Not all Boy Scout camps are created equal. Sure, each offers a terrific program to entertain and challenge Scouts, but every Scout camp has unique program elements that make it special. Scouting magazine has scoured the country to find some of the coolest Scout camps around. Check them out, and be sure to leave a comment if you’ve visited one of these Cool Camps.
Video: Check out a video of Yawgoog Scout Reservation in the Narragansett Council.
Good idea and I’d like to see it get expanded with more great camps. As it happens I’d like to throw Camp Chawanakee @ Shaver Lake CA name into the hat. You can find us online at http://www.facebook.com/campchawanakee
I looked at your facebook page and the pictures posted. That looks like a really cool camp to attend. I attended summer camp in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. I would like to when possible to travel to different camps, and Chawanakee is on the list.
This is a New York State camp and I live very far away in WA State. Contact Patriots Path Council in New Jersey. They have very active OA programs and lots of outreach and connections to functions in NY State Councils. I have heard good reports about Finger Lakes; if you are not too distant and the snow and ice thaws from your wild winter storms, take a few kid and adult leaders and go there and look around! If in doubt, always wander the camping areas and view websites that the Council service area publishes under ‘camping’ on their Home Page. Take pictures; show them to your Troop Committee and to the kids. This is a chance for another adventure outdoors with kids….do it!
Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch is nowhere near Midland, TX. It’s south of IH-10 in the Davis Mountains. Another great place is the Conquistador Council’s We-hin-ah-pay Mountain Camp Located on private land within the Lincoln National Forest in the Cloudcroft area.
Camp Raven Knob in Low Gap, NC with the view from the Knob of the camp and the area is hard to beat any time of the year. Also the OA Arena and shows that Wahissa Lodge puts on during summer camps are a must see.
I took my two sons as provisionals to Raven Knob last summer, traveling all the way from St Louis. My boys loved it! My oldest is resolute that he wants to be tapped for OA ONLY at Raven Knob. Great property, and great staff.
The list isn’t complete without including one of the coolest camps on the west coast – Emerald Bay, on historic (Santa) Catalina Island. Earning the Canoeing MB, racing war canoes, snorkeling and scuba diving in the Pacific… it doesn’t get much better than that. A side benefit: while waiting for the ferry at San Pedro, the scouts get a front row view of the Port of Long Beach. It’s quite a sight to see the huge cranes loading and unloading the cargo at one of the busiest ports in America.
The downside… it’s not cheap. Still, I know of quite a few troops other than ours that have made the trek down from Northern California.
Another precaution: plan ahead – since it is an island-based camp, many of the “cool” MBs have the Swimming MB as a prerequisite.
A great little (more affordable) camp is Camp Kern. It’s fairly close to Chawanakee (at Huntington Lake) and seems to have a similar program. The scouts have always enjoyed their time there.
I have enjoyed Tasomas and it has become alot more to me than just a place I got to go to camp. I worked as a CIT there last summer too. Each time I visited there, camped there and became a member of the OA I felt more hungry to go back again. I thank Samoset Council mostly for allowing me and alot of other Scouts to grow and learn and have fun. Last September I got my Eagle Rank. YOu have no idea how proud I am that I did and yet someone alot older than me told me it wasn’t the end of my Scouting; rather just the beginning. That one Scouter’s advise encouraged me to start my own organization called Do Salute. http://www.dosalute.net. I think Samoset Council has become my family in many ways and I wish to simply say thank you for that. John Weber – Wausau WI
I have to agree with you John. Samoset council’s Camp Tesomas has been home to so many scouts over the years. I’ve been there 27 years running, and it’s always the best week of the year. the program expands every year, there is always something for everyone. With the addition of the Cub camp, and the high adventure base, well, it’s just awesome.
Every summer troops from all over the U.S. come to the Denver Area Council camps, Peaceful Valley and Tahosa. PV has Camp Chris Dobbins and the harder-core-scouting Courtland Deitler sharing outstanding facilities on one side and Magness cub camp on the other. This camp just received several hundred adjacent undeveloped acres which will soon host backpacker wilderness treks. Tahosa is a high adventure base that recently added a summer merit badge program to the pleasures of camping, fishing and more in the specatacular Rockies.
I was not impressed with this year’s summer camp. Dealing with the council camp leadership is not enjoyable. Keep getting different information, or no information. Order of the Arrow was not there to do a call out. Boys got lost since only leaders were given maps, and the camp is very large. Will not be going back anytime soon. Afraid to post to much information as it may effect the troop.
