Camp Chrysalis

Outside the Bay Area
School-Aged, Preteens, Teens
lee [at]

For over 36 years, Camp Chrysalis has helped young people, ages 8 to 17, explore the rich and diverse natural environments of California. Living among redwoods, tidepools, marshes and mountains, campers cultivate an ethic of respect and responsibility for the ecologies that support life on earth. Leaving from Berkeley, each summer we lead sessions at our camps beneath the redwoods in Big Sur, between the tides of the Mendocino coast, and high in the Sierra Nevada (including a backpacking session for older campers).

Parent Reviews

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I don’t know anything about Lasting Adventures, but as another option, I am a big fan of Camp Chrysalis, which is run out of Berkeley. They have a 1-week backpacking trip    I have two kids who have done different Camp Chrysalis sessions for 7 years, and each has been great. 

Hi Laura,

Our child spent many summers with Camp Chrysalis, including both backpacking sessions offered (One is 12 days in the Sierras, the other is 8 days in Sequoia). As a parent I can't speak highly enough of Chrysalis. Co-founder Lee Tempkin is a science teacher during the year, so the campers learn a lot about the biology and botany of their environments, in addition to the camping and backpacking skills they gain. Lee trusts the campers, and they, in turn, respect and listen to him. They learn tons, have adventures, and come home shockingly dirty (put a sheet down in your car when you go to reclaim your kid at the end of the session!) Chrysalis is also very fairly priced - I just checked, and it is the same per day as Lasting Adventures - and offers financial assistance to those in need. If you look at the website you'll also see that they have very little staff turnover; my daughter is a college senior and there are staff that were with Chrysalis when my kid was a nine year old camper in 2007. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Oct 2014

Re: What sleep away camp did your child LOVE?

My son loved Camp Chrysalis. He is 12, went with a friend and came home dirty, happy, and almost the first words out of his mouth were, ''I'm going again next summer!'' Camp Chrysalis is not a traditional sleepaway camp. There are four options: Big Sur, Mendocino, Sierra, and Sierra Backpacking (for teens only) and only one offering of each, so the options are limited in terms of when your child can go. They don't sleep in cabins, but share tents, maybe 2-3 kids/tent. The camps are all about exploring the natural environment around you, so for example, Mendocino focuses on tide pools/marine experiences, while the Sierra is all about mountain hiking and swimming in rivers and lakes. There is music and woodworking. The kids do a lot of the cooking. My son came home with lots of stories of their adventures. This camp has been around a long time and I highly recommend it. I'm hoping to coax my shy daughter into attending a session next summer also. Camp Chrysalis fan

April 2014

Re: Outdoor/ camping summer camp for 13yr old boy
Our 12-year-old boy will be attending a session at Camp Chrysalis this summer. They have different options, like Big Sur, Mendocino and the Sierra, for different lengths of time. Caveat: I have no direct experience with this camp, but my son is attending with a friend whose family has experience with it and raves about it. Other friends recommend it also and it has good reviews on BPN. As for brown-skinned campers, sorry, I don't know, but you could certainly email the director and ask. anon

I am replying to the recommendation for Camp Chrysalis. My kid attended a few years back. We found it to be a camp where a lot the staff has known each other for years and some are relatives of each other, and where many of the campers know each other or know the staff previous to the camp, and it is not a large camp. My kid went to camp without any previous relationships to the staff or other campers, and would recommend going with a buddy or buddies. anon

Nov 2013

Our son, now 15, has had a great time over the years at Camp Chrysalis, a Berkeley family-owned nature camp. They have four great sessions in the summer, and last year they started offering a winter session. Our son has done both summer and winter sessions and loved them all -- and he is super picky! He likes the staff, the kids that come, the locations; he's learned things, hiked many beautiful trails, swam in spectacular lakes, improved his skiing a lot, played hard, and felt really at home. They are offering new sessions this year for the snow -- skiing and backpacking, for kids and adults. They are looking for more sign ups, because it's hard to think about the snow when it hasn't been raining. More information at We highly recommend them! Inbal

Sleepaway camp for 8-year-old

Oct 2013

My 8-year-old daughter is dying to go to sleepaway camp next summer. She is interested in a traditional summer camp with lots of outdoor activities and a focus on cooperation rather than competition. We had settled on Plantation Farm Camp only to discover that it will not be in operation next summer. Does anyone have any recommendations for a good all-around camp that offers a nurturing culture and models positive social interaction? (We hope for a break from the Queen Bees at school, not a new hive of them.) Anon

We are big fans of Camp Chrysalis. At age 10, she could do Big Sur (7 days), Mendocino (10 days), or both. It is not a ''traditional'' camp with cabins, dining hall, etc. (they use group campsites and the kids sleep in tents), so it may not be what she's expecting in that regard. But it's certainly what you're looking for in a supportive environment with great outdoor adventures and lots of learning. Anne

March 2012

Camp Chrysalis is a Berkeley based summer camp that is in its 30 year. It was founded by science teachers Lee Tempkin and Michael Rossman, and is run by a dedicated staff of mature teachers who return year after year to run four distinct sessions of Camp Chrysalis: 1) seven days at Big Sur for 8-14 year olds, 2) eleven days in Mendocino for 10-15 year olds, 3) ten days in the Sierras for 11-15 year olds, and 4) one week backpacking for 14-17 year olds.

The emphasis of the camp is facilitating campers to develop a strong appreciation for the fragility of natural ecosytems in each of these locations. Equally important, the staff emphasizes the importance of the camp group as a community or a human ecosystem that also requires care. This translates to kindness and respect toward one another as core camp values.

My daughters both love the Camp Chrysalis experience and can't wait to attend each summer. The small size of each session allows for strong friendships to develop, which combined with supportive staff and the natural beauty of the camp locations result in a memorable and positive camp experience. I recommend that parents sign up early since certain sessions can fill up fast. sf

March 2012

Re: Weight-Loss Summer Camp for Overweight 12 year old
Hi, I know one camp that might work for your son. It is called camp Chrysalis. My oldest went there a couple of times and loved it. The camp has stationary site in the Sierra with bathrooms and tables but they sleep in tents and are completely unplugged. No electronics allowed. It is not sports camp and does not specifically deal with overweight issues, but they do cook great nutritious meals, take hikes, swim in warm lakes. The counselors are mature adults many are teachers in local schools. It is a warm friendly place. Check out their web site for more info yg

May 2009

Re: Summer adventure experience for 17-year-old boy
My daughter has had wonderful experiences with Camp Chrysalis, an outdoor nature and environmental education camp run by Lee Tempkin, a Berkeley teacher. He runs four camp trips a year, geared to different ages and levels of ability. Supportive yet challenging, we love the program for how it has engaged our daughter. Lee also keeps it very affordable, which is great! City mother of outdoorsy girl

Feb 2009

Re: Nearby Sleepaway Camp for 9 Year Old Girl
My daughter loves Camp Chrysalis (the 9 year olds go to Big Sur), which is a camping and nature camp run by a Berkeley-based science teacher.

May 2006

Re: Wilderness program for unmotivated video-gamer son
For the video-gamer son who need a Good Wilderness Program. Have you heard of Camp Chrysalis. This camp is the best. Call Lee Tempkin at 843-6157 or e-mail him at ltempkin[at] or Michael Rossman at 849-1154 or mrossman[at] They are the directors of this camp. The website is They have different sessions and prices. My daughter, 16, has been going for years and would not want to miss it. This is just a wonderful camp. Please inquire. Brigitte

I've heard raves about Camp Chrysalis from young teens and preteens. But I'm not sure if it has older teens good luck

April 2004

Both of my children (now 16 and 13) have attended both Echo Lake Camp and Camp Chrysalis and have loved their experiences with both. The two are quite different, however.

Chrysalis, is a nurturing, intimate and somewhat more controlled experience, carefully run by Berkeley teachers who've been doing this one camp for years. The kids get more direct contact with adults, more supervised and educationally relevant activities--although it is also quite adventuresome in various ways. The session my kids loved most was the Mendocino camp, which included early morning forays to the beach and an overnight canoe trip to sleep on an island. Chrysalis is also more face-to-face with nature in that kids sleep in tents, help cook their own food, etc. Finally, Chrysalis in my experience attracts a particular kind of family. Many kids are students at Berkwood Hedge or Ecole Bilingue, where the two directros taught for many years and there are more middle-class and private school kids.

Echo Lake , on the other hand, is kind of like a funky resort for city kids. There are many more kids and it's a more diverse and public-school crowd. Most of the supervision comes from teenagers who are former campers--all of whom in my experience have been great. Generally the kids love being with the teens. Activities are a little less seriously educational and there are a lot of hijinks. Also, Echo is more like camp than like camping--kids sleep on cots in tent cabins with wooden floors, eat in a dining hall, and swim in a pool. (Echo Lake, one of the most beautiful alpine lakes you'll ever find, is a half-mile or so away and too cold for lots of kids--a high point of each session is an early morning ''polar bear swim.'') Because Echo Lake Camp has been there since the 20's and because the Echo Lake forest service cabins were settled primarily by Berkeley residents in the 20's and 30's (including many Berkeley faculty and luminaries like the Sproul and Eshelman families), it has a nice community feeling--there are lots of silly songs and traditions that Berkeley kids have been doing for generations.

In short, both camps are great and your child is lucky to be going to both. Especially if he's going to Echo first, you might want to make sure that the Camp Director (who will be there when the buses leave for camp) knows that it's his first time away from home--just because Echo can be a bit chaotic. (You could also send a note to the camp and they'll make sure that his counselors get it.) But I'll bet he has a great time at both. Nina

Feb 2001

I cannot recommend highly enough Camp Chrysalis, which my daughter has attended 4 times over the course of 8 years. It's for 8-14 year olds, with one backpacking session for ages 13-17. There are 4 sessions, one in Big Sur, one in Mendocino County on the coast, and two in the Sierras. The shortest session is 5 nights, the longest is 10 nights. It is a naturalist camp with real camping, wonderful camaraderie, lots of exploration and relaxation, fine food, great singing, and lots of playing and learning and being together. It's neither self-conscious nor tight-assed. A great alternative to the usual overly structured and regimented camps. Run by Lee Tempkin, now Director of the Community School of the East Bay, formerly a teacher at Berkwood Hedge for many years, and by Michael Rossman, an ardent naturalist, who has taught science since 1972 and is at Ecole Bilingue. They commonly have a great team of counselors and CITs. Feel free to check it out: Lee: 843-6157, Michael: 849-1154. Karen (2/01)

Camp Chrysalis is an overnight, nature camp operating in the summer for children 8-17 years of age. We offer four sessions: a six daysession in the redwoods of Big Sur, a nine day session on the Mendocino coast (tidepooling and canoeing), a ten day session in the Sierra's (hiking, fishing, and backpacking), and a six day backpacking session which changes location each year. There are five experiences staff and 25-30 kids each session, boys and girls. We are located in Berkeley and have been in operation for seventeen years as a small independent enterprise. One of those Berkeley secrets. For further information, contact Lee Tempkin at (510) 843-6157 or ltempkin at (March 2000)