We know that sending your loved ones away to a place you have never seen, and entrusting them to people you have never met, is a tough thing to do and a huge leap of faith. High Trails is a great place, but it’s also a safe place. Safety, Learning, then fun; these are the order of our priorities.
Take some time to explore the links off this page, and then head over to the Sites section to see pictures and locations of our facilities. We’ve done our best to paint a picture of how wonderful the High Trails experience can be!
General Information: Staff, Sites, Food, and Weather
“Learning how our communities and the environment can all fit together on one healthy planet”. We want your students to step into the wilderness and see a beauty and diversity they have never imagined before, and learn the importance of both understanding and protecting it. We want your students to learn more about themselves and their potential, and to discover how to work and communicate with their peers. High Trails is a week in the wilderness, in nature, where children are given the opportunity to explore and shine.
What sets us apart from most outdoor education centers is that 95% all of our staff are college degreed professionals. The ones that don’t have a degree are using High Trails as an internship so they can complete their university degree. They are recruited from all over the United States to teach Southern California elementary students.
Once your students step onto camp, we take control of their experience and our staff lead the way. During the day groups are led by Field Instructors, who take them out into the woods and help them to experience nature firsthand. At dinner our Cabin Instructors take over, leading evening programs and focusing on the development of communities in cabins, and then sleeping overnight with the students. The next week of camp our staff rotate; the Cabin Instructors become Field Instructors and vice versa. This keeps our staff fresh and makes sure that everyone knows 100% of the camp experience and student needs. During the year, we focus on continuing education and improvement for our instructors, making evaluations, projects, and inservices a mandatory part of life at High Trails.
To apply to work as High Trails, potential instructors must submit a cover letter, resume, and a response to our “Tough Questions”. If everything looks good we spend some time talking on the phone, trying to get to know who wants to work with us. Next step is to see what other people think; a minimum of three work and personal references are verified and rated, with an above average rating needed to qualify. Our primary concerns when looking for staff: a responsible love of teaching children, a passion for the outdoors, and a demonstrated professionalism in an outdoor camp environment. If selected, staff are invited to a two week training, where they will be screened in person and given the chance to demonstrate their teaching competency.
Fingerprinted FBI and CA DOJ background checks on every staff member are completed to verify their clean criminal background, and we receive immediate notifications if this clean status changes. First Aid and CPR certifications are verified. Now they are ready to step into the role of a High Trails Instructor. Want to see who our staff really are?
Your child is directly supervised by an instructor 24 hours of the day. The only time supervision is not direct is when they are in the restroom or shower. In this situation instructors are nearby in the case assistance is needed.
High Trails leases camp sites in the San Bernardino national forest. Though rustic, the sites offer fully modern facilities like hot water, private showers, and heated cabins. On the sites themselves we have an archery range, a challenge/adventure course, an orienteering course, and a climbing wall. See more here…
Meals are served three times daily, with kid friendly food and vegetarian options. Because so many things are new to the students at camp, we try to make the food as familiar and fun as possible. See our menu here…
We are at 7,000 feet, so it will get very cold in the evenings and during the winter. We do get snow in the winter months, and it’s not uncommon to get surprise snowstorms in the fall and spring. For current conditions, please check our Weather link. Please follow the packing list very carefully and take extra care to make sure your child comes to camp with snow/hiking boots, warm clothes, long underwear, plenty of socks, and a warm hat and gloves. We do have extra boots, pants and jackets in case your child is not adequately prepared.
An Average Day
Classes and Programming
The classes and programming that your school participates in are chosen by school teachers before camp arrival. Some of our classes are adventure based, like archery and the adventure course, and others are science based, like water study and plant study. Your child will get a well rounded outdoor environmental based education at High Trails. Groups average between 12 and 16 students per instructor at camp. Want to see what an average week’s schedule looks like?
Aside from arrival and departure days, students are out on the trails in the forest learning from 10am – 5pm. Lunch is eaten outside, helping students to fully immerse themselves in the beauty of our mountains. We have two types of days here at High Trails; adventure days and environmental days. Adventure days are based right around the camp property with classes like climbing, archery, teambuilding, orienteering, and more. Environmental days focus on topics like plants, water, and environmental awarenes, and generally take students on a 1-4 mile hike through the woods.
With a 5 day program, there are two environmental days and one adventure day while a 4 day program has one environmental day and one adventure day. The arrival day is more of an introduction and teambuilding day, and the departure day is more of a debrief day.
Route Planning and Staying in Contact: before they start their shift with students, our instructors plan out their route for the day and write it down on a large map located in the dining hall; this way we know exactly where every group will be during the day. Each instructor also takes with them a 2 way UHF based radio, allowing us to get in touch should any need arise.
