California is one of the best places for kids to enjoy the outdoors with its warm weather and beautiful landscapes. Kids have a plethora of opportunities to learn about nature and gain outdoor skills.
At summer camp, kids can spend the summer playing fun games and activities like kayaking, archery, horseback riding, and much more. With a large population and a perfect outdoor environment, there are a considerable amount of camps for parents to pick from.
These are some of the best overnight summer camps in California, where campers can climb mountains, snorkel in the beautiful lakes, and go scuba diving to see beautiful marine life.
Address: 30778 CA-18, Running Springs, CA 92382
Dates: June 12 – August 13
Pali Adventures has a beautiful mountain location in San Bernardino County in Southern California near Los Angeles. The camp has its own dirt tracks, sports fields, and extensive camp facilities surrounded by scenic mountains. Children who attend can expect to grow in many ways, with a staff that supports social, emotional, and physical wellness.
The summer camps are specialized for each child. Children ages 8+ can select from a broad range of programs, including different focuses like acting, dance, film, watersports, motorsports, and much more. Aside from choosing a focus, children can also select elective options to do what they like. Some of these electives include basketball, paintball, laser tag, photography, and swimming.
Pali Adventures offers camps weekly from June through August. Each camp day starts early at 7:30 am, with a nutritious breakfast followed by their specialty programs. The day ends with a fun evening event. With an amazing 3:1 staff to camper ratio, Pali Adventures offers a safe and joyful environment for all children.
Address: 6450 Elwood Rd, Sanger, CA 93657
Dates: June 19 – August 13
The beautiful River Way Ranch Camp is located in Sanger. It’s close to two national parks, offering picturesque views and a natural atmosphere for its campers. The facility opened in 1967 to help children become more confident in themselves and better leaders. River Way strives to help each child to become the best version of themselves by increasing their self-confidence.
They divide their summer programs into four age groups to ensure your child can enjoy camp at an appropriate level every year they attend. In addition, you can select summer camps that last from one to three weeks. There is also an option to customize their experience, allowing kids to stay up to eight weeks in total.
There are over 75 activities for which your child can sign up, including unique options like acting, baby animal care, music lessons, and waterskiing. The camp works hard to ensure your child’s safety while away from home and has rigorous safety precautions, including trained medical staff.
Address: 8144 Mt Laurel Rd, Clover, VA 24534
Dates: June 11 – August 19
Children have been coming to summer camp at Walton’s Grizzly Lodge in Portola, California, for almost 100 years. The property sits in the stunning Northern California Sierras on a private lake and boasts all the features that make this range so famous.
Every day starts the right way with a nutritious breakfast followed by activities and events. Camp life is centered around all the things there are to do, with a whole bunch of options to choose from. Three activity periods every day give kids a chance to try out a little bit of everything from arts and crafts and sports to water activities on the lake.
Kids can attend as many 1-week or 2-week sessions as they’d like. Sessions fill up fast, so it’s best to reserve spots sooner than later.
Address: 27282 Calle Arroyo, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Dates: June 10 – August 11
Catalina Sea Camp resides peacefully on Catalina Island in Southern California, near Avalon. The overnight camp has two picturesque locations to offer kids of different ages the experience of a lifetime. There are programs in Toyon Bay and Fox Landing. Children can access the beautiful Pacific Ocean and enjoy exciting activities in the local hills. Campers will be fully immersed in the island life while they learn about marine biology and themselves.
Depending on age, your kid can choose from many unique experiences. From snorkeling in the moonlight to island hikes and rock climbing, kids can take full advantage of their environment. Each evening, the entire summer camp gets together for a fun group activity before lights out. There is even an underwater videography and photography activity that kids can partake in.
Campers ages 8 to 13 can enroll in one-week summer programs, while older campers can enjoy a three-week stay. In addition, Catalina Sea Camp offers discounts for multiple campers and options to extend their time. The program helps raise test scores, increase self-confidence, and positively impact everyone who attends.
Address: 302 Portola Rd, Portola Valley, CA 94028
Mountain Camp Woodside provides one- and two-week stays in the Portola Valley for 2nd to 10th-grade students. With an overnight camp and day camp, kids from nearby cities like Palo Alto, San Jose, or San Francisco can visit the camp and go back home and sleep each night.
The campus provides an ideal location for fun activities like sports, games, archery, mountain biking, and more. The campus facilities encompass sports fields, a swimming pool, large dining hall for reunions, and a gymnasium. In addition, there are also activities for performers, like dancing, singing, and acting. Expressive kids can try their hand at movie-making, newspaper editing, and more.
