Best Outdoor and Nature Overnight Summer Camps in Michigan

From overnight summer camps in Michigan and outdoor immersion programs for teens to day camps for tykes, discover top options that span the state.

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 new activities — think 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, too — among the many other benefits of camp.

Try these awesome picks in southeast Michigan, west Michigan, northern Michigan and the Thumb area. Remember, when it’s cold outside — January through March or April — that’s the perfect time to register.

Note: Many of these camps will fill up fast, so it’s better to register sooner than later. Some may enforce COVID-19 safety protocols. Contact the camp of your choice for more details.

A few good tips to keep in mind when looking for overnight summer camps in Michigan:
  • 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; usually, 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
  • 2022 Dates: Six sessions between June 19 and Aug. 20
  • Costs: $925/starter camp; $1,825/one week, $3,100/two weeks, $5,890/four weeks; all sessions also require a refundable $500 deposit at the time of registration; sibling discount of $50 is available

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. Other camp activities include swimming, kayaking, arts and crafts, archery, night activities and much more.

Camp Carvela

  • Region: Northern Michigan
  • Address: 33 Bass Lake Rd, Traverse City
  • 2022 Dates: Three Night Super Starters: July 24-27 and Aug. 2-5; One-week sessions: June 12-17, June 19-24, June 26-July 1, July 3-8 and Aug, 7-12; Two-week sessions: July 10-22 and July 24-Aug. 5; Teen leadership session: June 26-July 8
  • Costs: $660-$2,485

This co-ed camp prides itself for being “unplugged.” The outdoor adventures range from scavenger hunts to real-life fort building in the woods to Voyageur canoe rides, paddle boarding, lake games, bird watching and bonfires. Kids get a chance to create and lead activities too. Note: Affiliated with Camp Lookout and Crystalaire Adventures. 

Camp Lookout

  • Region: Northern Michigan
  • Address: 1310 Beuna Road, Frankfort
  • 2022 Dates: Three Night Super Starters: July 10-13 and July 19-22; One-week sessions: June 12-17, June 19-24 and Aug. 7-12; Two-week sessions: June 26-July 8, July 10-22 and July 24-Aug. 5; Teen leadership session: June 26-July 8
  •  Costs: $660-$2,485

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). Aimed at ages 7-17, this spot 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. Note: Affiliated with Camp Carvela and Crystalaire Adventures. 

Crystalaire Adventures

  • Region: Northern Michigan
  • Address: 33 Bass Lake Rd, Traverse City
  • 2022 Dates: Three-day sessions for ages 10-12: June 17-19, July 24-26, July 1-3, July 8-10, July 22-24, Aug. 5-7 and Aug. 12-14; Five/Six-day sessions for ages 12-14: June 19-24, July 10-15 and July 17-22; Two-week session for ages 14-17: July 24-Aug. 5; 12 day session for ages 16-17: June 26-July 8
  • Costs: $475-$2,485

Got older kids? Here, 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. Note: Affiliated with Camp Carvela and Camp Lookout. 

Camp Mirage

Hello, huge mud pits! This day camp for ages 4-13 has that, along with bonfires, water activities — and more than 40 total themed camps, from “Animal Planet” to “Pokemon,” all with flexible schedules that are great for working parents. In 2021, the camp opened a second location in Plymouth to allow for more inside space plus a new slip-n-slide and an extra wooded area.

Camp Sancta Maria 

  • Region: Northern Michigan
  • Address: 5361 W. M-32, Gaylord
  • 2022 Dates: Two-week: $750, One-week: $485 and Horse Camp or Ropes Adventure: $560
  • Costs: $485-$750; sibling discount and multiple session discount is $40

This residential, Christian-based 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. Find horseback riding, archery, swimming and canoeing in addition to games, campfires, treats, crafts and other traditional camping fun.

Camp Walden 

  • Region: Northern Michigan
  • Address: 5607 S. River Road, Cheboygan
  • 2022 Dates: Seven weeks: June 20-Aug. 6, Four weeks: June 20-July 16, Three weeks: July 18-Aug. 6, Two weeks: June 20-July 2 and July 30-Aug. 2
  • Costs: $650-$9,000

When campers are ready for that overnight trek, this up-north destination delivers with “150 acres of virgin forest, sparkling waterfront, meadows, rolling hills and trails.” Campers ages 7-16 go water skiing, tubing, sailing and paddle boarding on spring-fed Long Lake. Horseback riding and other 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.”

Leslie Science & Nature Center Summer Camps

  • Region: Southeast Michigan
  • Address: 1831 Traver Road, Ann Arbor (call for camp locations)
  • 2022 Dates: June 13-Aug. 26
  • Costs: Registration opens on Feb. 11

This science-centric spot offers themes like “Nature’s Superheroes,” “Mitten State Marvels,” “Nature Detectives” and more. Plus, find 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.

There’s even a session for middle schoolers who want to learn about science technology engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

Van Buren Youth Camp

Opened in 1950, this overnight camp for grades 1-12 features traditional activities like riflery, archery, canoeing, kayaking, crafts and more.

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
  • 2022 Dates: June 20-Aug. 12
  • Costs: $1,350-$2,400; sibling discounts and multi-session discounts are available

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 1 to 6. “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
  • 2022 Dates: June 20-Aug. 26
  • Costs: Day camps: $260-$330; Overnight camps: $670-$1,150

Fantastic campfire songs are just the start, 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.

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. Check the camp’s website for more information about sessions in 2022.  

YMCA Camp Ohiyesa

  • Region: Southeast Michigan
  • Address: 7300 Hickory Ridge Road, Holly
  • 2022 Dates: Day camps: June 13-Aug. 26; Overnight Camps: June 19-Aug. 27
  • Costs: Day Camps: $219-$269; Overnight Camps: $609-$1,249

Camp Ohiyesa mixes tradition and innovation. With staff from all over the world, the experience includes plenty of fun and a strong emphasis on character building and cultural awareness. It’s close enough for southeast Michigan families but far enough removed from the city to have space to explore 300 acres of fields, forest, wetlands and lakes.

This post is updated regularly.


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1 COMMENT

  1. One of the best summer camps for kids is Little Bands Music in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Students learn guitar, piano, ukulele, bass, drums and voice. They build their own band and learn to play together, learn all of the parts and have a blast!
    Little bands music.com

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