Camp Quest Smoky Mountains offers a gender inclusive, weeklong residential summer camp one week each summer-- usually mid-to late July. Our 2023 dates are July 23rd-29th and you can register here. Like other Camp Quest locations, we have activities in these core areas: humanist ethics, critical thinking & scientific inquiry, freethought heritage & worldview awareness, and nature appreciation & recreational activities. Because of our beautiful setting and the amazing biodiversity around us, we tend to have lots of activities related to understanding and stewardship of nature. We also have lots of typical camp activities, like hiking to the local waterfall, tie dyeing, sports, capture the flag, and swimming. You can see a typical day at camp schedule below to get an idea of how our days flow.
Our campers love coming to camp for a week of fun, friends, and freethought. Our staff love coming to camp to support, guide, and learn from your campers! Many staff and campers return year after year. We routinely hear from campers that this is the only place outside their home that they feel safe, accepted, and welcomed.
A Typical Day at Camp
7:30am-- Wake up
8:45am-- Dorm clean up
10:45am-- Healthy Relationships
11:30am-- Scavenger Hunt
12:20pm: Famous Freethinkers
1:15pm-- Nature Activity like Salamandering or Ecology Game
3:15pm-- River Time
4:45pm-- Down Time in Bunk
5:50pm-- World Religions
6:30pm-- Field Games
7:30pm-- Bag of Wonders (free time for games, arts & crafts, etc.)
9:30pm-- Back in Dorms
10:00pm-- Lights Out
Are campers at Camp Quest Smoky Mountains required to be atheists?
No. Campers are encouraged to think for themselves and are not required to hold any particular view. We firmly believe that children should not be labeled with worldview labels by adults, and instead should be encouraged to ask questions and explore different worldviews as they grow. We do present atheism and humanism as valid and reasonable options for an ethical and fulfilling life.
Would a child who believes in God feel comfortable at Camp Quest Smoky Mountains?
Yes. Campers explore different worldviews, and many children have not yet formed their beliefs on the existence of God. Campers who believe in God may get a lot of interested questions from their fellow campers, but the camp environment fosters asking these questions in a spirit of dialogue and mutual respect. Campers who have expressed belief in God have had fun, made friends, and had a great Camp Quest experience.
My camper is LGBTQ+-- will they feel comfortable at camp?
Yes! We tend to attract LGBTQ+ folks and allies as staff (and campers), and we highlight inclusivity as a value and expectation through hiring and training. Most of our campers are fairly aware of LGBTQ+ issues, especially the older campers, and we usually see inclusive, welcoming behavior from campers. We of course cannot guarantee a perfect space, but we approach homophobic/transphobic or similar behaviors as serious disciplinary issues and work to help the camper learn about respect for others. If you or your camper ever faces these behaviors and you don't feel it was addressed well, please reach out to us at email@example.com so we can learn and do better!
My camper has ADHD, ASD, anxiety, a disability, etc. Can they attend camp?
Often, but not always. We serve many campers with behavioral, learning, developmental, and mental health disorders . We value inclusivity and want to welcome campers regardless of the above conditions. We are also a one-week, volunteer-run camp that operates only once a year, so our training and personnel capacity is limited. Many of these campers do quite well at camp. and we encourage you to reach out to the Camp Director at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss whether we can make accommodations for the success of your camper. Unfortunately, our rented facility may prove difficult or inaccessible for campers who have trouble moving over uneven terrain.
Where and when is Camp Quest Smoky Mountains?
Camp Quest Smoky Mountains is one week, usually in mid- to late July each summer. We typically announce the coming year's dates between November and January. Camp Quest Smoky Mountains shares its location only with registered families, though we are located about an hour outside of Knoxville, TN in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
How much does camp cost?
We are a non-profit, volunteer-run camp, and our prices typically change yearly as a direct result of increased costs to run camp. We try to keep camp as affordable as possible and only charge what we must to run. In 2022, camp costs $755 per camper for a 6-night session. We offer small discounts for siblings.
Is financial aid available?
We never want financial concerns to prevent a child from attending CQSM. We are usually able to offer a couple of camperships or to spread partial financial aid between a few families. Our National office also supports campers through the Edwin & Helen Kagin Memorial Campership Fund, which provides camperships to support attendance at camp. If the cost of camp is holding you back from registering, please apply for financial aid when you register your camper. If you need to register without submitting a deposit, please contact our Camp Director at email@example.com before you register.
How many kids typically attend?
CQSM typically welcomes 40-50 campers. Typically campers are fairly evenly distributed throughout the age range of 8-17. We also offer a Firefly program for campers ages 15-17, in which campers practice leadership and life skills as peer leaders while attending camp.
Do you offer gender inclusive cabins?
Yes, our sleeping facility is gender integrated dorm setting. As a camp community, we try to build an inclusive camp environment through language and practice. As part of this, we want to provide an inclusive facility where all campers feel welcome. All campers will be placed in gender inclusive "cabin" groups. Our dorms do have gender neutral stalled toilets and showers for privacy. You can learn more about our plans for gender inclusive sleeping arrangements on this announcement.
Who are the counselors and how are they chosen?
Camp Quest camps all use volunteers as cabin counselors and program leaders. Our volunteer counselors are all at least 18 years of age or older. Because our counselors are making a week-long volunteer commitment, rather than committing to be on camp staff all summer, we are able to attract a very dedicated and experienced pool of counselors from a wide range of fields. Volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds and have included teachers, doctors, engineers, nonprofit activists, and graduate students. We tend to have have several college-aged counselors, many of whom are former campers. Our staff is typically diverse in terms of gender, sexuality, and ability status, so there's usually a staff member around who understands a given camper's lived experience.
All counselors complete an application process and background check yearly, including returning staff.