Camp El Ranchito

A Natural Place for Kids


Who We Are

Established in 2007 in collaboration with El Buen Samaritano and Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center, Camp El Ranchito’s mission is to connect children with the natural world by providing an extraordinarily fun and inspiring nature-immersion experience. It offers a  unique camp experience that gives youth, who may not otherwise have access, opportunities to form strong bonds with nature and one another in community.

All camps are held at the Campsite at Shield Ranch, which is located just 22 miles west of Austin. Campers and staff live in screened shelters among the tree and trails near Rocky Creek. The facility operates 100% off-grid relying on rainwater collection and solar power; and serves as a learning laboratory for conservation. Shield Ranch is 6,400 acres of ecologically diverse wildlands, sustainably managed for the benefit of people and nature.

Nature Discovery Camp
Summer 2023

Nature Discovery Camp is an overnight camp for 4th-9th graders. Activities include hiking, swimming in natural swimming holes and creeks, field trips to Westcave Preserve, games and team-building challenges, singing and storytelling around the campfire, stargazing with visiting astronomers, angler education in partnership with Texas Parks & Wildlife, rock-climbing (6th-9th graders), and kayaking/canoeing (8th-9th graders).

  • Session 1: rising 6th-7th grade
    Sun-Fri, June 11-16
    Cost: $50 (5 nights, 6 days)
  • Session 2: rising 4th-5th grade
    Sun-Thu, June 18-22
    Cost: $50 (4 nights, 5 days)
  • Session 3: rising 6th-7th grade
    Sun-Fri, June 25-30
    Cost: $50 (5 nights, 6 days)
  • Session 4: rising 8th-9th grade
    Mon-Sat, July 3-8
    Cost: $50 (5 nights, 6 days)
  • Session 5: rising 8th-9th grade
    Mon-Sat, July 10-15
    Cost: $50 (5 nights, 6 days)

Conservation Corps
Summer 2023

Conservation Corps is an overnight camp for 10th-12th graders. Activities include restoring wildlife habitats, building trails, and participating in outdoor adventures like kayaking, backpacking, rock-climbing, and/or caving. They learn valuable job skills and earn a $400 stipend for their work.

  • Session 1: rising 10th-12th grade
    Sun-Fri, June 18-30
    Cost: $50 (12 nights, 13 days)
  • Session 2: rising 10th-12th grade
    Mon-Sat, July 3-15
    Cost: $50 (12 nights, 13 days)

Outdoor Girl Camp
Spring Break 2023

Outdoor Spring Break Camp is an overnight camp for girls in 4th-12th grade who want to have fun and learn outdoors exploring nature. The week is about giving young women the opportunity to learn about nature, themselves, and their community through an immersive experience. Activities include hiking, games, ecology activities, orienteering, nature-based art, campfires, a conservation career mentor match, and a small conservation project.

  • Session 1: 6th-12th grade girls
    Sun-Thu, March 12-16
    Cost: $50 (4 nights, 5 days)
  • Session 2: 4th-12th grade girls
    Wed-Thu; March 15-16
    Cost: $25 (1 night, 2 days)

Eligibility and Rates

Now accepting applications for Summer 2023.

El Ranchito was created specifically to serve children and youth from families who may not otherwise have access to a residential nature immersion camp. Ninety percent of our camper families qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program at school. Eligible campers are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Tuition is $50 for Outdoor Girls, Nature Discovery Camp, or Conservation Corps; $40 for a sibling; and $30 for a third sibling. Camp tuition includes lodging, meals, supervision, programs, a camp picture and t-shirt, a pack and water bottle, and all craft supplies.  

A small percentage of campers not eligible for the free school lunch program also benefit from increased access to a nature immersion camp. Returning camper families who are no longer eligible are offered a sliding scale of tuition starting at $250. New camp families not eligible for a scholarship can inquire about a sliding scale for camps starting at $500 for one week of Nature Discovery Camp and $800 for two weeks of Conservation Corps. Scholarship and returning campers have priority admittance to camp.

Tuition is nonrefundable and nontransferable unless the application is denied. No fee will be returned after a camper has been admitted to camp. El Ranchito reserves the right to dismiss any camper, without refund, whose conduct is not in the best interest of the safety and wellbeing of other campers. 

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Thank you to our Supporters:

El Ranchito provides access to children and youth from families who may not otherwise have a residential nature immersion camp experience. Camper families pay a modest registration fee. Thank you to our supporters who help make camp scholarships available!


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