From dinner through 10am the next morning, students are in their Cabin groups. Walking into camp, many of the students have never slept away from home before, so our first priority is to provide a warm and comfortable atmosphere in which they can open up and be themselves. After every day in the Field students come back to the cabin, excited to tell instructors and friends everything about their day and looking forward to the things they’ll do in their cabin groups.
While the days are focused primarily on Adventure and Environmental based classes, the cabins are a time to open up the boundaries that normally exist within an elementary school social system and work on the community aspects of life. We teach students games, tell them stories, and even work on their line dance steps with them. We’ll help them get ready to take showers, talk them through being homesick, and wake up with them in the middle of the night when they don’t feel well. Our instructors will help their cabin groups come up with a skit for campfire, and then support them as they step up to perform in front of the entire school group. We will sit with them in the evenings and facilitate discussions that allow them to open up, to trust, and to believe in one another. Every bit of students’ time in the Cabin is packed full of things to do; Nocturnal Nation, Astronomy, Line Dancing, Snake Class, Campfire and Skits, Tribes, New Games…and more.
Our Instructors generally begin their work shift at dinner and take leave of students when they switch over to the Field at 10am. From here our instructors have meetings and clean restrooms, and then have the remainder of the day off to enjoy the weather, relax, take care of errands, and get some exercise. They are back on duty at dinnertime, refreshed and ready to once again take on the job of parent, teacher, older sibling, and most importantly, friend.
Medicine, Special Concerns, Emergencies and Discipline
Our medic is a CPR, First Aid, and Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certified health care professional; they are trained to handle and respond to emergencies in a wilderness setting. To make certain all bases are covered, all of our administrators are required to maintain an active WFR certification and there is always an administrator certified as an EMT who is on call. The Medic’s primary job in camp is to cater to the needs, both medically and emotionally, of your child. They check in with the students at meals and they maintain a stocked infirmary in the center of camp. The medic carries a UHF based radio to maintain communication with instructors at all times.
- We are happy to dispense your child’s medication for you, provided that you fill out the Medication Form completely. The medic is limited to giving oral, nasal, and topical medications only and cannot give your student an injection (the exception to this is the use of an emergency Epi Pen, and with doctor, parent, and school approval we can assist and administer insulin injections). All of the medication, including the over the counter medication, must be in its original container, and the dosage amounts on the package must be identical to those on the medication form. When you arrive at camp, the medication needs to be in a clear ziplock bag along with the medication form (please do not use paper bags; we cannot see through these and the bags easily rip). Please make certain to hand all medication to your teacher on the first morning of camp; no medication should be in the student luggage.
- Prescription Medication: if you’re sending up prescription medication, you must 1)Fill out our Medication Form completely 2)Sign our Medication Form and 3)Have your doctor sign our medication form. The Dr’s Signature box may be left blank and unsigned if you attach to this form a signed doctor’s permission for your RX medication. This permission must match the medication label and state: 1) Patient Name, 2) Physicians Name and Contact Information, 3) Medication, 4) Dosage, 5) Frequency, and 6) Physician Signature.
- Over The Counter Medications (Otc’s): Please don’t send up common medications like Tylenol, cough drops, etc. for your child unless they take this on a daily basis. We have most common Over The Counter Medications available and will administer them to your child if they ask for it or need it. If a student is bringing over the counter medicine, only the parent needs to sign the Medication Form (no doctor signature needed). However, we must follow the directions on the medication box, whether it is age or quantity related. Anything above and beyond the medication directions is considered a prescription medication and must have a doctor’s signature on the Medication Form. If the box says the child must be 12 years old to take the medication and your child is only 11, we cannot administer it without a doctor’s signature!
Over the Counter Medication List (OTC’s)
All of these medications, or their generic equivalent, are available in the case your child needs them. This means that you don’t need to send up these kinds of medications “Just In Case”; we’ve got you covered. The exception here is if your child takes these medications on a regular, daily basis (now you should send your own up!).
Used to treat pain and fever – typically given for headaches, joint/muscle injuries, and to reduce fever in the event of an illness:
- Children’s Ibuprofen – Liquid (equivalent to Motrin)
- Children’s Acetaminophen – Liquid (equivalent to Tylenol)
- Children’s Acetaminophen – Chewables (equivalent to Tylenol)
Cold / Cough / Stomach Medication:
Typically given to suppress a cough, relieve cold/flu symptoms, orhelp with upset stomach and digestive pain:
- Children’s Robitussin for cough – Liquid (contains dextromethorphan and antihistamine)
- Children’s Dimetapp Cold/Flu – Liquid (contains acetaminophen, diphenhydramine, phenylephrine)
- Children’s Pepto-Bismol – Chewables (contains calcium carbonate)
- Tums – Chewable (contains calcium carbonate; ages 12 and up)
- Cough Drops – hard cough drops (contains menthol)
- Chloraseptic spray – throat spray (contains phenol, glycerin)
Used to treat allergy symptoms and act as an antihistamine:
- Children’s Benadryl – Liquid (contains diphenhydramine)
- Children’s Benadryl – Meltaway Tabs (contains diphenhydramine)
- Cetirizine – Pill (equivalent to Zyrtec)
Creams applied topically to skin for relief from a variety of ailments:
- Aloe Vera lotion
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Solarcaine Burn Relief (contains lidocaine)
- Anbesol Oral Anethetic (contains benzocaine)
- Calamine lotion with itch relief
Occasionally children don’t feel so well at camp, and when this happens the medic steps in. The medic will first talk with your child to see what is wrong, and then take their temperature. If the temperature is above 100 degrees, they are immediately taken to the infirmary to get some rest, and you are called to talk about what might be wrong. Students have 4 hours in the infirmary to allow their temperature to drop below 100 degrees; if it is still over 100 degrees after this period you will be called to come pick them up so they can get some rest at home.
