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North Shore Summer Camp Guide

North Shore Summer Camp Guide

Summer camps can be a great way for kids to experience the outdoors and make new friends in a safe and supportive atmosphere. This is your North Shore Summer Camp Guide for area residential and day camps. Specifically, camps that are located within 45 miles of Duluth along the I-35 corridor, up Highway 61, and up the Gunflint Trail. While many other camps are located in Northern Minnesota, this was our guideline for inclusion in this guide. This guide specifically lists camps that are open over most of the summer (multiple sessions) and would be available to most families on their schedule. For week-long or short-term camps, we will have a season-specific guide, as well.

Why Summer Camps?

The North Shore is all about getting outside and enjoying the great outdoors. For many kids, summer camps can also be a great way to unplug from electronic devices and enjoy playing and learning new skills. Making new friends is also a highlight of summer camps for most kids. Most people utilize summer camp options closer to home, but you can also include a summer camp experience, whether is be a day camp or an overnight camp, into your vacation experiences, too. If the kids are saying they’re bored just being with family, consider a day or two of day camp to get them interacting with other kids during the day. Or, schedule a week or two of overnight camp while you enjoy a romantic kid-free week to the North Shore. Everyone gets to experience this beautiful area but with an experience better tailored to each person rather than the family as a whole.

Types of Summer Camps

The North Shore Summer Camp Guide is divided into several categories. Here are some definitions to help you find the right camp.

Day Camps

Day camps operate during the daytime only. Campers will return at the end of the day and sleep at home, then return to camp the next day. Most day camps allow campers to only come on certain days which makes this the most flexible option. You only have to pay for, and attend, the days you need/want. Other day camps do have week-long programming and would prefer campers to come each day.

Overnight/Residential Camps

Campers sleepover at these camps. Usually in cabins or lodges, although some North Shore camps utilize college dorms or tents. Campers are dropped off at the start of the session and picked up at the end, staying at the camp for the duration of the camp session.

Co-Ed Camps 

These camps are designed with all children in mind, whatever their gender.  Co-ed camps still keep boys and girls separated for their cabin experience, but may combine campers for activities. Other camps operate two separated campuses that do not interact.

Single Gender Camps

These are commonly referred to as “Boys Camp” or “Girls Camp”. Either the entire camp is designed for a single-gender experience, or the camp caters to both boys and girls but separates them by session so they aren’t at camp at the same time.

Traditional Camps 

A traditional camp is one that doesn’t have a specific specialty. Campers will experience a traditional summer camp with a variety of activities and experiences. 

Specialty Camps

These camps have a specific activity that the camp is designed around. Such activities include sports, horseback riding, band/music, art, theater, computer/STEM, and more. On the North Shore we also have several camps that focus on Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) camping experiences where campers spend more time camping in the BWCA in small groups.

Religious Camps 

These camps have a religious foundation. Their programming usually combines outdoor experiences with religious experiences. The North Shore is home to some Christian camps.

How to Pick a Summer Camp

The North Shore Summer Camp Guide features camps in the area are traditional co-ed summer camps that any child can attend. Others are single-gendered, for a specific age group, or aimed at giving a specific experience. Read through this guide of available camps to see which one will be the best fit for your child. We also recommend reading reviews, speaking to the camp directors directly with your questions/concerns, and seeing if you can get parent referrals from past campers to help you decide if that camp is right for you. 

There is also the American Camp Association (ACA) that has a strict set of safety and health guidelines camps can follow to receive ACA accreditation. While this isn’t required for a summer camp to operate, many parents prefer ACA accredited camps knowing the camp is following ACA standards.

Using the North Shore Summer Camp Guide

The North Shore Summer Camp Guide includes general camp information, such as camp type, location, cost, and their website. It does not include information that will change each year, such as session dates and camp fees (we only provide a pricing range). Camps are organized by region- starting in the Duluth-Superior area and moving up the shore. Camps located in the BWCA are listed last. We have split the list into camps that offer Residential/Overnight options and Day Camps. Note that some residential camps will also offer day camps.

