Roughing It Day Camp

Community Subscriber
Operated By:
Ann and Hobie Woods
300 participants
camp [at]

Roughing It Day Camp:  Ages 4-16   Free Transportation in SF Bay Area   2, 4,  6, &  8-week sessions

Thrive Outdoors at Roughing It Day Camp!  Discover the  wonders at our lakefront location at Lafayette Reservoir: canoeing, fishing, rowing, kayaking, Swimming lessons, hiking, nature, birding, outdoor cooking and more!

Children to learn, grow, have fun with friends, discover the outdoors & create lifetime memories. Campers are grouped by grade with an experienced, nurturing adult counselor leading the group. Longer sessions allow campers to practice skills, build lasting friendships and grow in self-confidence. Transportation from Oakland, Berkeley, Piedmont, Montclair, Alameda & East Bay neighborhoods. Free extended care available too!

Parent Reviews

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My son is now too old for these camps, but he attended both and liked them.   My son went to Adventure Day Camp for 4 summers, and 1 summer at Roughing It.  I just couldn't justify paying so much more for my child to go to Roughing It again.  Both camps have transportation from the East Bay.  At Roughing It, children are outdoors, all day, at the Lafayette Reservoir.  They take kids to nearby places for swimming, horseback riding, etc.  They do the same at Adventure Day Camp.  Adventure Day Camp rents out elementary schools, so kids do have the option to do inside activities in air conditioned rooms to get a break from the heat.  Nice option, as summers in Lamorinda can be brutal!  I remember that ADC separates children by gender, but don't know if that is still their policy.  Also unique to ADC is that they have a one-night campout in Chabot Regional Park, which was a fantastic experience for my son.  Both are solid, old-fashioned day camps where kids get a ton of outdoor time away from screens.

Posting a review of Roughing It because I have benefitted so much over the years from these BPN reviews and want to pay it forward.  My husband and I work full time, and we've had our kids in what feels like pretty much every camp in the E Bay at some point.  Roughing It is hands down our favorite and their favorite.  It is expensive: that is the only drawback.  But you really get your money's worth in terms of how professionally run the camp is in every way.  We didn't send our kids until they were heading into 2nd and 4th grade, and I am kicking myself for not having tried it sooner.  I was worried about the bus ride and having kids of mixed ages around my little ones -- what a mistake.  The truly turn the bus ride into a part of camp -- there are bus counselors who oversee the ride & teach the kids songs (or let kids make them up), devise skits, and other fun group activities.  The songs are all silly, goofy, fun camp songs -- and really build a bus identity (my 10 year old worked very hard on writing an original song for their bus so that they could "win the golden pom pom" and beat the reigning champs, the San Francisco bus). The camper groups are also great -- they keep the littles and bigs fairly separate so there are age appropriate activities for young and older.  I was a little wary of the gender divided groups because both my kids have friends across the gender divide, but actually it really works for them; I feel like my daughter had a real "girl power" kind of experience, and I felt my son could be a goofy silly 7 year old freely without some of the "alpha boy" dynamics I've seen at other camps. I also love that they swim 3x a week, and hopefully they'll bring back horseback riding once covid subsides.  There is just so much east-coast style, old school summer camp fun in even ordinary activities like rowing and fishing.  Lastly, I love that campers regularly return every year -- it's really nice to have some continuity in the camper cohort across years, and my kids are now both gunning for their own "5 year medal."  It's an incredibly warm, well-run camp with counselors that are clearly very well trained and organized -- not just there to supervise but to cheerlead and build spirit and group solidarity.

I wish I had read a review like this when I was looking for camps for my PK and K -- because it would have helped tip a worried mama over the edge. If you're wondering if it's too far or too much of an age spread or about the bus -- those are total non-issues.  Your littles will love it, and will continue to love it as they age (my daughter wants to go back again for 4 weeks next year, even though she'll be entering 6th grade).  It's just an amazing camp if what you want is a good summer of silly fun, camaraderie, and outdoor activities. 


Yesssss... both my kids tend toward this. Roughing It was a great experience for my rising first grader, a lot of structure and small groups. Brushstrokes has also been good; again, a small group. The bigger city recreation programs have been the hardest experiences for both my kids. You could also try hiring a babysitter instead of camps. I will say that my older child, now in 4th grade, has become less sensitive about needing to warm up over the years, and acclimates more quickly to more overwhelming environments, relative to where he was a few years ago. So don't despair - this year and next year might be challenging, but your child might change and mature.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Camp for Kindergarten Boy with Self Regulation Challenges

