Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp

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Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp was established in 1922 by the city of Berkeley for family summer getaways. It is located on the South Fork of the Tuolumne River, a few miles outside Yosemite in the Stanislaus National Forest. 

See also: Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp (FOBTC) ... Berkeleyside article about the camp's re-opening ...Ginger's Tuolumne Tips ... Ginger's Tuolumne Packing List

Parent Q&A

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  • Tuolumne Camp - CPAP machine?

    (4 replies)

    We are headed to Tuolumne Camp for the first time and are curious about what to expect and bring. Specifically, we're curious if there are electrical outlets in the tent cabins for a CPAP machine (that family member will not be able to come without it). We also welcome any general recommendations! Thank you!

    If you have a dr’s note & let the camp know in advance, you should get a cabin with electricity.

    Bring light colored tarps/sheets and clips/clothesline to augment your outdoor shade structure. 

    I just read the notes about going and it said to reach out to them if you need accommodations with electrical for a CPAP! 

    They will send a packing list and other info about camp. Overall, pack like you're camping but you don't need a tent or any cookware. To answer your CPAP question, yes, there are a handful of cabins with electricity that you can request. I think you can just request it when you get there, but it may be better to write to them ahead of time to make sure they will have one for you. My sense was that all of the accessibility accommodations they have made are pretty generous so I'm guessing it won't be an issue.

    Thanks for posting this - I had the exact same question. Through various sources including posters here on BPN and via Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, I got an email address for someone in the camps department at the city, who told me that you can request this when you get there, or call the office on site at the camp (209) 962-1939) to request a cabin with electricity for your CPAP.  I'm leaving in a week and after I found this all out, I got my "packet" via email which includes a request for a cabin to accommodate disabilities (like sleep apnea). You could also purchase a battery on Amazon if you are worried about not getting a cabin with electricity. Here is one recommended by a fellow CPAP user:

  • Berkeley Tuolomne Camp 2022

    (3 replies)

    Hello fellow parents, we are excited to go to the Berkeley Tuolomne Camp this summer, however, I'm struggling to find general information about the camp facilities. I have reached out to camps [at] to no response (according to Google, the email doesn't even exist). If you have already visited this summer, I'd appreciate your suggestions for the packing list (we are experienced campers but do have blindspots:). In particular, I'm curious if there's a washer, if there's a microwave in the dining hall and if the camp stoves are not allowed (found a reference that they were not allowed in the past years). TIA!

    Hi, I’d reach out to the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp

    Have fun!

    Did you find any information? We're in the same boat. I emailed recreation [at] in early June and they sent a one sentence response that we would receive a Camp Welcome Packet via email prior to arrival, but we're 2 weeks from camp and we still don't have any info. I'm going to try FOBTC now too, but would welcome any info you've been able to access!

    We went this year around July 4. It's so fun and so beautiful there.

    - There are new washing machines and dryers. Maybe detergent too? Bring some to be sure.

    - There is a microwave in the dining hall. Plus coffee machines, coffee grinders, drip cones, breads butters and jams, individual-serving cereals and many kinds of milk available 24 hours.

    - Do NOT bring a camp stove! There's no need for one and fire is always a big risk in this area.

    You'll get a welcome packet about a week before camp starts that will tell you what to bring. Things I appreciated having are: camp chairs to set up on our deck, extra sheets to put on the cots and to hang up as shade, hiking shoes and swimming sandals, chapstick and sunscreen. If you forget something, there are dozens of people to borrow from and a little camp store for snacks and necessities.

    We brought a full bag of snacks, didn't touch them all week, and had to dump a bunch of food at the end. You'll be well-fed.

Parent Reviews

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I've never been to Echo Lake but my family attended Berkeley Tuolumne Camp in early August - we are long-time BTC campers. We were worried about the denuded landscape but ended up having a blast. 

1.  The camp looks visually very different.  Approaching the camp, you can see everything from one end to the other because of the loss of big trees. There are still trees along the ridges, and some trees along the river survived too. But entering camp, you can see all the cabins laid out in rows along the hills. Before, you entered a leafy valley and didn't see the structures until you were right up on them. Now you see everything. It's hard to get bearings. But the river and beach are the same, and the dining hall, rec hall, and amphitheater are where they used to be, only much more beautiful now. The camp is visually appealing, just visually different.

2. Only a handful of cabins are shaded by mature trees now -- most are in the open sun. Young trees are planted everywhere but for the time being, no shade. The week we were there it was in the mid-90's - very hot. All the cabins have canopies over their decks now, and people brought tarps and fabric to add shade. We spent a lot of time in the river or on the lovely shaded veranda of the d-hall, which also now sports a mister all along the front! There are water bottle filling stations everywhere.

3. The new buildings are gorgeous (cabins are still the same - wood platform with canvas roof.) The d-hall and rec hall have high ceilings with rafters and lots of windows and are customized for BTC activities. There are wrap-around verandas with rocking chairs overlooking the river, for your reading pleasure. Another camper told me the design is by an architect who's well-respected for parks and outdoor landscapes. There is soft lighting on the bridge and along main paths, which are now accessible for strollers and wheelchairs. The bathrooms are fantastic. The one near our cabin had FIVE shower stalls all in a row - all open to the sky and lined with river rocks like before, only twice as roomy! There was always a shower available whenever I got the urge, no waiting in line. The original Sun City bathroom survived the fire so you can better appreciate the new ones!

4. All traditions, arts and crafts, etc are all intact. The food was good - plenty of veggie and vegan options. The check-in and cabin selection process is much more organized than in the old days - you select one of the 4 areas in the camp ahead of time and then choose a cabin in your area when you arrive. However communication with the city camp office was terrible to non-existent, so be prepared. We chose a less popular time to go, but camp was near capacity and spirits were high, I suspect demand will be high next year.  We are already planning to go next year!

