Adventure-based summer camps are the still best way to instill confidence and a love of nature
Whether it’s a sleepaway or day camp, there’s no shortage of adventure-based summer camps these days. The best ones, like the 10 below, all have one thing in common: great counselors, a ton of time unplugged and outdoors, and songs and traditions that your kids will never outgrow. It’s time to pack their bags, pick out a pair of KEEN Kids’ summer camp-ready sandals, and send them off for an unforgettable experience.
Avid4Adventure, California and Colorado
Pre-kindergarten to seventh graders choose from specialty day camps, including mountain biking, rock climbing, SUPing, and skateboarding in multiple locations in both California and Colorado. Kids can learn everything from how to ride a bike to how to paddle rapids in a SUP. Overnight options are also available for first graders and older. Essential gear: KEEN Kids’ Newport Neo sandals will help them scramble, stomp, and run around in the wild while protecting toes from getting stubbed.
Camp Manito-Wish YMCA, Boulder Junction, Wisconsin
Kids starting at age 10 can canoe, backpack, or sea kayak on three- to seven-day overnight trips during their two-week experience at this venerable camp—this year marks its 100th anniversary—in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. “Kids as young as going into fifth grade go on a three-day canoe trip, rain or shine,” says Executive Director Anne Derber. At home base, it’s classic summer camp, with a craft shop, nature center, mountain biking, and more—including their famous “rove”—where campers get as muddy as possible and then eat ice cream sundaes.
Gold Arrow Camp, Huntington Lake, California
This summer sleepaway camp on a lake in the Sierra Nevada gets kids six through 14 sailing, horseback riding, rock climbing, and spending one or two nights on an island of a nearby lake sleeping on the beach under the stars. Essential gear: A sturdy water bottle—the camp is at 7,000 feet and “It’s dry up here!” says Camp Director Steve Monk—and KEEN’s Kids’ Newport H2 sandals. The quick-drying uppers on these versatile sandals won’t slow ’em down as they hop from wading in the lake to exploring a trail.
Cheley Colorado Camps, Colorado
Kids nine and older are treated to an immersive experience for four whole weeks at this family-owned camp in the Colorado high country. At Cheley, kids learn about the wild and themselves as they explore Rocky Mountain National Park and surrounding national forests on foot and horseback. Some units sleep in covered wagons meant to match the pioneer spirit. “We make sure kids feel safe and nurtured,” says Co-Camp Director Jeff Cheley, “but believe in challenging situations because that’s where the growth happens.” Essential gear: Costumes for Tacky Tourist Tuesday.
Catalina Sea Camp, Catalina Island, California
This ocean-adventure, marine-biology-based sleepaway camp for eight-year-olds and up on Catalina Island has campers sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking. Older kids even have the opportunity to scuba dive and learn underwater photography. Developed by the Catalina Island Marine Institute, Sea Camp experiences include operating a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) for underwater explorations. Crystal-clear waters surrounding the island showcase ocean life and inspire budding scientists, environmentalists, and lifelong sea lovers.
Mass Audubon Day Camps, Massachusetts
These camp experiences for ages three to thirteen focus on natural habitats via trail explorations and wildlife observations. The camps take place in multiple locations in the Bay State, from ponds in the Berkshires to the Cape Code seashore. Essential gear: All of the shoes in the KEEN Kids collection are durable, waterproof, and washable, which means they’ll be able to catch frogs in the marshes and you’ll be able to rise the mud off without the hassle.
Wolf Camp, Washington State
Wolf Camp operates camps at three locations—Lake Sammamish, Puyallup, and Olympia—where little ones ages six to eleven are inspired by themed weeks like Wild Cooking and Herbology, Wilderness Survival Craft, and the American Pioneer. Overnight camps in western Washington and Oregon continue the conservation theme of these camps in a more immersive setting. All the camps explore beauties of the Pacific Northwest, with conservation as a focus.
YMCA Camp Nissokone, Oscoda, Michigan
This traditional summer camp has been in operation since 1914 as one of the longest running sleepaway camps in the country. (It has a day camp, too.) Kids adventure in and around Van Etten Lake in northern Michigan, doing everything from archery to ropes courses, wakeboarding to sailing, canoe trips on the Ausable River, to massive games of paintball. The camp has several sessions that are focused on survival and outdoor skills and “Nissokone is best known for its adventure and teen leadership camps,” says Executive Director Ryan Mertz.
YMCA Camp Collins, Gresham, Oregon
Located on the shore of the Sandy River, just an hour outside of Portland, Collins offers a bit of everything. The youngest kids (first grade and up) can choose between week-long themed day camps, including outer space, olympics, Star Wars, and more. Older campers have even more options, including horseback riding and tubing down the Sandy River in addition to all the traditional summer camp activities.
Camp Green Cove, Tuxedo, North Carolina
Founded in 1945, this girls-only camp for ages six to seventeen lets kids decide how long they want to spend in the backcountry during their stay. Back at camp, they sleep in cabins. Essential gear: The girls-specific KEEN Kids’ Moxie Sandals. These slip-on shoes mean no wasted time tying laces, and they can pick their favorite variation from the seven unique color schemes. Got boys? Don’t worry: Green Cove has a nearby brother camp, Camp Mondamin.
Driven by a passion for life outside, KEEN is a values-led, independently owned brand from Portland, Oregon, that’s on a mission to create original and versatile footwear, improve lives, and inspire outside adventure. By giving back, reducing impact, and activating communities and individuals to protect the places where we work and play, KEEN puts its values in motion and takes action to leave the world a better place. Learn more about KEEN and how KEEN Kids is supporting future generations of adventurers.