10 Things to do on your next camping trip

If you are considering a family camping vacation this summer, you might be wondering how to keep everyone entertained and active, while you are in the middle of the woods. Fear not! There are camping activities to suit the ability and interests of everyone, young and old alike. Here are ten popular camping activities to get you started on planning your next family camping adventure.

Go for a hike

Things to do - hikingThe vast majority of people who visit our nation’s parks and forests never venture very far from the confines of their car. That’s a real shame, because the best views and sights are rarely located along the access roads. Make the most of your family camping experience by researching the dayhikes available around your camping spot and picking one or two that suit your family’s ability.

National Park Service - Bryce Canyon Hikes

The National Park Service provides information on hikes available in their parks. Some parks, like Yosemite, are so popular that they have spawned websites, such as Yosemitehikes.com, dedicated to providing information on hikes specific to the particular park. Other sites, like HikingUpward.com, focus on hikes in a particular state, in this case Virginia.

Remember, no matter how much research you do, there’s no substitute for local knowledge so be sure to phone the local ranger district ahead of time, to get their recommendations and to get the latest trail conditions.

Take the bikes out for a ride

Things to do camping - bike riding

Bicycling is a great way to extend your sightseeing range over hiking, although you may be relegated to the road system, or trails specific to bikes and horses. Don’t think that everyone has to have a fancy mountain bike, either. My daughter’s first trail ride was on her Barbie® bike and it worked just fine.

When researching trails for mountain biking, around your family camping spot, many of the same strategies used for researching hiking trails will apply. For information specific to biking trails, though, there are some excellent online resources, like SingleTracks.com, that can assist you in your search.

Make a family camping scrapbook

Things to do camping - make a scrapbook

Scrapbooking is a great way to create a journal of your family adventure. You can have a single scrapbook that the entire family can participate in making, or each child can keep their own scrapbook journal. The best thing about scrapbooking is that the pages accept many different kinds of mementoes, from leaves to park brochures. The photos might have to wait until you get home and can print them out, but keeping a scrapbook might just encourage you to take more pictures.

Look at some stars

The backcountry is a great place for astronomy.There is no better place to gaze at the stars through a telescope, than out in the middle of nowhere, unencumbered by light pollution from civilization. You don’t need an expensive telescope to get started, but you will need some knowledge of the night sky. Astronomy.com is an excellent resource for getting started. Also, National Geographic publishes a very good book on astronomy – you can read my review here.

Catch a fish

Things to do camping - go fishing

Fishing is one of those classic outdoor activities that goes with camping like marshmallows go with graham crackers and chocolate. Fishing can be fun and challenging for the entire family, but it’s important to get everyone involved if they’re going to stay interested. In fact, if this will be the first time fishing for your kids, don’t even plan on any fishing, yourself. Spend your time teaching them to tie knots, bait hooks and cast lines, because the only way they’re going to stay excited about fishing is if they actually get to experience hooking some fish.

Play games

Things to do camping - gamesThere are going to be times on your family camping trip when you just want to relax around the campsite. This might be in the middle of the afternoon, when it’s too hot for hiking or biking, or in the evening, after the sun goes down. Games are a great way to pass the time and it’s a good idea to pack a variety, in case the kids (or the adults) want to do different things.

Uno® is a fun card game that kids can easily understand, yet it’s fun for adults, too. Card games are great for camping trips, because most camping spots include a nice, big picnic table. For more active fun, a horseshoe set is fun for the entire family and low-cost rubber sets with wooden stakes are available at most of the big retail stores. Football, baseball and Frisbees® are also great activities.

Geocaching and Scavenger hunts

Geocaching, using GPS to locate a “cache” that someone has hidden, is a new and popular pastime that can be a lot of fun. If you are camping with young children, you can setup your own little scavenger hunt around the campsite. Plastic Easter Eggs are great for this, just be sure you don’t forget where you stashed them!

Geocaching resources on the Internet include Geocaching.com and NaviCache.com, which provide listings of cache sites and information on how to get started. Just remember, you’ll need to replace the “treasure” you find, so be sure to pack a bag of trinkets to share with the next geocacher.

Want to find treasure? First locate an old CCC camp.

Hunt for real treasure

Finding gold has never been easy, despite our romanticized historical view of the gold rush in the western U.S. That doesn’t mean that it’s not fun to try, though! A more lucrative way to hunt for treasure is to scout for old trash dumps. Many of our state and federal parks began life as Civilian Conservation Corps projects in the 1930’s and, using old maps and a metal detector, you can sometimes locate the old trash dumps from these CCC camps. One man’s trash is another’s treasure and vintage tin cans, and other objects, can be worth some money.

