All photographs, unless otherwise indicated, were taken by and are the property of New York Makers
For many Americans, camping under the stars is becoming a fun, family-friendly, and accessible way to spend quality time outside and take a needed break from technology. More than 7.2 million households in the U.S. have started camping over the past five years, bringing the total number of camping households in the U.S. to a new high of 78.8 million, according to KOA’s 2019 North American Camping Report. What’s more, the number of non-white campers is growing, as well as the numbers of Generation Z and Millennials, showing increased interest across all demographics.
New Yorkers looking to pitch their tents and otherwise camp out in the open-air have plenty of options, both publicly and privately run.
New York’s 118 state campgrounds are operated by the The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) within the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves (52 campgrounds & 5 day-use areas) and by the Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation (OPRHP) at all remaining camping areas and cabins in state parks.
The New York State Camping Guide is a fantastic resource for finding out state camp locations, the amenities and attractions each offers — such as hiking trails, beaches, pools, boat launching, fishing, electric hook-ups and EV charging stations, equestrian sites, day areas with picnic tables and grills, firewood available, comfort stations and pit privies (which can vary quite substantially) — how to make reservations, fees and other information. Other helpful information, including maps and a camping checklist may also be found on the DEC website.
Options from islands, mountains, lakes, and in between can be found in the Adirondacks, Allegany, Catskills, Central, Finger Lakes, Genesee, Long Island, Niagara, Palisades, Saratoga, Taconic, and Thousand Islands. For those who do not wish to pitch a tent or use a trailer, there are also locations where cabins, cottages, and yurts can be rented. Reservations are not required, but strongly recommended.
Backwoods or primitive camping is permitted on DEC managed lands within certain guidelines.
For reservations, go to https://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com or call 1-800-456-CAMP.
KOA, a private company that runs campgrounds nationally, also operates 19 locations across New York, all situated in popular locals with nearby attractions. Each campground offers amenities like bathrooms with hot water, children’s playgrounds, and laundry facilities. It also offers a variety of lodging possibilities from basic tent sites, regular and deluxe camping cabins, RV sites, glamping tents, yurts, and Airstream trailers, among others.
When considering an end-of-summer outdoors getaway, all parts of the state offer terrific destinations. To go way out of the office, however, we recommend setting your sights north. Bordered by the shores of Lake Ontario in the east, north along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Champlain in the west, the greater Adirondack/Northern New York region is loaded with hidden gems of State Parks and DEC campgrounds. Here are 10 spots popular with locals and visitors alike:
Photo: Ausable Point Campground
A DEC-run park situated on a scenic point on Lake Champlain, off Route 9 just south of Plattsburgh. Plenty of water-side campsites, with sandy beaches (day-use area beach has lifeguards and bath house). Where the Little Ausable River meets Lake Champlain makes for great canoeing and kayaking. Popular spot for birding. Boat launch just outside the park.
Location: 3346 Lake Shore Road, Peru, NY
Set in the woods about 15 minutes from Saranac Lake, this DEC-run park gives you the quintessential Adirondack experience without the crowds. Featuring non-motorized boat rentals (motorized boats are allowed on nearby Lake Kushaqua), a hiking trail on an old rail bed, as well as swimming and fishing in a peaceful setting.
Location: 1339 County Route 60, Onchiota, NY
Popular among locals, the park is on a wide part of the St. Lawrence, with a lakefront feel and many waterfront campsites. The sandy beach is perfect for swimming, and a picnic pavilion and playground are situated nearby. A marina on the mouth of Coles Creek is located just north of the park entrance.
Location: Route 37, Waddington, NY
Photo: Frontier Town Campground
New York’s newest campground is located on 91 acres on the shores of the Schroon River that were once home to the now-defunct Frontier Town theme park. For more than 40 years, Frontier Town, a Wild West theme park, was a destination for families from across the country. Keeping in that spirit, the campground offers equestrian trails and sites where your horse can camp with you. There are also hiking, biking, and playground options; and, coming soon, the new home of Paradox Brewery.
Location: 2686 Route 9, North Hudson, NY
Photo: Grass Point State Park
On the American Channel of the St. Lawrence, outside of Alex Bay, this park is a paradise for boating and fishing, with 24 boat slips, boat launch, rentals, and marina store equipped with all the essentials. From the launch, make the quick jaunt by boat to the restored Rock Island Lighthouse.
Location: 42247 Grassy Point Road, Alexandria Bay, NY
In the north-western side of the Adirondack region, this park is situated along the Raquette River, offering canoeing, fishing and swimming. Surrounded by pine forest, with interpretive trails, and secluded campsites. For the cold-hardy, this is a popular spot for winter activities: snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.
Location: 442 Cold Brook Drive, Colton, NY
Located on the north shore of 275-acre Lake Harris, which is fed by the Hudson River, the campground is set back from the road by a few miles, nestled in the forest. It has 89 sites, two-thirds of which are on the shoreline, for canoes, rowboats and kayaks. Santanoni Preserve and numerous hiking trails are within striking distance, making it a great launching point for other Adirondack adventures.
Location: 291 Campsite Road, Newcomb, NY
Located in northern Franklin County, with Malone to the north and Saranac Lake to the south, this unassuming area is rich with outdoors opportunities. The DEC-run campground is the only development on 1,200-acre Meacham Lake, which is open to motorized and non-motorized boats. For extra adventure, hike up nearby Debar Mountain or St. Regis Mountain.
Location: 119 State Camp Road, Duane, NY
Located just outside of the village of Speculator, this campground sits next to picturesque Sacandaga Lake. At an elevation of 1,730 feet above sea level, the area is generally flat and well-wooded, with large white pines and hardwoods. If looking for something else to do, take a trip into town, get out on Lake Pleasant, or soak in the local flavor at the town’s recreation park.
Location: Page Street, Speculator, NY
An opportunity to camp on the St. Lawrence River, and see ships go through the locks at the nearby Seaway. The park is partly on Barnhart Island, with great boating, fishing, hiking, and other activities at the park’s nature center. Rental cabins provide a glamping experience.
*Not to be confused with the one on Long Island!
Location: 32 Beach Marina Road, Massena, NY