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Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp
I have never been to Tuolumne Family Camp and I have a 7 day reservation there in July. I'm trying to decide if I should go for the full week with my 12-year-old daughter and a couple of friends (another mom and 12-year-old girl), or if we should make it a shorter trip, say 3, 4, or 5 days. I would love to hear from folks who went for a few days and wished they could stay longer or from anyone who went for a week and felt like leaving early. I guess I'm particularly interested in hearing about your first visit. We do have some friends who will be there that week, but we're kind of feeling that it's pricey and we're wondering if we can get the full experience in fewer days. Thanks in advance for your input!
When we initially went to BTC (13 years ago now!), the cost was much more reasonabale - they had a couple of small increases then a GIANT increase some 8 years ago or so, and it continues to creep up.
Nevertheless, you'll have a blast - it is just fantastic for the kids! Year 13 and counting!
I'm trying to decide between ~ a week at Cazadero Performing Arts' or the same amount of time at Tuolumne Family Camp. I imagine for my 3.5 year old son, Cazadero might be premature. Cazadero sounds more appropriate for me, however, and I noticed one single parent mentioned feeling isolated at Tuolumne. Are there sports activities as Cazadero or is Tuolumne much more fun for a toddler who's not yet playing an instrument, albeit he's practicing his lip flubbering for eventual didgeridoo play! Any thoughts/impressions/clever children's jokes: )? -rebecca
My son wants to be a CIT (counselor in training) next summer at Berkeley Tuolumne Camp. We have gone there for the past 5 years so he definitely knows the general flavor of the camp. Has your teenager been a CIT here? If so, how was the experience for them? Did they get enough supervision? Work too hard or not hard enough? My son will be 14 next summer which is the minimum age the camp recommends. Like many kids his age, he has not been away from home for more than a week at a time, so I also wonder about the two week period and how that worked for your teen. Please advise on pros, cons, anything your teen (or you) experienced that might be helpful for us in making our decision. thanks!
I'm thinking ahead to next summer as family camp reservations for next summer start in just 2-3 months. I'm interested in either Feather River (Oakland's family camp) or Tuolomne (Berkeley's family camp). We are open to either a tent or a cabin.
1. Some of the tents or cabins seem very far from the bathrooms. Does anyone have any recommendations of what type of accommodation is closer to the toilets? If I recall, the tents at Tuolomne are a long uphill walk to the bathrooms. Is that the case with the cabins too? What about at Feather River?
2. We are a vegetarian family and I eat mostly vegan food. I've read that a veggie option is available at all meals, but I'm hoping someone might be able to tell me more about what type of veggie food is offered and whether special dietary requests were possible. Are kitchen facilities available for diners with special diets (although I don't want to spend a lot of time making meals and missing out on another acitivities, hence my request for more information before deciding if family camp will work for us)?
3. My kids will be 5 & 3. Will there be other young families or should we wait a couple years? Are most people from either Berkeley or Oakland?
Thank you for your help! Mom who enjoys camping
There is a veggie entree served at every meal, and plenty of it because lots of people take it. It's usually quite good, but not typically vegan. We knew a famly keeping kosher that stored their food in the fridge and did some amount of their own cooking, so that is possible. There is also a snack station available all day long with bread, peanut butter and jelly, and fruit.
As for the bathrooms, you can find some tent cabins closer to them; the few wooden cabins typically are not. But another camper taught me a trick our first year that made all the differnce -- bring your own ''night potty.'' The best one is a large plastic container with a lid. (like really cheap gallons of ice cream are sold in, or lots of food service stuff, you could probably get one from a restaurant.) The kids can pee in it, you pop the lid back on, and in the morning you dump it out in the toilet. At the end of the week, you dump it in the trash. I even used it a couple of times myself!
The tents right next to the bathrooms are usually noisy and not so much in the woods -- this way you get to pick best tent camper
Regarding vegetarian/vegan food. When you arrive at camp, there is a form you can fill out regarding any special food needs. They do provide a vegetarian entree at every dinner and a good salad bar at lunch and dinner. They will also work to accomodate a vegan requirement. The coffee 'bar' has soy milk.
