Summer’s on its way—hooray! By the time June rolls around, the kids are ready to ditch the rigidity of the school day and get their hands (and everything else) dirty. Unfortunately, you can’t just send them out into the woods to fend for themselves until August. If your littles want to tap into their wild side—from learning mud camouflage to dirt biking to fishing—check out our list of summer camps that encourage them to get grimy while exploring the great outdoors.


Photo: via WilderSkills on Yelp 

Leave the tech toys behind and head to WilderSkills in the beautiful Santa Cruz Mountains where kids can learn to start a fire with friction, filter water for drinking and even make their own tools out of rocks and sticks. At WilderSkills, kids gain a strong connection to the outdoors with hands-on exposure to primitive living skills. Geared towards kids ages 7 to 13, the culmination of the week is the day when campers truly learn to blend into their environment and leave camp completely covered in mud camouflage!

WilderSkills is located at the Savannah-Channelle Vineyards.
23600 Congress Springs Rd.
Saratoga, Ca


Photo: via Mikkel Zibrandtsen on Flickr creative commons

Adventure Camps
What kind of camp offers blackberry picking, fort building and crab catching as part of its many offerings? The completely mobile camp of Adventure Camps! For 43 years, Adventure Camps has been driving kids ages 4 to 13 all over the Bay Area for adventures tailored just to them.  Kids just bring a lunch and a change of clothes and the counselors choose the day’s destination and activities based on the interests and ages of the campers.

Three drop off locations area available: The Presideo, Mill Valley and Mid Town Terrace.


Photo: Kate Loweth

Trackers Earth
Kayaking, fishing, blacksmithing and urban homesteading—it’s just another day at camp with Trackers Earth. Campers choose from among these and many other unique options and spend a week totally immersed in their chosen theme.  Interested in being a pirate for a week? Campers who select the Pirates of the Golden Gate theme learn skills such as navigating with maps, surviving on a desert island after shipwreck and swordplay!  Aye, aye captain!

Two drop off locations: Berkeley and Larkspur.

redwoodgrovePhoto: Kate Loweth

Redwood Grove Day Camp
Step into the redwoods and step back to a simpler time where camps were all about silly songs, arts and crafts, games and going home covered in a thick layer of dirt. This camp, set on a 6-acre nature preserve, has been around since 1974 and much of the camp has remained unchanged since those early days. Campers are encouraged to bring snacks in waste-free packaging as they learn how to be good stewards of nature.

482 University Ave.
Los Altos, Ca


Photo: via Dal Williams on Flickr creative commons

Youth Science Institute Summer Science Camps
Kids who want to dig deep in the dirt should check out the YSI Summer Science Camps at Vasona Lake County Park. Spend the week learning all about reptiles or aquatic creatures. Explore the world around us as a Nature Sleuth. Or, bring your bike with you for the week as a Bike Explorer.  Whatever option you choose, kids will get out in the fresh air, learn something about all the nature that exists at Vasona and have fun while doing it!

333 Blossom Hill Rd.
Los Gatos, Ca

Outback Adventures
If outdoor recreation is your game, then Outback Adventures is the camp for you. Kids who choose Rock Climbing camp get to spend two days climbing natural rock features where they will learn all about knots, belaying and safety. Want to get a little (or a lot) wet? Check out the three-day kayaking and paddleboarding camp where kids learn skills on the water while exploring the natural environment around them. Or, get the best of both worlds by combining the two options for a week packed full of outdoor adventure!

Outback Adventures has various North Bay and South Bay locations.


Photo: via Aaron Carlson on Flickr creative commons

Parks, trails, beaches and mountains—spend the week exploring them all with Avid4Adventure. Campers develop their outdoor skills while biking, hiking, rock climbing and stand up paddleboarding in some of the most beautiful local recreation sites around. Creative activities like yoga, music and art help to balance out the more active parts of the day. Campers come away learning teamwork, communication and outdoor skills that will aid them throughout life.

Avid4Adventure has four Bay Area locations: Mill Valley, Palo Alto, Saratoga and Oakland.

What’s your kid’s favorite down and dirty summer camp? Let us know in the comments below!

—Kate Loweth