Pricing Guide (Weekly Rates, Some Day Camps Offer Daily Rates)

$: Under $200
$$: $201-500
$$$: $501-750
$$$$: $751-1,000
$$$$$: $1,000-3,000
$$$$$$: $3,001+

Residential/Overnight Camps (Some Also Offer Day Camps)

Camp Type: Traditional Co-Ed Residential and Day Camp

Location: Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota. 45 minutes south of Duluth on Highway 61. This is the summer camp operated by the Duluth Area Family YMCA.

Cost: $ for Day Camp, $$ for Residential Camp

About YMCA Camp Miller: Camp Miller is a coed, overnight and day camp in Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota, right in the middle of 340 acres of tall pines, beautiful shoreline, and miles of trails.  Each summer over 600 campers of all ages experience the wonders of summer camp at Camp Miller, some for the first time, some returning as families with children of their own, and everything in between. Spring and Fall bring their own activities too when we host school and community groups.

Our campers come from across Minnesota, the United States, and even the globe. At Camp Miller, we welcome everyone to our camp community and give all a chance to be, belong, and become.

Website: https://www.duluthymca.org/camp/camp-miller

Personal Note: I have been a camper, counselor, and leadership director at YMCA Camp Miller since the early 90s. My children currently attend Camp Miller, as well. I can personally vouch for this camp. Camp Miller is the only camp on this list that we here at Exploring the North Shore have had personal experience with.

Camp Type: Religious-Christian Co-Ed Residential and Day Camp

Location: Mahotowa, Minnesota. The camp is about 40 minutes south of Duluth. 

Cost: $ for Day Camp, $$ for Residential Camp

About Covenant Park Bible Camp: Since 1940, Covenant Park has been serving youth, families, and church groups on Park Lake in Mahtowa, MN. We are conveniently located just 30 miles south of the Duluth Superior area. Offering summer youth camps, retreats, and rental facilities, the Covenant Park experience provides opportunities for people to encounter Christ, and grow in their relationship with Him. Adventure, relationships, and recreation are core elements of our programs, creating an atmosphere of exploration and relaxation.

Website: https://covenantpark.org/summer-camp/

Camp Type: Traditional Co-Ed Residential and Day Camp

Location: Finland, Minnesota. Finland is located up Highway 1 in Lake County

Cost: $$ for Day Camp, $$$ for Residential Camp

About Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center: Wolf Ridge offers a variety of outdoor education camp opportunities for K-12 students.

Our camps range from half-week overnight camps and day camps to ​full week stays for older students, all located on our 2,000-acre campus with 18 miles of trails overlooking Lake Superior.

In addition to our traditional camps programs, high school students can earn school credit by taking courses on Freshwater Ecology and Wilderness Ethics.

We also offer multi-week wilderness adventures for students looking to explore remote wild rivers, lakes, and forests with a Wolf Ridge naturalist as their guide.

Website: https://wolf-ridge.org/education/camps/

Camp Type: Religious-Christian Residential Camp

Location: Lutsen, Minnesota. The camp is located on Caribou Lake.

Cost:

About Cathedral of the Pines Camp: Cathedral of the Pines, a youth camp located 260 miles north of Minneapolis, in Lutsen, MN, combines some of the best ingredients for a positive summer experience…laughter, prayer, education, and recreation.

The mission of Cathedral of the Pines Camp is to serve children and young people by enhancing their spiritual and emotional development. The summer camping experience in the natural beauty of northern Minnesota helps the campers grow in their relationship with God.

Individuals of all ages gather on the lovely shores of Caribou Lake for Christian experiences in an atmosphere of friendship, fine facilities, and good food. Trained, caring counselors bring the Good News of God, and loving volunteers prepare meals. There are health professionals available at all times. A typical camp day includes Bible classes, swimming, paddle boats, nature hikes, sports fundamentals, arts and crafts, large and small group games, and, of course, delicious food! Each day at Cathedral of the Pines begins and ends in the chapel overlooking beautiful Caribou Lake.

The camp schedule includes separate weeks for children entering third grade through high school graduating seniors. Adult and family retreats are offered throughout the camping season.

Website: https://mtolivet.org/cathedral-of-the-pines-camp/

Camp Type: Canoe/Backpacking/Rock Climbing Specialty Camp, Single and All Gender Camp Options

Location: Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais, Minnesota. Camp Menogyn is located about 30 miles outside of Grand Marais.