5. The one big wrench in the works is the smoke and fire situation. The week before we were to leave, the Oak Fire in Yosemite was raging uncontained and the air quality near Groveland was in the hazardous zone at times.  We watched all week and by our departure date the fire had been mostly contained and the air was back in the green range.  But we were prepared to bail and go somewhere else if the air had been bad. I think this is just a reality going forward for a lot of places in the Sierras and near Yosemite.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


How long to visit Tuolumne Family Camp?

April 2011

I have never been to Tuolumne Family Camp and I have a 7 day reservation there in July. I'm trying to decide if I should go for the full week with my 12-year-old daughter and a couple of friends (another mom and 12-year-old girl), or if we should make it a shorter trip, say 3, 4, or 5 days. I would love to hear from folks who went for a few days and wished they could stay longer or from anyone who went for a week and felt like leaving early. I guess I'm particularly interested in hearing about your first visit. We do have some friends who will be there that week, but we're kind of feeling that it's pricey and we're wondering if we can get the full experience in fewer days. Thanks in advance for your input!

Well, I imagine it's different for every family, but we stayed 3 nights the first time (kids aged 1 & 4) and wished we could have stayed longer. It took a day or so to get used to it all, so it felt a little like we were leaving just as we found our groove. Last year, we stayed 4 nights, had a blast, and this year we are doing 6! For what it's worth, we haven't gone with friends and done the whole happy hour thing. We have just enjoyed the downtime, the upbeat atmosphere, the natural setting, and our children's happiness and freedom. anon

A full week, if you can afford it! The daily activities vary, and it's nice to get the 'full spectrum'. I think the only reason many families don't stay even longer (or, sadly, stay a shorter length of time) is due to the cost.

When we initially went to BTC (13 years ago now!), the cost was much more reasonabale - they had a couple of small increases then a GIANT increase some 8 years ago or so, and it continues to creep up.

Nevertheless, you'll have a blast - it is just fantastic for the kids! Year 13 and counting!

How long to visit? That depends on how much you like being out in the woods. If you like hanging out in a beautiful relaxing setting then you'd love it there a week. You said you'll have friends there, and so will your daughter, so it would probably be fun to stay for a week. I personally like a shorter stay. We used to go for 5 nights and have cut it down to 4 nights (5 days) the last couple of years, mostly because of me. I miss having my own bathroom and my own bed to sleep in at night, and if I have to be totally honest, I miss my computer too! 4 nights is right for me!

Family camp with a 3.5 year old?

April 2011

I'm trying to decide between ~ a week at Cazadero Performing Arts' or the same amount of time at Tuolumne Family Camp. I imagine for my 3.5 year old son, Cazadero might be premature. Cazadero sounds more appropriate for me, however, and I noticed one single parent mentioned feeling isolated at Tuolumne. Are there sports activities as Cazadero or is Tuolumne much more fun for a toddler who's not yet playing an instrument, albeit he's practicing his lip flubbering for eventual didgeridoo play! Any thoughts/impressions/clever children's jokes: )? -rebecca

Our family has had such a wonderful time at Camp Tuolumne. We first went when our kids were 4 and 1 and it was a blast. We haven't gone with other families and don't do the whole happy hour social thing -- I don't consider that necessary to having a good time there. We did find, however, that it was easy to meet and talk to new people. There are a lot of different activities and my kids LOVE the Kiddie Kamp. Honestly, we also enjoyed simply having some time to ourselves in such a lovely setting with no housekeeping responsibilities. And when kids are little, if they're not enjoying themselves on vacation, you won't either. Anon

Has your teen been a CIT at Berkeley Tuolumne Camp?

August 2008

My son wants to be a CIT (counselor in training) next summer at Berkeley Tuolumne Camp. We have gone there for the past 5 years so he definitely knows the general flavor of the camp. Has your teenager been a CIT here? If so, how was the experience for them? Did they get enough supervision? Work too hard or not hard enough? My son will be 14 next summer which is the minimum age the camp recommends. Like many kids his age, he has not been away from home for more than a week at a time, so I also wonder about the two week period and how that worked for your teen. Please advise on pros, cons, anything your teen (or you) experienced that might be helpful for us in making our decision. thanks!

My daughter has been a counselor at Tuolumne Berkeley camp for two summers now and it's hard to adequately describe how thoroughly she has loved her experiences there. Do not hesitate for a second to send your son. The vibe at Tuolumne is so healthy and engaging. They do work very hard, but they have just as much fun socializing, as well. Being outdoors in the woods, climbing hills to get anywhere, swimming in the river, and soaking up all that nature is such a gift to kids this age. There's no better way to show them there's more to life than media and consumerism. They'll carry the benefits of this natural experience with them throughout life. Anon

Bathrooms, young kids, vegetarians?

Sept 2006

I'm thinking ahead to next summer as family camp reservations for next summer start in just 2-3 months. I'm interested in either Feather River (Oakland's family camp) or Tuolomne (Berkeley's family camp). We are open to either a tent or a cabin.

1. Some of the tents or cabins seem very far from the bathrooms. Does anyone have any recommendations of what type of accommodation is closer to the toilets? If I recall, the tents at Tuolomne are a long uphill walk to the bathrooms. Is that the case with the cabins too? What about at Feather River?

2. We are a vegetarian family and I eat mostly vegan food. I've read that a veggie option is available at all meals, but I'm hoping someone might be able to tell me more about what type of veggie food is offered and whether special dietary requests were possible. Are kitchen facilities available for diners with special diets (although I don't want to spend a lot of time making meals and missing out on another acitivities, hence my request for more information before deciding if family camp will work for us)?

3. My kids will be 5 & 3. Will there be other young families or should we wait a couple years? Are most people from either Berkeley or Oakland?

Thank you for your help! Mom who enjoys camping

My family went to Berkeley Tuolumne camp for 11 years, starting when our youngest was 2.

