Exploring 2024 Summer Camp Experiences for Teens

NCOAE Headquarters

January 25, 2024

It’s that time of year — from mid-winter to early spring — when teens, parents, and others are asking for recommendations about fun, educational, and enriching summer camp experiences and outdoor adventures for late-May, June, July, and August. 

With all of the outdoor options available, finding the right summer camp experience can pose a formidable challenge. First off, you need to narrow your choices down to one of three broad categories: day camp, residential camp, or virtual camp. 

From there, you need to choose a focus, such as outdoor adventure, academic enrichment, arts and crafts, sports (football and soccer camps, for example), or performance arts (such as ballet or theater). And, at some point, you’re going to need to choose a location, perhaps in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, or North Carolina.

Young backpackers walking through the backcountry with NCOAE

In this post, we tell you about three upcoming opportunities for you to personally meet with experienced summer camp leaders — including our staff at The National Center for Outdoor and Adventure Education (NCOAE). These summer camp specialists will provide you with information about the benefits of leadership-focused summer camp experiences for teens who have an appetite for camping, rock climbing, mountaineering, white water rafting, and other human-powered outdoor adventures.

2024 Teen Summer Camp Expos

If you’re shopping for an outdoor adventure this summer for your teen, consider attending a summer camp fair near you. This year (2024), NCOAE will be exhibiting at three camp fairs — two in North Carolina and one in Georgia:

  • Wilmington Parent Magazine’s 21st Annual Summer Camp Fair: This is the only event of its kind in the area, providing families with a unique opportunity to explore the summer camp and enrichment options available to their children during summer break.
    Date: Sunday, February 11, 2024
    Time: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    Location: Elks Lodge, 5201 Oleander Drive, Wilmington, NC
    For more info, visit: Wilmington Parent Magazine’s 21st Annual Summer Camp Fair 
  • Triangle Summer Camp Expo
    Date: Saturday, March 16, 2024
    Time: Noon to 3 p.m.
    Location: Wake County Shrine Club, 6015 Lead Mine Road, Raleigh, NC
    For more info, visit: Triangle Summer Camp Expo 
  • Atlanta Camp Fair
    Date: Sunday, March 17, 2024
    Time: Noon to 3 p.m.
    Location: Agnes Scott College, 141 East College Avenue, Decatur, GA
    For more info, visit: Atlanta Camp Fair

Appreciating the Benefits of Leadership-Based Summer Camp for Teens

Accredited adventure-based experiential and outdoor education companies like NCOAE offer leadership-based summer camps that provide a unique opportunity for teens to develop technical outdoor skills along with personal competencies in the following four areas:

  • Self
  • Community
  • Action
  • Impact

Or, as we here at NCOAE present it:

Self + Community + Action = Impact

This formula for personal growth, development, and leadership sets us apart from a traditional summer camp, where backcountry experiences may be offered only as electives. In contrast, NCOAE summer teen expeditions use backcountry adventure as an immersive framework where fun, learning, personal growth and development, and skill acquisition occurs. To find out more, check out our previous post, “Benefits To Leadership-Based Summer Camp for Teens.”

Teen Summer Camps with Outdoor Expeditions

Here at NCOAE, we offer summer camps and outdoor expeditions for teenagers in two age groups:

Ages 13–14: Campers are introduced to the backcountry and environmental science, develop essential technical outdoor skills, and build the confidence and the self-reliance that they’ll need to make positive personal choices. For this age group, we offer the following four courses:

  • Teen Leadership Expedition — Pacific Northwest, Backpacking: Campers discover Oregon’s Cascade Mountains and explore the wilderness on a summer backpacking adventure. Along the way, they obtain their Leave No Trace (LNT) awareness certification, develop advanced backpacking skills, and gain experience in expedition planning and logistics, food planning, and backcountry cooking.
  • Teen Leadership Expedition — Pacific Northwest, Whitewater Paddling: Campers explore Oregon’s wild and scenic Deschutes River and push the limits of their comfort zone while developing kayaking and whitewater rafting skills, advancing their knowledge of environmental science and outdoor leadership, and acquire the skills needed to travel in remote, pristine destinations around the world.
  • Teen Mountain Expedition — North Carolina: This 7-day teen backpacking adventure is designed specifically to build sustainable lifelong leadership traits while simultaneously mastering outdoor survival skills all within the Pisgah National Forest in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. Campers develop backpacking skills, challenge themselves in new and rewarding ways, hone their outdoor and leadership skills, and advance their knowledge of environmental science.
  • Teen River Expedition — North Carolina: Rated as one of our favorite North Carolina overnight trips, this 7-day teen leadership expedition features kayaking, hiking, and camping through the beautiful North Carolina wilderness. Campers develop kayaking and whitewater paddling skills, deepen their knowledge of environmental science and outdoor leadership, and acquire the skills needed to travel in remote, pristine destinations around the world.

Ages 15–17: For this age group, we offer our teens an immersive backcountry expedition where they learn and sharpen their outdoor technical skills, develop leadership skills, and build confidence. They do this by making decisions to face challenges that take them outside their comfort zone. Here, we offer three courses for this age group:

  • Teen Leadership Expedition — Pacific Northwest, Backpacking & Whitewater: This 12-day overnight backpacking and whitewater paddling adventure leads campers on an exploration of some of America’s most breathtaking terrain — the remote Cascade Mountains. Along the way, campers sharpen their skills in backpacking, backcountry navigation, hazard assessment, camping, and leadership while traveling rugged terrain high above the tree line. The final days of the course engage campers in a “graduation climb” up a mountain peak.
  • Teen Leadership Expedition — North Carolina, Backpacking & Whitewater: This 12-day North Carolina hiking trip is designed specifically for teens who want to develop into thoughtful leaders and master practical outdoor survival skills. The journey features an adventurous backpacking trek through the Appalachian Mountains, along with an adrenaline-filled whitewater rafting cruise down the New River. It’s perfect for those with a passion for adventure and for the North Carolina wilderness.
  • Teen Leadership Expedition — Alaska, Backpacking: This 12-day Alaskan hiking trip features an adventurous backpacking trek through the Wrangell Mountains in America’s largest National Park — Wrangell-St. Elias. During the expedition, campers have ample opportunities to sharpen their skills in backpacking, camping, map and compass navigation, river navigation, stove use, backcountry cooking, and more. The last few days of the course engage campers in a “graduation climb” up a challenging mountain peak.

At NCOAE, we applaud the variety of summer camp offerings that are available these days, and we understand that every teen has unique talents and interests that may not draw them to outdoor adventure. However, if you have the opportunity to attend one of the summer camp fairs mentioned in this post, we strongly encourage you to do so and explore the many options available to find the right match. 

Summer camps that include a teen leadership expedition into the backcountry can be a tremendously enriching experience, creating memories and friendships to last a lifetime.

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