If your eclectic stew is too thin and watery, add potato flakes. What I am saying is that your adult leadership must be pro-active and bail out deficiencies in camp programs. Please go to Roundtable and ask other leaders about your experience and to suggest suitable, affordable, camps near you. If the camp area is very large and kids are getting lost, please prepare for that occurrence early-on. Provide leaders with a GPS, download TOPO maps, and make an adventure out of it. If leadership is weak, it may be that volunteer staff may not have a lot of experience and staff rosters have been thinned because of budget problems. As a agéd veteran high-school teacher, I have dealt with all of these issues. If the kids are seated/standing before you, you must make the most of the occasion. Please do not make the kids to be the victims of adult ineptitude, lack of experience, or lack of time. The adults have lots of stuff ‘on the plate’. I have ‘tons’ of ideas and an attitude of ‘look what I found!’ The kids rise to the adventure. Even in areas with abundant wild lands, one must assemble adult drivers to get to Trailheads. If overnight hikes are really difficult to support, go on frequent Day Hikes, some easy and some that are mini-adventures. Show maps, show how to download on GPS so you don’t have to rely upon cell connections. Yes, if you make an adventure of it, the kids will be delighted. Feed them Trail Snacks; if the stew is watery, add some potato flakes! Do all of this for the kids. Do not let the Front Office mess up the program; make your own. If you need Day Hike lists, send me an e-mail and I shall send you lists. Success in Scouting is all about getting outdoors and providing training for kids and leaders so ‘outdoors’ is exciting.
Trekking at Camp Hi-Sierra (http://ow.ly/9XCpQ) leads Scouts on a multi-day series of excursions as they rappell, sail, mountain bike, and chill at the Clavey River pools. Check out the YouTube video: http://ow.ly/9XCGg
Camp Napowan in wild rose wisconsin is amazing!!!!!!
it is run by northwest suburban council and just celebrated its 65th anniversary. i have gone to this camp for close to 10 years now both as a scout and a staff member. i have gone to several other camps but Napowan takes the cake. you will be hard pressed to find a more dedicated staff anywhere. this camp has become a second home to me and every time i leave i count the days till i return.
Yeah it’s really a great place been going there over 3 years now
Hello Good Morning
I’m de Director of NATIONAL CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL TRAINNING, a scout center located at Aveiro – Portugal. http://www.saojacinto.cne-escutismo.pt
and i would like that you insert this possibilite in your magazine 🙂
Best Scout Regards
The Owasippe Scout Reservation, near Whitehall, Michigan is a must. Have been spending 2 weeks every year since 1998. Run by the Chicago Area Council, it has 4700 breath taking acres, camp sites right Lake Wolverine — the best large mouth fishing around. Each year it is like going home. I am bringing my grandchildren there now. Try a piece of heaven, go Owasippe — and Camp Wolverine ! ZAXIE !!
Owasippe has become more than a scout camp for us, it has become a favorite family tradition. Heaven on Earth indeed! Can’t wait to go back. Camp BlackHawk! GO!
Our troop has 2 favorites…Camp Meriwether in Oregon (near Tilamook) – the Cascade Pacific Council – is a huge favorite when we go out of council. They have a replica of Fort Clatsop (used by Lewis and Clark), and a Frontiersmen Award program for older scouts (it’s REALLY cool). Their dining hall is HUGE and beautiful (and holds 600!). Our other favorite is a local camp, Camp Black Mountain in the Mount Baker Council (in Washington). Beautiful setting with great activities, including a fabulous indoor climbing wall, and a C.O.P.E. course. (Our troop is especially proud of the climbing wall…they were the first to climb it when it opened to campers!)
Thanks for the shout out, Christine!
Camp Black Mountain was one of the greatest in the nation! It was a sad day when the Mount Baker Council shut down the camp after the 2012 season.
Looking forward to the Council completing a pending sale of the camp to a Scout friendly buyer. Once completed, we can begin enjoying Nathan’s Wall again! Summer camp is a thing of the past for CBM, but the future looks promising for scouts to be able to use the camp again for weekend or short term camping!
Camp Black Mountain had several down-sides which led to its demise. The sign-ups for Summer Camp had decreased steadily over the last few years; the Camp was divided into two sections because of too much private property and summer homes and public access existing between the active halves of the camp; very large and overused County Park located on the west side of the lake with lots of water-sports activity out of the control of Scouting and half of the shoreline under private ownership; increased surveillance of wild land north of the Camp and Nathan’s Wall, by the Border Patrol and RCMP for illegal crossing and drug-trafficking…the International Border is about a mile to the north of the Camp property, and kids hiking around set off monitoring devices for border security. The Camp would have been saved if we could have acquired the private property which split the Camp into two parts and to reduce public intrusion into the Camp. So you now know some of the impediments.