Cost: $$$ for 5-6 Day Camps, $$$$$ for 11-13 Day Camps

About YMCA Camp Menogyn: Summer camp is magic. It has the power to transform even the timid camper into a confident leader. It turns strangers into instant friends. It allows campers to challenge themselves in a safe, supportive community.

Through Menogyn’s trip progression, campers gain confidence as they build skills. By living with other campers, they learn to work together and demonstrate the values of caring, honesty, respect, responsibility and equity.

At Y camps, our staff members are enthusiastic and well-trained. They guide campers of all backgrounds and abilities through programming that builds character and friendships in a safe, encouraging environment.

We offer canoe trips for a variety of skill levels. Our trips progress in difficulty, giving campers new challenges year after year.

Menogyn offers many backpacking trips throughout the country, from Isle Royale to Yellowstone National Park.

Under the supervision of our highly skilled staff, our rock climbing trips offer both novice and experienced climbers the chance to climb some of Minnesota’s best backcountry crags.

Website: https://www.ymcanorth.org/camps/camp_menogyn/summer_camp

Camp Type: Canoe/Wilderness Boy’s Residential Camp

Location: The end of the Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais, Minnesota. Birch is located about 55 miles outside of Grand Marais.

Cost: $$$$$$

About Birchwood Wilderness Camp: While many summer camps house a few hundred campers at once, we only accept between 35 and 45 campers (boys ages 7-17) per session. At Birchwood, we keep our enrollment small by design so we can focus on the things we value most: connection, self-discovery, and a sense of shared purpose.

We’ve witnessed campers leave for Birchwood wilderness trips as boys and come back as young men, changed by the path of the paddle. Over half a century, we’ve perfected the trips we offer in order to deliver these outdoor experiences to our campers!

Website: https://birchwoodwildernesscamp.com/

Day Camps

Camp Type: Traditional Co-Ed Day Camp

Location: YMCA at the Essentia Wellness center in Hermantown and North Star Academy in Duluth

Cost (5-Day, Monday-Friday):

About YMCA Day Camp:  YYMCA Day Camp is a summer day program serving kids ages 5-12. Owned and operated by the Duluth Area Family YMCA since 1979. YMCA Day Camp offers programs designed to develop self-esteem, life-long skills, acceptance of all people, and an appreciation for the environment. This summer, camp will take place at the North Star Academy and at the Y at the Essentia Wellness Center in Hermantown. Both locations offer on-site outdoor play spaces as well as nearby hiking trails full of endless exploration possibilities. 

Website: https://www.duluthymca.org/programs/camp/day-camps/duluth-area 

Camp Type: Traditional and Specialty Co-Ed Day Camps Available

Location: Various Duluth Area Parks, Depending on the Program

Cost: $

About Duluth Parks and Recreation Summer Programs: With unique themes and a variety of schedules, our camps are a great way to try something new, make friends, and spend time outside this summer! Traditional full-day camps are offered at area parks around Duluth. There are also specialty camps like Archery Camp, Curling Camp, Fishing Camp, Make a Mess Camp, and more! Traditional day camps run Monday-Friday and most specialty camps run Monday-Thursday.

Website (Select “Youth Activities” at the Top): https://secure.rec1.com/MN/duluthparks/catalog

Camp Type: Traditional Co-Ed Day Camp

Location: Spirit Mountain in Duluth

Cost: $

About Spirit Mountain Day Camp:  Spirit Mountain Summer Camps are the place for your child to be this summer! 

We have multiple biking and non-biking camp options for your child to choose from.  All camps are staffed by trained counselors and coaches. Camp at Spirit ROCKS!!  All camps are based at the Grand Avenue Chalet at 8551 Grand Avenue.

Flexible drop off and pick up one hour before or after camp times can be arranged to help work around parents’ work schedules for an additional fee of $30 per child per week.

Website: https://www.spiritmt.com/summer-camps

Camp Type: Animal-Themed Co-Ed Day Camp

Location: The Duluth Zoo

Cost (4-Day Camps): $ for Members, $ for Non Members

About the Duluth Zoo Day Camps: Lake Superior Zoo summer day camps provide a fun and safe setting where youth can make both human and animal friends!

Each camp features animal encounters, hands-on activities, crafts, and games that focus on inspiring children to care about wildlife, conservation, and the natural world. From Cub Club to Zoo Troop to Eco-Explorers, each level of camp exposes children to different opportunities as their learning levels progress. When they reach their teen years, youth can participate in Zoo Crew to gain a real-world understanding of what it’s like to work with animals and visitors at a zoo.

