HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (KDVR) — There is a summer camp for kids that sits on over 8,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness.

They say it is the only one of its kind in the country — and what shocks parents most is its location.

There is just something about being in the outdoors that is freeing. And as far as AnnaKate Hein is concerned, the younger the camper, the better.

“A lot of these children these days don’t have a type of childhood that we think of as having like we might have had growing up — where you are running, free in the wild and unsupervised by an adult. Parents say, ‘Be back by dinner time.’ Exploring the woods, crossing the creek, that kind of childhood,” said Hein, the backcountry wilderness youth program coordinator at Highlands Ranch Community Association.

Welcome to Camp Backcountry.

“If kids aren’t out exploring, tangible — you know, holding a frog, seeing a snake, catching a cricket — how are they ever going to love it?” Hein said.

Camp Backcountry teaches kids the ways of the wilderness

Every summer since 2016, Camp Backcountry has been teaching boys and girls from ages 3-17 the ways of the wilderness.

Camp Backcountry environmental education coordinator Becca Venable said she wears her heart and her passion on her sleeve. She said she would not work anywhere else.

“It’s incredible to see the way the kids play,” Venable said.

A wooden pole in a field with painted and labeled arrows pointing to different areas of Camp Backcountry, with children seen in the background
Camp Backcountry in Highlands Ranch, Colorado (KDVR)

Venable goes by the nickname “Meemaw” to the campers. She said it is easy being green.

“There’s so much research of the color green and being in the wild, having very little rules other than please be safe and please be respectful and please be kind,” Venable said.

Backcountry skills learned here include survival, fire building, conservation, animal husbandry and probably the most important of all: fun.

And the best part of this wilderness camp? It is not near Highlands Ranch — it is actually in Highlands Ranch. All 8,000 acres.

“Shocking, right? So many people out here come out and like, ‘I have lived here for 20 years, and I had no idea this existed,'” Venable said.

They do now.