There is a veggie entree served at every meal, and plenty of it because lots of people take it. It's usually quite good, but not typically vegan. We knew a famly keeping kosher that stored their food in the fridge and did some amount of their own cooking, so that is possible. There is also a snack station available all day long with bread, peanut butter and jelly, and fruit.

As for the bathrooms, you can find some tent cabins closer to them; the few wooden cabins typically are not. But another camper taught me a trick our first year that made all the differnce -- bring your own ''night potty.'' The best one is a large plastic container with a lid. (like really cheap gallons of ice cream are sold in, or lots of food service stuff, you could probably get one from a restaurant.) The kids can pee in it, you pop the lid back on, and in the morning you dump it out in the toilet. At the end of the week, you dump it in the trash. I even used it a couple of times myself!

The tents right next to the bathrooms are usually noisy and not so much in the woods -- this way you get to pick best tent camper

I've been going to Berkeley Tuolumne Camp since 1994, and both of my sons are on staff. One has worked in the kitchen for the past 4 years.

Regarding vegetarian/vegan food. When you arrive at camp, there is a form you can fill out regarding any special food needs. They do provide a vegetarian entree at every dinner and a good salad bar at lunch and dinner. They will also work to accomodate a vegan requirement. The coffee 'bar' has soy milk.

Depending on your tent location, bathrooms are vey close by. I've always liked to be close to the center of camp, which is a tad noisier, but convenient. Tent 4 is my favorite (it even has electricity), but it is right next to a climbing structure for tots, so not quiet. I don't think finding a tent near a bathroom will be an issue. Once you are in a tent, you can move to another one if it becomes free. The best strategy is to arrive early on Saturday so you get the best choice. Of course, with little ones that may be difficult to do.

There are families from all over. People are primarily from Berkeley and Oakland, but also some from Los Angeles, Seattle etc. The latter are typically people who grew up going to BTC and moved out of the Bay Area. There are families with kids of all ages from infant to young adult.

There are families with children of all ages. 5 & 3 are good ages. There is kiddie camp (I'm not sure of the age cutoff) and another program '5/6ers' that your older child can participate in. Once your kids hit 6 or 7, they will be able to experience a certain level of independence at camp as they will feel so comfortable and safe (and so will you)

And finally, BTC has been one of our family traditions and a place that my two sons and I all hold dear in our hearts. Besides the beauty of the site, the camp is special because it always has an awesome staff. They make all the difference. Good luck and maybe I'll see you next summer. Loves BTC

Looking at Tuoulmne or Feather River

April 2006

We are looking forward to going to family camp this summer with our 5 & 6 year old kids. Would love to hear about Feather River vs Tuolumne family camps. Let me know if you think one is better as far as the activities for kids, the site, the accommodations, the drive to get there....Thanks!

Well, I can tell you what we love about Tuolumne: safe enough for kids to run around on their own, the camp makes the meals, Peet's beans awaiting grinding, the cocoa machine, games in the dining hall in the evenings, kiddie camp for potty trained kids up to 5 or 6 yrs (depending on time of day), age group activities for kids, sleeping on our tent's deck, lounging near a quiet spot in the river, swimming in a raucous part of the river, napping in camp during quiet hour after lunch, floating down river during quiet hour after lunch, reading a good book I saved all summer, making crafts and not having to clean up, tie dye, archery, being near Yosemite Valley (30 min drive), Carlon Falls hike, reading in the green chair circle, super helpful high school and adult staff, really friendly campers, being able to pick the day to arrive and the day to leave, not having a pre-assigned tent cabin, having a pre-assigned table for meals and being able to have our close friends eat at a table with us, eating with strangers who become friends, the tall trees casting cooling shadows, a sunny spot on the beach, the stellar jays calling, watching my kids grow in confidence and independence and going back every year. Wherever you land in the Sierras, have a great time!
Tuolumne Raaaangerrrrrr

We have only been to Camp Tuolumne, but went for about 6-7 years straight. My kids loved it. They had freedoms there they never got at home- running around playing with kids, going to the beach area, off to arts and crafts, to the stage to watch the shows, on their own just checking in with us every hour or so. But Tuolumne starts taking registration for Berkeley residents in the fall for the following summer, so I think it's too late at this point to go there this summer. Call and get on the mailing list, and you'll be able to register in October next year.
Happy Campers

Taking an infant to Camp Tuolumne

Aug 2005

We are going to Berkeley Camp Tuolumne for the very first time with a 4 1/2 year old and a five-month-old baby. I have seen the list on their website about what to bring, but it is very basic. Has anyone out there been to the camp who can advise us about what we can bring to make things easier and more fun? Especially for the baby... he is breastfed, so we won't have to mess with bottles, but I know we'll need a bouncy seat, etc. Kim

It's been years since I went to Camp Tuolomne, but I have been there, and I have taken a baby to the Lair. So here's my recommendations for gear:
-A comfortable back pack and/or sling. This is THE most important thing you need to bring, IMO. I would use a sling for nursing and an Ergo carrier for hiking and -- if baby's too young to sit at the dining tables -- for meals. A stroller is useless in a place with little to no pavement, so don't bother bringing one. And there's no reason to burden yourself with lots of toys and baby seats when you could just go for a walk and show your baby the trees!
-A Pack n Play with changing table attachment, and plenty of plastic bags for diaper disposal. My babies wouldn't sleep in a PNP but the change table was very handy. And having a relatively clean, safe place to put the baby down when you need to is helpful. If you don't own one of these, bring SOMETHING you can use as a temporary changing table, and possibly a play mat, exersaucer or similar short-term baby containment/dirt device. Just one. (At 5 months I'd think your baby is too big for a bouncy seat, but if not that would work too.)
-Because all the beds are twins (as far as I know), you may want to bring an air mattress or other devices that will allow your baby to sleep with you more comfortably and safely. If, on the other hand, your baby normally sleeps in a crib, bring a bed for him -- the above listed PNP, or a bassinet or kiddie travel bed.
-Hook-on highchair or booster seat, bibs and sippy cups if he's started solids yet by then. Have fun! Holly

