Grand Adventures in the Great Outdoors
Kids spend all winter in the classroom, but there is so much they can learn from the natural world. These adventurous camps get kids outside and learning skills they could never develop in a classroom.
Trackers Seattle (Kenmore)
This year-round outdoor skills school partners with Kirkland Parks & Recreation to offer summertime day camps during which kids can learn wilderness survival skills, archery, fishing and more. Trusting kids with knives and fire, Trackers camps are grounded in a community spirit, with from four to eight peers forming a Trackers team, and teams combining to form a fellowship.
Cost: TBA (check their website for 2023 info)
Camp Nor’wester (Johns Island, San Juan Islands)
Camp Nor’wester’s outdoor residential camps give children significant skills and insights in a caring and supportive atmosphere during each monthlong session. Taking advantage of the Pacific Northwest’s environment on the 135-acre Nell Robinson Ranch on Johns Island in the San Juan Islands, campers complete ropes courses, make crafts, and learn sailing, archery and rock climbing.
Cost: Sliding scale up to $7,000
Avid4 Adventure (Bellevue)
With day camps close to home, overnight camps in Colorado, and weeklong excursions in Washington and other Western states, Avid4 Adventure offers outdoor adventures to groups of kids of similar age. From a weeklong multisport expedition that gives middle schoolers a chance to camp out while trying whitewater rafting, stand-up paddleboarding, rock climbing and more to day camps during which younger kids can learn to ride a bike, there’s something for everyone.
Grades: Day camps, K–7; expeditions, 5–12
Wolf Camp (Lake Sammamish, Puyallup, Mount Rainier)
Wolf Camp’s summer nature and wilderness camps specialize in outdoor risk management and come in day camp and overnight varieties. Day campers learn wilderness survival skills, wildlife search and rescue, and wild cooking and herbology. Overnighters at Mount Rainier, Lake Sammamish and the Salish Sea focus on specialized weekly themes, including wilderness survival, cooking, animal tracking and archery.
Ages: 8–15 (7-year-olds can join an older sibling)
Wilderness Awareness School (multiple locations)
Through its day camps, overnight camps and wilderness expeditions, the Wilderness Awareness School helps kids understand and appreciate the natural world while building skills such as wilderness survival, animal tracking and plant identification.
Camp Gallagher (Lakebay)
Camp Gallagher is a coed overnight summer camp for teens on Case Inlet in south Puget Sound. Each camp has a theme and offers a variety of activities, including canoeing, sailing, swimming, games and crafts. In addition to the classic summer camp experience, Camp Gallagher offers expeditions, leadership development, and even adult and family camp options.
Alpengirl (multiple locations)
Alpengirl provides 8- to 14-day outdoor adventure camps for children of all genders who want more adventure than a typical residential summer camp but who aren’t quite ready for a wilderness expedition. With a focus on enjoying each challenge, Alpengirl’s weeklong camps include activities such as sea kayaking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and camping.
Camp Fire Central Puget Sound (multiple locations)
Camp Sealth’s gender-inclusive overnight adventure camps are set in locations ranging from the North Cascades to Mount St. Helens. They offer activities such as hiking, rafting, canoeing, climbing and horseback riding to the often-overlooked tween age group.
Cost: $1,100 and up
The Mountaineers (Olympia, Seattle, Tacoma)
The Mountaineers hosts day camps in three cities for youths ages 6–12; lodge camps for ages 10–14; overnight adventure camps for ages 10–17; and one on the Kitsap Peninsula for kids ages 5–9. These experience-based camps offer campers a chance to learn a variety of outdoor skills and spend time outside with new friends. The Mountaineers also offers lodge weekends and other programs for families. Registration is by lottery.
South Sound Nature School (Burien)
Held at Seahurst Park on Puget Sound, South Sound Nature School day camps focus on connecting kids with nature by experiencing the park’s hidden gems in a culture of kindness and respect. Survival camp includes skills such as building shelter, while adventure camp includes activities such as exploring tidepools and identifying plants. Note: 2023 camps were sold out at press time, but you can add your camper’s name to the waiting list.
YMCA Outdoor Leadership Camps (Seattle)
Boys & Girls Outdoor Leadership (BOLD & GOLD, as well as a new all-gender option) take tweens and teens of varying fitness levels to natural areas throughout the Pacific Northwest. On these one-week and two-week excursions, youths learn to be their most courageous and confident selves by learning new skills and taking on challenges. Expeditions depart from South Lake Union.
Adventure Treks (multiple locations)
Adventure Treks’ tech-free, multiweek excursions for tweens and teens are filled with physical challenges such as rafting, climbing, hiking, biking, camping, kayaking and canoeing. Students travel from all over to join this outdoor adventure crew for excursions in Colorado, Alaska and even Yellowstone National Park.
Ages: Grades 7–12
Arboretum Summer Camp (Seattle)
With Washington Park Arboretum as a base, this camp’s adventures are less rugged than many outdoor camps, but the discovery of nature is no less awe-inspiring as campers explore the park’s trails and investigate its flora and fauna. Limited spaces at this popular day camp are filled by lottery.
Up next: Camps for Creative Kids