If you send your child to camp, you must be ready and willing to come pick them up, day or night, if they become sick and need you. Our general theme with children and the infirmary is that the more communication with the parents, the better. Don’t be surprised if we call to check in and ask you a seemingly simple question about your son or daughter.
We’ve been running program since 2000, so we’ve got a good deal of experience in all kinds of special situations. If you have concerns about Special Needs, Allergies, Incontinence/Bedwetting, Diabetes or something else, please visit this web page for details: Special Concerns Form
We spend a good deal of time preparing for emergencies. During our training and weekly inservices, we discuss evacuation and treatment procedures and initiate detailed role plays to simulate situations. Within 24 hours of arrival, all students and instructors participate in an emergency evacuation drill. All instructors carry with them a complete first response kit, with supplies ready to deal with emergencies. They also carry with them a flashlight and a UHF based radio, allowing them constant contact with support personnel at camp.
PLEASE NOTE:We are located in the middle of the San Bernardino National Forest. It is possible that access to an emergency facility and emergency service response time could be delayed in excess of one hour due to our remote location, road conditions, and weather emergencies.
To keep camp safe and make it a positive learning experience for all involved, we have rules that we must adhere to and are consistent in enforcing. Some of the rules are discussed on the discipline form, and others students will learn about when they arrive at camp. If your child has difficulty observing these rules, we may call you and ask for your assistance and advice with helping them have a more positive experience. If they cannot change their behavior and become a detriment to the program and other students, we will ask you to come pick them up from camp. If you send your child to camp, you must be ready and willing to come pick them up, day or night, if they become a discipline issue. Here is our Discipline Form.
Preparation: Packing List, Forms, Contact with Students
The safety and success of your child is very dependent upon you making certain that they are ready for this experience, especially when it comes to following this Packing List; please print it out and use it as a checklist.
Every student needs three pieces of luggage:
- Small school backpack to carry on the bus
- Bedroll (available after dinner)
- Suitcase/Duffel Bag (available after dinner).
Please take the time to talk with your child about the camp experience and then complete these following forms:
- Health/Consent Form
- Medication Form: if your child is bringing medication of any kind, even over the counter or vitamins, please complete and sign this form. If the medication is prescription, remember to have your doctor sign it as well. Give all medication directly to your teacher!
- Discipline Form/Packing List
We’ve got a whole page devoted to forms…head over here!
Student Parent Contact
Mail sent by the students will be put in a mailbox every day, so encourage your child to write home. Because we have so many students at camp and so few phones, students are not allowed to make or receive phone calls except in the case of an emergency. And because we believe that camp is a place for children to discover more about themselves in a new and safe environment, parents are not allowed to visit camp while their child is present. If you would like to take a look at the camp before your child’s week at camp, let us know and we can arrange a good time for you to visit.
Nothing is better than receiving an old fashioned, Post Office mailed letter during a stay at High Trails. We will deliver all letters (no packages) on a daily basis, generally right before bedtime. Letters should be sent at least 5 days in advance. Letters arriving before your students’ stay at camp will be kept until they arrived. Letters arriving after students leave will be marked Return To Sender and placed back into the mail system. Our mailbox is close but our Post Office is far away; because of this, please ensure that your letter does not require a signature upon receipt.
For the correct address, please ask your school what site your student will be attending. Due to privacy and security issues, we do not disclose school site information to individuals.
We do not accept or deliver faxes/emails to students.
Child’s Name, __________ Elementary School
PO Box 503
Big Bear City, CA 92314
Child’s Name, __________ Elementary School
PO Box 3070
Big Bear City, CA 92314
If you have more questions, first ask your teachers, and then explore all of this website. After that, head over to the online Special Concerns Form. All student related communication must be initiated in a written fashion via our Special Concerns Form. This allows us to maintain a high standard of care and helps us keep track of the many students and situations that find their way up to High Trails. Upon receipt of this form, we will follow up with you and start up a good dialog to make certain that your child has both an educational and a safe experience at High Trails.