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About the Lair

Endless Fun. Endless Mountain Memories.

cabin with cal flag and summer of love flag Photo by Suz McFadden / Cal Alumni Association

Since 1949, the Cal Alumni Association’s Lair of the Golden Bear has provided unforgettable summer vacations for generations of Cal alumni families and friends of the University. Located just three hours east of the Bay Area at 5,600 feet in beautiful Pinecrest, CA, the Lair’s fresh air, sunshine, and surrounding natural beauty provide our guests with an amazing mountain playground.

The beauty of the Lair experience is that campers are able to unwind at their own speed. Some choose to dive into camp life—and the entire region—with reckless abandon every day, while others just relax by the pool all week with a good book. No matter how you choose to spend your time, you don’t need to worry about cooking, cleaning, or what to do with the kids—they’ll be happily engaged in their age group programs with our outstanding staff. Your most difficult decision of the week will be what to do next!

A Camp for Everyone

Lair campers of all ages enjoy a multitude of staff-led activities during each day of your stay. Others find adventure on their own. By the time departure day arrives, you will have fallen in love with our special corner of the Sierra Nevada! Your experience includes:
  • Campfire shows, disco bingo, ghost stories, guest speakers, and sing-alongs
  • Guided high-country hikes and kayaking
  • Arts and crafts, including tie-dye, ceramics, and T-shirt painting
  • Swimming, water aerobics, and yoga
  • Guest speakers twice a week
  • Softball, tennis, volleyball, and kickball
  • Horseshoes, ping pong, paddle tennis, and shuffleboard
  • Powerboating, fishing, golf, and horseback riding are also available at nearby independent facilities (at additional cost)
Please note that for week long family camp sessions, CAA membership is required for a least one attending adult in each tent. CAA membership is not required for any of our adult sessions or for our Family Weekends. You do not need to be a Cal graduate to join the Cal Alumni Association (CAA). To join CAA, please call 888.CAL.ALUM.

Camps Blue, Gold, and Oski

The activities and programs for children (and parents!) at each camp are nearly identical. Each has its own staff and facilities, which include a common dining hall, pool, sports courts, art area, and Cub Corral (our enclosed kids’ playground), and all three serve three hearty family-style meals each day. The primary difference is that Camps Blue and Gold have larger facilities, each hosting as many as 85 families per session. Blue and Gold campers also participate in week-long athletic tournaments, seeking a highly coveted Lair trophy. With 125 campers per session, Camp Oski is the smallest of the three camps—featuring less emphasis on sports and competition, it is also more young-family-friendly. Oski also affords a more intimate experience than Blue or Gold. Its cabins are set in tent circles promoting a greater sense of camaraderie and community. When the sun goes down, parents are able to relax and unwind around a campfire located just feet from their sleeping children.

Check out our accommodations »

We offer a variety of sessions tailored to an extraordinary camping experience, including popular adult specialty camps:

Photo by Lisa Lefrak
Photo by Kevin Kitsuda
Photo by Suz McFadden
Photo by Suz McFadden
Photo by Suz McFadden
Photo by Suz McFadden
Photo by Nancy Rubin

The Legendary Lair Staff

Our staff team is comprised of an outstanding mix of college-aged students, mostly rooted in the UC system. Without question, the staff is the heart and soul of camp life, providing boundless energy, warmth, and enthusiasm every moment of your stay. In addition to leading all of the camp programming, staffers are positive role models for your children, and their top priority is delivering a fantastic vacation experience.

Great Food

Three hearty meals are served family-style each day in our camp dining halls. The food is all you can eat, and typically includes a hot entrée with side dish options. Lunches offer a full salad bar, fruit, and homemade soups. For those with special dietary needs, there are options at every meal. Out-of-camp hikers or day-trippers can make bag lunches to go at breakfast. A daily continental breakfast is also available for late risers, and every night the Camp Blue and Gold Burger Shacks sell assorted hot food and snacks.

