Young people who attended the first Bates Wilson Youth Camp in 2014 gathered together for a group photo at Canyonlands National Park's Needles District. [Courtesy photo]

When Cole Patton attended a youth wilderness camp in Canyonlands National Park last year, he said he was especially enthralled by the area’s remoteness, the lack of development and the ability to see so many stars at night.

“It’s more natural than most national parks,” with fewer paved roads, he said.

The 16-year-old Layton, Utah, resident has signed up for a second year of the Bates Wilson Youth Camp, a wilderness adventure camp for teens held at the park’s Needles District; registration is still open for other students who would like to join him.

Funded by the Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks, the two-night, three-day camp is run by Canyonlands Field Institute and NAVTEC Expeditions guides. Teens will be treated to a four-wheel drive expedition over Elephant Hill, as well as a number of hikes and other activities, FACNP Executive Director Joette Langianese said. From Elephant Hill, the group will enter Chesler Park, “the absolute most-stunning landscape you’ll ever see,” Langianese said.

The camp is limited to 10 participants. Tents and other camping gear are provided. The cost of the camp is underwritten by Friends of Arches and Canyonlands, although a $50 registration fee is required. Scholarships are available.

Prospective campers are also asked to write a one-page essay about why they’re interested in participating – “to ensure there’s a real interest to be on the land, and learn about national parks,” Langianese said.

In addition to learning about geology, archeology and park history, the teens will be able to identify native plants and wildlife, and will learn about Bates Wilson, the first superintendent of both Canyonlands National Park and then-Arches National Monument.

“Bates was superintendent for Arches and Natural Bridges at the same time, from 1949 to 1972,” Langianese said. “He used to explore the lands in-between Arches and Natural Bridges,” an area designated Canyonlands National Park in 1964.

“The mission of our (Friends) organization is to connect people to place in ways that continue the Bates Wilson mission,” Langianese said.

Each camper will receive a book about Wilson, who championed efforts that led to the creation of Canyonlands National Park, Langianese said.

The weekend includes storytelling, and town hall-style meetings where campers will discuss topical issues. Park rangers will talk to kids about career opportunities in public land and resource management.

Fifteen-year-old Kira Janke of Salt Lake City said she hopes to return for a second season. After attending last year’s Bates Wilson Youth Camp, she said she has impressed her family on hikes they’ve taken together by being able to identify plants, insects and rock formations.

“The camp counselors were super-fun,” she said. “They were totally into it the whole time; they were so enthusiastic.”

Janke said she also found the food to be “awesome” – not the simple freeze-dried foods she expected.

Laura Cowley, Patton’s mom, remembers her son coming home tired and happy.

“He’s been looking forward to (returning) all year,” Cowley said. “I liked that it was a break from electronics; there were no cell phones; it was about being in touch with your surroundings.”

Registration is still open for Labor Day Weekend trip to Needles District

“The camp counselors were super-fun … They were totally into it the whole time; they were so enthusiastic.”

When: Friday, Sept. 5, through Monday, Sept. 7

Where: Canyonlands National Park’s Needles District

Cost: $50 registration fee