Camp Unalayee

Outside the Bay Area
School-Aged, Preteens, Teens
Editors' Notes: 

Located in Callahan, CA

Parent Q&A

  • Camp Unalayee?

    (4 replies)

    HI there. Wondering about recent experiences with Camp Unalayee. My 7th grade daughter, who is pretty brave and strong socially but also a bit shy, is thinking about doing it this year alone. Any honest feedback would be most welcome. Thank you! 

    RE: Camp Unalayee? ()

    It’s not recent experience. But I went there from 11 to 16 and it was an incredible experience every year. Definitely a game changer. I’m sure some things have probably changed in The last 15 years but I’d still recommend it

    RE: Camp Unalayee? ()

    My son has done Unalayee for 3 years, going on his 4th.  Happy to chat via email or in person with any questions you might have.

    RE: Camp Unalayee? ()

    My daughter went there for the first time in 7th grade.  Unalayee played a huge part in transforming her into the confident, mature, self-advocating young woman she is now.  She went back every year, including a month-long trip, became a CIT, and is planning to be a counselor this summer.  I highly recommend it.    Happy to talk to you (or have your daughter talk to mine!)

Parent Reviews

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Camp Unalayee. Best camp ever!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

May 2011

Re: Mixed sports summer camp for 13-year-old
Camp Unalayee, a wilderness camp in the Trinity Mountains, has 10 and 15 day sessions for ages 10-17. Fees are in line with other sleep away camps, But there is an active Campership program, available on an as needed (not necessarily strictly income based) basis. I believe there are still openings. Seena

March 2011

Re: Outdoor/backpacking camp for teen daughter
Well, it only touches on your date, but the program is so Excellent it's worth it, check out Camp Unalayee at Unalayee's been taking teens backpacking for 62 years, has a rare setting in the uncrowded, pristine Trinity Alps Wilderness, and offers the only Wilderness Immersion (not just toe wetting) program for teens around. Seena

March 2011

Re: Affordable Summer Fun for 15-year-old daughter
Camp Unalayee offers 9 and 15 day sessions. Very affordable because of their dedication to No Child Left Inside, actually Practiced not just Preached. 62 years and counting no child who wishes to participate has been barred by lack of funds -- campership awards range from $100 to $1500 dollars. So, Please, check it out at While theater arts are not a stated focus, nightly campfire skits offer as much participation as desired, daily activities always feature creative arts (craft shack, ''Special Day'' themed drama created by participants, music, mask making. . . ). A creatively inclined person can always find opportunity and partners-in-creation at Unalayee. Seena

May 2010

does anyone have any experience with camp unalayee? i'm looking for an overnight camp experience for a reluctant 15 year old who would prefer to hang out on telegraph avenue all summer. nothing as extreme as a ''boot camp'' but still challenging and structured. any thoughts or experiences would be appreciated. patricia

Camp Unalayee is a wonderful camp. It can be an intro to backpacking or a serious hiker's challenge. Though the campers all go hiking, there is a lot of choice about what kind of hikes to take-how easy or strenuous. The setting is gorgeous and the social life fun, warm and very inclusive. There are arts and crafts, fishing and boats and swimming in a lovely lake. My three sons all say that their best life skills were acquired there! It is has dedicated counselors and wonderful staff. Teens have fun the best way: through getting to know themselves, each other and experiencing nature-all unplugged! ursula

Definitely! Send your teen to Unalayee. It's a wonderful, fun, self-esteem building program. I've sent my three sons there and found it very helpful for their growth. Tenns need to be out in nature for awhile. The camp is well run, they divide into tribes and then hike around. It's a good place to make friends effortlessly, easily and live. Many people make lifelong friends. Anonymous

There's a slide show link on Unalayee's facebook page that's informative. I'm a past camper/counselor/staff. Also 12+ yr. upper elementary teacher. My two kids went, have worked summers there. I think of it as a Junior Outward Bound: not like it in that there's base camp, arts/crafts, lakefront w/swimming, boating, volleyball & basketball court. Like it in total wilderness immersion, personal challenges, new experiences. Challenging; with guidance & support all campers can meet a new challenge or ten. Rockclimbing on a wall & on rock faces. What else? I love the place still, I'm a lifelong backpacker because of Unalayee. I think today more than in the 60's, 70's, spending extended period of time (more than 3 days) in non-electric entertainment wilderness allows all people, teens of course, to be human on a human time schedule in a way difficult if not impossible to ''teach''. I've often been struck by the way, at Unalayee, staff & campers can continue a conversation, activity, discussion until its natural end point, unlike in school & much of life where, as all students know (especially the ones ''in trouble'' on the playground!) the Bell Will Ring And This Will End, for good or ill. Unalayee is a rare place where people are allowed to take the natural time needed for whatever is at hand: making it to the top of a hill, sorting out differences, finishing an art project that got more involved than planned, making a meal together, having a true conversation of human connection. Seena

March 2010

Re: Wilderness program for apathetic sophomore?

