Georgia State Parks is making camping easy for first-timers who want to try it out for a night or two. Their First-Time Camper Program is a budget-friendly way for newbies to experience all that camping has to offer: campfires and s’mores, giggling in the dark, waking up to the chorus of birds, and slowing down to enjoy simple times with family and friends in the great outdoors.
For $50, guests can camp for up to two nights at any of six Georgia State Parks campgrounds with all the necessities provided: a tent, sleeping pads, chairs, a stove, fuel and lanterns.
“So many people are curious about camping, but they don’t want to invest in the equipment without trying it out first,” Georgia State Parks Public Affairs Coordinator Kim Hatcher said. “This is a great way for families or single parents who might have reservations about camping – or who don’t want to purchase all the equipment without trying it first – to give it a try.”
Anyone who has never camped in a Georgia State Park may participate in Georgia’s First-Time Camper Program. The fee provides the camping site and camping gear, which has been donated to program by REI, The North Face and Coleman.
Upon arrival to the campground, campers are paired with a park staffer or campground host volunteer to help with setup the tent and basic camping instructions. “The only thing we do not provide is sleeping bags,” Hatcher said. “Guests can either bring their own sleeping bags or simply bring sheets and blankets from home.”
Once settled in, guests can enjoy hiking, biking, fishing, boating, geocaching, mini-golf, wildlife programs and many other activities. “Once they see how easy it is to pitch a tent, and maybe even experience the thrill of hearing an owl, they’ll realize how much fun camping can be,” Hatcher said.
The following Georgia State Parks offer the First-Time Camper Program:
- A.H. Stephens State Park (Crawfordville) 706-456-2602)
- Don Carter State Park (Gainesville) 678-450-7726
- Fort Mountain State Park (Chatsworth) 706-422-1932
- Fort Yargo State Park (Winder) 770-867-3489
- Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park (Reidsville) 912-557-7744
- Indian Springs State Park (Flovilla) 770-504-2277
Reservations for the First-Time Camper Program are required and must be made by calling the individual parks. Guests are sent a list of items to bring (food, flashlights, etc.) once their reservations are made.
Park officials hope the First-Time Camper Program will give families an incentive to explore and appreciate the natural world around them. “This program is intended as a one-time experience,” Hatcher said. “The goal is if they like it, they’ll buy their own equipment and do it again.”
“Camping is such a great way to connect with your family and nature,” she said. “With the light pollution and noise pollution that we have today, it’s easy for kids to grow up without hearing frogs and crickets at night, catching fireflies or seeing the stars. Parents forget that kids can be happy with simple things.”
To learn more, visit GeorgiaStateParks.org/FirstTimeCamper.