Our Roots

Frost Valley YMCA was founded in 1885 as The Boys’ Camping Society (BCS). By 1901, the BCS had grown in numbers and it became necessary for it to split into two locations – a site on Lake Champlain for New York boys (now called Camp Dudley,) and a site in New Jersey, which was called the Jersey Boys’ Camp at Lake Wawayanda, or Camp Wawayanda for short. When areas around Camp Wawayanda became so developed that it encroached on the peace that camp was meant to offer, the camp had to find another location. In 1957 Julius Forstmann’s 2,200-acre estate, which was called Frost Valley, was sold to the YMCA. The first summer camp in the new permanent location was held in 1958.

Here are some historical highlights:

  • 1957: Frost Valley Association is formed to run the Frost Valley Camp and Conference Center. The Forstmann “Castle” opens to families and conference groups.
  • 1962: Girls camp, Camp Henry Hird opens at Frost Valley.
  • 1969: Frost Valley establishes a year-round Environmental Education Center to introduce young people to the natural world and teach them how to protect it.
  • 1975: Executive Director Halbe Brown oversees the development of the Ruth Gottscho Kidney Dialysis Center at Frost Valley, the first of its kind anywhere.
  • 1979: Executive Director Halbe Brown brokers a global collaboration between Frost Valley and the Tokyo YMCA, extending a home base and respite in the United States to Japanese families living abroad, and designating Frost Valley as an international YMCA.
  • 1981: The Straus Center is renovated and opens as a conference and group retreat facility.
  • 1983: Mainstreaming at Camp, in coordination with YAI, is initiated at Frost Valley, quickly becoming a popular program.
  • 1998: A Streamside Classroom is developed in association with the U.S. Geological Services.
  • 2000: The Educational Farm in the East Valley hosts campers and guests for the first time.
  • 2007: McLain Lodge undergoes renovations and reopens as Geyer Hall; a fully equipped business center. Also, the new hotel style 24-room Lakeview Lodge opens.
  • 2008: The Guenther Family Wellness Center opens, replacing the old Smith Lodge, which served for decades as the camp infirmary.
  • June 2011: Straus Center is renovated, becoming the new East Valley Lodge, opening for family and group retreats.

View the full historical timeline.

Today, Frost Valley is guided by eight core values—Caring, Community, Diversity, Honesty, Inclusiveness, Respect, Responsibility, and Stewardship—that have seen the far-reaching camp through powerful transformations. As the nation’s oldest YMCA camp, Frost Valley has grown to become one of the premier outdoor camping, group retreat, and environmental education centers in the world.

Frost Valley Today

Each summer, Frost Valley provides exceptional outdoor experiences for over 4,000 children through camp programs that include but are not limited to: equestrian camp, farm camp, the world’s only Bear Grylls Survival Academy Summer Camp, adventure trips, a “Kidney Camp” for children with kidney disease or transplants, and of course the traditional overnight camping programs that Frost Valley was founded on. During the school year, Frost Valley serves more than 35,000 school children, families, Girl and Boy Scout troops, religious organizations, and others on its 5,500-acre property.

Guided by a mission to serve all, Frost Valley provides financial assistance and full scholarships (known as “camperships”) to thousands of children and families who otherwise might not experience the great outdoors and Frost Valley’s signature core values. As can often be heard in the dining hall or on the scenic trails of this exceptional camp, “There really is something for everyone in the Valley.”

We've come a long way since our Camp Wawayanda roots, but we've maintained many of our traditions along the way.

We’ve come a long way since our Camp Wawayanda roots, but we’ve maintained many of our traditions along the way.