Family camp is an all-inclusive get-away, but instead of a shiny resort with a swim-up bar, your surroundings are rustic and the swimming might be in a river or a lake. Many families love it so much, they return every year to the same cabin on the same week. But newcomers are always welcome, so we've put together this list for you of family camp options near the Bay Area.
What should we expect at a family camp?
Typically, you bring your own bedding and sleep in a modest cabin; meals and family programming are provided, which includes drop off childcare hours. Everyone eats together in a dining hall-type place, staffers, not guests, do the dishes, and families get on with playing or relaxing. Turn off your phone and enjoy archery, sing-alongs, and sugary cereal!
Some area overnight camps (aka sleepaway camps) run family camp sessions during specific weeks of the summer, while others are housed at dedicated family camp locations. Staffers run kid activities, maintain the facilities, and keep the meal services going.
If you're considering a family camp for the first time, you have a bunch of cool options to consider within a few hours drive of the Bay Area.
If I missed your favorite, please let me know in the comments!
Family camps near the Bay Area
Families can use the facilities together to enjoy the outdoors. Take a canoe and paddle across Lake Vera, shoot for the bullseye on the archery range, test yourself on the ropes course, hike to the Yuba River for a swim, mountain bike on the miles of outstanding trails. Food included.
Where: Sierra Foothills
Pricing: Pay for long weekend camps by the session. $335 or $475 per person; Children under 6 are FREE
Bar 717 Ranch Summer Camp
Picture your whole family on a beautiful mountain ranch for a fun-filled week of trail riding, pig slopping, egg gathering, art making, taffy pulling, frog hunting, square dancing, and kicking back on the beach next to the river. Meals are prepared with food that is grown or raised on the Ranch. Sleep in cabins.
Where: Trinity County
Pricing: Pay $1300/week for an adult; $560 for kids 2-5; $755 for kids 6-11; $940 for kids 12-17
Berkeley Sierra Family Camp
Sleep in tent cabins and enjoy meals prepared in a communal dining hall. Childcare and mini camps available starting at age two. Berkeley family camp traditions include the green chair circle, quiet hours, canoeing, the staff show, table night, theme days, tie-dye, campfires, swimming and hiking.
Where: Echo Lake near S. Lake Tahoe
Pricing: You choose the duration. Prices are by day-part and include meals. Discounts for Berkeley residents.
Lair of the Bear
Affiliated with Cal alumni, but open to everyone. Sleep in tent cabins and enjoy meals prepared in a communal dining hall. “The Lair” has three camps, all next to each other, each with its own swimming pool and outdoor athletic facilities. Organized children's programming starts at age two. The Lair features a wide variety of offerings for parents looking for “me” time like hiking, music, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding on the lake, athletic competitions, and tournaments with the kids. Prices include meals, lodging, and programming.
Where: Pinecrest, CA
Pricing: Book by week, mini-week, or weekend. Discounts for Berkeley residents and Cal alumni.
The family camp for San Francisco. Sleep in rustic cabins with electric lights. Meals provided. Fishing, swimming, hiking, games and more. A good jumping off point for other Yosemite exploration.
Where: Groveland, CA in the High Sierra
Pricing: Pay by the week or the night. Discounted rates for San Francisco residents.
Oakland Feather River Camp
The family camp for Oakland. Sleep in cabins or tent cabins. Meals provided. Start with a morning yoga/stretch class or a quiet nature walk. After breakfast, try arts & crafts, group games, archery, horseback riding, tie-dye, a hike, or other special programs. Kids programs start at age 2. Half the tents and cabins have electricity (pay $5 surcharge).
Where: Quincy, CA
Pricing: Pay by the day. Discounted rates for 5 nights or more. Discounts for Oakland residents.
SkyLake Yosemite Camp
Skylake provides each family its own rustic but comfortable bunkhouse, fabulous buffet-style meals, a gorgeous private dock on Bass Lake, and plenty of activities to keep the whole family busy. The large dining hall, lakeside porch, and recreation room provide the social center for family camp. Everyone even gets a free horseback ride included. (Note: No childcare!)
Where: Wishon in Sierra National Forest
Pricing: Weekend Rates based on 3 Nights and 8 Meals (Minimum cabin charge is for 2 adults & 1 child); Adults/Teens: $325; Children (6-12): $195; 5 & Under: FREE
Camp Tawonga’s 6 weekends for families offer 4 days of relaxation for adults and fun for kids. Family Camp offers a taste of all that Tawonga has to offer: Campfires, Shabbat, boating on the lake, arts and crafts, the Challenge Course, hiking to the river, yoga, curling up with a book, stargazing, delicious food and free-flowing Peet’s Coffee.
Where: Sierra Mountains
Pricing: 3 years to adult: $450 to $515; 2 years and under: $350 to $415 (includes childcare!)
Disclosure: My family has been to the Berkeley Family Camp (at both Tuolomne and Echo Lake) so these summary blurbs are based on research and not my personal experience. Whitney has taken her fam to Lair of the Bear for the past three years, and I've heard tales. For amazing sleep-away options for kids, our overnight camp guide for Bay Area kids might have what you're looking for.
If you've been to any Family Camp, share your experience in the comments!
[Photos by Heather Flett, Whitney Moss, and Lair of the Bear all rights reserved]