New York's 1st-time campers get a free camping weekend with gear. The Department of Environmental Conservation started the program last year and it was such a huge success expanding it for 2018. Here's when and where camping will be available.

The First Time Camper Program runs for 7 weekends, July 18 thru August 24 and includes select campgrounds and state parks throughout the state. In addition to free camping, the state will provide basic gear; a family tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camp chairs, lantern, and firewood. A "Camping Ambassador" will even meet you to assist in setting up camp, share fishing knowledge, hiking, bird watching, paddling and other recreational opportunities. Bathrooms and hot showers are even within walking distance.

This year, the state will use an online lottery system to randomly select campers. There's just a 3-day window to register, May 10 to May 13. Here are the locations and dates for each weekend.

7/13-7/15 - North South Lake (Catskills)
Darien Lake State Park (Genesee Region)

7/20-7/22 - Kenneth L Wilson (Catskills)
Four Mile Creek State Park (Niagara Region)

7/27-7/29 - Wellesley Island State Park (Thousand Islands Region)
Eighth Lake Campground (Adirondacks)

8/03-8/05 - Taconic State Park, Copake Falls (Taconic Region)
Cranberry Lake Campground (Adirondacks)

8/10-8/12 - Hearthstone Point Campground (Adirondacks)
Fair Haven Beach State Park (Finger Lakes Region)

8/17-8/19 - Fish Creek Pond Campground (Adirondacks)
Chenango Valley State Park (Central Region)

8/24-8/26 - Thompson's Lake at Thacher State Park (Saratoga Region)

The DEC's website has more details on New York's 1st Time Campers get a free weekend camping with gear.

SOURCE: Department of Environmental Conservation

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