Where to Camp in the Empire State
New York City is known for being a bustling city that never sleeps. Every year, over 50 million tourists make their way to NYC. Whether it’s enjoying one of the city’s many museums, a picnic in Central Park or a play on Broadway, there’s always something to do in the big city.
But if you’re not a city person, there’s plenty of fun to be had upstate, where you’ll find some of the most beautiful scenery in the entire country. Camp and fish on one of New York’s several lakes, enjoy the breathtaking views of Niagara Falls or feast your eyes on the colors of the changing leaves in the fall. Whatever your style, you’re sure to find some great camping in New York.
Here are our picks for the best campgrounds in New York.
1. Watkins Glen State Park – Watkins Glen
Watkins Glen State Park is the most famous of the Finger Lakes State Parks, with a reputation for leaving visitors spellbound. Within two miles, the glen’s stream descends 400 feet past 200-foot cliffs, generating 19 waterfalls along its course. The gorge path winds over and under waterfalls and through the spray of Cavern Cascade. Rim trails overlook the gorge. Campers and day-visitors can enjoy the Olympic-size pool, scheduled summer tours through the gorge, tent and trailer campsites, picnic facilities and excellent fishing in nearby Seneca Lake or Catherine Creek, which is renowned for its annual spring run of rainbow trout. Learn more.
2. Letchworth State Park – Castile
Letchworth State Park, renowned as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” is one of the most scenically magnificent areas in the eastern U.S. The Genesee River roars through the gorge over three major waterfalls between cliffs–as high as 600 feet in some places–surrounded by lush forests. Hikers can choose among 66 miles of hiking trails. Trails are also available for horseback riding, biking, snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Letchworth offers nature, history and performing arts programs, guided walks, tours, a summer lecture series, whitewater rafting, kayaking, a pool for swimming and hot air ballooning. Experiencing Letchworth by hot air balloon is unforgettable, as seen in this video clip. Learn more.
3. Saranac Lake Islands – Saranac Lake
The Lower Saranac Lake Islands provide miles and miles for boater recreation and direct access to four other lakes, through a set of locks which allow your vessel to be raised or lowered to the right water level. Coupled with the ability to camp on selected island sites, being able to fish for your dinner, after hours of water skiing might make you never want to leave. Due to limited parking, campers may be required to use municipal lots in the Saranac Lake Village. When parking at the State Bridge location, you must prominently display your permit or camping document. Learn more.
4. Cherry Plain State Park – Berlin
Cherry Plain State Park has 175 acres and features a sandy beach on Black River Pond, with bathhouse and comfort station nearby. Picnic grounds and a boat launch are adjacent to the beach. The park also has bridle paths and hiking, biking and nature trails that serve for cross-country skiing in winter. Anglers fish for bass, bullheads and pickerel and may also ice fish in winter. Learn more.
5. Niagara Falls KOA – Grand Island
Unforgettable Niagara Falls is 7 miles away; tour packages (you WILL get wet!) available here and pick up at the office several times a day (during season). Martin’s Fantasy Island amusement/water park (tickets sold here) is a short train-ride away from your site. Grand Island hosts two State Parks, bike paths, fishing in the Niagara River or two of the five Great Lakes, or try your luck at several nearby casinos. Learn more.
6. Lewey Lake – Lake Pleasant
Lewey Lake Campground offers wonderful amenities, like a swimming beach and comfortable campsites, and a range of outdoor activities, including fishing and hiking. Its campsites are secluded and wooded, offering campers a true opportunity to “get away from it all.” Learn more.
7. Paradise Bay Park – Findley Lake
Situated on beautiful Findley Lake, our park has 103 landscaped wooded sites. We offer fully equipped vacation cabins & campers as well as tent sites, RV & 5th Wheel Pull-thru sites with plenty of room for slide-outs. All of our sites have water/electric 30/50 amp hookups as well as a free dump station and grey water hook ups. Your site includes a private fire ring and picnic table for your convenience. We offer boat rentals, heated pool, mini golf, bike rentals & so much more. So come camp & play at Paradise Bay! Learn more.
8. Hamlin Beach State Park – Hamlin
Hamlin Beach State Park’s clear water, sandy beaches and 264 tent and trailer campsites bring thousands of visitors to the park each year. The Yanty Creek Marsh area at the east end of the park has a mile long self-guided trail. In addition, there are 6 miles of hiking and biking trails, as well as snowmobile and cross-country skiing. Visitors can launch car-top boats, fish for salmon and trout and enjoy the picnic facilities. Learn more.
9. Golden Beach Campground – Raquette Lake
Located on the shore of the beautiful 5,935 acre Raquette Lake this 207 campsite park offers many opportunities for enjoying the Central Adirondack Mountains. Boating on Raquette Lake provides the opportunity to explore the 99 miles of shoreline with views of some historic Adirondack Great Camps , fish for the varied species of fish including lake and brook trout, small mouth bass and perch to name a few. Motorboats, rowboats and canoes are allowed. There is a shallow boat launch available for small and cartop boats and canoes. Golden Beach offers one of the largest natural beaches in the area. Swimming is allowed when lifeguards are on duty. Bring your picnic basket and enjoy lunch in our picnic area adjacent to the beach. Learn more.
10. Glimmerglass State Park – Cooperstown
Glimmerglass State Park, located eight miles outside the village of Cooperstown, overlooks Otsego Lake, the “Glimmerglass” of James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales. The rolling, partially-wooded terrain is host to a wide variety of wildlife. An uphill trail through the forest affords a spectacular view of Otsego Lake; the Beaver Pond and Woodland trails are picturesque and of interest for the variety of wildflowers, shrubs, ferns and mosses. Learn more.
Do you have a favorite camping spot in New York that wasn’t included on this list? Let us know in the comments!
And be sure to check out the rest of our Best Campgrounds in the US series.