I've been to Camp Tuolumne the past 4 years with my now-4-year-old. Taking a baby there was very enjoyable and a lot of people do it. His first summer he was 4 months old. I used the list on the BPN website which has Baby Stuff at the end, and I found it pretty complete. A bouncey seat might be OK, although there's only so much room in the cabin, so I wouldn't recommend taking a LOT of stuff. Plus, I don't know how you'd use it outside of the cabin unless you wanted to set him on the ground, and even in the cabin he'd be close to the dusty floor. Most of the time we took turns holding our baby as we sat in the green chair circle, or at meals, or etc. My favorite part of the day was early morning before breakfast in a rocker in front of the fire in the dining hall. We did take a portable crib which was really good, and we set up a diaper changing station by spreading a sheet over one of the extra cots and then arranging the wipes, diapers, garbage can nearby. Do take small garbage bags for dirty diapers, and plenty of wipes for handwashing, etc. Don't forget the mosquito repellant - they really zero in on the babies.

Working at Camp Tuolumne

April 2005

Re: Seeking summer camp job
My son and others have had a WONDERFUL time working at Tuolumne Berkeley Family camp in yosemite. Teens have an option of working there for a couple of weeks up to the whole summer. They get paid decently, work very hard, and have the best time of their lives swimming, hiking, and bonding with other teens. There are always tons of kids, and they do hire specifically for their kiddie camp area, where the teens do art projects and other fun things with kids. I believe they have already done their interviewing for this uncoming summer, but it's worth giving them a call, if your teen is ready for an away-from-home work adventure. Oh, and there are a lot of adults supervising everyone, too.

You could also try the Downtown Berkeley YMCA, which seems always to be looking for teens to work with their children's day camp program. They're probably more likely to take volunteers, but it's also a good experience and your teen wouldn't be gone for week(s) at a time in far away Yosemite.

I still vote for Tuolumne, the teens learn to be independant, to work hard, and to work together. They do tend to do some partying, I hear, but the teens are not allowed to visit the adult tent areas and are not allowed to have co-ed visitors in their tents so there is some supervision. loved having summer for myself!

Tent camping at Tuolumne

Aug 2003

We have a tent site (not a tent cabin) reserved at Tuolumne Family Camp and would like some advice on what to expect and to bring. We're assigned to the Teepee area. I've seen the previous recommendations, but they seem to be for the more common cabins. We are two adults, a five year old and an infant. Does anyone know if we get a rocker?! Thanks in advance. Shirley

we stayed at teepee village about 4 years ago. unless things have changed - and they told us things would not so i'd check this out if i were you - the tent sites are down the hill from the tent cabins. there are no restrooms or port-a-potties. it is very rustic. it is quite a trek to get to things, esp. meals, on time. the other issue i found is that often we would need something - towels, sunscreen, etc - and they would be where we were not. so we had to pack for the day in the a.m. just in case. we loved being able to camp right by the river away from so many folks, but our children were older and could come and go to activities by themselves. also, we didn't have to worry about them being near water. so there are pluses and minuses. our kids loved it - one of their favorite vacations. my husband did not, but he's not that social. i would go back if i could, having meals arrive at the table is like dying and going to heaven for me. but i wonder if it will be too stressful for you with small children. again, check all the details with them. and if things have changed, i.e., restrooms, etc., would you mind letting me know? it's such a cool place. families have been going there for generations - and come each year with the whole extended family. what great memories for kids! peggy

Tee Pee Village is about a 3-4 minute walk down the road from the main camp. It has no bathroom or running water, no clotheslines or picnic tables, it's just spaces for tents. We asked for mattresses, since the air mattress we brought sprang a leak, and the staff brought three mattresses down in a truck. I'm sure they'd be willing to bring a rocking chair, they really try to grant every request. Melinda

We just got back last week -- we were also in Teepee village with 2 kids. It's the same camp, just a bit down the road. It's very pretty and quiet there, and shady so coolish in the afternoon. And you are on the river so you can swim there too.

The downside is it's a few minute hike up the hill (on hardin flat road, ie paved, a few cars) to the main part of camp and the bathrooms. We brought a jog stroller and baby backpack for our 1 year old. There are a few sets up stairs to navigate to get to the dining hall, so the backback got used more. In the morning before breakfast I'd pack up diapers, sippy cups, swimsuits and a towel (it was so hot you barely needed one). You can stash your stuff somewhere in camp if you don't want to carry it around. Someone told me that she had brought a bike to zip up to bathrooms etc..but you can't use bikes inside the camp. There are no bear boxes so you have to keep your food in your car (pretty close to the tent sites). I hope this helps and you have a great time. We did! Judy

We have camped in the Teepee village for 3 years now and usually like it. It is quieter than the rest of camp, and right on the river. The bathrooms are not close, however, so you should be prepared for that. I have not seen anyone with a rocker down there, but you could always ask for one. The staff is very accomodating. To be safe, I would bring your own camp chairs (pretty cheap at Longs, Target, probably Cosco). I would bring a fold out table, a battery operated lantern or two (best to get the kind that you can hang in your tent as well), flashlights, mosquito repellant, extra strength cortizone cream for when the mosquito repellant doesn't work, and a long rope (or several) to tie between trees for hanging wet stuff (or any stuff). Lots of towels and extra clothes (everything gets instantly dirty, but there is laundry..) Air mattress, if you've got one, you'll be very thankful. Unless yours is self-inflating, however, you'll have to inflate it up at the main camp (no electricity at Teepee village), and then bring it down to your camp site. Minor inconvenience. Lastly, if you think you'll be more comfortable in a tent cabin, ask when you get there if any are available, and then ask again every day. Have a good time! raissa

Rocker at Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp. If you request a rocker they will be happy to take one down to your Tee Pee Village Camp site. Gerald Horn, BTC Director

What do we bring to camp?