Check out the camp Unalayee Website. It's great camp -- non-profit - - old fashioned. Kids are out there, together cooking, hiking, talking and they are away from phones and electronics. They really need some time in nature. We all do. anonymous

Camp Unalayee is an excellent Wilderness Program for teens & youth. Campers backpack in the Trinity Alps wilderness for half a 2-week session with experienced counselors in small groups. In Base Camp, it's still wilderness -- they chop wood for dinner fires -- & Campers can choose from a variety of activities: rock climbing, archery, arts & crafts, waterfront activity, campfire. There are also longer trail programs for teens who are up to the challange. Camper staff ratio is 1:4 or 5. It's not a 'therapy' camp: campers have lots of choice of daily activity, also lots of oversight & encouragement & instruction from staff. It was transformative for me, and a big part of my kid's teen years (been around over 60 years) Office in Palo Alto. Seena

May 2009

Re: Summer adventure experience for 17-year-old boy
The best outdoor camp in the world is Camp Unalayee, a non-profit camp situated in the Trinity Alps. It is non-affilated and run with wonderful care. The kids come back with a strong sense of self. It is two weeks long and there is no cell phone coverage. It's very good for the soul to be out in nature with minimum possetions. The ratio is small and the food is wonderful. Of course, they may just be hungry. The next session is mid-July to early August. First session was cancelled -- so few people send their kids to outdoor camps. Here is the website: PS If it's too expensive don't write it off -- there may be a way. anonymous

August 2008

Looking for an excellent sleep away camp??? Camp Unalayee, run out of Palo Alto, is amazing. They take kids to the Trinity Alps for 2 weeks and have a rustic, beautiful base camp. Base campers go out on a 3 day and a 4 day backpacking excursion, but there are longer backpacking trips available. MANY parents attended the camp, and are now sending their own kids. High rate of return campers. A chartered bus picks kids up at the Berkeley Marina and returns two weeks later. My son is on his second trip, and we know kids who have gone for years. Cool kids and counselors, music at campfires, etc. No trace backpacking. Google Camp Unalayee for more info. My son loved making new friends, international and local, and the confidence he attained was instantly recognizable. parent of 11 year old

May 2007

I want to recommend Camp Unalayee, which my kid is eagerly looking forward to attending for her 3rd year. It's a very special summer camp, located in a really gorgeous, protected wild high-mountain environment within the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area, and based in Palo Alto, but with a regular contingent from the East Bay (a bus for each session picks up & drops off in Berkeley). It's a classic two-week sleep-away camp without any competitive sports or academic instruction, and it offers an experience of independence, & a chance to build life-long friendships, that most programs don't even approach. There's also a laid-back family camp session with a nice mix of newcomers & returnees of all ages including grandparents & babies. The featured activity is backpacking in small groups, a great way for kids to build self-confidence, muscles, social skills, & appreciation of nature. The camp has been in operation since the 1950s and has a very stable staff and a loyal multi- generational following. The unofficial camp culture is strongly environmentalist with a playful multi-cultural spiritualism: it's not for techies who can't live without their laptops & cell phones, or fundamentalists who might be offended by impromptu celebrations of earth and sky spirits, or conquer-the-earth survivalists. What's different about Camp Unalayee is how little hype there is, and how much good humor: you can just feel that people are joyful to be there. - a very happy parent

May 2006

Re: Wilderness program for unmotivated video-gamer son
Camp Unalayee It's in the Trinity Alps and they have backpacking trips for teenagers in a stunning and pristine area of Northern California wilderness lover

March 2000

The wilderness camp I referred to is Camp Unalayee, in the Trinity Wilderness area, up near the Oregon border. It's 2 rugged weeks of living in the wilderness. No cabins, no bathrooms no dining hall. THe kids do all their own cooking at the campsites. In the central camp there are latrines and solar showers and one of the most beautiful lake basins you will ever lay your eyes on. The camp has been around for 50 years. THey start out in coed groups ranging in ages from 10-17 for the first part of camp. Then kids elect to sign up for small medium or large scale hikes. Trips out of central can go as far as nearly 100 miles on the trail or as few as 3 miles. THe true hiking junkies can sign up for the full 2 weeks on the trail, but it's good to start with the in camp/out of camp at first since it is more rustic than many people can imagine. It's pristine wilderness combined with some good social and personal development, terriffic staff. I'd say it's been one of the formative experiences in both my boys' lives, imbuing in them a deep appreciation for nature and the place we have within it. For information: Camp Unalayee (650) 969-6313 office in Palo Alto Winifred