Published: Winter 2011

Georgia State Parks Simplify First-Time Camping  


If the thought of roasting marshmallows over a campfire and sleeping under the stars sounds appealing but also intimidating, Georgia State Parks will help make it a hassle-free reality. The new First-Time Camper Program provides adventurous newbies with borrowed gear and a helping hand.

“We realized that some people like the idea of camping, but they’re a little intimidated and don’t know if they can do it,” said the program’s coordinator, Cindy Reittinger. “When they discover that it’s easier than they think to pitch a tent, or when they experience the thrill of hearing their first owl, they’ll realize how much fun camping can be.”

The First-Time Camper Program is a bargain weekend getaway. For $45, spend two nights in a modern campground, trying out gear from REI—including a six-man tent, sleeping pads, chairs, camp stove and more. Park staffers will greet you upon arrival, help you set up the borrowed tent, help you build a campfire, give an orientation reviewing camping basics, and answer any questions. Once settled in, you’re then free to enjoy the park’s offerings, such as hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, boating, geocaching, miniature- or disc-golf, and many other activities at your leisure.

When ready to call it a night, climb into the cozy comfort of your tent shelter and rest easy knowing that you can check camping off your bucket list of lifetime To-Dos. “Part of the fun of sleeping in a tent is guessing about the noises you hear at night,” said Reittinger. “What might sound scary at first could be an armadillo scurrying through leaves or a raccoon climbing a tree. People often get a big laugh when they peek outside and see what it is, and kids love the excitement.”

At the end of the two-night experience, you’ll leave not only with memories, lungs full of fresh air, and a sense of accomplishment: You’ll get coupons for your next adventure. So what’s stopping you?

Six of Georgia’s State Parks offer the program: A.H. Stephens State Park in Crawfordville, Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, James H. (“Sloppy”) Floyd State Park near Rome, Reed Bingham State Park in Adel, Skidaway Island State Park in Savannah and Victoria Bryant State Park near Lavonia. Parks were chosen for the program based on their variety of outdoor recreation, proximity to larger cities and camp-loving staff.

The First-Time Camper program is available to anyone who has never before camped in a Georgia State Park. Dogs prohibited since equipment is shared. Reservations are required; call the individual parks or the program coordinator, Cindy Reittinger, at 404-657-0029.


Photos by Georgia Department of Natural Resources