I went to Forest Home for the first time when I was about five years old. I remember the tall pine trees, the abundant blackberry bushes, and the good times in the children's program. We sang songs ("Hip-hip-hip-hippopatamus!"), heard Bible stories, and I even dressed up like a bear for the final performance. See evidence above.
Several years late, at age ten or so, my family returned again and I stayed in Indian Village. We slept in tents, had Bible studies around picnic tables, and sang worship songs with all of the motions in an outdoor pavilion. I swam in the lake, participated in relays, and even boldly jumped off the diving board into the giant blob.
This past November, over twenty-five years since my last visit, my husband and I packed up our four kids and drove to Forest Home Christian Camps with much anticipation.
Forest Home Christian Camps originally opened in 1938! The camp's mission is "to be a camp where people of all ages can hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and experience unparalleled transformation." Throughout the year, Forest Home offers youth camps (in both the winter and summer), family camps, adult retreats, and parent-child retreats - in addition to hosting church groups and private groups.
The camp was started by a single woman by the name of Henrietta Mears. Although the property was appraised for over $350,000 in 1938, Henrietta doggedly prayed for its future and eventually acquired the property for $30,000 after a series of miraculous events. Billy Graham later described her as "one of the greatest Christians I have ever known." Henrietta herself lived by this simple and powerful adage: "You teach a little by what you say, you teach most by what you are."
There are now two Forest Home locations: Forest Falls (which is 500 acres) and Ojai Valley (120 acres). This article will focus on Forest Falls, the larger and more established of the two campuses. The Forest Falls campus is known as Mill Creek Canyon and is located in the San Bernardino Mountains at 5,280 feet. The San Bernardino Mountains are in Southern California, about 2 hours north of San Diego and 1.5 hours east of Los Angeles.
Forest Home currently offers family camps at three different times of the year - Memorial Day Weekend, Summer, and Home for the Holidays.
Family Camps are unique in that the whole family attends camp together. The week or weekend consists of a mixture of family activities and age-specific programming. On most days, kids attend activities with their peers, under the supervision of counselors/leaders, in the morning and the evening. In the summer, these activities might include outdoor games, swimming, hiking, and arts & crafts. Winter activities are similar - but may also include holiday crafts, movies, s'mores, and tubing (weather permitting). While the kids play, adults attend morning and evening sessions with Biblical speakers and guest musical artists. Afternoons are typically reserved for family recreation. Each family is assigned a CCA (Child Care Assistant) for the evening hours - aka a babysitter exclusively for your kids (birth to age 10). Adults attend additional sessions or spend date night together, while kids are cared for in the cabin or around camp.
Housing is tiered at Forest Home and varies widely based on cost.
The five available options at Forest Home's Forest Falls campus are as follows (listed from cheapest to priciest):
The pricing for each camp is different and based on what style of housing you choose. Memorial Weekend and Home for the Holidays are 2 nights; whereas summer camps are 6 nights. You will pay per person for each member in your family. The price is different for adults, 9-17 year olds, and 3-8 year olds. Littles ones, ages 2 and under, are free.
Cedar Ridge is the newest housing option at Forest Home (completed in 2018) - and these condo-style units are absolutely gorgeous! We were delighted to find that these spacious and beautiful mountain-themed apartments easily accommodated our family of six. The master bedroom had a comfortable queen bed along with a wooden bureau to hang your clothing and a welcoming chair, which would be perfect for your morning devotions or curling up with a book during free time. The "children's room" had three twin beds and its own bathroom. The bathrooms are immaculate and each unit has a private patio where guests can enjoy the sights & sounds of the mountain. In addition, the kitchen is well-equipped with a refrigerator, gas stove, oven, dishwasher, and a complete set of dishes. Note that Forest Home does not offer maid service so you will want to keep your room sparkling for the duration of your stay.
P.S. There are no TVs, phones, or other screens in the cabins - which makes for a refreshing and quiet retreat for the whole family.
Every family with children from birth to age ten that attends family camp at Forest Home is assigned a CCA - which is a free babysitter for every night of your stay! CCAs are teenage girls of at least thirteen years old who have gone through an application process that includes reference checks.
Forest Falls is 500 acres. The "heart" or center of the campus is called Roundhouse Square (built in 1919 and renovated in 2019). It includes four buildings around a common square: The Clubhouse (built in 1907), Stagecoach Coffee (built in 1919 and renovated in 2011/2012, and The Den. The Dining Room is also nearby.
Roundhouse Retail is a gift shop and information center in Roundhouse Square. The shop sells Forest Home themed merchandise of all kinds - mugs, water bottles, t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc. - along with candy and other trinkets. This is also your go-to spot for any questions you may have about camp life - hours of activities, scheduling, and directions. Roundhouse Retail also has a convenient water bottle filling station.
Stagecoach Coffee Co is a coffeeshop at Forest Home's Forest Falls campus. Built in 1919 and renovated in 2011-2012, the two-story coffeehouse retains a modern (and super cute!) vibe - with cozy indoor & outdoor seating and chic decor.