So Many Conveniences

  • Lair EMTs and/or a Nurse Practitioner is on call 24 hours a day for minor injuries and illnesses. Our Nurse Practitioner is available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday, and rotates among the three camps each day. Major hospital facilities are 30 miles away in Sonora
  • Weekly non-denominational Creekside services at camp, plus Catholic mass nearby at Pinecrest Lake
  • Camp Stores that sell the latest and greatest Lair-wear, in addition to ice-cream, snacks, art supplies, and a few sundry items
  • Free washer and dryers
  • Daily mail service
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Pay phones
  • Limited wheelchair access—please call 510.900.8255 for more information

Please note, no pets are allowed at our Lair camps, but they are allowed at neighboring Pinecrest Chalet.

Lair History

The Lair at Shasta, June 1948

As one of the crown jewels of the Cal Alumni Association, the Lair of the Golden Bear has enjoyed an incredibly long and rich history and remains the oldest and the largest of all alumni association camps in North America. Today, with almost 9,000 annual campers, we are proud to say we are among the most successful of any summer camp in the world. But it wasn’t always like that. There was an era when Cal alumni did not flock to the mountains to live with their families for a week in a pristine yellow pine forest.

In 1948, with the war years having taken a great toll on families and Cal alumni giving back to their beloved University, CAA’s first Executive Director (and eventual founder of East Bay Regional Parks District), Robert Sibley ’03, spearheaded the acquisition of some land in the Mt. Shasta region of Northern California. The simple goal of the endeavor: to rekindle the spirit and support of alumni for their alma mater at a brand new family camp.

More than 1,000 alumni attended that first year. Managed by Dick Bahme ’40, and located 20 miles beyond Redding, the newly named (but without actual verified origin) “Lair of the Golden Bear” was officially underway. Because of the more than five-hour drive from the Bay Area and an additional seven-mile dirt road to get to the Lair, fewer than 50 individuals registered for the 1949 season. For most of those first campers, it is said the camp went “beyond rustic.”

 

The Pinecrest Lair, June 1949

Even after this bump, the idea of providing a special camp retreat destination for Cal families did not go away. The baby boom was in full swing, families were growing quickly, the economy improved, and camp momentum remained strong. As CAA Stanley McCaffrey ’38 took over the reins and with a second (and ultimately final) Shasta summer looming, he began the search for an improved location for the Lair. A search was conducted up and down the state, with beachfront programming even considered at one point. It quickly was determined coastal weather simply wasn’t going to be conducive enough to the family experience.

Early in 1949, the YMCA was looking to sell their existing camp property in the central Sierra Nevada town of Pinecrest, CA. At 5,600 feet, and with a reliably warm summer climate and incredible natural beauty, Pinecrest easily won the competition. McCaffrey quickly tabbed former Cal baseball star and forester, Mike Koll ’41, to be his first manager. Soon a modest staff was hired, and the rest is family camp history. The Lair in Pinecrest opened to campers on June 25, 1949, with 125 campers per week attending a ten-week camping season. Neighboring Camp Blue opened in 1957, and the Lair’s third camp, Camp Oski , has enjoyed full-summer family camp operation since 2000.

We are delighted to share these heirlooms with you. We thank the Michael J. Koll family and the Bancroft Library for the oral history of Koll’s unmatched Lair of the Golden Bear service. We are grateful to the Robert Sibley family for the wonderful video from the Mt. Shasta Lair in 1948, and the very first of the Pinecrest years, 1949. Lastly, the full color and full audio movie from Camp Gold, Summer 1953, comes from the esteemed Myron Sugarman family — for all of it we are very thankful.

We look forward to seeing you in the mountains. Go Bears!

Read Michael J. Koll—The Lair of the Bear and the Alumni Association, 1949–1993 (.pdf)

Support the Lair

The Lair is grateful for the support of our campers—current and past.

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us forest service sealThe Lair is located in the Stanislaus National Forest and is operated under Special Use Permit from the U.S. Forest Service. We do not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, or disability.