Day camp schedules follow similar paths to a school day, so campers get into a nice routine, explore new activities, and make new friends. Meals and snacks are included in the tuition for both camp programs.
6. Camp Natoma
Address: 617 Cypress Mountain Dr, Paso Robles, CA 93446
Dates: June 20 – August 7
Children can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday living while spending the summer at Camp Natoma in the Adelaida mountains. Campers can participate in various activities while sheltered amongst a beautiful, sprawling oak forest.
The sleepaway camp has worked hard since 1941 to maintain the 360-acre property for the visiting boys and girls. There are seven summer sessions running from June through August with different start dates. Kids can expect thrilling activities like archery, hiking, swimming, and camp games.
Amenities include a private swimming pool with a slide, a pond for water activities, and several other facilities on the property. Children can engage in crafts, group activities and explore the California wilderness with trained camp counselors.
If you’re also looking for a place to host a large group, they have experience taking in girl scouts, church groups, and sports teams.
Address: 704-950 Wingfield Rd, Susanville, CA 96130
Dates: June 12 – August 5
With its gorgeous location in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Mountain Meadow Ranch offers boys and girls a fantastic sleepaway camp experience. The overnight camp emphasizes love for nature and provides exciting outdoor activities for youth. Kids can connect with others as they grow and learn new things in each camp session.
There is a two-week stay to ensure they get enough time to grow and make new friends, and parents also have the option to enroll their child in a longer four-week session. Days start early at 7 am with activities and end late in the evening with camp games.
Camp activities include fencing, horseback riding, ceramics, archery, paintball, photography, watersports, and riflery. No technology is allowed, so kids can get away from it during their time at camp. Children also have opportunities to write letters home during downtime.
If your kid is flying in from outside the state or country, they do have an airport pick-up system in place. If you’re a resident, driving in to meet the staff and camp is always a good idea too.
Address: 8144 Mt Laurel Rd, Clover, VA 24534
Dates: June 19 – August 20
Gold Arrow Camp was founded in 1933 in Lakeshore. Their staff comes from all over the place and specializes in child development to ensure that all campers have the best experience possible. Following tradition, your kids can blend in with a community of campers to build important life skills and memories.
Campers vary in age, from kindergarteners to high schoolers, so activities also vary for individual needs. Parents can choose from one to three-week sessions based on their child’s interests. Camp sessions include nightly activities and personally selected options that run daily. With the Sierra National Forest nearby, kids won’t find a better place to explore and learn about the great outdoors.
This sleepaway camp is pretty structured, engaging students to help them build confidence and social skills. Your child can build strong relationships with other students in their cabin as they participate in thrilling activities such as water sports like sailing and water skiing, ropes courses, horseback riding, backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing, and ceramics.
Apart from the typical 2 and 3-week sessions, there is a week-long mini-camp for younger kids as well as a watersports specialty camp for energetic students.
Address: 3921 E Bayshore Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303
Dates: June 13 – July 30
Camp Unalayee is a popular summer camp for the beautiful Trinity Alps and alpine lakes near the campus. It was founded more than 60+ years ago with a focus on instilling positive values and respect for nature in its participants.
Inexperienced campers can enjoy a ten-day introductory program at Camp Unalayee. However, older students can enjoy more extended sessions. They offer different programs for children ages 10-17, where they can go swimming, knitting, kayaking, rock climbing, and long hikes. In addition, older students can spend more time on the trail while they hone their outdoor skills. There is also a family camp and a counselor-in-training program for teenagers looking to improve their leadership skills.
Camp Unalayee offers the opportunity for children to socialize with other kids their age from around the world. Trained and experienced staff promote learning, relationships, and skill-building while encouraging children to get out of their comfort zones. It’s a non-profit, so kids from all backgrounds are welcome as they offer assistance to qualifying families.
10. Idyllwild Arts
Address: 52500 Temecula Rd #38, Idyllwild-Pine Cove, CA 92549
Dates: July 3 – July 30
Idyllwild Arts offers art summer camps in California for creative campers. Young artists can get together during the summer months and enjoy different programs revolving around drawing, fashion design, piano, painting, and dance. The teen camps also include focuses like film, ballet, drawing, painting, theatre, and much more.
Camp sessions last anywhere between one week to four weeks long. All ages and abilities are welcome to learn under the instruction of experienced teachers. Its beautiful campus in Idyllwild contains all the facilities and equipment needed for success.
They offer some of the more unique specialty camps in the state, and there is even an online program for those who want to experience it from far away. At their overnight summer camps, kids and teens can get better at their craft while experiencing personal growth and developing life skills.
Scholarships are available to qualifying students, and it’s best to apply early as there is a waitlist at times.