Guests can stop in to purchase a variety of specialty drinks made by trained baristas - americanos ($2-$3), lattes ($3-$4), cappuccinos ($3-$4), and mochas ($3.50-$4.50). Drip coffee ($2.50-$4.00) and non-coffee beverages (lemonade, hot chocolate, hot cider, tea, etc) are also available.
The coffeeshop proudly uses beans by Wild Goose Coffee Roasters, a small batch coffee roaster based in Redlands, California.
Both indoor and outdoor seating is available. Stagecoach tends to be an especially popular hangout for high school & college students, CCAs, and camp counselors.
Built in 1907, The Clubhouse is your go-to spot if you want snacks, meals, or desserts in between regularly scheduled meals at The Dining Hall. People raved about the milkshakes while we were there - made with either Blue Bunny or Wholesome Farms branded ice cream.
The Den is also located in Roundhouse Square. It is directly below Blinco Lounge and features a Game Room (with ping pong, pool, foosball, and a small slide for toddlers) and The Craft Cabin (where you can make a wide variety of arts & crafts projects that range in price from $2 to $20). Be sure to bring a quarter or two if you want to play the games as you will need them to access a ball.
Forest Home's Dining Hall is exactly what you might expect - a camp dining hall with meals served buffet-style. Meals are served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Grab a plate, some utensils, and napkins - and head through the assembly line. One person in your party will also want to grab a pitcher of water or tang-ish juice for your table to share. This is camp, after all.
Aside from three meals per day, snacks are not included with your camp cost. If you or your kids tend to get the munchies between meals, bring snacks of your own or plan to spend cash at The Clubhouse or Stagecoach.
Recreation options at Forest Home (Forest Falls campus) include:
Is Forest Home's fee all-inclusive?
Yes. Your housing/camp fee includes your accommodations, parking, three meals per day, children's programming, teen programming, adult sessions with special speakers and worship artists, your own CCA (child care assistant), and most recreation activities.
Which activities at family camp are cost-based?
The only activities that are fee-based at Forest Home are Laser Tag ($5 a game) and the Craft Cabin ($2 to $20+, depending on craft). Some campers also choose to make purchases at Stagecoach, the Clubhouse, or at the retail center in the Roundhouse.
Is free WiFi included at all camps? If not, what is the rate?
It has historically been offered free for program camps. Please confirm with the reservations associate.
What ages are best suited for Forest Home?
The sweet spot for family camp is probably ages 6 to 12 or so, but families with babies to teens are also welcome.
If you have a baby, toddler, or preschooler, Forest Home will have age-specific programming for each age level (including infants). A CCA (Child Care Assistant) will also be provided to your family for evening care while you attend adult sessions. This being said, it is wise to know your own comfort level and family dynamics. Some families love the idea of a refreshing getaway where childcare is included; other families may prefer to wait until their youngest child is of elementary age.
Is there special programming for teens?
Yes. Teens have their own activities and special events - typically led by college-age leaders. That being said, take note that some teens may prefer to attend the adult sessions as the caliber of the speakers and worship artists is excellent. Our 13-year-old really enjoyed the adult sessions and found them to be more interesting than the provided teen programming.
What is the cell phone policy?
Forest Home is committed to providing guests with sanctuary and solitude. As such, Forest Home is a cell-phone free destination for all children and youth. Young campers are asked to leave all electronics (including cell-phones) at home. Adult guests are encouraged to limit their cell phone use as well - especially in open/public areas.
*Verizon and Sprint are the only mobile services that deliver reception to Forest Falls.
Is there a Forest Home app?
Yes. It is primarily used for youth summer camps. Parents can use it see the daily photos of the camp center their camper is at as well as daily notes from the camp directors of what they will be doing that day. There is also a feature that parents can see when their camper was administered their medication.
Who is the director of children's/teen programming?
The current director over Children's Programs is Ellis Barros. The Program Director of Youth Ministries is Joe Strange (Joe has two program coordinators under him that are in charge of Jr. High and High School camps).
Home of the Holidays happens every year for two nights beginning the day after Thanksgiving. This intimate family winter retreat is like a "mini version" of summer camp - except with winter weather. In the morning, kids & teens attend their own programming while adults go to sessions with speakers and worship. Afternoons are reserved for fame freetime. Each family is assigned a CCA (Child Care Assistant) for the evening hours - aka a babysitter exclusively for your kids (birth to age 10). Adults attend additional sessions or spend date night together, while kids are cared for in the cabin or around camp.
Weather can vary dramatically at Home for the Holidays - from mildly chilly to blizzardy with knee-high snow. Be sure to check the temps ahead of time and pack accordingly.
As mentioned above, packing for the weather is paramount. A packing list will be sent to your email address approximately two weeks prior to camp.
This list is a great starting point for Home for the Holidays at Forest Home.
Bring the following items for each member of your family.
If wet/snowy weather is expected, also pack:
Ready to plan your own Forest Home adventure? Learn more!