About Camp SESE

Camp SESE provides incoming School of Earth and Space Exploration first-year students an introduction to ASU and the School of Earth and Space Exploration family. Camp SESE is intended to be a fun, informative activity and an opportunity for new students to get to know us and each other. Faculty, staff and upperclassmen will act as a resource for students during the camp.

All incoming freshmen are advised to take SES 191 and Camp SESE is part of that course. Students will participate in this 3-day, 2-night excursion to ASU’s unique facility at Tonto Creek Camp, Friday-Sunday lunch the weekend after Labor Day. At 5600’ in the Ponderosa Pines near Payson, AZ (1.5 hours from ASU’s Tempe campus) Tonto Creek Camp offers a welcome escape from the summer heat in a beautiful wilderness area. Studies show that students who are immediately engaged in their academic environment have higher retention and graduation rates.

Four female students by a creek stop to show off their rock findings during camp.


All participants must be registered in the class SES 191: Exploring SESE and also fill out both the ASU and the Tonto Creek Camp liability waiver forms. These two forms must be turned in during class prior to departing for Camp SESE: ASU Camp SESE release form and the Tonto Creek Camp (18 and older) release form (PDF).

If you are not 18 at the time you attend camp, your parent or guardian will need to sign both the ASU Camp SESE release form and the Tonto Creek Camp (under 18) release form (PDF). Answers to many of your questions about the camp can be found below in Frequently Asked Questions.


  • To introduce the School of Earth and Space Exploration mission and vision, blending Earth, Environmental and Space Sciences with Engineering for Exploration.
  • To create a sense of community and establish open channels of communication.
  • To spark initial connections among incoming students and upper-division mentors.
  • To cultivate leadership and teamwork.
  • To kick off the academic year with a fun escape in the mountains.


  • Hike and learn about the landscape, climate, and geology
  • Star gazing with telescopes
  • Orienteering adventure (use compasses, topography maps and explore!)
  • Low Ropes Challenge Course
  • Drive robots and learn about Autonomous Vehicles in Scientific Exploration
  • Get to know each other, your mentors, and faculty
A male and female student wearing their SESE t-shirts compare rock specimens in camp.

About the Location: Tonto Creek Camp

Tonto Creek Camp is the location for Camp SESE. It is a relaxing, rustic 36-acre campsite at 5600’ elevation in the Tonto National Forest just 1.5 hours from the ASU Tempe campus that has hosted decades of events and retreats for Sun Devil athletics, ASU academic programs, ASU families, as well as local businesses and the community.

Situated just below the Rim of the Colorado Plateau and nestled in the largest continuous stand of ponderosa pines in the US, Tonto Creek Camp is outfitted with 2 sports fields, dormitories for large groups, a variety of rustic cabins for small groups, and a dining hall. Tonto Creek Camp has many natural amenities, including a natural spring that supplies ample water year-round, hiking trails through the National Forest, beautiful rock formations, swimming holes, and excellent fishing on Tonto Creek.

For nearly 50 years, the Arizona State University Sun Devils practiced football at Tonto Creek Camp.  Following the example set by Frank Kush, numerous coaches led their teams up the hill from the Valley to enjoy the tall pines, build a sense of camaraderie, and practice without the distractions of life on campus.

A group of students sit together on the rocks listening to a leader as he sits above.


If the answer to your question is not in Frequently Asked Questions below, please contact your SES 191 instructor or email the SESE Advising office:

Email: sese-advising@asu.edu
Phone: (480) 965-5081

A daytime scene of a  male student looking through a telescope while another male stands nearby.

Frequently Asked Questions

When can I RSVP for Camp SESE?

Registration in SES 191 includes registration in Camp SESE. During the first week of class, registration forms, release forms, and additional information will be provided. If you are not 18 years of age at the time you attend camp, your parent or guardian will need to sign a release form.

What is Camp SESE?

A two-night, three-day camp for incoming School of Earth and Space Exploration first-year students held in the cool pines near Payson, Arizona, at ASU’s unique Tonto Creek Camp facility 1.5 hours north of the Tempe campus.

What are the benefits of attending Camp SESE?

Your involvement in Camp SESE is a fun way to jump-start your success in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and to become part of the SESE family. Incoming students will meet other students, faculty, and staff and learn skills that are important to their success at ASU and in SESE.

What do you do at Camp SESE?

Camp SESE will provide fun activities that will engage incoming students, introduce students to their new home in SESE, and provide opportunities to get to know each other. Activities will include hiking, star gazing, orienteering, exploring with SESE’s award-winning autonomous rover Raven, relaxing, and swimming (optional).