Depending on your tent location, bathrooms are vey close by. I've always liked to be close to the center of camp, which is a tad noisier, but convenient. Tent 4 is my favorite (it even has electricity), but it is right next to a climbing structure for tots, so not quiet. I don't think finding a tent near a bathroom will be an issue. Once you are in a tent, you can move to another one if it becomes free. The best strategy is to arrive early on Saturday so you get the best choice. Of course, with little ones that may be difficult to do.
There are families from all over. People are primarily from Berkeley and Oakland, but also some from Los Angeles, Seattle etc. The latter are typically people who grew up going to BTC and moved out of the Bay Area. There are families with kids of all ages from infant to young adult.
There are families with children of all ages. 5 & 3 are good ages. There is kiddie camp (I'm not sure of the age cutoff) and another program '5/6ers' that your older child can participate in. Once your kids hit 6 or 7, they will be able to experience a certain level of independence at camp as they will feel so comfortable and safe (and so will you)
And finally, BTC has been one of our family traditions and a place that my two sons and I all hold dear in our hearts. Besides the beauty of the site, the camp is special because it always has an awesome staff. They make all the difference. Good luck and maybe I'll see you next summer. Loves BTC
We are looking forward to going to family camp this summer with our 5 & 6 year old kids. Would love to hear about Feather River vs Tuolumne family camps. Let me know if you think one is better as far as the activities for kids, the site, the accommodations, the drive to get there....Thanks!
We are going to Berkeley Camp Tuolumne for the very first time with a 4 1/2 year old and a five-month-old baby. I have seen the list on their website about what to bring, but it is very basic. Has anyone out there been to the camp who can advise us about what we can bring to make things easier and more fun? Especially for the baby... he is breastfed, so we won't have to mess with bottles, but I know we'll need a bouncy seat, etc. Kim
Re: Seeking summer camp job
My son and others have had a WONDERFUL time working at Tuolumne Berkeley Family camp in yosemite. Teens have an option of working there for a couple of weeks up to the whole summer. They get paid decently, work very hard, and have the best time of their lives swimming, hiking, and bonding with other teens. There are always tons of kids, and they do hire specifically for their kiddie camp area, where the teens do art projects and other fun things with kids. I believe they have already done their interviewing for this uncoming summer, but it's worth giving them a call, if your teen is ready for an away-from-home work adventure. Oh, and there are a lot of adults supervising everyone, too.
You could also try the Downtown Berkeley YMCA, which seems always to be looking for teens to work with their children's day camp program. They're probably more likely to take volunteers, but it's also a good experience and your teen wouldn't be gone for week(s) at a time in far away Yosemite.
I still vote for Tuolumne, the teens learn to be independant, to work hard, and to work together. They do tend to do some partying, I hear, but the teens are not allowed to visit the adult tent areas and are not allowed to have co-ed visitors in their tents so there is some supervision. loved having summer for myself!
We have a tent site (not a tent cabin) reserved at Tuolumne Family Camp and would like some advice on what to expect and to bring. We're assigned to the Teepee area. I've seen the previous recommendations, but they seem to be for the more common cabins. We are two adults, a five year old and an infant. Does anyone know if we get a rocker?! Thanks in advance. Shirley
The downside is it's a few minute hike up the hill (on hardin flat road, ie paved, a few cars) to the main part of camp and the bathrooms. We brought a jog stroller and baby backpack for our 1 year old. There are a few sets up stairs to navigate to get to the dining hall, so the backback got used more. In the morning before breakfast I'd pack up diapers, sippy cups, swimsuits and a towel (it was so hot you barely needed one). You can stash your stuff somewhere in camp if you don't want to carry it around. Someone told me that she had brought a bike to zip up to bathrooms etc..but you can't use bikes inside the camp. There are no bear boxes so you have to keep your food in your car (pretty close to the tent sites). I hope this helps and you have a great time. We did! Judy
We're going to Berkeley Family Camp for the first time at the end of June (6 days!). It will be mom, dad, an almost 3 year old, and an almost 5 year old. WHAT DO WE BRING???? I have seen *Sherry's List* on what to pack, but I am still interested in what others would consider essentials/must haves. Laurel
Also take folding chairs (beach chairs or whatever). The only furniture in your cabin will be the cots and a cupboard for clothes, etc. You might be lucky enough to have an extra cot to use as a couch out on your deck, but not always. If you have a young child (I don't know the age limit -- either 2 or 3 years) you can request a rocking chair. There a lots of chairs around camp and at the beach, but it is really nice to have something for your cabin and/or deck.
