Questions & Answers


Why Skylake Yosemite Camp?

Camps can be similar in many ways, but also very different.  Our strongest advice is to research only American Camp Association camps  which  are  also  members  of  the Western Association of Independent Camps. Then, do  your homework to find the differences. We of course believe Skylake is the place to be and here's why...

Our Strongest Points

  • Continuity: Only 3 Directors since 1945 (Original owner Wendell Howe, followed by his son John Howe, and since 1995, Jeff Portnoy who has been affiliated with Skylake since 1984.)
  • Location: Driving distance to Yosemite National Park and the only California summer camp on a 5-miles long, warm-water lake. 
  • Cabin Groups: Our bunk cabins house a small number of campers with their Camp Counselor, they become a family unit. Cabins normally house 6-7 campers and 1 counselor.  Our youngest campers also will have a CILT (Camper In Leadership Training as part of their cabin group.) 
  • Activities: Our campers select their own activities, from waterfront, to land activities, to out of camp trips.
  • Tradition: We are a camp which looks, feels and  functions like an East Coast style summer camp  with decades of traditions dating back to 1945.  Skylake Alumni are a special group of people who continue to feel the Skylake magic into their adult years. 

Where is Skylake?

Skylake is located on Bass Lake approximately 1 hour east of Fresno, almost equal distance from Los Angeles & San Francisco. The Fresno International Airport is one hour from camp. We are 20 miles from the southern entrance into Yosemite National Park.  The camp is located at an elevation 3600 feet in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in a beautiful Pine Forest. 

What Does it Mean When You Say... Skylake is Like a Traditional East Coast Style Camp?

Skylake is just like the picturesque, charming and sentimental camps you see in movies. We are not a one-focus kind of camp, like sports camp, science camp or computer camp. We are a camp with rustic cabins in a pine forest in the mountains on a beautiful warm-water lake. . .where singing, nightly campfires and playing with friends is our focus. Our philosophy… Skylake is a place for kids to unwind and not compete.

How Do I Know if My Child is Ready for Sleepaway Camp?

If your child is bringing up the topic and/or is excited by the idea, then he or she is ready. If you bring up the topic and do not get positive feedback, then your child may not be ready. We are happy to talk with you in person about any concerns. We would love to hear about any unique situations and feel them through. We want what you want and we will let you know if we think your child might not be ready.  

Does Skylake Have a Swimming Pool?

We think swimming pools are fun at country clubs, backyards and health clubs but not at camp. A big lake is essential to a special summer camp experience. Skylake is located on five-mile long Bass Lake in the Sierra National Forest.  We have our own large private dock with an enclosed swim area for our  younger swimmers. The lake is always at a warm temperature for swimming and perfect for waterskiing, wakeboarding, stand up paddle boarding and more. 

Will I Be Able to Stay in Touch with My Child?

In-season, Skylake’s secure “Parent Log-In” section offers parents a daily glimpse of a “day in the life” of your child’s stay at camp. Everyday we upload dozens of photographs of the campers in the midst of their many activities. Reading the Director’s chatty, daily website news articles will help you get a feel for every day your child is at camp.  You can even learn what your child is eating! Our breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are posted daily. We recommend writing old fashioned letters but you are also able to email your camper through your parent account too.  You are always welcome to call us in the office or talk with your child's counselor directly.  We don't recommend parents talking with their campers over the phone, it can quickly turn a happy well adjusted camper into a homesick camper. 

I'm Worried My Child Might Get Homesick. How is This Handled?

Being away from home is a huge step. Almost all campers experience at least a little homesickness. It’s completely normal and to be expected. Skylake staff members are trained to deal with homesick campers compassionately. Although campers do not phone home, our staff will contact parents at the first hint of an “out of the norm” problem, working through strategies to resolve a camper’s homesickness. Out of 800 campers each summer, only 3  or 4 go home early because of homesickness. Teaching campers to work through this type of emotion is a huge growth step for children. 

Can My Child Receive Any Special Recognition? 

While Skylake is not an awards-based competitive camp, there are numerous little recognitions handed out each session.  The highest achievement is our long time Skylake tradition of the “Camper of the Week” award. The colorful award plaques  hang in camp for future generations of campers to see. Awarded weekly, we recognize one camper in each age group in both Boys Camp and Girls Camp. It is awarded to those campers who exhibit the highest qualities of a “happy camper” – friendly, smiling, cooperative, helpful and interactive.  We also award campers in various activities. 

What Session Length Do You Recommend?

We still refer to our Four-week sessions as a “traditional  camp session.”  Four-week sessions provide enough time for projects to be completed, adequate time for out-of-camp overnight backpacking trips if the camper so chooses and for campers to develop deep friendships. However, we understand that our world has become much busier and thus a great number of campers come for two weeks. Many of our first-time campers start with the two-week session. 

Since Yosemite is Only a Short Distance from Skylake, Will My Child Have an Opportunity to Go?

Skylake offers day trips to Yosemite. As with all of the  activities, the campers decide if Yosemite is something they want to do.  A Yosemite day trip might include stops at Glacier Point gazing down on the valley below and look towards Half Dome, a hike up the mist trail to Nevada and Vernal Falls, or a trip to the newly renovated Big Trees just inside the Wawona gate.

How is the food at Skylake?