Feb 2016

My kindergartener has moderate sensory challenges and difficulty with self regulation. He currently manages himself fairly well in a classroom with a great deal of structure and clear expectations. He has more difficulty in times of free play, especially when his environment is chaotic. He is also a little young for his age socially and could use some facilitation with making friends and playing in a group. As the summer approaches, I am searching for camps that might work for him. My sense is that he needs a camp with mature, experienced counselors, a low ratio and group size, and more organized activities than free play. He likes science, sports, animals and anything outdoors. Any suggestions would be very appreciated. I work full time so need to find a full summer of activities for most of the day (8ish-3ish), preferably in the North Berkeley area. Thanks in advance for your advice! camp seeking mama

It is very expensive (very!) but Roughing It Daycamp in Lafayette might be a good match. They have a lot of structure, nurturing staff with good ratios, fun outdoor activities, and my son reported that it was calmer (his word) than his other daycamp, especially at lunchtime. They bus from all over, including Berkeley. They make the bus rides a fun part of camp with songs and things, and there is a special bus counselor in addition to the driver, so even that is structured in a positive way. Now, we only did a two-week session after I won a free week online -- it's really out of our price range. But I don't know your price range. If you can afford it, I think it's worth it. Sign him up for the whole summer so he won't have to bounce from camp to camp. Also, the full summer daycamp includes horseback riding and swim lessons. Anon

Feb 2014

Re: East Bay Regional Park Summer Camps
Your son may really love Roughing It Day Camp in Lafayette. They bus all the kids into camp from around the Bay. They go up to age 16. It is an amazing camp experience that lets kids play in so many ways while learning to ride horses, fish, go boating, do sports and art. I met some of the older kids last year and they were having the time of their lives. My son is young and started last summer in the K grade group. He is doing the full summer program this year for 8 weeks and can't wait for the fun to start. This is a camp run by a family who cares deeply about every kid in their care. They have parents complete a very in-depth assessment of their child's strengths and areas for growth and any special needs months before camp starts. Counselors are young college-age and older adults, not teens, and they are a well trained and impressive group. This is a high-touch camp experience. I can easily see my son going every summer until he turns 16 and then becoming a counselor. Call them. You won't regret it. I promise. tania

March 2013

As a parent, we desire to give our child the best summer experience- a lasting memories that they will be talking for years. That happen last summer at ROUGHING IT DAY Camp, when my 5 year old daughter had the opportunity to attend their two week program. They are located at the beautiful Lafayette Reservoir-overlooking the lake, a great place to enjoy and appreciate nature. My daughter loves it so much that at the end of the program she wish she could do it again next summer.

She enjoyed the fun activities like swimming, fishing, boating, crafting and singing. But most of all she loves her counselor-Melissa Lowell, she is a sweetheart, so caring and so passionate of what she is doing. RIDC have a highly trained staff, dynamic, friendly and who love kids. They are always there every step of your child's camp experience. Most especially the Woods Family-they are AWESOME. They make sure all the kids will have an enjoyable and wonderful experience. They treat all the campers like their own children. Roughing It Day Camp has the best location, staff and program reasons why they are voted the BEST of the Bay. Cynthia T.

Feb 2013

Re: Camp for 1st grader that lasts more than 2 weeks
Roughing It camp in Lafayette has either 4 or 8 week sessions so the kids really get to know each other and form friendships. It's pretty pricey but transportation from home (all over the Bay Area) to camp and back is included. They have a payment plan option if needed. The counselors are always excellent, many return year after year, low camper to staff ratio for younger kids and lots of activites to choose from. It's a traditional outdoor daycamp with swimming, hiking, games, crafts, theme days, camp fires, field trips, you name it.. My son enjoyed his summers there immensely. TC

Aug 2012

Re: Camp with structure and sports for active 8 year old
I don't know about the social anxiety part, but there is a camp in Lafeyette that has most of what you describe in terms of activities. Check out Roughing It ( for a list of different activities and how to sign up. They even have bus service to pick up kids in most areas of the East Bay. Expensive, but I think they are worth it. Karen

Feb 2012

Re: Summer Camp recommendations for incoming Kinder
My daughter is 41/2 years old and she is also slow to warm up. Last year I sent her to Roughing It Day Camp in Lafayette and she had the best time! It did not take her long to become comfortable. The camp directors and counselors are very nurturing and allow the parents to watch and leave when they are ready. However, as soon as she was greeted by her counselor she told me to leave!

It is a family run camp with great activities (ex: horse back riding, swimming, crafts and etc) and counselors. She still talks about the camp so we are going to send her for a whole month this year. I am very protective of my daughter but I have full faith in the safety of the camp. It has been around for many years and has a great reputation. They split the campers into their own age groups and do age appropriate activities and learn to socialize in a relaxed setting. I think it would be a great fun transition to Kindergarten! Stephanie

June 2011

I am considering sending my 11 year old son to either Roughing It or Adventure Day Camp. He loves sports, acting and swimming. Does anyone have any experience with both of these camps? What are some of the pros and cons of each? How are the facilities, activities, counselors, etc. We live in Berkeley. Thanks, -Summer's coming soon!

