Best Sleepaway Summer Camps In California (2024)

Overnight Camps In California

California is one of the best places for kids to enjoy the outdoors with its warm weather and landscapes just waiting to be explored. There are a plethora of opportunities to learn about nature and gain outdoor skills at these overnight summer camps in California.

Kids can spend the school break playing fun games and outdoor activities with other peers. With a large population and a perfect outdoor environment, there are a considerable amount of summer camps for parents to pick from.

These are some of the best sleepaway camps in California, where campers can climb mountains, snorkel in crystal clear waters, and go scuba diving to see some beautiful marine life.

Summer CampLocationAgesGenderSession Lengths
Pali AdventuresRunning Springs8-16Coed1 week
Catalina Sea CampCatalina Island8-17Coed1, 2, 3 weeks
Gold Arrow CampHuntington Lake6-14Coed2, 3 weeks
Waltons Grizzly LodgePortola7-15Coed1, 2 weeks
Mountain Camp WoodsidePortola Valley7-16Coed1, 2 weeks
Mountain Meadow RanchSusanville7-16Coed2, 4 weeks
Camp UnalayeePalo Alto10-17Coed10 days, 33 days
Camp NatomaPaso Robles6-17Coed1 week
Idyllwild ArtsIdyllwild5-18Coed1, 4 weeks

1. Pali Adventures

Pali Adventures

Location: Running Springs

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.

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. 

If you’re looking for an amazing sleepaway camp in Southern California, this might be it.

2. Catalina Sea Camp

Snorkeling at Catalina Sea Camp

Location: Catalina Island

Catalina Sea Camp resides peacefully on Catalina Island in Southern California, near Avalon. It 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 gain access to the beautiful Pacific Ocean and enjoy exciting activities in the hills. Campers will be fully immersed in the island life while they learn about marine biology and other things.

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 Santa Catalina Island overnight 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.

3. Gold Arrow Camp

Gold Arrow Camp

Location: Huntington Lake

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. 

4. Walton’s Grizzly Lodge

Location: Portola

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 summer sessions as they’d like. Sessions fill up fast, so it’s good to reserve spots sooner rather than later. It’s one of the premier sleepaway camps in Northern California.

5. Mountain Camp Woodside

Location: Portola Valley

Mountain Camp Woodside provides one- and two-week stays in the Portola Valley for 2nd to 10th-grade students. With overnight and day camps, kids from nearby cities like Palo Alto, San Jose, or San Francisco can visit the summer 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, a 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. Mountain Meadow Ranch

Location: Susanville

With its gorgeous location in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Mountain Meadow Ranch offers boys and girls a fantastic camp experience. The summer 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, and watersports. No technology is allowed, so kids can get away from it while spending time here. They 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.  

7. Camp Unalayee

Location: Palo Alto

Camp Unalayee is a popular summer camp situated in the beautiful Trinity Alps and with 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. 

8. Camp Natoma

Camp Natoma

Location: Paso Robles

Children can go on a fun getaway from their everyday life and spend the summer at Camp Natoma in the Adelaida mountains. Campers can participate in various activities while sheltered amongst a beautiful, sprawling oak forest. 

They’ve provided sleepaway camps for kids since 1941 and worked hard to maintain the 360-acre property for the visiting boys and girls. There are several camp 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. 

9. Idyllwild Arts

Location: Idyllwild

Idyllwild Arts offers art summer camps 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. 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. 

Additional Guides:

Latest posts by Kami (see all)