Website: https://lszooduluth.org/programs-camps/zoo-summer-camps/

Camp Type: Theater-Themed Co-Ed Day Camp

Location: The Duluth Playhouse

Cost (5-Day Camps): $-$

About the Duluth Playhouse Day Camp: Whether you are a first-time theatre dabbler wanting to try something new, or a young rising star seeking every opportunity to hone their craft, this summer you want to be at the Playhouse School of Performing Arts!

Website: https://duluthplayhouse.org/summer-camps/

Camp Type: Animal/Nature-Themed Co-Ed Day Camp

Location: The Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth

Cost: $ For Members – $ For Non-Members

About the Great Lakes Aquarium Day Camp: Summer day camps at Great Lakes Aquarium meet on-site and use the Aquarium exhibits, grounds, and community parks to learn about our natural world. Join us for a summer of caring for animals, celebrating Lake Superior, SCUBA diving, and more!

Website: https://glaquarium.org/education/for-families/camp/

Camp Type: Drop-Off, Supervised Day Camp

Locations: Lester Park, Ordean East, Lowell, and Laura MacArthur in Duluth

Cost: $

About K.E.Y. Zone Day Camp: The K.E.Y. Zone program provides a safe and supervised environment for youth to receive educational support and participate in enrichment activities. Program goals include fostering enrichment and learning, development of life skills, promoting regular attendance in school, and providing year-round for youth in kindergarten to 5th grade.

Website: https://duluth.ce.eleyo.com/child-care/2/key-zone

Camp Type: Christian Co-Ed Day Camp

Location: Duluth

Cost: $

About Wilderness Experience: Each of our day camps has a specific theme and focuses on certain skills, yet some elements will be a part of every camper’s time at Wilderness Experience: active time outdoors, Bible exploration, cultivating relationships with others, journaling and reflecting, interacting with animals, and growing in faith and care for God’s creation. Early drop off available for some grade levels for an additional fee.

Website: https://www.wildernessexperience.org/day-camps

Camp Type: STEM-Themed Co-Ed Day Camp

Location: STARBASE in Duluth

Cost: $

About: Our summer program incorporates elements of the school year program along with new and exciting STEM content, to create a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Students will get hands-on with rocket engineering, CAD design, rover programming, and earth science investigation and exploration.

As students dive into exploring the amazing world of STEM, they will also take away important skills we embed into every activity including teamwork, respect, and creativity as well as learning about careers in the STEM fields in our region and beyond.

Website: https://www.starbasemn.org/duluth/programs/summer-program/

Camp Type: Traditional and Specialty Co-Ed Day Camp

Location: Hartley Nature Center, Duluth

Cost: $

About Hartley Nature Center Day Camp: At Hartley Nature Center our day camps feature a mix of traditional camp activities with a focus on exploring our natural surroundings, no matter what the weather! The 660-acre Hartley Park serves as our primary launchpad for adventures aplenty, with additional off-site opportunities for older youth. Early Care is available for an extra fee.

Website: https://hartleynature.org/hartley-nature-center-programs/day-camps/

Camp Type: Traditional Co-Ed Day Camp

Location: Grand Marais Community Center and YMCA

Cost: $

About Cook County YMCA Day Camp: YMCA Day Camp is all about discovery. Kids have the opportunity to explore nature, find new talents, try new activities, gain independence, and make lasting friendships and memories. And, of course, it’s fun too. Families will complete the Day Camp Questionnaire when registering online.

Website: https://www.duluthymca.org/programs/camp/day-camps/cook-county

Camp Type: Traditional Craft Specialty Co-Ed Day Camp

Location: North House Folk School in Grand Marais

Cost: $

About North House Folk School Day Camp: Our day camps for youth ages 8 – 16. As a camper, you will try out lots of skills while making new friends and having fun! Youth will be in a small group while they learn from instructors who are knowledgeable and excited to help youth learn about traditional crafts.

Website: https://northhouse.org/programs/youth-summer-camp

North Shore Summer Camp Guide Podcast

Podcast coming soon! In the meantime, enjoy a random episode of the “Exploring the North Shore” podcast.

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