Make s’mores

Things to do camping - make smores

Kids love campfires and when you throw in marshmallows and chocolate, you’re guaranteed to have a hit on your hands, with the little ones. You can read more about making s’mores here, but remember that melted marshmallows and chocolate create quite a sticky mess, so be sure to pack plenty of wipes.

Practice survival skills

The recent popularity of the TV shows Man vs. Wild and Survivorman has reignited an interest in survival skills and it can be a lot of fun to practice these on camping trips. Learning and practicing survival skills builds confidence in children (and adults!) and teaches them the importance of using available resources, instead of relying on technology, to solve problems.

One of the most basic survival skills to teach your kids is knot tying and one of the best online resources for learning this important skill is AnimatedKnots.com. You can outfit each member of the family with a 3-foot section of quality rope, to practice with. Once everyone has a working knowledge of the five basic knots (square knot, bowline, clove hitch, prusik and a taut-line hitch), it’s fun to make games out of knot tying, such as who can tie a knot the quickest, or who can tie the best-looking knot.

See also…

90 thoughts on “10 Things to do on your next camping trip

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  4. Great ideas! I wanted to add a few ideas I have to your list.
    ** Teach your kids about campfire cooking. (It really is a science!) Kids love to help, and they will love to eat what they have helped prepare.
    ** Have your kids bring a kazoo or harmonica, and help them learn to play them while at camp. (Just remember to keep a considerate noise level, especially at night.) If you go on a short hike with your kids, ahev them bring their kazoos and you can sing/hum/make music on the trail. (While being considerate, of course.) Bonus: it’ll keep the wild animals away! Hahah!
    ** If you are camping with a large group, or make some new friends at camp, come up with some “Camping Olympics” events. Find a place where you can hold sprinting races, jumping jack competitions (have them do jumping jacks until they get tired…see who is the laast kid jumping!) , jump-rope contests, 3-leged races, hula-hooping contests, etc. Of course you can vary these events based on age and ability. If you are camping where there are swimming/basketball/tennis facilities, challenge each other/other families to friendly games. This will help your family bond as a team, will teach your kids sportsmanship, and will give everyone a decent work out.
    ** Sit around the campfire and make up a poem or a song about your day. Someone starts with a sentence, and the next person has to come up with a line that rhymes. Make sure to write them down! These memories will have you rolling with laughter years from now!
    ** If you have made friends with fellow campers, you could put on a campfire skit for them, or have all of the kids re-create a scene from their favorite movie. If they use any props, just make sure that they’re not disturbing nature in order to use them. Be mindful of the noise level, and keep in mind that not all families will want to play together. Just be respectful and considerate. (Bonus to all of these inter-family ideas: Everyone has the potenial to make new friends. After camp, you could encourage your kids to become pen pals! I know, totally old fashioned, but think of how having a pen pal would each your kids how to write, how to develop friendships, etc.)
    ** You could consider brining face paint, because if it’s miserable and rainy ouside, you could have your kids play with the face paint. Sure it’ll make a mess, but it’ll keep them occupied, and you can clean up with wet wipes or in the shower. What’s a few minutes of cleaning instead of whiney, grumpy kids?

    Sorry for the long post…I just have lots of ideas :)

  5. Great post, I haven’t been camping in years and am now looking for some ideas when I take my twin 6year old boys who have never been.
    I see some comments about not relying on technology which is ironic considering the geo-caching thing… While that’s a great activity and I wouldn’t knock it… If your kids are going camping again, sometime in the future, your are putting them at risk if you don’t teach them how to use a map and a compass as well as missing out on a great experience.
    Lensatic compasses are cheap and can be found just about anywhere and there are how to guides all over the internet… the geo-caching thing actually made me think of this ;)

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  7. Camping is a perfect time for you and your family to have more bonding together. Various techniques could be applied to make this activity fun-filled. This is a nice experience that would be very memorable to everyone.

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  9. Wow, superb blog layout! How lengthy have you been running a blog for? you made running a blog glance easy. The overall look of your web site is fantastic, as neatly as the content!

  10. I Love camping. After hiking around a campground, there is only so much to see or you get tired. I’m always looking for things to entertain the kids. They are older and can get bored when I take them away from their xbox world. I like your suggestion about having a cache and using gps to find it. Fishing can get a little boring if your not catching anything or you have someone with you that doesn’t like to fish.

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  12. Thanks for the great ideas. Sometimes it takes a just a little creativity to have some fun. I like your suggestion about making a game out of tying knots. It’s fun and a great learning opportunity.

  13. Great List! I was going to have my kids make a scrapbook this year too. We take our 4 kids camping atleast once a year, and by camping I mean tents, no electricity, no showers! I can do 4 days at that speed. We love it and stay connected as a family and extended family since we camp with my brother and his family. It keeps life in perspective and gives me quiet time with God his His marvelous creation.

  14. I would echo Matt’s comments from 4/24: Your readers should be aware that “hunting for real treasure” in historic dump sites on federal lands is a violation of the law, and subject to penalties. The CCC building you depict on your website is located within National Forest system lands. Archaeological resources associated with this particular camp are protected under federal law. We view these resources as opportunities to learn about the past, not sources of treasure.

  15. You seriously need to take down the suggestion to look for CCC camp dumps. Digging on any federal land requires permission and all items in dumps are protected. When items are removed a piece of the past is taken out of its context and a piece of history is lost. Archaeologists and historians are then unable to tell the complete story for future generations.

  16. You have so many adventures to share Roy Scribner. Thanks for the inspiration and I hope you have more great trips full of fun and excitement. Keep on touching us with your blogs.

  17. Great post!

    I have done most of the things on your list. I would like to add that on hot day sitting in the middle of a stream panning for gold can be fun. But if you really want to find gold, use your metal detector around the campground. I always find coins and an occasional gold or silver ring. The tent sites and swimming areas (in the water) are hot.

    Geocaching is my latest pastime. Everyone should give than one a try. It is not as much work as the quest for gold.

    If you need advice on selecting a GPS unit; New-GPS.com can help you select the Best Handheld GPS Units for you.

  18. I love the idea about having kids make a vacation scrapbook. Bring the basic supplies and then they just pick up whatever they wish to remember and make their own book. What a great way to end each day! Thanks for the idea.

  19. Tina – absolutely! We love to find some water up in the mountains when the thermometer starts getting up there in the summer.

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  21. The antiquities act (actually it has an even longer name) is the controlling legislation on the national level, Roy. But many states have also enacted similar rules for their own lands.

    And then there are other potential problems. For instance, it is illegal to disturb a Native American burial or sacred site, no matter where it is located. Charges could range from grave robbing to violating the national antiquities act.

    So, while it’s fun to explore sites like old mining camps, and CCC dumps, and even Indian Mounds, it’s best to follow the backbacker’s credo: Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.

    Brook’s last blog post..Dec 27, Catfishing. Catfish fishing for the Big Fish.

  22. Brook – nothing wrong with contradicting me! That’s an excellent point about potential conflicts with the antiquities act (I think that is the correct legislation).

  23. A nice list of activities. But, unfortunately, I have to contradict two comments.

    First, on short nature paths or highly groomed trails, tennis shoes might be ok. And I stress the “might.” But tennis shoes do not provide enough foot support on any kind of rough surface. Even kids would benefit from hiking boots. Adults almost always should opt for books on hiking trails.

    Second, while it’s true that dumps can be treasure troves, on most Federal and State lands, sites like that are declared archeology sites, and it’s against the law to remove anything from them. So always check with local authorities before even disturbing such a location, let alone removing anything.

    Brook’s last blog post..Dec 27, Catfishing. Catfish fishing for the Big Fish.

  24. I’m wondering if a metal detector would be something that the kids could get into – not sure. I think they would, if they could find stuff with some regularity.

  25. Good article. Like Kevin, I like the idea of looking for CCC dump sites. The CCC built “Skyline Drive” through Shenandoah N.P. and I bet there is all kinds of cool stuff buried in the hills. Most of the CCC crews were mountain folk from the Appalachia area.

    I’ve also stumbled across some interesting finds while out sauntering in the mountains of Colorado.

    How cool would it be to find John Muirs hard-tack pan, or Henry David Thoreau pen squib?

    Happy new year,

    Adam

    Adam Shake’s last blog post..The Word “Green” Tops the List of 2008 Banned Words.

  26. Great list! There’s a lot of history at the parks that were built by the CCC, I never thought of looking for dump sites though. I’ll have to take along my metal detector next time!

  27. Great list… here’s #11: Tell stories! A fun way to get everyone involved is to start with just a sentence or two, and then “pass” the story to someone else. Keep going until you reach a good ending, or (as usually happens) the story just gets too weird to possibly continue :)

    -mike
    ——————–
    http://mudsweatbeers.blogspot.com/
    ——————–

    Mike’s last blog post..I have an idea…

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