How to Have Fun Camping with Teens

Can teens and have fun family camping? Absolutely! While younger kids may be easily entertained by bug hunts, coloring or just running around being silly, teen fun can seem like more of a challenge. Rest assured, your teen can have a blast on a camping trip with a bit of planning that considers their interests. You will have fun too; teens are a hoot to hang out with!

Here are a few simple ideas that can help make camping with your teen a memorable family experience:

Invite a Friend

Dare to be the cool parent that lets your teen’s friends tag along on your trips. This age group loves to be with their peers, and a teen friend is often independent enough to easily accompany your family. Your teen will love sharing camp adventures and shenanigans with a close friend and will be much less likely to be hit with the typical feelings of missing out. Big, big points here if you can add an extra teen to your adventure!

Find the Right Campground

Older kids have established interests, so make sure to pick a campground that offers amenities with their interests in mind. If your teen is a swimmer find a campground that has a swimming beach. Do they love to bike? Make sure there are biking rentals and trails. A volleyball player in the family? Many campgrounds will have beach volleyball. How about a lake for fishing? You get the point. Take the time to search for a campground that will have what you teen needs to have fun!

Both national parks and state parks will list the amenities available at their campgrounds.

Make Your Campsite Cool and Cozy

Add little touches to your campsite to make it a bit cooler. Set up string lights inside (or outside) your tents, bring a hammock for naps or sleeping under the stars or add a (small) blue tooth speaker for music. Set up a tarp or canopy to create a shady spot to hang out and play cards, board games or journaling. Ask you teen what could make your campsite a little “extra”.

Once you have your campground and campsite details down, you can plan for some fun activities that even the grumpiest teen can enjoy.

Offer Some Privacy, Independence, and Leadership

Teens will likely appreciate some independence on the trip. Maybe you sleep in separate tents after training your teen to set up her own tent. Maybe you let your teen siblings hike a few minutes behind you (and they agree to catch up in 30 minutes at the next trail feature for a family pic). Maybe your older teen takes on a key role in the trip preparations, like researching the trails and activities or planning the meals for the family.

Propose a Photo/Selfie Scavenger Hunt

Meet them where they are! Teens love selfies. A photo or selfie scavenger hunt is a way for them to get our there and explore nature. Create a scavenger hunt sheet with your teen to take along on a hike or let them explore the campgrounds. Research the trails in advance and plan some more exciting hunts like beach, waterfall, stream, bridge, fallen tree, or specific color flower. As they find the items, have them take a selfie or snap a photo of it to share later. Bonus: you’ll end up with a bunch of great photos of your trip and your teen!

Do More Adventurous Hiking

One great point about camping with teens; your hikes can be more adventurous. Teens have more strength and stamina than younger kids, so this creates an opportunity for longer, more challenging hikes. You’ll want to look for hikes that are more exciting and lead to an exceptional feature, as teens may not be excited about hiking to nowhere. Find hikes with breathtaking overlooks, caves, waterfalls, stream crossings, tunnels, and caves. National and State Park websites and apps like TrailLink will have trail descriptions to help you choose your best hikes.

Find More Adventurous Activities

Teens will likely be interested in more adventurous activities as well. Some options to consider include kayaking, canoeing, snorkeling, skiing, snowboarding, rafting, tubing, snow shoeing, mountain biking and various boat rides.

Go Geocaching

Geocaching is a fun way to experience the outdoors with teens. It’s basically a big worldwide outdoor hide and seek adventure! You can use your phone as a GPS device to hide and seek containers, called geocaches or caches, at specific locations marked by coordinates. The best place to get started is at . Create a free account and download the app on your phone to participate in geocaching near you.

Build Fairy / Gnome Houses

Create and let the imagination flow using often unnoticed materials found in nature. Build a fairy house or gnome house using materials such as bark, twigs, dead leaves, rocks, acorns, and pinecones that you find around your campsite. It is important to be respectful of nature and be mindful of any campground rules.

One important rule to remember is to not cause harm to the environment. For example, don’t take materials from living trees. Look for materials that are already on the ground. Make it a temporary structure, build your house at your campsite, and return the materials back to nature before you leave.

Building a miniature structure from nature for tiny creatures can be quite therapeutic. Keeps those teens young at heart!

Try Campfire Cooking

This is a great activity to do as a family or let the teens do the cooking. If you are a family of foodies, you can even do a friendly campfire cook off competition. Campfire cooking is versatile and a fun way to let your teen’s cooking creativity shine through. Foil packets, pie irons and campfire desserts are perfect for teens to show off their culinary talents. Take a look at our Quick and Easy Campfire Meals article for recipe ideas!

Bring Games

Bring some of your family’s favorite games to pass time and have fun when you are not out exploring nature. Cornhole, horseshoes, board games, and card games are a just a few suggestions. Games that you can play inside your tent are also a life saver on rainy days while at camp.

Plan Some After Dark Activities

Nighttime will likely be a camp favorite for teens. There is something magical about being by a fire when the stars are out. Remember to respect quiet hours at your campsite while having nighttime fun. We’ve listed a few ideas that are sure to bring out the night owls in your group!

  • Night hike: Pack your flashlights and headlamps and explore nature after dark. Just make sure to do this on well-established and flat trails that are free of hazards.
  • Glowstick charades: Glowstick charades is a new twist on an old favorite. This game works best with the thicker glow sticks (vs. bracelets or necklaces), but a combination of the types could add some fun. Using a glowstick in each hand, act out your charade in the dark. This is a super fun way to get some laughs!
  • Skits / stories around the fire: Teens can create a skit and perform to a fireside audience. Another story game that is entertaining is Two truths and a Lie. Each person sitting around the campfire shares three “facts” about themselves–two are true, and one is a lie. The other players must correctly guess the lie. Fun times for sure!
  • S’mores of course!

John Olsen

John Olsen is a seasoned adventurer with 20 years of writing, public speaking, team leadership, analytics and project management experience.

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