Family camping

A family enjoys visiting Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction. Lost Dutchman is one of the five parks piloting the new Arizona Family Campout Program. [Copyright Arizona State Parks]

Rolling out a sleeping bag, pitching a tent and cooking food over a campfire. If anything to do with camping makes you anxious, Arizona State Parks is here to help.

The park service is hosting a Family Camp Out Program at five state parks during the next two months. At Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, families can attend a session March 9-10 or April 13-14. Participants can expect to spend the weekend with rangers and nine other families learning the basics of camping.

“What we’re targeting with the program is people who would like to get more involved with the outdoors but really don’t have any full-time experience,” says program coordinator Nicole Armstrong-Best.

Best calls this program “Camping 101.” There will be demonstrations that detail how to pitch a tent, how to use a lantern and the right foods to pack. There will also be recreational activities throughout the two days — things like hiking, mountain biking, geocaching, fishing and archery, depending on the park.

“We just want to give the families an idea that when you go to camp, you don’t just sit there and stare at the rocks,” says Best.

Full meals will be provided for the two-day, one night trip. Families will enjoy breakfast burritos, turkey cheeseburgers, and fresh grilled corn for their entrees, as well as fruits and nuts to snack on during the day. For dessert, there’s the camping classic of s’mores and hot chocolate.

Hot showers and restrooms will be available. However, families will need to bring their own bedding, clothing, sturdy shoes, and personal items like toothbrushes, soap and towels.

Best says that after this introductory weekend, she hopes that families will have a new outlook on camping.

“(The goal is) that (participants) will be comfortable to go out and camp again, that they will understand what programming state parks offer. So even if they don’t go camping again, they might go in (to a park) for a program or a presentation, or go for a hike.”

The program costs $65 for a family of four, with any additional family members costing $5 each. Registration is required, and you can sign up at

If you go

What: Family Camp Out Program, a two-day camping trip for families with children ages 6 and older, that familiarizes parents and kids with the basics of camping.

When and Where: March 9-10 and April 13-14 at Lost Dutchman State Park (Apache Junction), March 16-17 and March 23-24 at Dead Horse Ranch State Park (Cottonwood), April 6-7 and April 27-28 at Kartchner Caverns State Park (Benson), April 13-14 and April 27-28 at Patagonia Lake State Park (Patagonia), and April 20-21 at Catalina State Park (Tucson)

Cost: $65 for a family of four. Additional family members are $5 each. No pets allowed.


• Ellen, a junior studying journalism at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or

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