We truly believe our food service is second to none. We offer a complete salad bar almost every lunch and dinner and vegetarian alternative meals whenever the primary entrée is a meat dish. We offer at all times, fresh fruit, vegetables and milk (as well as soy milk). The owner/director has culinary academy training and six years in the restaurant  business. The menu and recipes are revitalized every year bringing continual  improvement and originality. Our kitchen manager and chefs all care 110% about the food they put out and take great pride in their do we! 

How Does a Camper Get To and From Skylake?

Most of our campers arrive and depart on chartered, air-conditioned buses. The buses are scheduled from both the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. Campers who choose to fly are greeted by camp staff at the Fresno International Airport (Just 1 hour from the camp). Some campers are driven and dropped off by parents or guardians.  Our recommendation is to take our bus ride because most friendships begin before campers even arrive at camp! While most campers also return home by bus,  we do invite parents to come see Skylake on Closing Day to observe our traditional closing ceremony and enjoy our buffet lunch. (We are located approximately 4 hours from San Francisco and 4.5 hours from Los Angeles.)

Who Are the Campers at Skylake?

About 90% of the Skylake campers come almost equally from the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. Our International and out-of-state campers make up about 10% of our camper population. The gender breakdown is half and half, usually 105 boys and 105 girls. While many campers start at age 7, most are age 8 - 13. 

Where do Skylake Staff Members Come From?

Skylake employs about 70 camp counselors every summer. All of our staff must be enrolled in or graduated from a four-year university. Many of our camp counselors and administrative staff were campers at Skylake when they were younger. We enjoy a high rate of return on staff - many return year after year! We also hire international students and enjoy cultural diversity in our team.

How can I be sure Skylake is Safe?

Safety starts at the top. Jeff Portnoy, owner/director, is a former attorney, father of two grown daughters and now a grandfather who has been the on-site and hands-on director since 1995. In addition, our staff-to-camper ratio  exceeds all accreditation standards. All the staff also attend a one-week onsite training program and are required to have First Aid and CPR certifications. Over 90% of our staff are also certified Lifeguards. We have a registered nurse who lives on site and a Doctor who is “on call” 24 hours a day. Every year we review our procedures to continually improve all phases of our operation. We have no rifle range, jet skis, motorcycles, or rock climbing. This doesn’t mean that the camp is risk-free, any outdoor activity carries a small risk- but we work very hard to control them. Skylake history speaks for itself having been in continuous operation since 1945 as a leader of California camps.  Skylake is also accredited by the American Camping Association and an active member with the Western Association of Camps. 

What Kind of Activities Can My Child Take Part in at Skylake?

Skylake offers over 20 activities on a daily basis. Over the course of the summer, over 75 different activities take place. The lake offers swimming, kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, and opportunities for special events such as regatta day and Olympics. Most important, Skylake campers choose their own activities. Because the campers eat, sleep and play together- incredible bonds of friendship are formed.  Our nightly campfires create memories for a lifetime. To learn more about Skylake's Program. 

Where Do Skylake Campers Sleep?

Skylake has 19 cabins on the girls’ side of camp and 18 cabins on the boys’ side. Each cabin has 4 double bunk beds accommodating 6 or 7  campers and 1 or 2 counselors. There is no electricity in the cabins! Besides, flashlights and lanterns make camp more fun!

Does Skylake Allow Parents to Contact Their Child by Telephone?

Parents are free to call camp at any time and may request that camp counselors call home occasionally with reports. But yes, “NO telephone calls and NO cell phones” is a Skylake “rule.”  We strongly believe in the traditional concept of camp - an environment where children grow and find their own identity. They learn to work out situations without their parents, while still have guidance from staff. It is simply amazing how fast children learn to resolve issues on their own when their parents are not instantly available. And of course, our “no phoning home” policy is not “carved in stone.” There are special circumstances when staff can arrange for parents and children to speak.

How Soon Do I Need to Make a Decision?

Every year, we offer an “Early Bird” savings signup period for the following summer. (From September 1st to December 1st). Following those early sign-ups, each year varies with regard to the more popular age groups and sessions. But those most popular age groups and sessions definitely fill by the end of March. Returning campers have priority on all available openings until November 1st.  New campers are eligible for the discount but are not  guaranteed space.

Will My Child be Able to Stay in the Same Cabin with his/her Best Friend?

Most likely, but not absolutely. If the friends are in the same grade level we can almost 100% guarantee they can be  together, provided both children make the request. If the children are different grade levels, they might not be housed together. However, our campers do choose their own daily activities. This allows campers who do not share the same cabin to still spend time together.

What is a Typical Day at Skylake?

Variety is the spice of life but the general format of the camp day is as follows:

  • 7:15am: Reveille
  • 8am: Breakfast
  • 9am-12pm: Three separate activity periods
  • 12pm: Lunch
  • 1:15pm: Siesta
  • 2:30-4:30pm: Cabin group activities (or swim call / land activity)
  • 4:30pm: Shasta call & Shower hour
  • 5:45pm: Flag retreat
  • 6pm: Dinner
  • 7pm: Twilight sports (open choice of activities)
  • 8pm: Campfire
  • 9:15pm: Taps

How Do I enroll My Child?

Register online now
You can also call our Camp Registrar (year round) at 559.642.3720