Berkeley Echo Lake Camp

Community Subscriber
Outside the Bay Area
Operated By: 
All Ages
Editors' Notes: 

Located near Lake Tahoe, CA

Parent Reviews

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Archived Q&A and Reviews


April 2014

We are considering a week of Echo Lake Youth Camp (City of Berkeley) for our 11 year old boy, and would like to hear from families who have recently sent their child/children there. How did it work out? How were the counselors? What about the program? How about the bus transport to and from? This would be his first overnight camp experience, together with a friend (other than 5th grade school nature camp). Look forward to hearing! Monika

My son has gone to Echo Lake through the city of Berkeley for several years. It's a classic summer camp. We liked that it was 4 nights and there was a bus from Berkeley. The first year he and his friend were eight. The friend fell out of the top bunk (NO RAILS!!!) and came home with a sunburn and chapped lips. His mom didn't let him go the next year. She felt that 8 year-olds need to be reminded to apply sunscreen (this was certainly true of our two) and it didn't demonstrate sufficient attention. The counselors are young guys (for the boys cabins), but that's also part of what makes them cool to the campers. The friend's mom relented the following year. How they don't have rails on the top bunk is beyond me -- extraordinarily good insurance against lawsuits? They'll be going again this year.

Sign up soon -- there are fewer weeks this year because Echo Lake is hosting the Berkeley Family Camp which was burned out. My son and friend, now 13, will be back this year, they like it and it's not prohibitively expensive. Rails on the top bunks would be good!

August 2011

Just picked up my boy from Echo Lake Sleep-away camp. Not only had the camp called me about his crying--not to see how they could help him--but to tell me that he had emotional issues, and ask if he had ever been violent. My boy was distraught. I was not allowed to speak to the counselor--I was told that this was camp policy, even though my need to speak to the counselor was initiated by a call the camp made to ME. After I made calls to the Berkeley Rec office, I got two calls from the camp, both saying that my boy was having a great time. This, however, was not the case. My boy arrived home with severe sunburn (I sent him with SPF 85, which no on checked to see if he had applied). He also told me that his sleeping bag duffle ''went missing'' and all he had to sleep with was the thin extra blanket that i put in his suitcase. The duffel also included his hat (required item) and his pillow. My boy shivered for 4 nights at 7,000 ft , in the mountain air of Tahoe--where the counselors sleep in the cabins with the boys, and no one could find his sleeping bag until it magically reappeared Friday morning. No spare blankets were offered. In all the calls I got telling me how well he was doing, no one mentioned that he had nothing to keep him warm at night, and might I be able to remedy that situation. My boy was crying because he could not sleep, and he was running around all day with no sunblock, and no hat. I sent my boy to a camp where no one was looking out for him. He burned and froze, and they ask if he has a history of violence. Wendy

May 2011

Re: Mixed sports summer camp for 13-year-old
Our twin daughters, who will turn 13 this summer, are returning to City of Berkeley's Echo Lake Camp for 1 week this summer. This will be their third year. It is a 5 day-4 night overnight camp in the woods and mountains near Lake Tahoe. Loads of cool outdoor activities, including sleeping in tents, swimming in Echo Lake, camp fires, etc. It costs less than $500. per child. You can choose from several weeks over the summer. There is a bus that picks them up in Berkeley on a Monday morning and returns them to Berkeley on a Friday evening. Our girls love it.

Jan 2011

My son is 9 and went with a friend to Echo Lake Sleepover Camp last summer. It was his first sleepover camp. He had a good time but I would never send him there again or recommend this camp. There were no side rails on the bunk beds; he fell out of the top bunk and landed on his chin. His counselor didn't even get out of bed to check on him. My son did not get any guidance on how to sign up for special daily activities. His lips were totally sunburned and swollen. He was in a group with older boys and came back with language which we did not appreciate. I think it did give him some confidence but there are many other camps, many which may take better care of their campers. Anne

March 2007

Hi BPNers, I'd love for my 12-year-old son to experience the fun and adventure of sleepaway camp this summer. He's never been before, and I don't even know where to start. (I've checked the BPN archives on this subject, of course, but still feel a bit lost and overwhelmed by the choices.) Although he loves sports, he's not a real roughing-it type, so a camp with comfortable and clean accomodations would be ideal. He likes horseback riding, swimming, archery, campfires, etc., so we're looking for a camp that offers those types of activities in a fun and laid-back setting. Something within a few hours of the Bay Area and that isn't horribly expensive would also be great. (The friend he'll be going with went to Oakland's Feather River Camp last summer, and didn't have a great experience, so I'm afraid that's out.) Thanks in advance for any recommendations and guidance you can offer! Mom of a first-time camper

My son went to his first overnight camp last year, when he was 11. He went to the City of Berkeley camp at Echo Lake. He went with a friend, and they had a great time. They are planning to go again this summer. j

Jan 2007

My 12 year old daughter has enjoyed overnight camp-she's been to Pt Reyes camp and Winnarainbow. She'd like to try something else, in the Sierras or the foothills, that has more activities. I've heard Camp Tawonga and Mountain Camp are good, but they are too expensive for us. Has anyone gone to Sierra Friends Camp, Snow Mountain Camp, or Hidden Villa Ranch camp? Or any others? I appreciate any info! mae

A great camp my kids loved is the City of Berkeley Echo Lake Camp, located at 7200 feet in Desolation Wilderness with an incredible view of Lake Tahoe. The camp is reasonably priced, through the City of Berkeley Camps Office, and offers a 5 day session my kids always loved of swimming; fishing, canoing at Echo Lake which is full of granite rock formations and wildflowers; arts and crafts;campfires; hiking and games. The director is really kid centered and every child is made to feel special. They return year after year. Once kids reach about age 14 they have a chance to go as counselors in training. pauline

April 2004

High Sierra Camp

Jun 26 - Aug 27, 2004 Berkeley Echo Lake High Sierra Camp (HSC) is an informal camp for families and individuals. Select cabins are available for rent during the same time that the City of Berkeley offers a Summer Youth camp (but separate from Youth Camp cabins and no scheduled activities). At 7,300 ft, the camp overlooks Lake Tahoe and is on Hwy 50, 10 miles west of S.Lake Tahoe. Facilities include a heated swimming pool, basketball/volleyball court, bocce ball court, horseshoes, lodge with fireplace, bathrooms and showers. Echo Lake and Desolation Wilderness are a short walk from camp for spectacular day hikes, fishing and boat rides. Wood cabins with canvas tops, have cots and mattresses and accommodate 2 to 5 people. Rates per day- (3 meals and lodging): Adults- (16+) $46, Youth (11-15 ) -$39, Elementary- (7-10) $35, Child (3-6) $26 (under 3 free) Reservations: call City of Berkeley's Camps Office, (510) 981-5140. sueblue14 at

April 2004

Overnight program for teens

City of Berkeley Echo Lake Camp will again have a wonderful summer camp for kids 8-13 yrs. There is an additional program for CIT's (counselor in training). This is a wonderful camp in the High Sierras above South Lake Tahoe. Camp runs Monday through Friday and the program is always fun. A bus takes the campers up Monday AM and they return Friday 5 or 6PM in front of Berkeley City Hall. You can drive your child up or carpool with friends and pick them up at the end of camp. It is very reasonably priced and the food, activities, staff and setting are spectacular. There is a swimming pool in camp and beautiful Echo Lake is a short walk from camp. It is a great way to get your kids away from the city and to appreciate the wilderness. They sleep in tent cabins with their group and there are bathrooms and showers throughout camp. I have been going there for years as camp nurse and see the time spent there as my favorite part of the year. Call the camp office at 510-981-5140. Feel free to contact me at sueblue14 at [official site - unofficial site -]

My son has gone to the Echo Lake camp year after year and he just loves it. He will be doing his second year as a Counsellor in Training there this summer. What I remember learning most from his first year was that it is important to send the kid up with a very warm sleeping bag as it gets quite cold there at night. Also, make sure they have a full sized bath towel, not just a face towel. Soap, alas, is less important. Enjoy. Dianna

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