How to Choose the Right Teen Summer Hiking Trip

When families consider a teen summer hiking trip for their child, they should always ask:

Is the Organization Accredited?

Read on to learn the importance of accreditation by a nationally-recognized organization.


  • Step One: Take a close look at the teen summer hiking organization’s website and materials: is there information about an outside, nationally-recognized accrediting organization?
  • Step Two: Some organizations put logos on their websites to make it look like they’re accredited. Read these logos carefully (or read the copy the logo links to) to confirm that the logo is from a nationally-recognized accrediting organization. For example, some organizations put logos on their websites from an industry association and while they might be members of the association, they aren’t accredited by the association. Other organizations put logos on their websites that look official in some way but they’re actually just logos from suppliers of services. These logos may lend an air of credibility that has not been earned, and can be misleading.
  • Step Three: Confirm that the organization is actually accredited. Sometimes, there will be a logo from an accrediting organization (like the American Camp Association) but the company is not, in fact, accredited; instead, they may be a “business affiliate” or a “sponsor.”


At Overland, we’ve been accredited by the American Camp Association for over twenty years. ACA accreditation is the only nationally-recognized accreditation for summer camps; it is the industry standard for thousands of high quality organizations.

WHAT MATTERS TO US / COMMITTED TO OUR CAMPERS Overland is committed to the well-being of our campers. A key component of this commitment is our accreditation by the nationally-recognized American Camp Association.


Here’s how the ACA describes accreditation (this has been lightly edited for length and clarity):

The American Camp Association is the only nationwide accrediting organization (for summer camps). ACA standards focus on health, safety, and risk management. The camp’s voluntary participation in the ACA’s accreditation process demonstrates a commitment to providing the best possible camp experience. Accreditation indicates to the public that the camp administration has voluntarily allowed a peer review process in which its practices are compared to standards established by professionals and authoritative sources associated with the camp industry.

Elsewhere on the ACA website they include this:

Fun & Safety: ACA-Accredited Camps Set the Standard

Camps and ACA form a partnership that promotes growth and fun in an environment committed to safety. ACA Accreditation means that your child’s summer camp cares enough to undergo a thorough peer review of its operation—from staff qualifications and training to emergency management. The American Camp Association collaborates with experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and other youth-serving agencies to assure that current practices at your child’s camp reflect the most up-to-date, research-based standards in camp operation. 

Answers to Parents’ Most Frequently Asked Questions About Camp Accreditation

What’s the difference between state licensing of camps and accreditation by ACA?

ACA accreditation assures families that camps have made the commitment to a safe, nurturing environment for their children. If a state requires licensing, it is mandatory; licensing requirements vary from state to state. ACA standards are recognized by courts of law and government regulators as the standards of the camp community.

How do ACA standards exceed state licensing requirements?

ACA goes beyond basic requirements into specific areas of programming, including camp staff from director through counselors, emergency management plans, an health care.

What are some of the ACA standards that camps rely on?

  • Staff-to-camper ratios that are appropriate for different age groups
  • Training for staff to minimize 1:1 camper/staff interactions
  • Goals for camp activities that are developmentally based
  • Emergency transportation available at all times
  • First-aid facilities and trained staff available when campers are present
  • Staff appropriately trained to lead program

Does ACA accreditation require criminal background checks?

ACA accreditation standards require a staff screening system, which includes an annual criminal background check on all seasonal staff and at least every five years on year-round staff. In addition to the criminal background, ACA standards require additional staff screening which includes an application, interview, and reference checks upon initial hire (along with a criminal background check); annual checks of the National Sex Offender Public website and an annual voluntary disclosure statement.

How can I verify that my child’s camp is ACA accredited?

Parents can (and should) verify the accreditation status of any camp at any time by visiting ACA’s Web site at or by calling 1-800-428-CAMP. If your child’s summer camp isn’t ACA-accredited, ask WHY NOT?


When choosing a teen summer hiking trip, families should always and only choose an accredited summer camp. What’s more, if an organization you are considering shows a number of logos on their website that look like they’re from accrediting organizations when in fact they are industry associations or service providers, you should be skeptical of the organization’s trustworthiness. This kind of sleight-of-hand should tell you a lot.

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How To Choose A Summer Adventure For Your Child

Get first-hand insights into what you should look for when choosing the next summer travel adventure for your child.



    Tom Costley

    When Tom Costley founded Overland in 1984, he sought to create experiences for young people that were fun, where new friendships could grow, where natural beauty was embraced, where there were real and varied challenges, and where Overland’s students would achieve something of importance to them. Overland’s focus on small groups, carefully crafted trips, and superlative leadership has made it a leader in the summer camp world. Overland’s commitment to excellence in everything it does has led to its success: over the past four decades, Overland has served 40,000 students and 5,000 trip leaders. Tom writes about the outdoors and travel from Williamstown, Massachusetts.

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