Also, this isn't something to take, but the maintenance staff will be happy to install a door/gate if the entrance to your deck doesn't have one already. We did this twice in the past to keep our two/three year old from wandering off (well, it doesn't prevent it, but it sure slows him down). Just fill out a maintenance request. Enjoy! Karen
After not having a real vacation for about ten years of single-parenting, I am finally taking my 5 & 9 year old daughters to Berkeley Family Camp in July. I've read the camp materials about what to bring, etc. but am looking for tips from parents who have actually been there recently. Besides what the Berkeley office recommends, what were you really glad you brought or wish you had brought? Are the meals a set menu or buffet with choices? My 9-year-old is a very picky eater (won't eat meat or vegetables (unless you count french fries)), will she survive? Will she have to forage for nuts and berries? How close *is* the nearest McDonald's, anyway? I'm hoping to have some time on my own and with other grownups, but I'm told there is childcare only 2 hours a day and only for 2-4 year olds. Are the supervised activities for older kids supervised enough for a very active, impulsive, not-too-sensible five-year-old? Is the camp small enough and safe enough that the kids can roam around on their own? This vacation will be a major financial expenditure for me, so any advice aimed towards minimizing the stress and maximizing the fun would be greatly appreciated, as would blithe assurances that we are all going to have a wonderful time. Melinda
[editor] Sherry's list is here: >Sherry's Packing List
what to bring: One thing I wished for was mosquito repellant the summer after El Nino when there was so much extra water. I also think it's nice to have a folding chair for the deck of your cabin, but not essential.
childcare: not a problem. your children will identify playmates within a couple hours after you arrive and you will not see much of them after that. Most kids over 5 or 6 wander all over the camp with their buddies - there are lots of supervised activities (swimming, crafts, archery, etc.) all through the day, and lots of pick-up activities like badminton, ping-pong, pool, etc. Since there is about a 1 to 1 ratio of adults to kids, there is an adult somewhere nearby no matter where kids wander. Adults get lots of quiet time - you just sit there with your book and every once in a while your kid comes by to show you something and then runs off again. Kids really like the freedom of wandering around the camp with other kids. Take some good books and plan to have a nice relaxing no-stress vacation in a beautiful setting that will make mom and kids happy. Ginger
While it may be too late for this year, I highly recommend Co-op Camp Sierra for you and your children. The cabins are much nicer, although still well-used, the children programs (all ages) are well-run, and the adult seminars/classes are excellent. Plus, there are a couple of good places within walking distance that are fun for kids. The food is just slightly better (has a salad bar) but meals are also served family style. They will allow one to bring food to store in the freezer and frig.
The North Fork Tuolumne River flows right through the camp, and there is a little beach. There are lifeguards during swimming hours, and no one is allowed in the water at other times. Campers do some wading in the lower part of the river when they want to, but all the organized activities are in a different part of the camp, away from the river.
I liked to stay in the cabins at "Sun City". There is a tradeoff there--it gets kind of hot in the afternoons, but it is a little away from the main part of the camp and quieter at all times. We brought drinks to have in the cabin during the quiet hour after lunch when we were supposed to stay in our cabins or be out of the camp.
