From coast to coast, Canada is full of incredible programs, camps and experiences that inspire kids of all ages to love the outdoors. Whether your family is into long days spent free-playing in the forest or you prefer a more skills-based environment, there’s something to suit everyone, from tots to teens. From wilderness schools and mountain bike skills to climbing and conservation, here are 15 of the best outdoor programs across the country.
One With Nature, Vancouver Island, BC
One With Nature
This unique wilderness survival and bushcraft skills school on Vancouver Island caters to families and kids aged nine and up. Their weekend Self-Reliance School operates three-season curriculum teaching kids vital, life-preserving skills such as making fire, sourcing water and food, orientation, navigation, building shelters and learning about local wildlife. Kids who progress from beginner to intermediate will learn knife skills, plant identification and more advanced bushcraft.
Wandering Wheels, Revelstoke, BC
Give your little rippers an unforgettable experience riding some of Revelstoke's finest single track and trails with local guides and instructors. Kids as young as five are welcome to join the summer camp and after-school fun, provided they can safely ride a bike with 16-inch wheels. Little shredders will learn safe riding habits and improve their skills and coordination while older teens will get plenty of time to practice hitting jumps and drops in a safe and encouraging environment.
Three Bars Ranch, Cranbrook, BC
Three barsThis award-winning family-friendly Dude Ranch, located between Banff and Glacier National Parks, has a special focus on teaching little ones the ropes of ranch life with kids' horse riding programs starting from age six. Little cowboys and cowgirls will take a trail ride into the forest to build a fort or pan for gold. There's also a ranch petting zoo and plenty of places to catch frogs, roast marshmallows and enjoy a taste of the wild west.
OnTop Mountaineering, Canmore, AB
On Top Mountaineering
Get your teens scaling new heights with multi-day backpacking trips, mountaineering and rock climbing camps. OnTop Mountaineering's youth programs are for kids aged 11 to 17 years old and consist of scrambles, hikes, peak ascents and climbs. OnTop also offers week-long backpacking trips that give youngsters a true taste of the backcountry. With often limited cell-phone coverage, it’s the perfect way to get your teen to unplug from their social networks and reconnect with nature.
SOGO Adventure Running, Calgary, AB
Starting them young, SOGO Adventure Running offers orienteering programs for your littlest ones, starting at just two years old. Operating spring through fall in parks and wild spaces across Calgary and the foothills, SOGO gets kids excited about map reading, trail running, teamwork and racing. It's the perfect way to get tiny ones started on a life-long love of the outdoors. They also offer advanced orienteering programs for older kids and teens up to age 17.
TimberNook, multiple locations, BC, AB, SK, ON
Shirley Lynne PhotographyFollowing the outdoor education model pioneered by pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom, TimberNook is a child-led sensation-focused nature play experience adored by parents and children alike. Tree climbing, creek jumping, rope swinging and more, play themes encourage children to explore and navigate their outdoor surroundings with confidence, promoting strong, balanced and happy kiddos. There are year-round, weekly programs and seasonal camps for kids aged 18 months to 11 years old.
Wild Sky Adventure Learning, Saskatoon, SK
Wild Sky Adventure Learning is a non-profit run by parents, teachers and nature-lovers creating experiential, land-based learning opportunities that are adventurous, guided by curiosity, and exploratory in nature. Programs are for pre-schoolers and kids up to 12 years old. Wild Sky instructors are advocates of risky play, getting dirty, bushcraft, stargazing, imagination play and more.
Nature's Edge Tourism, St. Adolphe, MB
Southern Manitoba's only bilingual, Indigenous female-owned and operated stand up paddleboard school teaches kids aged 10 and up to glide confidently on southern Manitoba's many waterways. Located just south of Winnipeg, Nature's Edge has a strong focus on water education, empowerment and screen-free experiences for families and youth. Their programs aim to make kids and teens feel like they can walk on water.
Nature Guardians Youth Program, ON
Nature Guardians is the youth program of conservation non-profit Ontario Nature. It brings young people together through leadership opportunities that inspire the next generation of conservation leaders in Canada. Aimed at high school-aged teenagers, the program also responds to an urgent need in society to reconnect youth to the natural world. By providing opportunities to explore, discover and protect wild species and spaces, the program nurtures a love for nature and a commitment to conservation.
Rad Adventures, ON
Getting kids excited to ride, Rad Adventures features a whole range of programs for kids aged four and up and is the perfect introduction to trail riding for kids who have recently learned to pedal and those who are mastering more complex skills. They also run mother-daughter riding camps for kids aged nine to 13 years old to inspire family bonding through mountain biking and a life-long love of sport. Their programs run from Collingwood, Meaford, Owen Sound, Thornbury and Loree Forest.
Tall Ships Adventure, Ottawa, ON
Tall Ships Canada
For a totally unique adventure on the high seas, sign your teens up for a Tall Ships Adventure where they'll learn how to sail and crew a tall ship on a multi-day experience for kids aged 12 to 18. Young sailors will get to set the sails, helm the ship and work the engine room between helping with meal preparation, games and swimming.
Forest School on the Mountain, Montreal, QC
Montreal's iconic urban green space, Mount Royal, has its very own forest school. This nature immersion program caters to even the tiniest of adventurers with programs for kids aged zero and up. It's a fun and unique way for youngsters and parents to reconnect with the natural environment through hands-on learning, creativity and play. Guided by their interests and curiosity, young nature lovers explore Mount Royal and learn about its biodiversity and protection with seasoned instructors.
Second Nature Outdoors, Fredericton, NB
Second Nature's weekly kids’ clubs are second to none, offering kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, sailing, canoeing and mountain biking for kids aged six to 16 in Fredericton and Oromocto. They also offer day-adventures in kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding as well as sunrise paddles and more for families with kids of all ages throughout the summer.
Echo Pond Environmental Education Centre, NL
Echo Pond Summer Camp offers a unique camping experience in the heart of the Avalon Penninsula's boreal forest. This off-grid facility, powered entirely by renewable energy sources, gives kids aged seven to 16 years old a chance to learn about the local ecology, experience sustainable living in action and grow their relationship with the natural world.
Girls on Boards, NS
Girls on Boards
Combining body-positivity and female empowerment with board sports like stand up paddleboarding and snowboarding, Girls on Boards is a unique non-profit program for girls aged eight to 18. Founded in the town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Girls on Boards runs sponsored trips from various locations in Canada, as well as their base on the edge of the spectacular Bay of Fundy.