“There’s no better place than Parsons, where the mountains meet the sea.” – Camp Parsons song. True story.
Yes Parsons is a beautiful camp. Too bad it is so poorly run. Poor food. Small dining hall, and the awful way the staff acts. They treat their guest there with zero respect. Camped there in 2012 No Thanks. Never again
A new dining hall is under construction as we speak, made possible by very large donations by Scout Leaders to the building funds. If you are not satisfied with any camp experience, please communicate that to seattlebsa.org and send comments to the Council Exec, Sharon Moulds, who is very well-focused in building a strong Scout program; she ‘owns’ two Eagles of her own! She will listen and make corrections. I have never heard of complaints about Staff at Parsons; the food has been mediocre at times, I admit. I bring extra food for my Scouts; I am a Unit Commissioner and very proactive with Troops that I serve.
I have to agree. Parsons is my favorite. Their program rocks with the scouts doing much for themselves. I have only had one instance there where a youth leading a merit badge did not take control of misbehaving scouts. That can happen anywhere. We have had scouts do Parsons’ high adventure as well. The program took this leader by surprise because I had only been exposed to “merit badge mills” up till my first Parsons visit. Parsons is now on my troop’s three-year rotation cycle along with Meriwether and our third year is a troop-selected option.
Best Camp is Trexler Scout Reservation in Jonas PA (Minsi Trails Council, 502) Settlers Camp for Boy Scouts lots of classic and innovative programs for scouts of ALL ages! Akelaland Week-long Cub Scout Resident Camp for Cubs with an AUTHENTIC camping experience!
Best Camp is Trexler Scout Reservation in Jonas PA (Minsi Trails Council, 502) Settlers Camp for Boy Scouts lots of classic and innovative programs for scouts of ALL ages! Akelaland Week-long Cub Scout Resident Camp for Cubs with an AUTHENTIC camping experience! Check it out… http://www.trexlercamp.org and http://www.akelaland.com
There is no finer Scout Camp than the 1,560 acres of Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan in Northern Wisconsin, home to lakes and woods and trails. This proud camp of the Northeast Illinois Council (129) has been serving Scouts on Illinois North Shore for over 75 years.
I’m sorry to have to disagree. While MaKaJaWan has many positives, in our experience in 2011, the organization of merit badge classes, inappropriate staffing for numbers attending the swimming and new scout program, and lack of clear communication on policies and procedures prior to arrival at camp overshadowed the positives. The largest issue was when we were informed after our arrival that the registration for merit badge classes that was completed several months in advance was only for the camp’s information. None of the scouts were signed up for classes and would have to run to be the first in line for any classes they wanted on the first day…. There were limited openings (some severely limited) and none of the scouts got into all of the classes we believed they were signed up for in advance. Most came home with far fewer badges than usual and not the ones they had been looking forward to… I can’t imagine our troop would return. There are many camps that are just as nice and better run.
Lee, you may be forced to revisit MaKaJaWan Scot Reservation, as all of the issues you discuss have been substantially altered in recent years. Registration for merit badges and activities is now more concrete, via the MyKaJaWan system, and provides considerable improvements to the scheduling concerns you speak of. Furthermore, the organisation of merit badge sessions has been moved to a block schedule, allowing more in-depth teaching and better access to classes. Staffing at Aquatics and Trailblazer (the area for new Scouts) has been considerably expanded, and, via camp promotion visits and a more comprehensive website, we hope to assuage your anxiety regarding the exposition of camp policies.
Onteora Scout Reservation, The Land in the Sky in upstate NY is amazing. Also Shiff Scout Reservation formally known as Camp Wauwepex on Long Island, where Teddy Roosevelt and his cronies established a scout camp almost 100 years ago.
I have spent almost 30 years at Camp Geiger and now my son is attending. The new shooting range is an excellent addition to an amazing camp. With one of the best programs around, the Tribe of Mic O Say, scouts come back year after year to Geiger. The staff is well trained and one of the best in scouting. On the hills above the river, Camp Geiger calls scouts young and old to return.