The staff is energetic, friendly, and very willing to help you have a good time. I think you will enjoy yourselves. Louise
What to bring: mosquito repellant; sunscreen; a flashlight for each person and extra batteries; good hiking shoes; inflatable swim toys; 2 folding chairs for grownups; a large lightweight cloth with cord to tie above the porch (in case the porch is in sun during afternoon quiet hour); quiet amusements for inside the tent during quiet hour; optionally a folding table; optionally water sandals or thongs.
Meals: A set menu involving several food choices is served family style, and there is also a vegetarian bar where you can serve yourself things like granola, fruit, and peanut butter. Fussy eaters usually do OK. As for McDonalds, I didn't see one nearby. Even restaurants relatively nearby take time to reach because the roads wind so. If you want extra food, it may be better to bring it in a cooler.
Activities for older kids: The supervised activities are great for a nine-year-old. If he's very independent, you won't see much of him at all. The entire campground is (relatively) safe, so we allow our kids to roam with their friends and pick their own activities from about the age of seven (and to a lesser extent at the age of six).
Min stress, max fun: Bring books to read. If you want to go to bed early, try to pick a tent away from the camp stage. If you love group activities, pick a tent close in. There is a daily quiet hour (1 1/2 hours, I think) where everyone is required to be either in their tents or out of camp. If your child has trouble being quiet or if quiet hour makes you restless, you may prefer to be out of camp on some days. There are short hikes and spots to swim in the river nearby for those who go out of camp. Yosemite is near enough to enjoy, but it's still a significant drive away, and it's mobbed on weekends. Beverly
Good meals are served three times a day (including a vegetarian option) and there's always fruit out.
There are activities, (such as arts and crafts, theme days, nature center, children's hour, kiddie camp, hikes, campfire, staff show, table night, and other things) for every age and you can participate or not, as you choose. The staff is very friendly and helpful. There are good hikes from camp of varying length and difficulty. There is a swimming hole (of cold mountain water). It's also close to Yosemite if you want to go in for the day.
I find it very relaxing -- all I have to do is show up for meals, enjoy my children when they aren't doing anything else, visit with friends, read... It's my annual R&R (rest and recharge). My children wish they could stay all summer! It's a magical place! Marie
It should be great. Stay in the camp and sign up for the morning hike, too. Also, there is child care, so sign the kids up for that. I liked all the activities and still have the basket I made one year.
The best part is just sitting in the Adirondack chairs and relaxing. I think I have the world's pickiest eater, and he was happy with the packets of peanut butter at the vegetarian table. There's also hot chocolate all night. Bring flashlights and bug repellant. Cornelia
Re beds: over the years, many of the old soggy mattresses have been replaced with plastic covered ones. I personally find it most comfortable to bring single mattress pads or old comforters to put under single sheets. Clearly, I am going more luxuriously than many. There are bedboards on most beds and all over camp and if you need anything, just ask the maintenance staff. Some people do bring their own blowup double mattresses. Some people put down a tarp and put mattresses on floor of cabin for more support or for a family bed. I find the mattresses acceptable. Since I sleep outside, I bring an extra spread to put over the bags during the day to collect tree droppings, meaning that I don't have to shake out my sleeping bag at night.
By the maintenance shed, there is an air pump for boats and tubes. Saves lots of energy.
Tents: perhaps the most stressful part of camp is arriving and choosing your tent. I now have a mantra which I chant on the way to camp: "every tent is a perfect tent." They all have different features and thank goodness we don't all like the same thing. One thought is how much you involve the children in the choice. This takes some serious "process" and not always easy and can be stressful. Some people like tents up near the activity and the play area and less walking. Many families like Sun City because of it's own little central play area. Some people don't mind walking quite far in order to have privacy--remember you will be doing this at night, also. Some people are focused on finding a tent that is shady during rest hour. Some people like being right near the bathrooms and others don't. For privacy, ropes with tarps or sheets clothespinned up can work.
One of the great surprises for the kids is hot chocolate and hot apple cider which is available all day in the dining hall--also tea and coffee. Very fun to go to the dining hall at night and get some goodies. Also a fun place to hang out for games and reading.
