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 – think January through March or April – that’s the perfect time to register. And be aware: Many of these camps will fill up fast.

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
  • Phone: 810-679-2505
  • 2020 dates and costs Six sessions between June 14 and Aug. 15. $810/starter camp; $1,620/one week, $2,590/two weeks, $4,209/four weeks; all sessions also require a refundable $500 deposit at the time of registration

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 liaison 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 runs Nov. 1, 2019 through March 15, 2020; by registering, you can receive 5 percent off of the full tuition price.

Camp Carvela

Note: Affiliated with Camp Lookout and Crystalaire Adventures

  • Region: Northern Michigan
  • Address: 1310 Beuna Road, Frankfort
  • Phone: 231-299-0005
  • 2020 dates and costs: Sessions available for ages 7-17 and range $225- $1,925; some trips can be extended for an additional $330; all sessions run June 22-Aug. 7

A co-ed camp that prides itself on being “unplugged.” The outdoor adventures at this pick among overnight summer camps in Michigan range from scavenger hunts and real-life fort building in the woods to Voyageur canoe rides, paddle boarding, lake games, bird watching and bonfires. Kids get a chance to come up with and lead activities too.

Camp Lookout

Note: Affiliated with Camp Carvela and Crystalaire Adventures

  • Region: Northern Michigan
  • Address: 1310 Beuna Road, Frankfort
  • Phone: 231-299-0005
  • 2020 dates and costs: Day camps: Camper for a Day June 9 and Day Camp July 2-3 (both sessions free); Overnight: Session A runs June 14-19 ($840) and Super Starters 1 is July 12-15 ($510); Note: as of Jan. 9, these overnight sessions are still open for girls, but full for boys (there are also other overnight sessions, but these are full)

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 7-15, 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.

Crystalaire Adventures

Note: Affiliated with Camp Carvela and Camp Lookout

  • Region: Northern Michigan
  • Address: 1310 Beuna Road, Frankfort
  • Phone: 231-299-0005
  • 2020 dates and costs: Three-day sessions for ages 10-12 ($395), six-day sessions for ages 12-14 ($795), 14-day sessions for ages 14-16 ($2,125), one 12-day trip for 16-17-year-olds ($1,925); all sessions run June 19-Aug. 16

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. Registration typically begins mid-December.

Camp Miniwanca

  • Region: West Michigan
  • Address: 8845 W. Garfield Road, Shelby
  • Phone: 231-861-2262
  • 2020 dates and costs: Various one to three week sessions, plus one five or six week session, June 28-Aug. 7. $1,130-$6,880

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, canoeing and kayaking. 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
  • 2020 dates and costs: June 15-Aug. 31. $140-$355

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.

“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 Feb. 1, 2020.

Camp Sancta Maria 

  • Region: Northern Michigan
  • Address: 5361 W. M-32 Gaylord
  • Phone: 248-822-8199
  • 2020 dates and costs Two-week sessions and mini sessions June 14- 15. $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 family camping weekends, too.

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
  • Phone: 231-625-2050
  • 2020 dates and costs: One three-night mini session and six two-to-seven week options June 21-Aug. 8. $600-$8,120

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.” Select sessions offer charter bus rides from Farmington Hills.

Leslie Science & Nature Center Summer Camps

  • Region: Southeast Michigan
  • Address: 1831 Traver Road, Ann Arbor (call for camp locations)
  • Phone: 734-531-6052
  • 2020 dates and costs: A variety of themed programs for ages 4-15 run June 15-Aug. 28. $275-$380

This science-centric spot offers themes like “Nature’s Superheroes,” “Myth, Legend, and Lore,” “Michiganology” and 10 other fun weeks. 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.

“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
  • 2020 dates and costs: June 24-26, July 15-17. $130/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, a 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
  • 2020 dates and costs: June 14- Sep 27, 2020. $180-$350

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.

Moms: You can go to camp now, too, through the Women’s Wellness Weekend in September, available for women ages 21 and older.

Willoway Day Camp

  • Region: Southeast Michigan
  • Address: 4654 Old Plank Road, Milford
  • Phone: 248-932-2123
  • 2020 dates and costs: June 15-Aug. 14. $565-$2,300; discounts available for siblings attending same sessions and campers attending multiple sessions; enroll before Jan. 30 for $50-$100 discounts and pay in full before April 1 for a complimentary extra night

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
  • Phone: 810-629-9622
  • 2020 dates and costs: June 28-Aug. 21. $225-$1,070; fees first increase on March 15 and again on May 31

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. Four sessions available between Aug. 12 and Aug. 24; costs are $695-$1,250. 734-249-8094

YMCA Camp Ohiyesa

  • Region: Southeast Michigan
  • Address: 7300 Hickory Ridge Road, Holly
  • Phone: 248-887-4533
  • 2020 dates and costs: Day camp (ages 4-16), overnight camp (ages 7-16) and inclusion camp for campers with special needs ages (6-16); June 15-Aug. 29. $239-$1,099; prices increase March 1; additional costs may be added for specialty camps, day camp bus fee or additional care in the morning or evening.

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.

“We have what we feel is the premier day camp in Oakland County,” says Ryan Mertz, executive director. “Our campers gain independence, make new friends, challenge their limits, explore the natural world and create lifelong habits of healthy living in a safe environment.”

Are there any overnight summer camps in Michigan you’d add to the list? Let us know in the comments!

This post is updated regularly.


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