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 2024

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 graders
    June 9-14 (6 days, 5 nights)
    Registration closed.
  • Session 2: rising 4th-5th graders
    June 16-20 (5 days, 4 nights)
    Session full; Waitlist available.
  • Session 3: rising 6th-7th graders
    June 23-28 (6 days, 5 nights)
    Session full; Waitlist available.
  • Session 4: rising 8th-9th graders
    July 7-12 (6 days, 5 nights)
    Session full; Waitlist available.

Conservation Corps
Summer 2024

Our 13-day Conservation Corps (CC) session works on a project to learn conservation practices and about different future career opportunities, all while developing a work ethic, building teamwork, and experiencing outdoor adventures. The strong bond formed between members helps build long-lasting friendships. Our 13-day campers receive a $400 stipend for their work. 

Our 6-day CC session has the same focus as our traditional 13-day program and is a great alternative for returning CC campers to continue to build on their existing skills they have learned in our program. Our 6-day campers receive a $200 stipend for their work. 

  • Session 1: rising 10th-12th graders
    June 16-28 (13 days, 12 nights)
    Limited space for boys and girls. 
  • Session 2: rising 10th-12th graders
    July 7-12 (6 days, 5 nights)
    Limited space for boys and girls. 

Outdoor Girl Camp
Spring Break 2024

Outdoor Spring Break Camp is an overnight camp for girls in 5th-9th 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: 5th-9th graders
    March 10-12 (3 days, 2 nights)
  • Session 2: 5th-9th graders
    March 14-16 (3 days, 2 nights)

Scholarship Eligibility and Rates

Now Accepting 2024 Summer Applications

El Ranchito was created 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. Families that are part of the Chip or Star Medicaid program through Dell Children’s will receive free tuition with costs being covered by Dell Children’s Hospital. 

Tuition is $50 for 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. 


Our spots are first come first serve and we do offer a waitlist for all our programs. Families will have up to 2 weeks prior to the 1st day of their camp session to complete the application and return all necessary paperwork to ensure they keep their spot. If someone pulls out of their registration or does not complete their registration by the due date, we will reach out to the next person on the waitlist. To ensure we can accommodate your family, we kindly request that waitlisted campers complete their application and provide the necessary paperwork. 

We are Proud to Partner with:

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!


Employment information:
Camp registration information: