America's Best Family Camps
Pitch a tent, hop in a canoe, and toast up some s'mores: Summer camp season is almost here! But why should kids have all the fun? These affordable family camps let mom, dad, and even grandma get in on the action.
Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp, Groveland, Stanislaus National Forest
On the south fork of the Tuolumne River, seven miles from Yosemite National Park, in Stanislaus National Forest. Magic lessons, hiking, nature studies, multicultural crafts. Campers vs. staff volleyball, skit night, yoga. Swimming and fishing in the Tuolumne River. Ranger-led workshops for kids (making pine-needle baskets and leaf-print shirts), artist-in-residence program for adults (pottery, woodworking, watercolor painting, drawing, performing arts, and more). Nearby attractions include Yosemite National Park, gold rush towns, and horseback riding. Lodging: Tent-cabins with decks (some with electricity) sleep four to eight on cots; shared bathhouse. Tent sites. Food: All-you-can-eat family-style meals in the dining hall; coffee and tea all day. Ice cream social, Sunday candlelight dinners, and an outdoor barbecue by the river. 2010 dates: June 19–July 3, August 15–29. 2010 prices: $101 per night for ages 15 and up, $70 per night for ages 7–14, $54 per night for ages 3–6, ages 2 and under free; discounts apply for Berkeley residents. Contact: 510/981-5140, berkeleycamps.com.
Camp Sacramento, Twin Bridges
The south fork of the American River runs through camp. Catch a fish, and the chef will cook it. Archery, hiking, rock climbing, geocaching, bingo, arts and crafts, campfires, barbecues, dances, volleyball, softball. Lodging: 61 private cabins with electricity sleep two to six on double beds; shared bathhouse. Food: Three cafeteria-style meals daily. 2010 dates: June 20–August 14. 2010 prices: Weeklong stays $512 for ages 16 and up, $380 for ages 11–15, $279 for ages 6–10, $148 for ages 3–5, ages 2 and under free; discounts apply for residents of Sacramento, Calif. Contact 916/808-6098, cityofsacramento.org/parksandrecreation/campsac.
Emandal—A Farm on a River, Willits
A working farm since 1908 on 1,000 acres. On the banks of the Eel River near the base of Sanhedrin Mountain, cornering Mendocino National Forest, redwoods, and wine country. Farm chores include milking cows, gathering eggs, harvesting vegetables, and picking raspberries. Families explore at their own pace, spending an afternoon hiking over wooded slopes, discovering swimming holes, or simply swinging in the hammocks under the fir, madrone, and oak trees. Lodging: Wood cabins sleep up to eight with queen beds or bunks; cold running springwater, electricity, and ceiling fans; shared bathhouse. Two farmhouse rooms sleep two; private baths. Linens provided. Food: Three family-style meals daily. Bread and pizza baked in brick oven. Organic produce from on-site garden; grass-fed beef and free-range chickens and pigs are raised on the farm. 2010 dates: June 23–27, July 13–August 21, September 2–6, 17–19. 2010 prices: Six-night stays in multiple occupancy cabins $730 for ages 18 and up, $510 for ages 12–17, $398 for ages 7–11, $280 for ages 4–6, $185 for ages 2–3, ages 1 and under free; add an additional 10 percent for farmhouse accommodations. Contact: 707/459-5439, emandal.com.
Family Camp on the Bar 717 Ranch, Hayfork
A working ranch on 450 acres in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. Overnights on horseback to the ranch's original homestead. Swimming in Hayfork Creek. Collect eggs, milk a cow, or feed rabbits, goats, and pigs in the barn. Square dancing, ropes course, gardening, archery, music, drama, nature study, cooking, baking. Silk-screening, arts and crafts, blacksmithing, ceramics, woodshop. Parental perk: a trail ride ending with a picnic of cheese and local wine. ACA accredited. Lodging: Three-sided wood cabins, without electricity and open on one side, sleep six to 15; sink, toilet, and shared shower house. Motel-style guestrooms sleep two to six; some with private baths. Tent sites. Food: Three family-style meals daily highlight the ranch's own beef, pork, and vegetables. 2010 dates: August 8–15. 2010 prices: $880 for ages 18 and up, $630 for ages 12–17, $505 for ages 6–11, $380 for ages 2–5, ages 1 and under free. Contact: 530/628-5992, bar717.com.
Forest Home at Mill Creek Canyon, Forest Falls
Nondenominational Christian camp in the San Bernardino Mountains. Waterslide, zip line, miniature golf, climbing wall, trout pond, game room, crafts cabin, hiking, music. Volleyball, basketball, field sports. Free evening child care for kids under 11. ACA accredited. Lodging: Motel-style rooms with bunk beds; shared bath. Motel-style rooms; private baths; linens. Cabins with built-in queen-size beds and bunks; private baths; linens. Food: Three meals daily. Tuesday and Friday adults-only dinner with table service; past menus have featured steak and king crab. 2010 dates: June 20–August 21. 2010 prices: Full week in economy accommodations $539 for ages 18 and up, $343 for ages 9–17, $222 for ages 3–8, $99 for ages 2 and under; adult prices for upgraded lodging are $714 for a standard room, $882 for a deluxe room, $944 in the Grace House. Contact: 909/389-2300, foresthome.org.