The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) have announced that New York will once again provide free First-Time Camper weekends this summer. Families that have never camped before will have the opportunity to enjoy the popular outdoor activity and be provided equipment, guidance, and programs at select campgrounds.
Interested New York residents can apply to participate in the First-Time Camper program by using an online sign-up form which enters them into an online lottery. The application period for the lottery selection process runs from May 10 to May 12. Eligible participants who apply for the lottery during that period will be randomly selected to fill first-time camper slots.
Established in 2017 with eight parks, the program expanded last year and now, for its third season, will include 11 campgrounds over nine weekends from late June until after Labor Day. Select locations include the Catskills and Hudson Valley, Adirondacks, and Western New York.
Long-time campers know the enjoyment and rewards of sleeping out in nature, but for those who have never slept in a tent before, spending the night outdoors can be an unfamiliar adventure. New York’s First-Time Camper program provides more of a turnkey camping experience for families, especially those from underserved communities that have never camped before.
New campers will be provided with a family tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camp chairs, lantern, and firewood. A camping ambassador will meet families at the campsite and help them get camp set up with a camping 101 lesson. Bathrooms and hot showers are a short walk from the campsites. To make the weekend getaway even more enjoyable, campers will have an opportunity to learn from experts how to fish, hike, bird watch, or paddle and more.
Campgrounds are available throughout the state to give all New Yorkers an opportunity to enter and participate if selected. Details about the program and how to apply can be found on DEC’s website. Information about the locations hosting the First-Time Camper program can be found at the links below. Participating locations and dates include: