Best Outdoor and Nature Overnight Summer Camps in Michigan

From overnight summer camps or outdoor immersion programs for teens to day camps for tykes, there are options that span the state.

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Instead of spending the summer perfecting the art of being a couch potato, overnight summer camps in Michigan give kids the opportunity to try out activities like archery, kayaking, rock-climbing, hiking and more. Plus, there’s the opportunity to make new friends from across the state while enjoying all the fun that the outdoors can offer. The skills and memories campers will gain often stick with them for years to come. Try these awesome picks in southeast Michigan, west Michigan, northern Michigan and the Thumb area. Remember, when it’s cold outside – think January through March or April – that’s the perfect time to register (and be aware, many of these camps will fill up fast).

Day or sleepaway. Classic or niche. Near or far. So many camps!

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A few great to keep in mind:

  • Register early. Again, camps fill up fast. Act fast to secure a spot.
  • Dates vary. Typically camps are broken into multi-day sessions (though you can often register for several). Visit the websites for precise breakdowns.
  • Call for costs. Most camps listed have a range; typically lower amounts are for day camps. Price points rise for longer/overnight experiences.

Black River Farm and Ranch

  • Region: Thumb area
  • Address: 5040 Sheridan Line Road, Croswell
  • Phone: 810-679-2505
  • Dates: June 17-Aug. 18, 2018
  • Cost: $750/starter camp; $1,550/one week, $2,480/two week, $4,030/four week

Described as “paradise at the end of a dirt road,” this overnight camp for girls ages 6-16 focuses on horsemanship and includes riding lessons with the horses each morning. It’s been family owned and operated since 1962. “We also have swimming, boating, field activities, crafts and night programs,” says camp director and parent liason Katy Scott. “We are an all-girls program and our campers move on to be staff, which creates a really fun and traditional camp feel.” Registration opened Jan. 10, 2018.

Camp Lookout and Crystalaire Adventures

  • Region: Northern Michigan
  • Address: 1310 Beuna Road, Frankfort
  • Phone: 231-299-0005
  • Camp Lookout, 2018: Various day camp, plus one- and two-week sessions offered June 12-Aug. 17; day camps are free; session range $475-$1,795; Crystalaire Adventures, 2017: 3-7 day trips, June 22-Aug. 19; $300-$2,300

Heavily wooded and set on a hilly peninsula, this retreat is a true up-north gem – there’s not even vehicle access (you’ll arrive by pontoon). Camp Lookout, geared at ages 7-15, strives to empower young people to co-create a supportive, playful and imaginative environment, whether camping on the beach of Lake Michigan or staking out a primitive site in the woods. Be sure to book early for this popular option, says owner and camp director Curtis McFall. Got older kids? At Crystalaire Adventures, teens ages 13-18 learn to live and work together – and get a better sense of who they are. They’ll explore caverns, backpack North Manitou, basecamp at South Manitou and more. Ask about custom programs, too. Registration began December 15, 2017.

Camp Miniwanca

  • Region: West Michigan
  • Address: 8845 W. Garfield Road, Shelby
  • Phone: 231-861-2262
  • Dates: Various 1-3 week sessions, June 24-Aug. 3, 2018
  • Cost: $1,090-$6,600

Created in 1924, this American Youth Foundation camp welcomes kids entering grades 3-12. Activities include swimming and archery, plus adventure trips for older campers with biking, hiking and canoeing. The focus here is on discovering your “personal best” and making a positive difference in the world. “Our motto is ‘My own self at my very best, all the time,'” girls camp coordinator Hannah Patterson says. “Everything we do is focused on that here. We ask the kids to find out what their own best self looks like and decide for themselves how they can achieve that.”

Camp Mirage

  • Region: Southeast Michigan
  • Address: 39500 Five Mile Road, Plymouth
  • Phone: 734-420-4655
  • Dates: June 18-Aug. 30, 2018
  • Cost: $135-$190

Hello, huge mud pits! This day camp for ages 4-13 has that, along with bonfires, water activities – and 40 total themed camps, from “Animal Planet” to Pokémon, all with flexible schedules that are great for working parents. “We are unique because we offer the feel, excitement and camaraderie of an overnight camp experience in a day-camp setting,” says camp director Cara Trost. “Our kids are outside playing hard all day long. We send them home exhausted, dirty and happy!” Registration opens February 2018.

Camp Sancta Maria 

  • Region: Northern Michigan
  • Address: 5361 W. M-32 Gaylord
  • Phone: 248-822-8199
  • Dates: 2-week sessions and mini sessions June-August
  • Cost: $205-$699

This residential summer camp was founded in 1933 and offers 96 acres of natural wooded areas and single-gender stays so that campers get the most out of their experience; plus parent-child weekends, too. Find horseback riding, archery, swimming and canoeing in addition to games, campfires, treats, crafts and other traditional camping fun. Registration opened Nov.18, 2017.

Camp Walden

  • Region: Northern Michigan
  • Address: 5607 S. River, Road, Cheboygan
  • Phone: 231-625-2050
  • Dates: Three-night mini session, and 2-7 week options June 24-Aug. 11, 2018
  • Cost: $525/three-night first timer, $3,300–$8,000/session

When they’re ready for that overnight trek, this up-north destination delivers with “150 acres of virgin forest, sparking waterfront, meadows, rolling hills and trails.” Campers ages 7-16 go water skiing, tubing, sailing and stand-up paddle boarding on spring-fed Long Lake. Horseback riding and athletics are also featured. “There’s a great deal of focus on making camp work for every kid, no matter what their interests or their abilities,” says co-owner/director Liz Stevens, who adds she and husband Scott Ruthart work directly with each family and answer calls. “It’s a very warm, family-like atmosphere. We know every kid and family.” Select sessions offer charter bus rides from Farmington Hills.