Is Camp SESE required?

No, it is not required. However, all first-year students are advised to take SES 191, and Camp SESE is part of that course. Through participating in Camp SESE, students will gain valuable knowledge, a memorable experience, and a fun weekend out of the summer heat.

Will I receive a confirmation when I register for Camp SESE?

You will receive a confirmation message once you have successfully registered. Prior to the Camp, you will be receiving reminder emails.

I have a disability, what are my options?

Most disabilities can be accommodated at Camp SESE, and participation in any particular activity can be excused, as appropriate. Please contact your SES 191 instructor to discuss your options with you.

If I am not yet 18, will I need to have my parents sign a release form?

Yes, if you are not going to be 18 at the time you attend camp, please have them fill out the Camp SESE and Tonto Creek Camp liability waiver forms (ASU Camp SESE Release Form and Tonto Creek Camp (under 18) Release Form) and turn them in to your SES 191 instructor.

Do I need to have insurance to attend Camp SESE?

No, you do not have to have insurance. However, if you are not covered, you will be held responsible for any charges incurred if you become sick or are injured at camp. In any case, participants in the camp who are 18 or older must fill out the liability waiver forms ASU Camp SESE Release Form and Tonto Creek Camp Liability Form ; if under 18, participants need to have their parent or guardian fill out the forms ASU Camp SESE Release Form  and Tonto Creek Camp (under 18) Release Form. Please turn these forms in to your SES 191 instructor.

What do I need to bring?

  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillow
  • Drinking cup
  • Flashlight
  • Tennis shoes or closed-toed shoes
  • Hat, Sunglasses
  • Clothing for a two-night trip
  • Warm clothing (jacket/windbreaker, sweatshirt), extra socks
  • Rain gear (August/Sept. is monsoon season)
  • Bath/personal supplies (including soap and shampoo)
  • Towel/washcloth
  • Sun screen
  • Any medications (including inhalers, epi-pens, pain relievers/allergy medicines, etc)
  • Optional: Camera, Fishing Gear, Swimsuit, River sandals
  • Great attitude

Can I bring my cell phone?

There is no cell phone service nor any wireless service at Tonto Creek Camp. There is cell service in nearby Payson and along the highway to and from the camp.  We do not anticipate students needing their cell phones. If you need to bring one, we ask that you keep it in your cabin during the duration of the camp and it is your responsibility to make sure it is secure.

Where do I sleep?

Students will sleep in non-coed dormitories that sleep 26. You can learn more about accommodations at the Tonto Creek Camp website. In the past, some students have opted to sleep under the stars after the telescope viewing.

What facilities are provided?

There are several non-coed community style bathrooms and showers. You can learn more about accommodations at the Tonto Creek Camp website.

What will the temperature be at Tonto Creek Camp?

On average the high will be 87 degrees and the low will be 60 degrees. Also, it will be the monsoon season and afternoon/evening rain is common (and welcome!). We get some great thunderstorms.

Can I invite friends or family to attend?

No, Camp SESE is only for incoming School of Earth and Space Exploration first-year students. 

Can I attend Camp SESE if I'm not yet a SESE major?

No, Camp SESE is only for incoming School of Earth and Space Exploration first-year students.

Can I request a roommate?

No, all students will be divided into groups and will stay in the dormitories and cabins.

What if I get hurt or sick at camp?

All staff is first-aid trained and will be able to treat minor cuts and scrapes. For major emergencies the Payson fire, ambulance, and police will be notified.

What if I have medication that needs to be refrigerated?

You may store your medication in a refrigerator in the instructor’s cabin.

Will transportation be provided?

Yes. The buses will leave promptly at 8:45 a.m. from the ISTB4 parking lot on Friday and will arrive back at 5:00 p.m at the same location on Sunday. Please meet at 8:30 a.m. to get organized and on the buses so we can leave on time.

Can I drive up to Tonto Creek Camp?

No. Parking is very limited at Tonto Creek Camp and is reserved for faculty, staff and volunteers.

Do I need to be dropped off or will I be able to leave my car on campus?

You need to walk to or be dropped off at ISTB4 on the day of departure. There is NO OVERNIGHT parking on campus. Parking Services will tow any car that is parked without an ASU parking pass as well as anyone parked overnight.

Can I be dropped off/picked up from camp?

No. All students must take the buses to and from Retreat at Tonto Creek Camp.

What is the contact information?

Please contact your SES 191 instructor if you have questions that were not answered above or you can email SESE Advising as well:

Email: sese-advising@asu.edu
Phone: (480) 965-5081

A lone backpack and map lay on a rock, the wilderness of the forest in the background.