Camps & Workshops

Summer Camps

Summer Camp 2024

Registration starts 9:00 AM on March 2 for residents of Union County

Registration starts 9:00 AM on March 4 for Out-of-County residents

The Union County Board of County Commissioners invites you to take part in outdoor, educational summer programs offered in the scenic Watchung Reservation. Children ages 6-12 can enroll in a morning session, afternoon session or a full day.  Programs are designed to foster an awareness & appreciation of the natural world.

Session Times

  • A: 9:00 AM  – 12:00 PM
  • B:   1:00 PM   –  4:00  PM
  • A & B Full Day: 9:00 AM –  4:00  PM
    • *Full Day Rates A & B include a ½ hour lunch time & ½ hour free time.

5-Day Program:

  • Half Day Rate: 
    • Union County Resident $165 / A or B
    • Out of County Resident  $210 / A or B
  • *Full Day Rate:
    • Union County Resident   $330 / A & B
    • Out of County Resident  $420 / A & B
    • *Full Day Rates A & B include a ½ hour lunch time & ½ hour free time.

3-Day Program: July 1-3 only (Monday – Wednesday)

  • Half Day Rate: 
    • Union County Resident  $100 / A or B    
    • Out of County Resident  $125 / A or B
  • *Full Day Rate:
    • Union County Resident  $200 / A & B     
    • Out of County Resident  $250 / A & B
  • *Full Day Rates A & B include a ½ hour lunch time & ½ hour free time.

Family Evening Programs:

  • Union County Resident $8/person
  • Out of County Resident $10/person

Please read all general and cancellation policies before registering.

  • Children must be age appropriate by the first day of their program.
  • Children will not be permitted to repeat camps.
  • In order to accommodate everyone, please let us know in advance if you or a member of your family has special needs.

General Policies for Summer Programs

  • Program spaces are non-exchangeable and non-transferable.
  • You may register your family members in your household only.
  • In developing programs, Trailside keeps in mind the abilities of different aged children.  Please pay attention to age guidelines when registering.  If an inappropriately aged child attends a program, the child will be removed and no credit or refund will be issued.          
  • Children must be age appropriate by the first day of the program.
  • Children will not be permitted to repeat camps.

Cancellation Policies for Summer Programs

  • Credits will not be given at any time for summer programs. 
  • Refunds will be given from March 4th to June 14th with a non-refundable registration fee of $35 charged for each half-day session.  No refunds will be given after June 14th.
  • Trailside is unable to process refunds for summer programs directly to your credit cards.  Call Trailside at 908-789-3670 for refund procedures

Cancellation Policies for Evening Family Programs

  • Refunds will not be given at any time for Evening Family Programs. 
  • Credits will only be issued for Evening Family Programs cancelled by Trailside due to inclement weather.

Program Chart for Children Ages 6-12

2024 Trailside Summer Camp Programs for Children Ages 6-7

Rock Hounds – Discover the difference between a rock, gem and mineral. Find out why some minerals glow in the dark, learn how fossils are formed and start a rock collection of your own. Have fun investigating the world beneath your feet as we look for animals that make their homes burrowing underground and living under rocks.    

Nature Discovery Club – Take an in-depth look at the world of 6-legged creatures (insects). Visit a different habitat each day and use collecting equipment to discover a variety of critters, from ants to whirlygig beetles.

Mythical Creatures of Field & Forest – Use your imagination to explore nearby forests, meadows, lakes and streams in search of mythical creatures, such as fairies, elves and gnomes. Through art projects, stories and hikes, participants will enjoy a world of make-believe set within the natural world.

Have to Have a Habitat – Food, water, shelter and space are necessary for all animals to survive. Have fun investigating the forest, meadow, lake and stream in search of the many animals that live in the Watchung Reservation.   

Nature’s Olympians – Discover who is the fastest flier, strongest swimmer, highest jumper and quickest sprinter as we explore nature’s most extreme athletes. Through active games, hikes & experiments, campers will find out who are our nature’s champions.

