McDowell Recreation

Discover. Play. Explore.

  • McDowell is overflowing with opportunities to have fun, explore, relax, and play, no matter your age or physical ability. Hiking, canoeing, swimming, recreational games like softball, kickball, soccer, horseshoes, volleyball, and countless other activities await you. As you look through many of the available activities below, take note of any that might require a reservation prior to arrival.
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Recreational Areas

McDowell has several open recreational areas that can be used for all types of gatherings and activities. Since these areas and fields are in high demand during certain times of the year, please let your reservation specialist and conference center coordinator know if you are interested in using any of them. Hover over an image for additional information.


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Pools at Camp McDowell are open from May until September. Our summer camps use the pools almost every day, but please do not hesitate to ask if there's any availability for your group to swim during the warm and beautiful summer months. Our pool in lower camp has diving boards and St John's Pool, located in Bethany Village, is universally accessible with zero entry.


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With five conveniently located playgrounds, finding space for your children to play and explore at Camp McDowell is a breeze. Let us know when making your reservation if you'd like lodging near a playground.


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The Labyrinth

Labyrinths are wonderful vehicles for prayer, meditation, or quiet contemplation. The labyrinth can be accessed by a path that is roughly across the street from the fruit tree orchard, or by a path found at the back corner of the Miller Commons parking lot.


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Campfire Circles

S'mores anyone? Campfire circles are located throughout camp and double as small group meeting spaces. The campfire circle behind Doug Carpenter Hall is universally accessible and easily navigated from any Bethany cabin. Ask your Conference Center Coordinator or camp contact about using a campfire circle during your stay.

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Hiking Trails

At Camp McDowell, the hiking trail options seem endless. Scattered across our 1140+ acres, are over five miles of hiking trails for the active and walking paths for those who need a less strenuous option. Beautiful canyons, rare plants, waterfalls, and glistening streams are ready to be explored. Ask for a trail map or even a guided hike when making your reservation. Trails are designated on the camp map by dotted lines.


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Canoeing enthusiasts and beginners can find solace paddling on the five-acre Sloan Lake as well as on beautiful Clear Creek. Clear Creek boasts year-round canoeing access, steep canyons, and pristine wildlife. Life vests are available for all sizes. Ask about canoe availability during your stay and come and enjoy creation with us!

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Challenge Course & Ropes Activities

These activities are popular for team-building, confidence-boosting, and fostering trust. Professional groups, college organizations, and young people are some of the folks who have learned something about themselves and others by participating in the Challenge Course or Ropes activities.

These activities need to be requested and reserved several weeks in advance. Reservations depend on the availability of trained staff.


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Visit the Farm

Plan ahead and ask your Conference Center Coordinator if your group can tour the farm or have a hayride during your visit. Besides our goats, chickens, pigs, and geese, guests are often intrigued by the progressive methods incorporated in our farming and agricultural methods.

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Meet the Animals

Meet some critters native to Alabama like birds of prey, reptiles, and even some interesting bugs! Our trained staff will bring our animal ambassadors to your group whether you are at McDowell or elsewhere. Our Animal Program (a.k.a. Animal Ambassadors) has visited schools and retirement homes all over Alabama and has introduced hundreds of guests to our animal ambassadors. Let us know if you are interested!