Leslie Science & Nature Center Summer Camps

  • Region: Southeast Michigan
  • Address: 1831 Traver Road, Ann Arbor
  • Phone: 734-997-1553
  • Dates: A variety of themed programs for different ages, June 18-Aug. 30, 2018
  • Cost: $270-$350

This kid-centric spot offers themes like “Nature’s Superheroes,” “Myth, Legend, and Lore,” “Michiganology,” and 10 other fun weeks – plus activities from hiking, campfire-building and animal tracking to hanging out with the center’s resident raptors (birds of prey) and critters who call Black Pond home. “This is the place where a lot of kids eat outside for the first time, walk in the woods for the first time, touch a snake for the first time,” says Etta Heisler, camp and public programs director. “They have a lot of firsts here.” K-5 campers can pick three max sessions; there are some overnight options, too. Love nature and music? Ask about the “Camp Cool Down” extended day care option.

Stony Creek Nature Center Day Camp

  • Region: Southeast Michigan
  • Address: 4300 Main Park Drive, Shelby Township
  • Phone: 586-781-9113
  • Dates: June 25-27, 2018, July 9-11, 2018
  • Cost: $125/child

Kids ages 7-12 get up close and personal with the park, nature center and the creatures that call it home. Plus go fishing and canoeing, take tractor-drawn wagon treks and – bonus! – whoosh down the park’s inflatable water slide. “Many of the campers enjoy it so much, they’ve come year after year,” says Kim Sherwin, former park interpreter at the nature center. “We’ve even had some campers come back when they were ‘too old’ to help out with the camp as counselors.”

Van Buren Youth Camp

  • Region: West Michigan
  • Address: 12370 45th St., Bloomingdale
  • Phone: 269-521-3855
  • Dates: June 17-Aug 12, 2018
  • Cost: $120-$335

Opened in 1950, this overnight camp for grades 1-12 features traditional activities like riflery, archery, canoeing, kayaking, a low-ropes course, crafts and more. “We focus on relationships and building citizenship and encouraging kids to get involved and find their voice,” Dottie Myers-Hill, executive camp director, says. The partial-week “Little Bear” program gives the youngest campers – ages 6-8 – a shorter stay to help them get used to the experience. This camp also offers leadership training for teens and has a financial assistance program available.

Willoway Day Camp

  • Region: Southeast Michigan
  • Address: 4654 Old Plank Road, Milford
  • Phone: 248-932-2123
  • Dates: June 18-Aug. 17, 2018
  • Cost: $540-plus $540-$1,175

Campers ages 5-14 enjoy swimming instruction each morning, checking out nature trails and the animal farm, go-karting, sports, drama and more at this day camp that offers some overnights. Transportation, complete with spirited songs, is provided. “It’s a varied program with wonderful activities,” says co-owner Lorraine Fisher, noting the staff-to-camper ratio is one-to-six. “Many of our staff grew up as campers at Willoway, and many of our staff stay with us. We’re a family operation.”

YMCA Camp Copneconic

  • Region: Southeast Michigan
  • Address: 10407 N. Fenton Road, Fenton
  • Phone: 810-629-9622
  • Dates: Overnight and Holiday Hills program options, July 1-Aug. 17, 2018
  • Cost: $210-$1,070

Fantastic campfire songs are just the start at this century-plus favorite, offering day and overnight camps with programs for ages 4 to high school seniors. Campers take action-packed field trips, go ziplining, tubing, kayaking, canoeing and sailing, plus enjoy weekly themes like searching for gold or building a time machine. Maggie Mitchell, overnight camp and team-building programs director, says programs are “laced with intentionality focusing on character development, age progressive goals, outdoor enrichment and fostering a sense of community.”

Note: Camp Tall Tree, set on the grounds of Camp Copneconic, is a traditional summer experience for kids ages 7-18 with special needs like autism – plus skill-building for ages 13 to mid-20s, and a program for siblings of people with autism. There’s swimming, boating, archery and more. Runs Aug. 20-25; main camp is $1,250. 734-657-0057.

YMCA Camp Ohiyesa

  • Region: West Michigan
  • Address: 7300 Hickory Ridge Road, Holly
  • Phone: 248-887-4533
  • Dates: June 24-Aug. 31, 2018
  • Cost: $369-$999; fees increase on Feb. 28 and March 1

Explore 300 acres of forest, trails, fields and lake during day camp for grades K-8 (with a leader in training program for older kids) or overnight camp for ages 7-14. “We have what we feel is the premier day camp in Oakland County,” former executive director Steve Heiny says. “Our day campers can canoe, kayak and swim in our lake, zip down the zip line, shoot archery and ride horses.” Now in its 99th year, the day camp also offers themed weeks including “Percy Jackson,” “Harry Potter,” “Disney,” “Star Wars” and “Pokemon Adventure.” Whereas overnighters will choose two skills that they will learn throughout their session, as well as enjoy daily cabin challenges with campfires and capture the flag in the evenings.

This post was originally published in 2016 and is updated regularly.

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