Feather, Fur & Scales – Have fun learning about birds, mammals, reptiles & amphibians as we explore the fascinating world of the animal kingdom. Investigate the different habitats of the Watchung Reservation in search of our animal neighbors, their homes & hideouts. Meet live snakes and turtles from Trailside’s reptile collection.

Seasonally Artistic – There are many ways nature can influence art. Find out which season inspires you the most! Use your creativity to make tools from natural objects. Have fun turning pine needles into a paintbrush to paint a winter scene, let flowers be your inspiration for a springtime watercolor painting and harness the sun’s rays for a summertime solar printing.

Arctic, Ocean & Desert – Take an imaginary journey to some of the world’s most extreme habitats. Find out how animals, such as arctic fox and polar bears, survive the sub-zero temperatures of the arctic, while camels and armadillos thrive in the heat of the desert. Learn about the magnificent ocean and its inhabitants, including whales and sharks.

2024 Trailside Summer Camp Programs for Children Ages 8-9

Trailside Treks – Join a Trailside Naturalist for a series of challenging excursions to various sites in the Watchung Reservation. Each day, we will hike a different trail with a new destination. Wear sturdy shoes and bring a backpack with a water bottle and snack.  

Wild & Rare – There are many animals that are endangered locally and globally. Discover why so many species are in trouble and find out what you can do to help. Learn how you can help our local wildlife and find out which endangered species lives at the Trailside Visitor Center.

Bugs & Beyond – Did you know that insects represent over 90% of all living things on the Earth or that a honeybee can travel up to 60 miles in one day to collect food? Build a spider web, play the monarch migration game and discover why bugs are important to people and the environment. Use sweep nets and magnifiers to investigate the diversity of insect life found in the gardens and meadows around Trailside. Visit stream, pond, meadow and forest habitats to learn about the adaptations and lifecycles of these amazing creatures.

Art of Nature – Nature has inspired artists for many years. Investigate different habitats in the Watchung Reservation in search of nature’s beauty. Discover art in nature through sketches, painting and storytelling. Using natural items, create rock cairns, clay pots and water color paintings. Let nature be your inspiration.  

Magical & Natural Marvels – Prepare to have fun in this entertaining camp based on ideas from the ever-popular Harry Potter series of books by J.K. Rowling. Campers will enjoy learning about medicinal and useful plants (herbology), practicing chemistry experiments (potions), learning about transfiguration (metamorphosis) and exploring the solar system (astronomy). Investigate habitats suitable for natural creatures, such as snakes and salamanders, and use your imagination to discover which magical animals may inhabit these different environments.

Solar System Surfers – Join the Space Team and discover Trailside’s new Solar System Walk. Learn about the planets in our solar system, the sun, stars, comets and asteroids. Each day will be a fun-filled adventure in the Milky Way. Activities include playing the weightlessness race and navigating the astronaut obstacle course.   

Birds of a Feather – Explore the diverse world of birds and discover what makes them unique in the animal kingdom. Find out about different bird groups and the characteristics that make them different from one another. Explore some of the finer points of bird identification and start your own life list of bird sightings.

Junior Naturalist – Learn about the plants and animals living in and around water, and develop a heightened awareness about the importance of conserving and preventing the pollution of this natural resource. Using dip nets, capture and release aquatic insects, fish, frogs, toads and salamanders.  Keep a journal of the number and types of plants and animals found in these areas.

2024 Trailside Summer Camp Programs for Children Ages 10-12

Nature Watch – Calling all future scientists!  Citizen science provides the opportunities for people of all ages to make important contributions that help scientists understand how the natural world works around us.  Using free downloadable apps such as Seek and iNaturalist, we will visit different habitats and work together to observe and identify plants, trees, insects, mammals, birds and all things nature.  Bring: your mobile device if you have one.

Backwoods Lore – Learn how to identify plants that are safe to eat, build an emergency shelter that can keep you warm and dry and follow a course using only a map and compass. Find out how to identify and track local wildlife and see what it takes to get a fire going without matches. Are you ready for the challenge?

Nature Treks – There’s a lot happening in nature during these hot summer months. Take a hike on a different trail each day and investigate the natural world around you. Look under rocks and logs for nature’s recyclers.  Try to catch a frog, fish or tadpole at Lake Surprise.  Explore the stream for salamanders and find out how all living things are connected.

EXTREME EARTH – Through hands-on experiments, explore the reasons for Earth’s natural disasters. Understand the science behind avalanches and earthquakes, and investigate the causes and effects of tsunamis, tornadoes and volcanoes. Learn about the three lava flows in the history of the Watchung Reservation and collect rocks that help tell the story. Learn to use Mohs scale of hardness, find out why minerals fluoresce and excavate for “fossils.”   

Naturally Artistic – The beauty of nature has inspired many artists. Explore the world of visual arts with Trailside’s very own talented exhibit artists. Enjoy using mixed media, such as acrylics, charcoal, water colors and clay to create your own masterpieces. From realistic to abstract, have fun as you try your hand at different forms of art.

2024 Family Evening Programs

EVENING POND SEARCH – Join us at Seeley’s Pond as we search for aquatic life as the sun goes down. Use dip nets and strainers to catch, identify and release frogs, fish, insect larvae and tadpoles.

Owl Prowl – Find out about the different species of owls that live in the Watchung Reservation. Listen to calls of the screech, great horned and barred owls. Learn about the special adaptations that make these birds successful hunters and take a walk in search of these amazing raptors, their daytime hideouts and nighttime hunting grounds.

Nighttime Sweeties – Celebrate National Moth Week July 20-28, 2024 as we learn about the beauty of these nighttime insects.  Did you know that moths play a vital role in the food web?  They are a source of food for many animals including birds, mammals, amphibians and even other insects.  Moths are also important pollinators and can be attracted to sweet smells.  Using ripe fruits, a bright light and a white sheet, we will try to attract these nighttime creatures.  Let’s see how many different kinds of moths we can find tonight!

Dusk Hike – Many animals become active during the dawn and dusk hours; these animals are called crepuscular. Take a walk as the sun sets to find out which animals are busy looking for food.   

Nocturnal Neighbors – Have fun exploring the forest and fields around Trailside for our nighttime neighbors, such as bats, owls, flying squirrels, opossums and raccoons. Use your ears to listen for the night sounds of the Watchung Reservation.



A wonderful way for families with children ages 4 & up to spend time together outside.  

Saturdays,  11:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Sap to Syrup – See how real maple syrup is made from the sap of a sugar maple tree. Find out what equipment is needed to collect and process the sap. Take a walk to see a tapped maple tree and find out if the sap is running.

Total Eclipse – Get ready for the Great American Solar Eclipse that will take place on Monday, April 8, 2024. While New Jersey will not be in the path of totality, about 90% of the sun will be blocked by the moon for about an hour beginning around 3:25 p.m. Prepare your family for this rare event by learning about our solar system and what causes a solar eclipse. Take a guided walk along Trailside’s Solar System Trail, where each step you take represents one million miles in space. Learn how to use the audio guides to discover fun facts about our solar system.  Special solar viewing glasses will be provided to registrants.   

Learn to Lead – Learn how to prepare yourself and your family for a fun spring hike in the Watchung Reservation. Discover the “dos” and “don’ts” of a successful family trail walk. Take a guided walk on one of our color-coded trails to find out how to read trail blazes, stay safe on the trail and get the most out of your hike.  

Planet vs. Plastics is the theme for Earth Day this year. Discover how plastic pollution affects the different habitats in the Watchung Reservation and find out how your family can reduce plastic use. Take a nature appreciation walk and learn why working together can help keep our planet healthy for plants, animals and people! 

