two week trek to New Mexico: http://www.scouting.org/highadventure/philmont.aspx for hiking & camping;
  • summer camp at the Council boy scout camp in the Sierra;
  • and even a ''scout exchange'' trip to Japan for 3 weeks, where he climbed to the top of Mt Fuji & stayed for a week with a host scout family.

    His scout troop is also involved in many community service projects throughout the year. You can contact your local Boy Scouts of America council at: http://www.bsa-mdsc.org/ or http://www.sfbac.org General information can be found at http://www.scouting.org/ Scout Parent


    Last summer I also wanted my son to be outdoors for a week, so we sent him to a one-week whitewater rafting class. He didn't know anyone who was going and wasn't thrilled about it when I dropped him off. But he had a great time, and when I picked him up at the end of the week, he got goodbye hugs and cell number exhanges from a bunch of kids. He was 15. The camp was: www.rarafting.com. It is not big, and the owner is there the whole time and answered my questions thoroughly in advance. I'd recommend it. anne
    My daughter has had wonderful experiences with Camp Chrysalis, an outdoor nature and environmental education camp run by Lee Tempkin, a Berkeley teacher. He runs four camp trips a year, geared to different ages and levels of ability. Supportive yet challenging, we love the program for how it has engaged our daughter. Lee also keeps it very affordable, which is great! http://www.campchrysalis.com/ City mother of outdoorsy girl
    The best outdoor camp in the world is Camp Unalayee, a non-profit camp situated in the Trinity Alps. It is non-affilated and run with wonderful care. The kids come back with a strong sense of self. It is two weeks long and there is no cell phone coverage. It's very good for the soul to be out in nature with minimum possetions. The ratio is small and the food is wonderful. Of course, they may just be hungry. The next session is mid-July to early August. First session was cancelled -- so few people send their kids to outdoor camps. Here is the website: http://www.unalayee.org/ PS If it's too expensive don't write it off -- there may be a way. anonymous

    2005 - 2008 Recommendations


    Outdoorsy camp for athletic 13-year-old

    Dec 2008

    Hi - we're looking for a summer camp for our son, who'd like to do the following: archery, target practice (I know, this will send shudders throughout many households), rock climbing, swimming, river rafting. Our son is a good athlete and pretty outdoorsy, but not at all macho and not highly competitive. He is not into arts and crafts. He's been to a couple of camps (Ravencliff, Tawonga, Newman) and has enjoyed himself, but no camp experience has seemed worth repeating to him. He does not need a lot of exposure to nature, does not need a ''Touch the Earth'' or ''Sarah's Science'' kind of place - He's thirteen, a very smart cookie, makes friends easily, and is happy to go away from home for a few weeks if it's the right kind of camp. Perhaps Boy Scouts? We have no experience with a scouts camp, although he was a scout many years ago. We're open to places around state, not just in the Bay Area. Thanks for your ideas


    My sons have both enjoyed Mountain Camp in the Sierras, www.mountaincamp.com. They might not have every activity that your son is looking for, but they have archery, all kinds of water activities and sports (they're on a lake) and mountain biking. My kids also like the fact that you get to choose your activities, so if you're not an arts and crafts person, you don't have to do that. It's basically a good, old-fashioned, outdoor-oriented co-ed summer camp.

    Another program that might appeal to your son is Adventure Treks. They offer outdoor adventures for teens, with an emphasis on community and outdoor skills. The kids backpack, river raft, climb mountains and do all kinds of cool stuff for 2-3 weeks. It's expensive, but it's exceptionally well-run, and the kids have a real sense of accomplishment at the end.