June 2003

We're going to Berkeley Family Camp for the first time at the end of June (6 days!). It will be mom, dad, an almost 3 year old, and an almost 5 year old. WHAT DO WE BRING???? I have seen *Sherry's List* on what to pack, but I am still interested in what others would consider essentials/must haves. Laurel

Take sheets. Even if you have sleeping bags, the mattresses can be a bit yucky, so we put fitted sheets on the mattresses and our sleeping bags on top. You can also use sheets large flat sheets to drape over lines around your cabin (lines provided by camp -- if your cabin doesn't have them, you can ask maintenance for them and they put them up) to increase your privacy.

Also take folding chairs (beach chairs or whatever). The only furniture in your cabin will be the cots and a cupboard for clothes, etc. You might be lucky enough to have an extra cot to use as a couch out on your deck, but not always. If you have a young child (I don't know the age limit -- either 2 or 3 years) you can request a rocking chair. There a lots of chairs around camp and at the beach, but it is really nice to have something for your cabin and/or deck.

Also, this isn't something to take, but the maintenance staff will be happy to install a door/gate if the entrance to your deck doesn't have one already. We did this twice in the past to keep our two/three year old from wandering off (well, it doesn't prevent it, but it sure slows him down). Just fill out a maintenance request. Enjoy! Karen

Re: Active vacation with 2yo and 4yo (June 2002)
Tuolumne Family Camp is the BEST vacation ever! Alison

Reviews from 2000

June 2000

After not having a real vacation for about ten years of single-parenting, I am finally taking my 5 & 9 year old daughters to Berkeley Family Camp in July. I've read the camp materials about what to bring, etc. but am looking for tips from parents who have actually been there recently. Besides what the Berkeley office recommends, what were you really glad you brought or wish you had brought? Are the meals a set menu or buffet with choices? My 9-year-old is a very picky eater (won't eat meat or vegetables (unless you count french fries)), will she survive? Will she have to forage for nuts and berries? How close *is* the nearest McDonald's, anyway? I'm hoping to have some time on my own and with other grownups, but I'm told there is childcare only 2 hours a day and only for 2-4 year olds. Are the supervised activities for older kids supervised enough for a very active, impulsive, not-too-sensible five-year-old? Is the camp small enough and safe enough that the kids can roam around on their own? This vacation will be a major financial expenditure for me, so any advice aimed towards minimizing the stress and maximizing the fun would be greatly appreciated, as would blithe assurances that we are all going to have a wonderful time. Melinda

I would be happy to send Melinda(no email on the posting) or anyone my very long packing list for Tuolomne Family Camp. I have added over the years and live in great comfort. Food is not buffet, it is served, but there are lots of options. Kids (and adults) can always make peanut butter and jelly or ask for yogurt. There is always a bowl of fresh fruit on the side table. Vegetarian offerings come with all meals. Requests are granted. Talk to the dining hall supervisor Sally for food issues. I think it's great not to leave camp except for a hike or to Yosemite, but Groveland is a quaint town about 20 minutes away. No McDonald's but a few other restaurants. There is not the same amount of childcare as a camp like Lair of the Bear, but it is a beautiful setting on the river and my favorite part is being able to sleep on the deck under the skies. No electricity, so pretty important to take lanterns. A good battery operated one is especially handy with kids. And flashlights for all. I notice that some people bring the mosquito nettings, though I never have. Many kids prefer to sleep inside the tent, but I love the stars. Sometimes, you can do some exchanges with other families or parents. Kids do need watching, but as they get used to the set up and familiar with the safety issues and you are clear about your rules, you can probably let them roam. There are lots of families around and people watch out for each other. Most kids travel freely around camp after a few days of getting used to this wonderful new world. Many regular campers go on to become volunteers and then have the time of their lives there as staff. Warmly, Sherry

[editor] Sherry's list is here: >Sherry's Packing List

We returned last Friday from Camp Tuolumne, so this advice is pretty recent. Kiddie Camp is offered from 9:45-12:15 (morning activity time), 1:15-2:45 (quiet hour) and 5-6pm, signup is at dinnertime for the next day. My 5.5 yr. old boy loved it, as did my almost 4 yr. old. I'd bring LOTS of bug spray (my kids had 25 bites each when we got home), sunscreen, water bottles, water toys, towels, flashlights (to get to cabin after dark), lantern (in case your cabin has no electricity), sheets & pillow & blanket for each person. You can buy badminton rackets, birdies & ping-pong balls at the store but if you think your kids will play, I'd bring your own set. My 5 yr. old is also a picky eater, and did OK. Meals are sitdown, with several options. For example, breakfast could be pancakes, eggs, and packaged cereal. There's often pasta for lunch or dinner, and you can request it plain. No MacDonalds around that I remember. There is a small store on-site, but if your kids like certain snacks, bring along a squirrel-proof container. The activities include: archery, hike, puppet-making & show, basketmaking, Fimo beadmaking, basketball, tie-dye, jewelry making and children's hour. My 5 yr. old needed help to complete many of these projects but I'd expect a 9 yr. old to be OK. My 5 yr. old did some roaming, especially towards the end of our stay. Others did much more. How safe you consider the camp probably depends on you and your child. For example, while a kid can wander onto the big rocks just off the dining hall, my 5 yr. old is too cautious and I'd expect someone to notice anyway. Hope this helps. Ronnie

meals: meals are healthy but include things kids like - sugary cereal and pancakes, hamburgers, pizza, BBQ, and dessert (don't worry - there are also nice salads and fruit and always a vegetarian selection). There is a little concession stand that sells ice cream and candy and there is a 7-11 just up the road but most kids seem to find food they like and there are so many children that picky eaters do not stand out.

what to bring: One thing I wished for was mosquito repellant the summer after El Nino when there was so much extra water. I also think it's nice to have a folding chair for the deck of your cabin, but not essential.

childcare: not a problem. your children will identify playmates within a couple hours after you arrive and you will not see much of them after that. Most kids over 5 or 6 wander all over the camp with their buddies - there are lots of supervised activities (swimming, crafts, archery, etc.) all through the day, and lots of pick-up activities like badminton, ping-pong, pool, etc. Since there is about a 1 to 1 ratio of adults to kids, there is an adult somewhere nearby no matter where kids wander. Adults get lots of quiet time - you just sit there with your book and every once in a while your kid comes by to show you something and then runs off again. Kids really like the freedom of wandering around the camp with other kids. Take some good books and plan to have a nice relaxing no-stress vacation in a beautiful setting that will make mom and kids happy. Ginger

My family and I went to this camp two years ago and decided against returning for a number of reasons. The cabin we had, and those around us, was pretty rough, like one step up from sleeping on the ground. Despite sweeping twice a day, the floor was pretty dusty all the time. The beds are those spring types that offer no support, but even with the mattresses on the (dusty) floor, they were pretty much shot by the end of the season when we went. The Tuolomne River runs right through camp. Depending upon when you are there, the river ranges from being high, cold, fast, and dangerous at the beginning of camp season, to lower, warmer, and slower later on. And then, there is the food. I am fairly particular and thought to bring my own and store it in the kitchen. Most of the meals are similar to food served at school cafeterias, on airplanes, or at Denny's. The food is served family-style and if you don't get there when the bell is rung, you may arrive when the food is all but gone. As our child was 3 at the time, I cannot comment on what is offered for older children. While Yosemite is near, the drive to Curry Village can take over an hour.

While it may be too late for this year, I highly recommend Co-op Camp Sierra for you and your children. The cabins are much nicer, although still well-used, the children programs (all ages) are well-run, and the adult seminars/classes are excellent. Plus, there are a couple of good places within walking distance that are fun for kids. The food is just slightly better (has a salad bar) but meals are also served family style. They will allow one to bring food to store in the freezer and frig.

Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp was a great place for us. I took my 2 gals last year (then ages 6 & almost 9). My husband couldn't go so I packed the 3 of us up and we all had a great adventure. My older daughter is totally picky about the food. So I was sort of worried but she did ok. The dining hall has a set menu for each meal that's served family style but they have alternatives, too. For example at breakfast they may serve eggs, etc but my older gal ate the little boxes of Frosted Flakes or whatever brand instead. They have these available each morning (plus serve yourself Peet's coffee-yum!). You'll be seated with a couple of other families. At lunch there is always the standby peanut butter & jelly or yogurt. I think one night all she had was rice but she survived. Never mentioned McD's. I recommend you bring them up to the Nature Center the first day and hook them into the Tuolumne Ranger program. It gets them involved & the night they complete it they get to stand up and get the hat. Lots of corny traditions, too. My kids really loved that. And the craft activities that are scheduled every day were a big hit, too. My younger daughter seemed to get lots more help from staff since she had less experience doing tie-dying and Fimo beading, etc. We brought our floaty devices-rafts, snorkels, etc. This year we'll bring our mini raft. There's a pump there to blow them up. We brought a tape player and books on tape besides music. And of course books and art supplies. My kids loved 'working' at the store (they get to pick their favorite cheap candy as payment), swimming (it was really cold at the end of June, tho), meeting lots of kids, and even the quiet hour after lunch which is strictly enforced. I felt really safe there after a couple of days. At the start of our visit last year I don't think my gals 'got it' that they could go off on their own-we're so used to keeping tabs on them and having to know where they are all the time. By the end of the stay they knew all the in's and out's of the place. It was great for me to be able to take them 'camping' without having to cook, do dishes or set up the tent. I didn't have much little time alone (especially when each child did different things at opposite ends of the camp and wanted me to see them in their activity). But I lingered at the table after meals and got to have adult conversations while the kids went on the play structure or went to search for their Ranger items. A few times I got to read my book for a while at the circle of Adirondack chairs. We all wound up making new friends and as soon as we left the kids asked if we could go again next year. Which we are and I'm VERY much looking forward to. Enjoy! Tree

Regarding Tuolumne Camp, I think it is likely that you and your children will have a lovely time. They provide a pretty wide selection of food choices at every meal (plus peanut butter, jelly & bread at all hours, as well as coffee, hot chocolate, etc). There are planned activities designed to appeal to all age groups. When my children were younger, they would find friends their own age and would play together all day, both as part of supervised activities and on their own. I think you can expect to have some time to be on your own.

The North Fork Tuolumne River flows right through the camp, and there is a little beach. There are lifeguards during swimming hours, and no one is allowed in the water at other times. Campers do some wading in the lower part of the river when they want to, but all the organized activities are in a different part of the camp, away from the river.

I liked to stay in the cabins at Sun City. There is a tradeoff there--it gets kind of hot in the afternoons, but it is a little away from the main part of the camp and quieter at all times. We brought drinks to have in the cabin during the quiet hour after lunch when we were supposed to stay in our cabins or be out of the camp.

The staff is energetic, friendly, and very willing to help you have a good time. I think you will enjoy yourselves. Louise

Misc note: Expect to get dirty. It's hot, so wear shorts and a T-shirt during the day. Let the kids go barefoot part of the time. Bring long sleeves and long pants for evenings to keep off the mosquitoes. Don't keep food in your tent.

What to bring: mosquito repellant; sunscreen; a flashlight for each person and extra batteries; good hiking shoes; inflatable swim toys; 2 folding chairs for grownups; a large lightweight cloth with cord to tie above the porch (in case the porch is in sun during afternoon quiet hour); quiet amusements for inside the tent during quiet hour; optionally a folding table; optionally water sandals or thongs.

Meals: A set menu involving several food choices is served family style, and there is also a vegetarian bar where you can serve yourself things like granola, fruit, and peanut butter. Fussy eaters usually do OK. As for McDonalds, I didn't see one nearby. Even restaurants relatively nearby take time to reach because the roads wind so. If you want extra food, it may be better to bring it in a cooler.