Well said, Tommy! Geiger has been nationally recognized for its high quality of program for decades now–including being distinguished as one of the “top 10” in the nation when you were still a young lad! 🙂 Year after year it has one of the highest rates of returning Scouts to camp. Birthplace of COPE (back in 1979) and now the highly-acclaimed Geiger Shooting Range (by national shooting sports champions). The quality of its staff is definitely the secret to its success!
Geiger is a special place, surpassing most other camps in the number of merit badges offered, great food and of course the Micosay program. The staff is superb, as well.
I’ve heard GREAT things about Camp Geiger and also even how the Tribe of Mic-O-Say is administered there. Sad experience has shown, however, that Camp Bartle’s (which also has great facilities by the way) variety of Mic-O-Say seems more an exclusive “club” for Mic-O-Say “alumni” adults than a boy’s program. We were treated so shabbily — from when we first went there to survey the Camp before the season with one of our leader’s getting screamed at by a guy with more beads that common sense (NO exaggeration either) for where he parked, to boys being socially ostracized because they wished to opt out of Mic-O-Say. Order of the Arrow was definitely NOT a welcome program there either. I would like to think that what Mic-O-Say had evolved into at Bartle was NOT what the Camp’s namesake, H. Roe Bartle, had in mind at its founding. If Mic-O-Say proponents ever have any desire for it to be more than a regional entity, they need to have a looooong talk with the folks at Bartle because they sure gave it a huge black eye from our perspective. I hope they have already. Thanks for letting me vent.
One of the premier camp locations on the east coast is the National Capital Area Council’s Goshen Scout Reservation nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Lexington, VA. It offers 4 Boy Scout and 2 Webelos Camps on The 400+ acre Lake Merriweather with miles of hiking/biking/ATV trails, fishing, COPE, a variety of outposts, water sports and even a tech center for STEM type merit badges. Come see us on our FB Fan page and my own personal gallery of photographs below. http://www.facebook.com/GOSHENNCAC http://danglassphoto.zenfolio.com/p294984628#h3e835142
This year I was the leader taking 21 on AMTRAK from Los Angeles to Central Oregon, Camp Makualla. The camp staff and their food was exceptional but the lake was freezing !! ( we went week 1 just after the snow cleared). Whitewater rafting and a tour of Crater Lake NP.. Fun time indeed.
To all jamboreans and esleaiclpy to the 151 th FOS KOALA’s have a BLAST of a jamboree We love ya all!!Bring friendship out to everyone overthere and thank Sweden for its hospitality Frank Van de Steene (Trage Walrus)
I cannot believe Scouting magazine published the picture at Mt Norris Scout Reservation on page 60 of the Jan/Feb 2013 issue showing Scouts without headgear, without gloves or mittens, and with their outer jackets open in what is identified as SUB-FREEZING temperatures. I’m also surprised that not one of the other commenters commented on this.
I have staffed Winter Trek (all volunteer staff) for 6 years now. I watched the photo shoot when that was taken last year. We had a particularly mild winter last year. The temps that day were well above freezing and it was a nice sunny day with no wind.
But, when performing heavy exercise like cross country skiing, it is completely acceptable to remove your hat and open layers to keep from sweating.
Personally, I would have worn gloves just in case (when) I fell over into the snow! But, these Scouts were at most 20 yards from a heated building at any one point while being photographed. So, they could easily get warm if needed. Yes, Scouts don’t always use the best judgment, but in this case, the text is not accurate about the conditions that particular day.
We run a very safe program, and as far as I know, we have never had a cold injury. If the conditions had warranted it, these youth would have been instructed to bundle up. We all know leading and teaching Scouts is all about judgment calls. While I was not supervising this activity, in my somewhat expert opinion, there is nothing wrong with what is shown.
The first weekend of Winter Trek starts Friday, and we have more snow on the ground now than we got all winter last year! All 5 weeks were sold out long ago, and we’re looking forward to another great winter camping season.
I love this list. I’m a Program Development Lead for Goshen Scout Reservation and I always go through this report in detail looking for ways to improve camp experience. It’ll take time – but look for Goshen on this list soon!
I went to Okpik in winter 1987. It was fun and I learned quite a bit. Among various skills, I learned that everything freezes. A hot water bottle in your sleeping bag seems like a good idea until you wake up with a jug of ice at your feet. Haha, good times. But, I have no plans to ever do any camping in the cold again.