We do not have experience with Adventure Day Camp but we know some families that have attend. My children - now 12, 10 and 6 y/o - have all attended Roughing It Day Camp for most of their life. The quality of programming is incredible and, having a degree in recreation administration, I have high standards for my children to participate in ''the ideal program.'' Roughing It exceeds all of my ''text book'' expectations for safety and age appropriate programming and the added measure is how my children enjoy the experience. Each day they come home singing new songs, laughing at a joke from a skit that day, rambling on about a new adventure achieved - like catching a fish or vaulting on a horse - or commenting on friendships made. I think Roughing It is on to something grand with their emphasis on group dynamics and guiding the campers through relationships with others. They are helping the children not only acknowledge and learn ways to overcome their own fears but have compassion and encouragement for other campers who are dealing with fears of their own. From making and hiding group flags to doing group hikes and achieving goals together, the camper group bond is a key value to the Roughing It experience. Plus, there is something to be said for kids to have a level of outdoor skill. It is very cool to have something come up during the year and have one of the children comment and reference Roughing It as the place where they either were introduced to it, achieved it, or overcome it. Not only do they reference the experience, but they say it with confidence - ''yeah, I've been kayaking before'', ''I've hiked a rim trail'', ''I've been on a horse for a trail ride.'' One of my girlfriends recently purchased a horse ranch out near Blackhawk and we went to visit. It was great to see how comfortable my children were with the horses and barn and they were able to converse with her about the animals and land based on their camp experiences. Very cute. Overall, we are quite pleased with Roughing It Day Camp. The camp has been in operation by the same directors for almost 40 years and, in my opinion, they have perfected the sleep-over camp experience of group bond and personal accomplishments through the convenience of a day camp not far from our home. ptmama

I have two boys who have been attending Roughing It for the past 3 summers and they love it! Their favorite activities are horseback riding and fishing; they even ask to stay after camp for extra horseback riding and fishing lessons and attend a 1 week horse camp at the end of the summer. I appreciate that Roughing It hires the best staff to be role models for my boys and that skill-based learning is at the core of all their programs. The boys have learned to ride a horse on their own (I've been able to attend a couple horseshows where they show off their new skills), my oldest loves learning to kayak at the Lafayette Reservoir, and they take ME out fishing on the weekends and know exactly what to do. And they get picked up and dropped off in front of my house each day! What more could you ask for?

In the end I can say that my boys look forward to going to Roughing It every summer. They sing camp songs all year and ask about their favorite counselors and camp friends. I can't wait for Roughing It to start in 2 weeks and the boys to spend summer outside at the reservoir-I wish I could go to Roughing It! proud ri mom of 2

As a parent, I am always excited to pass summer info for great summer experiences for youth ages Pre-k to 9th grade. My 9 and 5 year old had the best experience at

Roughing It Day Camp in Orinda. The Camp includes:Fishing,Swimming,arts and crafts, horse back riding, canoeing, and hiking. They also have internships for work force development. Its the best bay area day camp experience.

The best thing about this camp as a parent is that, they are willing to work with you financially. All you have to do is ask about Their ''Summer Campership.'' There is still time to apply for this summer camp.Its not too late. And if that wasn't enough they pick up and drop off in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and San Francisco. Don't stress over summer activities. Give your child(s) a great outdoor summer experience. Both of my kids have said, ''this was the best camp ever can i go back daddy.'' I am sending them again this summer.
Kyle M. (Pleased parent)

May 2011

Re: Camp for 13yo who feels she is too old for camp
I've got kids entering 7th and 9th grades this fall, and I just wanted to recommend Roughing It again. My kids have been going to Roughing It Day Camp for years and even though they're now among the older campers they still love it. I love that they're busy outside all day (away from electronics!) and that they get picked up and dropped off at my house. They love the variety of activities (but most especially the horseback riding) and the dynamics of the campers and counselors. I definitely wouldn't want to force my kids to go to a camp they didn't want to go to so I do consider myself lucky that they like RI ... good luck with helping your daughter find something she likes! Ann

April 2011

Re: Horseback riding camp for 7-year-old

I can highly recommend any of the horse camps offered by Roughing It Day Camp! They offer a horse day camp (English), a Ranch Day camp (Western, trail rides, farm animals, etc.), and a Hello Horse Camp, which is an introductory program. My daugher did both both the English and the Ranch Day camp growing up, and is now a junior counselor for the Ranch camp. In all her summers of going to camp, not once did she complain about getting up and going to camp every day -- in fact, it was quite the opposite . . . she couldn't wait to get there. She was always full of stories of what happened during the day, and was so proud to participate in the ''show'' at the end of each session. The entire Roughing It experience is fantastic for building confidence and self-esteem, and your child will develop a wonderful working knowledge about how to handle and behave around horses. Here is a link to more information: Good luck! Mary Beth