    If he's looking for local day camp activities and is really into archery, I recommend the Shake, Rattle & Roll camp (I have no idea why it has that name) offered by Oakland Parks & Rec. It's for ages 12-15. The kids make their own bows and arrows, and learn a lot about outdoor survival skills. Mom of Boys


    My rec for Bar 717 www.bar717.com is in the archives, so I won't say much other than check it. Has archery, swimming, and serious hiking, but not the other activities you mentioned. happy Bar 717 parent
    You might want to check out the co-ed overnight camp called Mountain Camp in the Sierras. www.mountaincamp.com. Both my sons have gone there and will go again this year. One goes for 2 weeks; the younger for one. Last year they just started letting kids combine sessions to make 3 and 4 week stays, but few did it during my kids sessions. They don't have river rafting, but have sailing, water skiing, canoeing and other water sports. They have a ton of activities too numerous to list both outdoors and indoors. We have known kids that have attended this camp over the last 15 years from all over the bay area. It is always recommended. Feel free to contact me if you have questions. If you decide to go there please use my name as a reference. Thanks. Linda
    I have two sons ages 14 and 15. My 14 year old loves Mountain Meadow Ranch in Susanville, CA. He will go back next year. The other loves Catalina Sea Camp where he got Scuba certified . We too have gone through many camps but these two were exceptional. Feel free to contact me. rita
    Try Schaeffer's High Sierra Camp just north of Lake Tahoe with all the activities you mentioned. Great counselors and one, two and three week options. Joan

    Great sleep away camp for 13-year-old boys?

    Feb 2008

    I'm looking for a great sleep away camp (preferably in California) for 2 middleschool boys entering 8th grade in the fall. Both are very popular at school, seem to just like to hang out and socialize, not really into sports, (more into the creative arts) and aren't too thrilled about the idea of going to a sleep away camp. However, we think it would be really good for them and that they would have a great time!


    (Editor Note: click on the camps below to read the full reviews)

    Hi, My children go to a great summer camp called Habonim Dror Camp Gilboa ...


    I highly recommend Camp Tulequoia in the Sierra's. Both the Youth and the older Teen camp's are excellent. ...
    You may want to look into Mountain Camp in the Sierras SW of Lake Tahoe. www.mountaincamp.com Our 13 year old went last year for two weeks and loved it....
    I highly recommend Bar 717 Ranch www.Bar717.com. It's a sleepover camp in the Trinity Alps of Northern California. Beautiful! ...

    Overnight camp for 14-y-o computer addict

    Feb 2008

    I have a son who has just turned 14 yrs old, and is in 8th grade. He is totally addicted to computer games and other screen forms of entertainment (TV, gameboy, etc.) and is not doing very well in school,(says it is very boring). I would like to find a summer program or camp where he could learn good values,discipline and get support and help with anger management, caring about his school work, and learn to appreciate and get involved in outdoor activities and/ or sports. We live in Berkeley and I am only interested in residential programs that are in Northern California, or non-residential programs in the East Bay.


    I recommend Camp Winnarainbow for your son. Despite its slightly goofy name, this is an amazing, life changing camp, at which teen campers, especially, get a large amount of self-determination about their activities (of course there are no electronic devices around), and the main goal, though not overtly stated, is to help kids become good, caring people, in the context of having fun.

    (See Camp Winnarainbow for the rest of this review).


    Summer Growth Experience for high school daughter

    Feb 2007

    I would like to find a summer experience for my high school sophomore daughter that would help develop her in a number of ways. Top 2 are self reliance and larger perspective outside of the high school ''fitting in'' microcosm. She's a good student and makes friends easily but I think she needs to develop her self confidence and get a stronger sense of who she is. Some experiences with boys are giving me cause for concern. Her interests include animals, esp.horses/ veterinary work (she has volunteered for a vet), and adults or children with disabilities and musical theater. I am open to many possibilities. I have looked at girl scout destinations - national or international trips or camp counseling. I question whether having an away from home experience might foster this as opposed to having another summer of volunteering at the vet and a school for adults with disabilities. I already know these resources.

    Perhaps I ask a tall order, but as a community many of you have probably grappled with the same concerns and have had some experiences to share. Thank you
    Mother