I was an ASM during 2013 Camp Sequoia visit. Food and food service was great; best I have experienced in summer camps. Adult
leadership was friendly and professional. Camp sites are in good locations in shaded areas. Covered benches and facilities at every site.. Warning if you are out of council; registration for afternoon troop activities is confusing and space is limited. If you do not know to “rush in,” insiders will reserve best activities. Also, lake front closed for swimming after 5pm. Before 5pm, only available for troop with reservation at check in (or if open space). Due to thunderstorm 1st two days, our troop had all of 1 hour free swim for the week. Troop rated camp overall 3 out of 5.
Camp Durant has the best staff a camp could have. They have great bathhouses in every campsite and their opening show is an hour of greatness. The staff will do everything they can to make you have the time of gyour life.
Camp Melakwa in Oregon should be on this list! It’s one of the most unique camps I’ve been to. It is one of the last BSA resident camps with no electricity. They offer a mountain coming program, over 15 overnight backpacking trips, and an outstanding climbing program on real rock faces that overlook Lake Melakwa. The camp surrounds the warmish mountain lake. You can see to the bottom of it! The lake is stocked with fish, and the campfire programs are held up on the council bluff overlooking the lake and the Three Sisters mountains. They also have a really cool western themed program on Thursday nights called “The Happening.” At no other camp have i seen the unique combination of wilderness experience, pioneering history, native american history, mountaineering culture, and western charm. check the camp out at campmelakwa.org
I attended Buffalo trails last summer. I’ve never hated Boy Scout camp before. It was a horrible experience. The camp had more boys than it had food. We had to go into town and buy food to feed our boys. I will never go Bach there again.
Philmont is the Flagship of Western Camps. For outstanding hiking, family, training, and high-adventure programs, this is a five-star camp. Downside is the cost of travel with the current charge per Scout about $300, a typical Summer Camp fee for a week-long experience. So we have a few real extended adventure programs: Philmont, Summit Bechtel…really geared for East Coast residents who do not have to travel far; Florida Sea Base, Northern Tier, and the new one in LA…Atchafalaya Swamp Base with live alligators that bite! For those of us in the Northwest, the National Jamboree costs each kid $3,150….lots of expense in travel and in supplemental programs. Our own WASHJAM 2016 in August will cost each Scout $30 for three days with local travel of very low expense. The latter is SW of Tacoma, WA about 50 miles S. of Seattle.
Thank you for offering excitement for all Scouts. The readers of these postings should pull up Scouts Canada. ca and view the outstanding wild lands, on and on! B.C. is a most enriching outdoor and scenic area anywhere in the world. My Canadian friends really do adventure so you need to check out the programmes before you sign up; their outdoor adventures are rugged! And there are wonderful wild animals and very pretty trout, too.
How can a list of “Cool Camps” not have any from the Adirondack Mountains of New York State? I particularly like Seneca Waterways Council’s Massawepie Scout Camps, near Tupper Lake, NY. Massawepie’s 3770 acres include a lake and 9 ponds, a great base camp that attracts troops from around the country, 15+ miles of trails, and easy access to the nearby mountains and waterways for treks. Before or after camp it’s easy to stop at the Wild Center environmental museum in Tupper Lake, featuring the new treetops-level Wild Walk.
I couldn’t agree more with Pete. Having gone there as a Scout, worked there , brought my son up to Massawepie, and continue to volunteer there, I have such a passion for the program and the region. A love that is 36 years new!
Kudos to Seneca Waterways to not only keeping the camp rustic and relevant, but for making sure their is always a premier staff and facilities management who take such care of Massawepie.
What a super jump off for a troop to experience a Trek/High Adventure program too. So many options from hiking to canoeing, etc.
An occasionally visit from a Moose is a cherry on the sundae too!
Disappointed to see so very few southern scout camps listed. This year we traveled from Texas to Georgia to attend Camp Rainey Mountain and was highly impressed. Beautiful area, great staff and a large selection of merit badges and high adventure.
Marcus, thanks for your feedback. One way we learn about new “Cool Camps” is from reader suggestions. We’ll add Camp Rainey Mountain to our list for a future issue. Be sure to stay tuned — there are several great Southern camps featured in our upcoming lineup. Appreciate you reading. –Gretchen Sparling
Although I don’t agree that EVERYthing good is ONLY available for iOS devices, I am with Sheri Hensen.
Why does Boys Life offer the Camp Scout app ONLY on iOS? Why not for Android? This seems biased and narrow minded.
I am currently looking at alternatives for our troop, but I don’t have an iOS device.
Why doesn’t ‘Scouting’ take this up with ‘Boys Life’ on behalf of all of us with Android devices. It’s your opportunity to “Do a Good Turn”. How about demonstrating how you can “Lead – Inspire – Explore”?