Falcon Friends – Union County is home to the only active peregrine falcon nest camera in the state of New Jersey. Learn about the world’s fastest animal, the peregrine falcon, and other birds of prey, such as hawks, eagles and owls. Using the falcon cam, see live footage inside the nest that sits atop the courthouse in Elizabeth.

Wild Child – Mother may I …hunt for fish? Ride on your back? Hide in your pouch? Get ready for Mother’s Day as we explore the special relationship between animal mothers and their young, wild children. Take a walk-in search of places animals may live or hide out. If we are lucky, we may see a wild child with its mother.

Wild About Flowers – Wildflowers are beginning to bloom throughout the Watchung Reservation. Discover how to identify some common wildflowers and learn which plants are not supposed to grow in the Reservation. 

Insect Investigators – Discover the importance of our bug neighbors; the Earth would be much different without them! Find out where they live and learn about their life cycles. Have fun looking under rocks and logs to catch, observe, and release these wonderful creatures.



Teacher Training – Project Learning Tree

Project Learning Tree “PLT” is a nationally recognized activity guide that provides educators with tools for increasing student environmental awareness.  Whether you are a formal or informal educator, PLT activities will engage your students in inter-disciplinary, hands-on experiences that develop skills in problem solving, evaluation and research.   

Time:  9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Participants receive six (6) NJDOE professional development credits.

  • Fee: $25 which includes activity guide with over 100 lessons. 
  • Bring:  Lunch
  • Morning refreshments will be provided. 
  • Dress for outdoors.

Register online


Senior Nature Walks – Spring 2024

Seniors, ages 55 and older, are invited to investigate Union County Parks with a Trailside Park Naturalist.

Registration Required

Fee:  $5/person for Union County residents. $6/person for non-county residents

Time:   Tuesdays, 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM  

Peregrine Falcons – The fastest animal on the planet, the peregrine falcon, once faced regional extinction in the eastern United States. Now their numbers have rebounded, and they are often seen perched or zooming through cities and shorelines in search of their prey. Learn about the life history of the peregrine falcon and other birds of prey on a walk through the Reservation. See live footage from the only peregrine falcon nest camera in the state of New Jersey, which is located atop the courthouse in Elizabeth, NJ.  

Great American Eclipse – Get ready for the Great American Solar Eclipse that will take place on Monday, April 8, 2024. Although New Jersey won’t be in the path of totality, about 90% of the sun will be blocked by the moon beginning around 3:25 p.m. and lasting for about an hour. Enjoy a brief presentation to learn about solar eclipses and take a walk along our Solar System Trail to learn more about this fascinating phenomenon. Special solar viewing glasses will be provided to registrants.   

Spring Wild Flowers – Many of our forest wildflowers emerge in early spring, produce stems and leaves, bloom, fruit and complete their life cycle by early summer. These plants are called spring ephemerals. Take a walk in search of these fleeting wildflowers and discover how this strategy helps them survive.  

Spring in Cedar Brook – As temperatures rise and the days get longer, take a walk to enjoy the sights and sounds of early spring in Cedar Brook Park. Find out which trees are leafing out, learn about the tiny spring peeper frogs that sing at night, discover which animals are emerging from hibernation and learn about the many birds that are beginning to migrate home.  **Park across from the tennis courts on Park Drive**

Birds of Warinanco – Bird watching can offer hours of entertainment as you observe their unique behaviors and enjoy their distinctive songs. Learn to identify birds that inhabit Warinanco Park in Roselle by sight and sound.  Bring binoculars if you have them or borrow a pair of ours.  **Park in lot adjacent to Warinanco Sports Center:  1 Park Dr, Roselle, NJ 07203**

Pollinators – Discover the importance of pollinators, including bees, flies, butterflies, moths and birds. Enjoy a walk to the native plant garden, butterfly garden and Girl Scout meadow to look for spring wildflowers and the animals that pollinate them.  

Mammals – Discover the diversity of mammals living in the Watchung Reservation and the fascinating ways they are equipped to survive. Take a walk to search for signs of local wildlife and learn what they are doing this time of year.