Rocking chairs are available for parents with young children or infants. Just ask the staff.
The staff are incredibly helpful, enthusiastic and delightful. I often feel campers are not made aware enough of the opportunity to thank the staff by leaving a contribution (tip) at the end of camp. The collection is used to finance the staff's grand gala dinner at the Awahnee Lodge in Yosemite. I believe that any proceeds are divided communely. The staff plan their outfits all summer and it is a highlight of the summer. They are served and they can totally indulge themselves--imagine 5 desserts.
Re insects this year. I have been quizzed. I was just up there at Fish Camp and the staff had said the mosquitos were bad. I used Off cream and spray and was fine. For years I've heard about Avon Skin So soft as an effective natural repellent. Have never used. One year there was a wild lady bug infestation. One never knows, but mostly I have not found it to be a problem. The moths around my kerosene lamp and me, while reading at night, take a little more getting used to. (remember I am outside on the deck--if you are inside, less problem) I did see some kids having trouble with bugs in the bathroom. There were some pretty big mosquito hawks. Might help to tell them about how they eat the mosquitos and take care of them. Nevertheless some kids (and adults) are slower to warm up to the new environment and to bugs. My oldest never really did. For years, my younger daughter and I went to camp alone.
Dining Hall. It definitely takes some getting used to because of the number of people and the energy. I have come to love it. Don't expect a quiet dinner. However, people find their own coping strategies. One Mom I know makes a plate and goes and sits by the river. Another Dad always arrives late and sits alone at the table after all have left. I have never seen them run out of food. Just hold up the plate and your server will refill it. The energy is contagious and sometimes, I just have to sit there, take a breathe and relax. Our group always has wine and nibblies before dinner. That helps.
Bears: well, an important issue. I have found that blue jays and squirrels are much more prominent and will get into anything that has food in your tent. (there is a storage shelf area that can be tightly closed) They ripped through a canvas backpack one year. This year, they found an old granola bar in my purse and left the wrapper. Bears often go towards the dumpster (new electric fence is discouraging them from camp) and are further up the hill near the girls staff area. I actually haven't heard of bears going into girls cabins and they are often guilty of keeping food there. But I do not know all the lore and facts of camp. I suspect it would not be better to leave coolers or food in the car, given reports. I often put my cooler near entry way to my cabin to block entrance or give easier access. I am not sure which. I don't really know what staff recommends.
Oh one last thought. For people with children, check out Buddy Camp (for next
year) which usually meets end of June and has lots of music and clowns and
The whole experience was so wonderful that we will definitely consider
putting it on our list for next summer, despite the somewhat high pricetag
if one actually has to pay ($55/night for an adult who is not a resident of
Berkeley; somewhat less for residents and kids). Our daughter has decided
that she wants to be a counselor when she's old enough (she has to wait 3
years, till she's a rising sophomore).
A great family experience!
The cities of Berkeley, Oakland, and SF also run camps. I've been to Camp
Tuolumne, run by the City of Berkeley, several times and can really
recommend this kind of vacation for people with kids. These camps are
mostly in the Sierras near Yosemite (Lair of the GB is in the Stanislaus
forest) and in general you sleep in a cabin and eat pretty good food that
*someone else* cooks and serves and cleans up after. They have swimming,
planned activities for kids like crafts, hikes, etc., and feature
lots of idle time for parents. Kids older than 5 love it because they can
run around in the woods and hang out with other kids pretty much unencumbered
by adults. This is also the reason why adults love it. For toddlers there
are usually some programs too. Camps are moderately priced in the range of
$50/day for adults and $25/day for kids which includes all food, lodging, and
activities. Some are fancy with a swimming pool, horseback riding, and
electricity in the cabins. Some like Tuolumne offer a lake to swim in and
wood platform cabins with canvas roofs - you bring bedding.
You don't have to be a city resident to go to these camps, though residents
get first crack at reservations and have slightly lower rates. They fill up
by February or March for the following summer, so you have to plan ahead.