    My daughter (15 at the time) spent 2 weeks last summer at the Eagle Arts Academy on Vancouver Island. (www.eaglearts.ca) She met young people from all around the world, and enjoyed structured arts experiences, beautiful scenery, and real international travel. In my experience, going away to a safe, well-structured environment is a great - and necessary - growth experience for a teenaged young lady. anon
    I don't have a specific resource to share, but I would like to encourage you to allow your daughter the most expansive experience that passes your gut test. Last summer I sent my almosts 15 year old daughter, who had just finished 9th grade, to spend 6 weeks with relatives in Africa. Sounds drastic, but I know the place well and the relatives, and the flight was the scariest part. I had this strong feeling that she was ready for a new level of challenge and maturity, and that she wasn't getting it at home or school. I feared that if not challenged, she would just turn that energy into something negative -- rebelling against her parents or indulging in the scary things that ''bored'' teenagers do. I am happy to say that she had a wonderful, world-view broadening experience, and came home more mature and balanced, as I had hoped. At her relatives, she was the adored older cousin of four young ones, and treated like an honorary adult by the parents. She also volunteered at an orphanage, and saw real hardship and poverty that put Bay Area life into much broader perspective. It doesn't have to be overseas -- but some time away from home might do her a world of good in the way you are hoping. Best of luck, anne
    Summer Camp may be your best bet!

    Given that your daughter really likes animals, Plantation may be just the place.

    I have not been to this camp personally, but it is highly recommended by my very own summer camp friends and is where they send their kids. (our camp, Camp Beaverbrook, closed in 1985, so it was not an option) Since our camp was so amazing and produced such an incredible experience, we are all quite particular when it comes to recommendations such as this.

    Another choice by former Beaverbrook kids is Copper Creek. www.plantationcamp.com www.coppercreek.com Good luck!! KT Pleasanton


    Sounds like the SASS program would be perfect for your daughter. It is a partnership between the amazing folks at Julia Morgan School for Girls and Mills College. Check out their website: www.summerartscienceservice.org

    It is ''a unique residential summer program for high school girls (entering 10th and 11th grade) located on Mills College campus. The program is designed to promote a young woman’s sense of purpose and make a difference in the world. The hands-on, project-based curriculum integrates art, science and service learning around the theme of nature and understanding one's place in the web of life.''

    Summer 2007 Sessions Session One: June 17-30 Session Two: July 1-14 Contact: Kristen Brookes, Director of SASS Julia Morgan School for Girls 510.632.6340 x115 kbrookes[at]juliamorganschool.org

    Jennifer


    Summer outdoors adventure for teens

    Feb 2007

    Does anyone know of a good summer 1-2 week program in the US for teens, involving outdoor wildernness adventure/skills/training--eg backpacking, hiking, ocean, kayaking, whitewater, etc.? There are so many programs; it's hard to know which are quality and safe. We're looking for outdoor adventure/skills, but not dangerous, good supervision, for two competent boys ages 14&15. Thank you! anon


    I'd recommend Lifeschool. My then 15 year old son went last summer on a hike on the Lost Coast and had a great time. It also included a white water raft trip. He didn't even know anyone to begin with. They offer lots of different levels and locations. see their website http://www.lifeschooladventures.org/
    sylvia

    Outdoor adventure program for 14-year-old

    Dec 2006

    I'm looking for a 3-to-4-week outdoor adventure for my 14 year old daughter this summer. I have explored Outward Bound but would like some suggestions from parents who have had good experiences with other outfits. There are many listed on the web, but I would like a more personal referral. Thanks whitney


    My son, now 15, has done Teen Quests through Camp Tawonga for the last three summers. These are trips for groups of 10-12 kids, with three counsellors, to places like the Pacific Northwest, Canada, the Southwest and Southern California. There is a lot of hiking, some backpacking and, depending on the trip, whitewater rafting, rockclimbing, or kayaking. Most important, these trips foster community and responsibility. The staff works hard to create a community in the group, keeping cliques from forming and making everyone accountable to everyone else. The kids set up camp, shop, cook, clean -- everything. Our son has come back each year happy (and filthy), with new confidence, skills and friends. It has been a wonderful part of his growing up.

    Tawonga is a Jewish Camp, but kids do not have to be Jewish to go either to the Camp or on the Teen Quests. The trips do have some Jewish ritual incorporated, like making kosher meals and celebrating Shabbat. But it is pretty low key, especially since not all the kids and/or counsellors are Jewish. We are culturally Jewish but non-practicing, and basically atheist. The ritual part of Tawonga was no problem for us.

    Check out www.Tawonga.org Big Tawonga Fan


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