By John Gailey
Jun 24, 2016

Council Camps are NOT just for Summer!


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Nearly two years ago, we explained that the Utah National Parks Council offers its twelve camping properties for ward and stake uses in a variety of settings. Since that time, more than 100 LDS wards and stakes have requested information on our programs, but you don’t have to wait for “our programs” to make a request of us.

In fact, I am surprised at how constraining the words “summer camp” are to some people. Our camps are not summer camps; they are there all year and whenever someone comes to ask if we can do “that” (whatever their “that” is), it is a real pleasure to explore possibilities with them. We love to say, “We can do that for you.”

For example, one couple wanted to get married in the fall foliage of Mountain Dell Scout Ranch’s maples. It was stunning to say the least; in fact, they honeymooned there as part of their rental agreement. But imagine that now with the Burch Lodge, seating for hundreds, and a view porch with an unparalleled vista; indoor or outdoor reception possibilities are endless.

Since nearly every family and church group has a different idea of what they would like to do outdoors, we stand ready to make it happen. So far, we have had church groups come to camp for:

  • Aaronic Priesthood encampments
  • Girls camps
  • Father and son campouts
  • High adventure activities with both young men and young women
  • Leadership Training Academy, including priesthood-led Wood Badge and NYLT Timberline
  • Helaman camps
  • Traditional merit badge-focused summer camps (bringing the entire LDS stake’s young men)
  • Activity Day events
  • Trek
stake trek

Trek and other reinactments are great at camp

Let me also share a few personal examples:

  • My ward has used cabins and BSA’s Introduction to Leadership Skills Course to teach youth leaders their stewardship.
  • Our ward had a barbecue/splash at Maple Dell. After our weenie roast and s’mores, Captain Moroni appeared and spoke to the group.
  • Our stake’s fifth-year girls took an adventure trek at Beaver High Adventure Base and used NYLT/Timberline to prep YCLs for camp.
  • Our stake did a priesthood retreat at camp with full youth program while all Scout leaders taught each other leader-specific training.
  • My family has had a reunion at Tifie Scout camp (outdoor movie night on the view porch is something rare) and a New Year’s family retreat in the winter wonderland of Maple Dell.
  • I am working with a stake that is coordinating a leadership youth conference using NYLT/Timberline alongside a full Wood Badge course.

Most church leaders think of camps as a place to work on merit badges in the summer. Though that happens, there is so much more possible. Here is a list of some nifty options we might consider together :

Week Nights

  • Family, den or pack nature hike
  • Game night after dark
  • Geocaching after dark
  • Articles of Faith trail
  • Campfire program
  • Ward FHE
  • Cook out
  • S’mores night
  • Testimony meeting by firelight
  • RM fireside alongside a real fire
  • Haunted camp trail
  • Rifle shoot
  • High COPE cube ropes course
  • Low COPE course
  • Archery Shoot
  • Pack Meeting at JJ with canal regatta
  • Family or pack picnic
  • Ward dinner party
  • Ward campout
  • Ward cookout
  • Ward Home Evening with Book of Mormon character visit


  • Fall, winter and spring campouts (in some camps we are open all year)
  • Snow day at camp
  • Winter getaway for families
  • Fall family fun day for the ward
  • Young Women camp certification workshop and campout
  • Stake Aaronic Priesthood retreat
  • Father and sons or Mother and daughter campouts
  • Stake merit badge pow wow once a month at camp
  • Leadership training weekend
  • Introduction to Leadership Skills course at camp
  • Relief Society workshop weekend and overnighter
  • Ward Council leadership retreat
  • YCL workshop
  • Activity Days campout/hike
  • Daddy daughter party or day camp

Party or Celebration

  • Elders or High Priest dinner party and shoot out
  •  Primary Activity Day party
  • Family sledding shindig
  • Relief Society Tea (with white linen outdoors in the fall colors; just beautiful)
  • Wedding party and reception with dance
  • Conference weekend at camp—you can view every session on one of our big screens
  • Ward movie night and slumber bash
  • Relief Society birthday party
  • 50th wedding anniversary party
  • Quinceanera
  • Bar Mitzvah
  • Youth dinner dance
  • Banquets, dinners, and bazaars
  • Fundraising events: banquet, auction, shoot out


Long Weekends


  • Ward Christmas party
  • Cinco de Mayo celebration
  • Ward Halloween party
  • 4th or 24th of July ward breakfast and celebration day
  • Thanksgiving dinner party
  • New Year’s Eve winterfest


With all those ideas, what are you waiting for? Four stakes have already reserved spots for 2018.

Large Group Focus

In order to better support the demand from church groups, the Utah National Parks Council has implemented three key initiatives.

  • Providing early signup for large groups, allowing them to schedule a camp property far in advance and even allowing exclusive use of the property based on the size of the group! We already have multiple reservations for two years out.
  • Implementing a discount program that favors large groups coming to camp, even during the core summer months.
  • Implementing an Adventure Track system that is focused on youth ages 11-18, including young women. Stakes and wards can then choose between many offerings, or build their own.

Discounts Available to Large Church Groups

The council has customized its discount structure to entice large church groups to attend together. Such groups may take advantage of multiple discounts at council camps. This includes:

  • Groups over 20 receive a $5/person discount
  • Groups over 100 receive a $10/person discount
  • Groups that pay in full by April 1 receive an additional $10/person discount
  • Larger groups that can fill an entire camp may receive even higher discounts

I’m Interested, What Next?

If your church group is interested in taking advantage of the council properties and camps, simply fill out the survey at and a member of the council camping team will contact you. They can provide assistance and background on the properties, programs, and past successes from other church groups that you can use to customize your outdoor experience.

John Gailey
Author: John Gailey | Director of Support Services, Utah National Parks Council, BSA.


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