Activities for older kids: The supervised activities are great for a nine-year-old. If he's very independent, you won't see much of him at all. The entire campground is (relatively) safe, so we allow our kids to roam with their friends and pick their own activities from about the age of seven (and to a lesser extent at the age of six).

Min stress, max fun: Bring books to read. If you want to go to bed early, try to pick a tent away from the camp stage. If you love group activities, pick a tent close in. There is a daily quiet hour (1 1/2 hours, I think) where everyone is required to be either in their tents or out of camp. If your child has trouble being quiet or if quiet hour makes you restless, you may prefer to be out of camp on some days. There are short hikes and spots to swim in the river nearby for those who go out of camp. Yosemite is near enough to enjoy, but it's still a significant drive away, and it's mobbed on weekends. Beverly

We've gone every year beginning in 1989 when my oldest son was 14 months. It can be a little hard when your children are small, but worth it anyway. My children (now 7, 10 & 12) love the amount of freedom they can have -- I've found that everyone looks out for everyone else's children; we've made friends we see every year at camp, sometimes only at camp.

Good meals are served three times a day (including a vegetarian option) and there's always fruit out.

There are activities, (such as arts and crafts, theme days, nature center, children's hour, kiddie camp, hikes, campfire, staff show, table night, and other things) for every age and you can participate or not, as you choose. The staff is very friendly and helpful. There are good hikes from camp of varying length and difficulty. There is a swimming hole (of cold mountain water). It's also close to Yosemite if you want to go in for the day.

I find it very relaxing -- all I have to do is show up for meals, enjoy my children when they aren't doing anything else, visit with friends, read... It's my annual R (rest and recharge). My children wish they could stay all summer! It's a magical place! Marie

To the Mother taking her two girls to the City of Berkeley Camp...

It should be great. Stay in the camp and sign up for the morning hike, too. Also, there is child care, so sign the kids up for that. I liked all the activities and still have the basket I made one year.

The best part is just sitting in the Adirondack chairs and relaxing. I think I have the world's pickiest eater, and he was happy with the packets of peanut butter at the vegetarian table. There's also hot chocolate all night. Bring flashlights and bug repellant. Cornelia

I think I have been to Tuolumne at least 5 summers as my daughter was growing up. For a single mother, it is the most affordable vacation you could have in an outdoor setting with minimal responsibility. My daughter and I found Tuolumne to be beautiful....She begged me every year to take her there. We loved every one of our tent cabins....the decks are fantastic to sleep on, to lounge around during the afternoon and to look up and see beautiful trees and the sky. There are some gorgeous spots in camp and nearby....the hike to Small Falls is great - not far but few or no people and your children can go with you. There are some stone outdoor showers that are another treat as you look up into the sky and trees. My child loved the arts and crafts, the swimming, and the special theme days. They also have developed some neat arts and crafts classes for adults so that there were activities that we could engage in also if we didn't want to just read or lie around all day. I just loved not having to plan meals, shop, cook, or clean up. Now that's a vacation! Along with what others have also suggested, I would make sure to bring: combination lock, laundry line and clothespins, hangers, a pee pot with a cover if the bathroom is too far to go to at night, rafts or inner tubes for swimming, detergent, a plug of some kind for the sink if you have to do any handwash. It seems like a lot to bring, but once you get there, there are some young camp staff you will take all of your things to your cabin....and when you leave the same thing. Your children will meet others and after a day or two, your probably won't be around them much. Tuolumne is not a luxurious camp, but it is a camp that families for many decades have enjoyed going to and return year after year ....Have a great time. Lisa

I've received so many questions about camp that I find myself wanting to jot down a few more ideas. Maybe half the fun is making discoveries yourself at camp, but for those whose anxiety will be relieved by some advance information, here go a few hints.

Re beds: over the years, many of the old soggy mattresses have been replaced with plastic covered ones. I personally find it most comfortable to bring single mattress pads or old comforters to put under single sheets. Clearly, I am going more luxuriously than many. There are bedboards on most beds and all over camp and if you need anything, just ask the maintenance staff. Some people do bring their own blowup double mattresses. Some people put down a tarp and put mattresses on floor of cabin for more support or for a family bed. I find the mattresses acceptable. Since I sleep outside, I bring an extra spread to put over the bags during the day to collect tree droppings, meaning that I don't have to shake out my sleeping bag at night.

By the maintenance shed, there is an air pump for boats and tubes. Saves lots of energy.

Tents: perhaps the most stressful part of camp is arriving and choosing your tent. I now have a mantra which I chant on the way to camp: every tent is a perfect tent. They all have different features and thank goodness we don't all like the same thing. One thought is how much you involve the children in the choice. This takes some serious process and not always easy and can be stressful. Some people like tents up near the activity and the play area and less walking. Many families like Sun City because of it's own little central play area. Some people don't mind walking quite far in order to have privacy--remember you will be doing this at night, also. Some people are focused on finding a tent that is shady during rest hour. Some people like being right near the bathrooms and others don't. For privacy, ropes with tarps or sheets clothespinned up can work.

One of the great surprises for the kids is hot chocolate and hot apple cider which is available all day in the dining hall--also tea and coffee. Very fun to go to the dining hall at night and get some goodies. Also a fun place to hang out for games and reading.

Rocking chairs are available for parents with young children or infants. Just ask the staff.

The staff are incredibly helpful, enthusiastic and delightful. I often feel campers are not made aware enough of the opportunity to thank the staff by leaving a contribution (tip) at the end of camp. The collection is used to finance the staff's grand gala dinner at the Awahnee Lodge in Yosemite. I believe that any proceeds are divided communely. The staff plan their outfits all summer and it is a highlight of the summer. They are served and they can totally indulge themselves--imagine 5 desserts.

