One of the most successful summer camps in the country, the Lair of the Golden Bear provides action-packed outdoor vacations for Cal alumni and their friends, many of whom return year after year. Located in the Sierra Nevada in the Stanislaus National Forest, the Lair experience includes plenty of options for hiking, swimming, and other activities. Along the way, campers form lasting friendships among people with a common bond: the Cal alumni community.
But unlike the typical camping trip, you won’t have any chores to manage: no tents to build, no cooking, and no activity planning. The Lair staff take care of all that. All you have to do is pick a week, book a tent, and get ready for an unforgettable vacation.
The Lair 101
If you’re new to the Lair, we’re here to help you get acquainted. To set you up for summer success, here are 7 key things to know about the Cal Alumni Association’s wooded hideaway.
1. It Really Is for Everyone
While the Lair’s family camp is a highlight among Cal parents and kids, people of all ages camp at the Lair. Even non-Cal grads are welcome at the Lair.
“We have infants and we have campers in their 90s,” says Cathy Connelly, senior director of Pinecrest Operations for the Lair. “Grandparents, aunts, and uncles often camp as a group because it gives them a chance to visit without anyone having to cook or clean up.”
Connelly also notices empty-nesters returning to the Lair to relax with the friends they’ve made over the years. Later, their all-grown-up kids may camp at the Lair with children of their own.
2. It’s Three Camps, One Lair
The Lair is comprised of three camps—Camp Blue, Camp Gold, and Camp Oski. All camps share similar features, but they’re operated independently. For example, Camp Blue and Camp Gold each accommodate about 325 campers. They both have swimming pools and tennis courts. Camp Oski hosts about 145 campers—snuggled in tent cabins arranged in a circle to promote togetherness. It has a swimming pool but no tennis court. All three camps have the same schedule of activities, but they’re led by different teams.
All three camps are almost identical, so no matter which camp you choose, you’re ensured a great time.
3. You’ll Sleep in a Bed (But Bring Bedding)
All camps are comprised of tent cabins—cozy wooden structures with a canvas top. You’ll get a mattress, some shelving, an electric light, and an outlet, but no blankets, pillows, or HDTV. You’ll find shared bathroom facilities a short walk away. Because wifi and cell phone service are limited, consider using your time at the Lair to fully unplug.
If you want extra insulation from the mountain air, choose Camp Oski. In addition to regular tent cabins, Camp Oski includes 10 heated tent cabins that have their own bathrooms and sleep up to six people.
4. You Can Leave the Camp Food at Home
You will not have to survive on freeze-dried food. The Lair provides three hot meals a day—with dessert! Whether you’re vegetarian, gluten-free, or eat anything that’s not nailed down, the Lair will keep you well fed. They even provide s’mores fixings, snacks, and sack lunches for hikes. If you still need something to tide you over, you can pick up a snack at the camp store.
5. You’ll Never Get Bored (Unless You Want To)
Each camp offers a full itinerary of optional activities for all ages. At family camp, parents and kids may share breakfast together before the kids head off to age-group programs. Everyone reconvenes at lunch, which is followed by afternoon group activities. After dinner, enjoy the campfire show or do some stargazing before falling into bed.
“There’s a good mix of family time and ‘me time’,” says Connelly. “There’s no screen time, and everyone is making great memories together.”
6. There’s Something for Everyone
In addition to family camp, the Lair offers three camps for adults: Sports & Recreation Camp, Women’s Wellness Weekend, and Food & Wine Experience. Whether you want quality time with your cousins, a culinary adventure with your sweetheart, or a high-energy tennis match with friends, the Lair has it all planned for you.
If you’re camping for the first time, Connelly suggests giving the Lair a call: a staff member will suggest a session that’s the best fit for you and/or your kids. “Our team does a great job of recommending camps based on the ages of the kids,” she says. “Parents meet parents, kids meet kids.”
7. You Can Visit Year-Round
Starting in 2022, Cal alums can visit the Lair any time of the year. The Lair recently built ten year-round tent cabins at Camp Oski, with another five coming in 2023. Each heated cabin sleeps up to six and includes a private bathroom, mini-fridge, coffeemaker, and microwave. Skiing, anyone?
Robert Sibley, the alumni association’s first executive director, started the Lair as a way to rekindle Cal spirit after a devastating war. Several decades later, the Lair’s community-building nature holds true. It’s a place where alumni and friends can unwind however they choose, surrounded by friends and supported by legendary staff.
Questions? The Lair website has a wealth of information about the camps, the sessions, and how to book. If you still need answers, call the Lair staff at 510-900-8255 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.