Going to camp in the mountains brings back memories of campfires, s’mores, cabins, friendships and lots of time outdoors as a kid. For adults, camp facilities serve as ideal locations for retreats, strategy sessions, corporate picnics and team-building activities that can’t be found in the city.
Situated on 80 acres of forest near Walton and 35 miles west of Eugene, Big Bear Camp Retreat Center is an off-the-grid retreat located along the salmon-bearing Miller Creek. The lodge, three yurts, two small cabins and a campground accommodate up to 30 guests, and one-day stays with overnight lodging are available Monday through Thursday. The camp was built to be as sustainable as possible, runs off solar power and is proud to be an internet-free zone. For indoor gatherings, the largest yurt has an open floor plan, and the lodge has a multipurpose room and kitchen.
Oregon Wild hosted a one-day field trip for more than 30 high school students to learn about forest ecology and conservation advocacy and an overnight staff and board retreat for 15 at Big Bear. “It was nice for our team to have a choice between camping with their own gear or using a cot in a yurt,” says Jason Gonzales, forest and watershed campaign organizer for Oregon Wild. “Big Bear worked so well because there are nice and spacious restrooms, a mix of outdoor and indoor meeting spaces, and incredible cooking facilities. The hosts are very accommodating, and the scenery and setting are idyllic!”
He notes that the students loved the location, and the group was “able to observe many different forest and stream types, learn about the great restoration work Big Bear is doing in their younger forests, and use the large yurt as a classroom for a workshop.”
For almost seven decades, Camp Harlow Retreat & Conference Center has been serving youth as well as groups seeking an off-site meeting, retreat or company picnic. This faith-based facility near Eugene offers year-round lodging primarily in 22 cabins. In terms of gathering spaces, the Webster Facility has a multipurpose gym that seats up to 340, dining hall that holds 40-160, fireside room that hosts 50 and large open patio for 200 seated. Another good option is Harlow Lodge with a meeting room, kitchen and sleeping loft with bunk beds for 18. For an outdoor gathering, head straight for the amphitheater that seats up to 550 and has a seasonally available large fire pit and sound system, as well as A/V capabilities.
There is no shortage of fun and teambuilding options with a zip line, solarheated swimming pool, giant swing, low ropes challenge course, suspension bridge, go carts and bumper boats. Frank’s Place, decorated as a ‘50s-style diner, keeps all ages entertained with a pool table, pingpong, air hockey and more.
Nestled on 100 acres in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains on Fall Creek Reservoir, Sky Camp is a youth camp that includes a main lodge with a lakefront deck, beautiful lawns that stretch to the lake’s edge, and seven chalets with a total of 164 beds. Established through the vision of the Springfield Kiwanis Club and made a reality with support from the Army Corps of Engineer and Springfield School District in the late 1970s, Sky Camp has become a favorite spot for outdoor educational camps and private gatherings in Fall Creek.
The lodge features a large kitchen that has served groups of up to 300 and a main room and four classrooms for group sessions and breakouts. Groups are welcome to utilize the lake, a large field for sports, the basketball court, horseshoe pits and 2.5 miles of hiking trails, says Ken Dorsey, who has managed the camp for more than three decades.
Camp Cascade Conference & Retreat Center, home of Cascade Sports Camp, is situated along Little North Fork of the Santiam River approximately 40 miles east of Salem in the Cascade Mountains foothills. Since 1969, more than 70,000 youth have attended basketball camps at the Lyons facility, which also hosts outdoor schools in the spring and fall. The camp’s central building, Cascade Lodge, has overnight accommodations for up to 212, a large hall, dining room and outdoor deck. North Fork Lodge is ideal for smaller groups of up to 60 that need more private sleeping quarters and space for both meeting and dining.
Michelle Goff, a fifth grade teacher at Clear Lake Elementary School in Keizer, Oregon, has been taking students to outdoor school for several years and attended family reunions at Camp Cascade. “The camp has multiple facilities for groups of different sizes. Our students love the dorms and bunk beds; they feel like they are camping,” she says. “There also is a place for adults to stay with clean restrooms and comfortable furniture.”
Approximately 100-120 youth and adults attend outdoor school, which requires use of most of the facility and involves many activities like fishing in the pond, building shelters, finding interesting plant life, and playing on the big field and basketball courts. “We use the main lodge for skits, sing-alongs, quiet down time and learning experiences,” Goff says. “The river is a wonderful place to sit, relax, draw or just skip rocks.”
Located at the north end of Bighorn Mountain, Camp Bethel has been a peaceful retreat approximately 55 minutes from Sheridan for more than 70 years. Between summer camps, church retreats and other events, the camp can provide lodging and dining for up to 135 and meeting space for a maximum of 75. Outdoor options for free time include canoeing, hiking, fishing, volleyball, trap shooting, archery, sledding, snowshoeing and more depending on the season. Some activities require supplying your own equipment.
Dayton Community Church, based in Dayton, Wyoming, hosts all sorts of gatherings for five to 25 people at Camp Bethel located only 30 minutes away, ranging from retreats for all ages, camps, service projects and leadership staff meetings. “There is no cell phone service,” notes Youth Pastor Collin Amick, “so there are no big distractions to pull the people away from what we are trying to do.”
The church generally uses most of the camp’s facilities, and Amick is a fan of the various spaces available, meals served and overall atmosphere. “There is just something about it when you pull into the drive at Camp Bethel. It’s peaceful, relaxing, and you just feel closer to God when you are there.”
Sinks Canyon Center is an educational and recreational center in Lander for outdoor education students attending Central Wyoming College. Situated in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains, the facility also is available for groups of up to 100 guests. Hiking and biking trails and a mountain bike skills area are highlights along with dorm-style lodging year-round in the Orchard House and summer only in the Bunkhouse. Two outdoor venues are available for gatherings, and a classroom facility can be used during summer months for conferences and workshops. From the Sinks Canyon Center, outdoor enthusiasts also have nearby access to rock climbing, hiking and fishing.
The Girl Scouts first gathered at the 180-acre Camp Sacajawea, located on Casper Mountain above the city of Casper, in 1936. Today, the rustic camp is a combination of wooded acreage and open areas with vista views. The facilities are conveniently clustered in the middle of the property with a lodge that accommodates 50-70 for dining, has additional loft meeting space and a few sleeping rooms serving as the hub. The seasonal lower camp provides additional sleeping options, while the main lodge and yurts can be accessed yearround. Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming also owns two facilities in Montana to consider: Camp Castle Rock in Butte and Timbercrest Camp in Red Lodge.
If creature comforts that tip more in favor of luxury and cell service are a big priority, camp facilities may not be a good fit. However, if fresh mountain air, clear streams and lakes, built-in activity options and places free from distractions sounds like paradise, camps are affordable and attractive options.