Re insects this year. I have been quizzed. I was just up there at Fish Camp and the staff had said the mosquitos were bad. I used Off cream and spray and was fine. For years I've heard about Avon Skin So soft as an effective natural repellent. Have never used. One year there was a wild lady bug infestation. One never knows, but mostly I have not found it to be a problem. The moths around my kerosene lamp and me, while reading at night, take a little more getting used to. (remember I am outside on the deck--if you are inside, less problem) I did see some kids having trouble with bugs in the bathroom. There were some pretty big mosquito hawks. Might help to tell them about how they eat the mosquitos and take care of them. Nevertheless some kids (and adults) are slower to warm up to the new environment and to bugs. My oldest never really did. For years, my younger daughter and I went to camp alone.

Dining Hall. It definitely takes some getting used to because of the number of people and the energy. I have come to love it. Don't expect a quiet dinner. However, people find their own coping strategies. One Mom I know makes a plate and goes and sits by the river. Another Dad always arrives late and sits alone at the table after all have left. I have never seen them run out of food. Just hold up the plate and your server will refill it. The energy is contagious and sometimes, I just have to sit there, take a breathe and relax. Our group always has wine and nibblies before dinner. That helps.

Bears: well, an important issue. I have found that blue jays and squirrels are much more prominent and will get into anything that has food in your tent. (there is a storage shelf area that can be tightly closed) They ripped through a canvas backpack one year. This year, they found an old granola bar in my purse and left the wrapper. Bears often go towards the dumpster (new electric fence is discouraging them from camp) and are further up the hill near the girls staff area. I actually haven't heard of bears going into girls cabins and they are often guilty of keeping food there. But I do not know all the lore and facts of camp. I suspect it would not be better to leave coolers or food in the car, given reports. I often put my cooler near entry way to my cabin to block entrance or give easier access. I am not sure which. I don't really know what staff recommends.

Oh one last thought. For people with children, check out Buddy Camp (for next year) which usually meets end of June and has lots of music and clowns and specialty programs. This site will also give you information on child friendly performances in the Bay Area and are performers available for parties. Warmly, Sherry

Reviews from 1998

Hello - recommendation for Tuolumne Camp: GO THERE! This will be my and my fellow single mom's 4th straight year and I tell you: it is SUCH a great place for all ages and enthusiasms. It is getting ever more popular, however, so I would urge you to call Lucretia at 644-6520 and make your move! Great enriching crafts classes, lots of free quality child care, nature hikes, gorgeous sweet river water to swim, raft or tube in, delicious food three times a day...what's not to like? Mari

I can't speak to Oakland's camp, but Berkeley's is fantastic, and there are tons of activities scheduled for kids of every age--and adults! Up to a certain age, there is a childcare center where you leave the kids. This may be age 5 or 6. After that age, the kids meet for activities with others their ages. There is usually something in the morning and in the afternoon. You have to be in your tent or out of camp for quiet time for an hour or two in the afternoon, and this is strictly enforced. You can take the kids for a hike then or drive to Yosemite or take advantage of the time for reading, napping. Lots and lots of craft activities go on all the time, which your kids can do alone or with you. There's a nature center where there are nature-related crafts and activities. Also, kids can become Tuolumne Rangers by fulfilling several age-appropriate requirements, and they're awarded a hat and a Tuolumne salute at dinner when they've finished. The staff is great, everything is very relaxed and fun. There's swimming (supervised) at certain hours. Also fishing on your own. In the evening are campfire, skits, etc. Something different every night. Obviously, we're fans. We've gone since my son was 3 or 4. He's now 8, and we'll go every summer forever. It's a wonderful family vacation. And the food's good, too! Linda

I wanted to add my voice to Ellie's about Berkeley Tuolumne Camp. My family won a trip there this year, and it was great! We had never been before, and were somewhat skeptical at first. The whole experience was wonderful, however. The camp is nice, the people are friendly, there's child care for small children, and activities for every age. The food is VERY good (much better than any camp food I'd ever had!), plentiful, and accomodates meat-eaters and vegitarians at every meal. If you don't want to do anything, you don't have to. So a lot of the time we just let our 11-year-old daughter run around and do whatever she wanted (which was a LOT of swimming in the swimming hole in the river), and we didn't have to worry about what she was doing, or whether she was safe (there's lifeguards during the swimming hours, for instance, and leaders for all the activities). That and not having to deal with food prep or cleanup meant that we really got a rest.

The whole experience was so wonderful that we will definitely consider putting it on our list for next summer, despite the somewhat high pricetag if one actually has to pay ($55/night for an adult who is not a resident of Berkeley; somewhat less for residents and kids). Our daughter has decided that she wants to be a counselor when she's old enough (she has to wait 3 years, till she's a rising sophomore).

A great family experience! Dana


Subject: memo for next summer

The cities of Berkeley, Oakland, and SF also run camps. I've been to Camp Tuolumne, run by the City of Berkeley, several times and can really recommend this kind of vacation for people with kids. These camps are mostly in the Sierras near Yosemite (Lair of the GB is in the Stanislaus forest) and in general you sleep in a cabin and eat pretty good food that *someone else* cooks and serves and cleans up after. They have swimming, planned activities for kids like crafts, hikes, etc., and feature lots of idle time for parents. Kids older than 5 love it because they can run around in the woods and hang out with other kids pretty much unencumbered by adults. This is also the reason why adults love it. For toddlers there are usually some programs too. Camps are moderately priced in the range of $50/day for adults and $25/day for kids which includes all food, lodging, and activities. Some are fancy with a swimming pool, horseback riding, and electricity in the cabins. Some like Tuolumne offer a lake to swim in and wood platform cabins with canvas roofs - you bring bedding.

You don't have to be a city resident to go to these camps, though residents get first crack at reservations and have slightly lower rates. They fill up by February or March for the following summer, so you have to plan ahead. For more info on the city camps, check in the phone book under Recreation for the city.