For more info on the city camps, check in the phone book under Recreation
for the city.
Reviews from 1998
Hello - recommendation for Tuolumne Camp: GO THERE! This will be my
and my fellow single mom's 4th straight year and I tell you: it is
SUCH a great place for all ages and enthusiasms. It is getting ever
more popular, however, so I would urge you to call Lucretia at
644-6520 and make your move! Great enriching crafts classes, lots of
free quality child care, nature hikes, gorgeous sweet river water to
swim, raft or tube in, delicious food three times a day...what's not
I can't speak to Oakland's camp, but Berkeley's is fantastic, and there are tons of activities scheduled for kids of every age--and adults! Up to a certain age, there is a childcare center where you leave the kids. This may be age 5 or 6. After that age, the kids meet for activities with others their ages. There is usually something in the morning and in the afternoon. You have to be in your tent or out of camp for quiet time for an hour or two in the afternoon, and this is strictly enforced. You can take the kids for a hike then or drive to Yosemite or take advantage of the time for reading, napping. Lots and lots of craft activities go on all the time, which your kids can do alone or with you. There's a "nature center" where there are nature-related crafts and activities. Also, kids can become "Tuolumne Rangers" by fulfilling several age-appropriate requirements, and they're awarded a hat and a "Tuolumne salute" at dinner when they've finished. The staff is great, everything is very relaxed and fun. There's swimming (supervised) at certain hours. Also fishing on your own. In the evening are campfire, skits, etc. Something different every night. Obviously, we're fans. We've gone since my son was 3 or 4. He's now 8, and we'll go every summer forever. It's a wonderful family vacation. And the food's good, too! Linda
I wanted to add my voice to Ellie's about Berkeley Tuolumne Camp. My family won a trip there this year, and it was great! We had never been before, and were somewhat skeptical at first. The whole experience was wonderful, however. The camp is nice, the people are friendly, there's child care for small children, and activities for every age. The food is VERY good (much better than any camp food I'd ever had!), plentiful, and accomodates meat-eaters and vegitarians at every meal. If you don't want to do anything, you don't have to. So a lot of the time we just let our 11-year-old daughter run around and do whatever she wanted (which was a LOT of swimming in the swimming hole in the river), and we didn't have to worry about what she was doing, or whether she was safe (there's lifeguards during the swimming hours, for instance, and leaders for all the activities). That and not having to deal with food prep or cleanup meant that we really got a rest.
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The whole experience was so wonderful that we will definitely consider putting it on our list for next summer, despite the somewhat high pricetag if one actually has to pay ($55/night for an adult who is not a resident of Berkeley; somewhat less for residents and kids). Our daughter has decided that she wants to be a counselor when she's old enough (she has to wait 3 years, till she's a rising sophomore).
A great family experience! Dana
The cities of Berkeley, Oakland, and SF also run camps. I've been to Camp Tuolumne, run by the City of Berkeley, several times and can really recommend this kind of vacation for people with kids. These camps are mostly in the Sierras near Yosemite (Lair of the GB is in the Stanislaus forest) and in general you sleep in a cabin and eat pretty good food that *someone else* cooks and serves and cleans up after. They have swimming, planned activities for kids like crafts, hikes, etc., and feature lots of idle time for parents. Kids older than 5 love it because they can run around in the woods and hang out with other kids pretty much unencumbered by adults. This is also the reason why adults love it. For toddlers there are usually some programs too. Camps are moderately priced in the range of $50/day for adults and $25/day for kids which includes all food, lodging, and activities. Some are fancy with a swimming pool, horseback riding, and electricity in the cabins. Some like Tuolumne offer a lake to swim in and wood platform cabins with canvas roofs - you bring bedding.
You don't have to be a city resident to go to these camps, though residents get first crack at reservations and have slightly lower rates. They fill up by February or March for the following summer, so you have to plan ahead. For more info on the city camps, check in the phone book under Recreation for the city.