Summer camp is a classic, much-beloved way for kids to spend those warm weeks of freedom. But what about our teens? Many programs are designed for the younger set, and they can feel left behind when it’s time to go exploring. This summer, check out the Teen Adventure Camps for ages 13 to 17 at Camp Wa-Ya. But don’t worry, they also have affordable summer programming for kids ages 6 and up.

photo of a mountain with purple wildflowers and grass in the foreground
Wa-Ya summer camps are open to kids ages 6 to 17 and presented in 10 one-week intervals. Photo courtesy: Wa-Ya Outdoor Institute

Run by the Wa-Ya Outdoor Institute, these programs strive to uphold its mission statement: To weave together outdoor survival, science, and indigenous culture and perspective to provide all youth regardless of income, an opportunity for learning about environmental science, connecting with nature; and using that connection to foster a sense of belonging, self-confidence and stewardship.

Program Director Nali Gabbert explains that “We are a Native woman led nonprofit that focuses on weaving together outdoor adventure, science education and Indigenous knowledge. Camp Wa-Ya leads 10 single-week summer camps for campers ages 6 to 17 years old. We immerse ourselves in hands-on experiential learning and native perspectives in the spectacular natural learning environments of the South Puget Sound Region. Our camps are led entirely outdoors, exploring nearby parks, forests, beaches, trails and rivers.”

2022’s slate of camps run from June 27 through September 2. Kids don’t need to have any previous experience in kayaking or backpacking to attend. For the immersive Teen Adventure Camp, day one is dedicated as a practice day of training and safety information, trip and meal planning. Then they’ll kick off a four day and three-night adventure by foot or by boat.

kids hiking a mountain trail
During these immersive teen camps, no experience is required, simply a love of the outdoors. Photo courtesy: Wa-Ya Outdoor Institute

For younger campers, those aged 6 to 13, “our Day Camp sessions provide opportunities to experience marine science, forest ecology, geology, native teachings, outdoor survival skills, naturalist pursuits, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing and more,” says Gabbert.

Programming for the older age group is a recent, eagerly anticipated addition. The “new Teen Adventure Camp program this year is for ages 13 to 17 to strengthen true outdoor skills and go on overnight sea kayaking and backpacking trips with a focus on environmental stewardship,” Gabbert explains.

Weekly day camp themes include salmon life, intertidal adventures, native nature, geology rocks and rolls and survival training. On the Teen Adventure Camp Sea Kayaking Journeys, attendees will explore marine campgrounds and intertidal ecosystems including Hope Island and sites throughout Washington’s Marine State Parks.

Teens embarking on the Cascades backpacking adventure will tour through the Cascade Range learning about leadership, wilderness survival, alpine ecology and geology in different locations each week, such as Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Goat Rocks, an extinct stratovolcano.

a bunch of kayaks and kids on the beach
At Camp Wa-Ya, their Teen Adventure Camps include overnight sea kayaking and mountain backpacking. Photo courtesy: Wa-Ya Outdoor Institute

There is no set registration deadline, and each week is open until filled. But they’re definitely filling up quickly so register online today! The board works hard to make sure that “our camps are set at extremely affordable prices—$375 a week for teen camp and $295 a week for day camp—as it is part of our mission at Wa-Ya to make outdoor education accessible to everyone,” says Gabbert. “We also offer scholarship programs and sliding scale tuition adjustment to help make camp more affordable.”

Unlike previous years, there is no additional charge for pre- and aftercare time. Youth day camps run from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. with morning drop-off from 8 to 9 a.m. and afternoon pick up between 4 and 5 p.m. Sign up for the summer newsletter to be notified about daily activities and upcoming events as well as special occasions and unique camper experiences. Have questions about camp? Email wayaoutdoorschool@gmail.com and someone from the leadership team will get back to you. Can’t attend or have campers who’ve graduated from the program? Consider donating to keep outdoor education accessible to all families.

It’s been shown that “playing and relaxing in natural settings can defuse stress. Brief nature walks can reduce anxiety, distraction, and symptoms of ADHD…Such experiences can be exhilarating, fun, inspirational. For many people, they are an essential part of life. We owe children access to nature. It’s a human right.”

Summer camp adventures stand the test of time for people of all ages. Memories made outside, around a roaring campfire, or from tent, trail and stream are guaranteed to last a lifetime. Give your kids the gift of the Pacific Northwest and knowledge of its amazing ecosystems thanks to Camp Wa-Ya. We live in an outdoor playground of mountains, streams, snow, sand, sun and surf. Teach your children to love all our region has to offer and they’ll stay active for a lifetime.

Sign up now on the Wa-Ya Outdoor Institute website.

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