We love Roughing It. It's a great summer camp for horse lovers and all other kids. My three (boy finishing 8th grade, twin girls finishing 6th grade) will be going this summer for the fourth summer in a row and look forward to it all year. They are all nuts about horses and have become quite proficient riders. They have mostly gone to the Day Camp, but there are also Horse Camp (English), Ranch Camp (Western/trail), and Hello Horse camp (more introductory). The Day Camp, Horse Camp and Ranch Camp have free transportation which is awesome for parents. You can get all the dates and info at . Ann

April 2010

I want to recommend Roughing It Day Camp for families with children pre-K through 12th grade. My children have attended for more than 15 collective camping years and will be returning again this summer. The structure of the camp is completely consistent with what I think summer camp should be - a highly qualified and supportive staff, fully outdoors, a chance to build new friendships, a strong swim instruction program, boating, horse-riding and a chance to run all day and learn a few camp songs along the way.

My children have had a sequence of completely engaging college students who return year after year to the camp. They are supervised by the Directors in a way that builds consistency in the program with rock-solid supervision and a nested support structure for the campers.

The camp is located in the hills above the Lafayette Reservoir, and is accessed by a fleet of Roughing It camp buses that pick-up (and return home) campers from their homes each weekday. The transportation to and from camp has been an important part of making our summers work out logistically - good for all of us.

The website ( is very well done and gives a good sense of the program and the underlying camp philosophy. As the video clip on the site illustrates, the program is well run, and it shows in the enthusiasm the campers and staff have as they return year after year. Neal in Rockridge

March 2010

Does anyone have any relatively recent experience with sending their 11-12 year old kids to Roughing It daycamp in Lafayette? Our daughter is interested in horseback riding and swimming as, well, two favorite things (she is a beginning horseback rider), but wanted to get feedback if Roughing It's Teen program and/or Horseback Riding program are any good from your experience, and of course from the experience of your similarly-aged 'tweens/teens. Thanks! 'Tween thinks camp is for ''kids''

I can heartily recommend Roughing It's Ranch Camp (Western riding/ranch experience) for your teen daughter. My daughter, now 15, has been going every year since she was your daughter's age. Some of the best parenting advice I've ever received came from Ann Woods (one of the founders of the camp), whom I called when my daughter absolutely panicked about going to camp when her best friend bailed out at the last minute. Tears, absolute meltdown. With Ann's encouragement, I finally got my daughter out the door for that first day of camp, driving like a maniac down the freeway to catch up with the bus at the next stop. As soon as the friendly counselor reached out to her and coaxed her on the bus, we were all set. She's never looked back since that time, and has eagerly awaited the start of camp every sumer. Now that she will be 16 by camp time, she is SO disappointed that she will not be able to attend as a camper, but is hoping to participate as a junior counselor. The experience has been fantastic for her, and she has never once complained about going. She is always so proud when she performs in the show at the end of each camp session. She remembers each horse she's worked with. I don't think your daughter is too old at all -- many of the campers are around her age. The whole experience is a great confidence and self- esteem builder, and I really do believe your daughter will both enjoy and benefit from the experience. Mary Beth

April 2007

Re: Sewing, horseback riding, and cooking camps?
You might check into Roughing It Day Camp in Lafayette for horseback riding. They pick your child up each morning and drop them off in the afternoon --less time in the car for you! My neighbors' twin nine year old girls attended last summer and had a fabulous time (we live in Montclair). Some years ago, my sister was a camp counselor and her best friend was the riding instructor, so I know they've been around for a long time and have a good track record. Monique

January 2006

We've been sending our two children to Roughing Day Camp for a combined total of six years and have been thrilled with the camp experience and the level of dedication by the staff and directors. In contrast to other summer camp exp eriences we've tried, we believe the programming at Roughing It is really carefully thought through to provide a combination of skill- building activities and recreation. Every time we visit the camp we've been impressed with the staff and their commitment to inclusion of all campers - the camp spirit seems to thrive in each of the groups. A few particulars that we've enjoyed is the door-to-door transportation from our home to the Lafayette Reservoir park, the comprehensive swim instruction program, the horseback riding and the feedback from counselors by phone and in writing of how our campers are doing. The website has all of the information ( and we've felt the discount for enrolling for 8 weeks has made the price very competitive and a good value. neal

Jan 2003

Re: Horse-riding sleepaway camp for our almost 10-year-old
Roughing It Day Camp is an excellent local camp with horse programs. If you are looking for sleep away camps the best place to start is the American Camping Association where you can search by area and activity. You also have the peace of mind knowing that they are accredited. Jennifer