Nature Camps With a Twist

When we think of outdoor camps, we often visualize kids sitting in a circle singing Kumbaya, making crafts and going for hikes. But if your child is looking for something less traditional, the Bay Area has a lot to offer. There are outdoor camps that teach kids how to survive a zombie apocalypse, scale tall cliffs, study wild life, learn about sustainable farming and much more. Here are some of our favorites.
Trackers Earth: Bay Area. These day and overnight camps teach things like wilderness survival, tracking, archery, fishing and outdoor cooking, but with a storyline. Campers learn skills by portraying a character – complete with a plotline, props, costumes and make-up. One of the more popular camps is “Zombie Survival” for kids in fourth to eighth grades. Campers learn outdoor survival skills in an effort “to stop a zombie invasion.” Not all of the camps are story-based. There’s also stealth archery, kayaking, blacksmithing and wilderness survival. Camps are located in Berkeley, Larkspur, Novato and Walnut Creek and cost $315 to $550 a week. Scholarships are available. 3049 Adeline St., Berkeley. 510-575-9444.
Treks and Tracks Rock Climbing. For adrenalin junkies or kids needing an extra thrill, this camp takes kids ages 8 and up on rock climbing excursions at Castle Rock State Park in the Santa Cruz mountains. Kids get first-hand experience of what it is like to scale a rock wall in the outdoors and learn about belaying and rope management. During walks, they also learn about animals, rocks and plants in the area. The camp costs $119 per day. 650-557-4893.
Marine Science Institute. If your kids love the ocean and sea creatures, this Redwood City marine camp offers week-long adventures for kids starting in kindergarten. Campers learn about marine life in the San Francisco Bay Estuary and go on field trips aboard the institute’s research vessel. While some of the younger campers participate in more traditional camp activities like games and crafts the oldest campers spend four days camping along the coastline studying sea life. The price range is $415 per week for the younger camps to $1,300 per week for the four-night camping trip for teens. 500 Discovery Parkway, Redwood City. 650-364-2760.
Crissy Field Center. Serving kids entering first through sixth grades, its camps focus on lowering our carbon footprint. The two-week day camps are designed to give children in-depth experiences in the area’s urban environment and local national parks. Campers do everything from making environmental public service announcements to learning about local habitat to helping with restoration projects. Prices range from $649-749 and scholarships are offered. 1199 East Beach, Presidio, San Francisco. 415-561-7752.
Hidden Villa. Surrounded by 1,600 acres of wilderness with hiking trails in the Los Altos Hills,  camps are offered throughout the summer for children in kindergarten through 12th grade who want to learn about organic farming, animals and social and environmental justice. While young campers meet farm animals, explore the wilderness and learn about life cycles in the garden, older campers stay in teepees and learn about the Ohlone. They can enjoy archery, swimming, hiking, caring for farm animals and organic gardening. Also, teens can go on backpacking trips or join the Farm Academy to experience each stage of agricultural production. Camps cost between $355 per week for younger camps to $2,550 for overnight backpacking trips. Scholarships are available. 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills. 650-949-8650.
Teresa Mills-Faraudo is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent and mother of two.


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