Summer is almost here, which means school will be out before you know it. Summer camps are a great way for kids to continue learning and connecting with their peers, and two local ranches are offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences. From encompassing nature and making crafts to riding horses and learning how to raise farm animals, these camps aim to help children make new friends, learn new skills and develop self-confidence.
Colorado Mountain Ranch
For more than 75 years, the Walker family has been offering summer camps for kids at the Colorado Mountain Ranch (CMR). True then and still true now, these camps are a place for children to have fun and build a community of their own while enjoying the simplicity of nature.
“In today’s fast-paced, changing world, children can count on a welcoming place where they can be themselves,” says Lynn Walker, director of the Colorado Mountain Ranch. “We see it as important for children to build a solid foundation — physically, mentally, emotionally and socially — from which they can develop their own personality and character.”
Lynn, her husband Mike Walker and his sister Gail Walker have been running these camps for 50 years, following in the footprints of their parents, who operated the camp for its first 25 years. They are now second-generation ranch owners and camp directors, and the third and fourth generations of Walkers are up-and-coming.
“Children find that the Colorado Mountain Ranch gives them feelings of comfort, safety and security. It’s a place they can count on to keep their best interests at heart,” Lynn says. “Many staff members begin at CMR as young campers, graduate from the Counselors-in-Training teen leader program and then become part of the camp staff team for many years and part of the camp family forever.”
This year, day camp is offered for children in grades 2-12 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Explorers program, for grades 2-8, offers an introduction to horses, trail riding and other activities. In the Western Rider program, designed for kids in grades 6-12, daily rides are half-day, full of walking, loping and trotting with horses in open spaces. CMR also offers a day program called Mountaineers for older kids in grades 7-11. At Mountaineers, campers learn about the wilderness and the importance of leaving no trace, archery and other outdoor skills. There’s also a Counselors-in-Training program for teens in high school.
The popular Thursday overnight program is once again offered for campers in grades 3-12 who are enrolled in any CMR program. Overnight campers enjoy camp food, a campfire and a themed event with costuming and crafting decorations and props.
Some camps already have waitlists, so Lynn recommends parents register their kids soon. This year, CMR is also offering scholarships for families impacted by the Marshall Fire, kids who attend Gold Hill Elementary School or Native American children.
For more information, please visit www.coloradomountainranch.com.
Juniper Hill Ranch
Tori Peglar, the director and founder of Juniper Hill Ranch, took her children to different summer camps for years, but she often found there was a lack of community.
“I was a Boulder mom for years, and I would drop my kids off at different camps,” Tori says. “A lot of the camps were really large camps and at the end of the week, the kids didn’t necessarily know each other’s names, or the counselors didn’t necessarily know everyone’s names except for what’s on the name tags. And I was like, ‘Gosh, there’s such a missed opportunity here to build a stronger sense of community and also to build kids' confidence about doing something new.’”
In 2018, Tori moved four miles north of Boulder to a 10-acre ranch called Juniper Hill Ranch. One year later, Juniper Hill Ranch held its first summer camps focused on fostering self-confidence and community among girls between the ages of 8 and 12.
Juniper Hill Ranch camps are inspired by Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program, which inspires young people to be compassionate leaders. After taking the Roots & Shoots educator certificate course, Tori wanted to help girls become compassionate leaders and build their self-confidence.
“Our camps are all girls, and one of the reasons why is there are a number of studies that show that between the ages of 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels plummet by 30 percent,” Tori says. “When girls’ confidence hits its lowest at age 14, boys’ confidence levels are still 27 percent higher.”
After a two-year hiatus in 2020 and 2021, the camps have been back since last summer and are better than ever this year.
Juniper Hill Ranch will host all girl day camps for three weeks this June and one week in early July. Each camp is limited to 12 to 15 girls, something Tori says helps foster a greater sense of community among campers and counselors. From Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., campers will explore nature and life on the ranch. Activities include learning how to feed and take care of farm animals, team-building games and crafts. During the week, campers work together every day to complete a large group mural in one of the horse stalls.
“Kids are actually spending time on a small ranch in and out of barns, taking care of ranch animals. It’s a unique opportunity that most kids don’t ever have unless they spend time at a dude ranch with their families,” Tori says.
New this year, Juniper Hill Ranch is also offering a middle school-age internship program. Often middle schoolers are too young to get a summer job and too old to attend elementary-aged camps. Tori says this internship program is an opportunity for middle schoolers to do something constructive with their summer, learn a new skill and give back. During this five and a half day program, interns will learn how to take care of a ranch and ranch animals and make natural products like soaps and deodorant to donate to the Emergency Family Assistance Association in North Boulder.
“Our internship for middle school-aged girls provides an amazing opportunity to develop strong connections with other girls their age, but it also empowers them to realize that they can make a real difference in the lives of others in the community,” she says. “And maybe this will be a surprise to them to discover, but I want them to realize there are fewer barriers than they think to get involved. That’s our take-home message. You can make a real difference, no matter what your age.”
Juniper Hill Ranch also offers need-based tuition assistance and full scholarships for families in need. Those interested can contact Tori at email@example.com.
For more information, please visit www.juniperhillranch.com.