Tuolomne vs. Echo Lake Family Camp

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • 2022 Berkeley Family Camp reviews?

    (1 reply)

    We're longtime family campers at Echo Lake, but haven't been since 2019. How was family camp this year, either at Echo or at BTC? Does BTC feel too bare? Did Echo Lake feel like the stepchild family camp? Was programming the same as normal times? Hoping to gather some intel before making plans for 2023. Thanks!

    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 purpleair.com 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

See also: Echo Lake Camp and Tuolumne Camp

August 2003

Can someone tell me the difference between fish camp and regular family camp at Berkeley's Tuolomne family camp? Also, does anyone out there have a recent review of the Echo lake family camp? How does it compare to Tuolomne family camp? Positive, negative, and practical information appreciated. Thanks. elizabeth

We went to Tuolomne fish camp and to Echo Lake family camp this summer with our 2-year-old. I would recommend both experiences. Tuolomne family camp offers supervised activities for children and adult activities. Tuolomne fish camp has no organized activities, but still offers 3 meals per day plus the tent cabins. Echo Lake camp is primarily a camp for 8-14 year-olds away from home, with extra space available for family campers. Echo family camp is like Tuolomne fish camp, with meals and tent cabins provided.

The prices are much higher for Tuolomne family camp than for Tuolomne fish camp and Echo family camp, because it includes the activities. Also, the fish camp and Echo family camp generally don't fill up, so last minute trips without reservations are possible. Tuolomne family camp fills up, with a waiting list, so advance reservations are needed. Tuolomne fish camp is at the beginning of the season (late May through mid-June) and again for a few days at the end of the summer. Tuolomne family camp is from late June through late August. Echo camp is in July and August.

Echo camp is much smaller than Tuolomne, and much quieter while the youth camp is not in session (the youth camp is mid-day Monday through mid-day Friday). Echo Camp has a swimming pool and hot tub and is about a 15 minute walk to Echo Lake, where boating and hiking are the main activities. Echo Camp is also about a 10-minute drive from South Lake Tahoe, so it is convenient for side trips to the many beaches and parks at Lake Tahoe. The staff at Echo Camp is very happy to have family campers and was very friendly and helpful.

Tuolomne camp is on the Tuolomne river and has a swimming hole in camp. Tuolomne also has some play equipment and a sandy beach at the swimming hole.

The food at Tuolomne fish camp and family camp is more upscale than Echo Camp - it seems to be aimed at pleasing the adults much more than Echo Camp, presumably because there are so many more adults there. Because there are many more families camping at Tuolomne Fish Camp than at Echo Camp, it is much more likely that there will be other children for your children to play with. We arranged to go to both camps along with friends, which was a nice experience. Sally