Camping in New York State in 2023 (8 Best Sites & 7 Tips)
Camping in New York State is a staple of the summer months. At New York’s campsites, you can find everything from horseback riding and hiking trails to tennis courts and fishing.
Whether you’re taking a friendly-friendly camping trip with kids or a romantic evening in nature, you’ll have tons of camping sites to choose from in New York’s state parks and campgrounds. I grew up in New York and went camping every summer with my family. Now, I’m ready to pass along all the best spots for camping in New York State, so you can take advantage of the natural beauty here. Let’s get going!
Table of Contents
- Best Places to Go Camping In New York State
- 7 Tips For Camping in New York State
- FAQs About Camping in New York State
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Best Places to Go Camping In New York State
Taughannock Falls State Park
A huge state park that’s known for boasting the tallest waterfall in New York at 215-feet-high.
🗺️ Google Maps | Taughannock Falls State Park Website | Reservations: same day reservations allowed until 3 pm online or by phone | Amenities: Toilets, showers, electric hookups, drinking water, ADA access, phone service, picnic tables, boating, swimming
Most people think that the highest waterfall in New York must be the famed Niagara Falls, but it’s actually the massive Taughannock Falls near the Finger Lakes. You have the chance to camp right near these rushing falls when you spend the night at Taughannock Falls State Park. The campgrounds are located right next to Cayuga Lake where you can go boating, swimming, or fishing.
Taughannock Falls State Park offers both tent sites and RV sites, so you’ll be welcome no matter how you choose to camp. All the water activities available make Taughannock the ideal campsite for families who want a long list of things to do nearby that will occupy their kids.
Harriman State Park
A chill camping spot in the 2nd largest New York state park with lakes for swimming.
🗺️ Google Maps | Harriman State Park Website | Reservations: first-come, first-serve | Amenities: Toilets, picnic tables, visitors center, trash cans, grills, fishing
Are you an avid hiker who wants to camp in a location surrounded by trails? You’re going to love camping at Harriman State Park located to the west of the Hudson River.
Harriman is the 2nd largest state park in all of New York, filled with over 200 miles of hiking trails to wander. The park is perfect for all levels of hikers, as the trails range in difficulty from easy peasy to super difficult.
That’s not all, though. Harriman State Park also has 31 magnificent lakes and three different beaches. Each one is packed full of activities to do, like boating, paddling, and even ice skating during the winter. If you want to cook up some burgers or maybe some fish you caught, there are plenty of grills and picnic tables.
👉 Pro Tip: Harriman State Park is a mere 14-minute drive away from the equally cool Bear Mountain State Park. So you may want to plan a day trip over to Bear Mountain if you’re spending a week or so camping.
Buttermilk Falls State Park
A laidback campground in a state park with 10 different waterfalls and family-friendly hiking trails.
🗺️ Google Maps | Buttermilk Falls State Park Website | Reservations: same day reservations allowed until 3 pm online or by phone | Amenities: Comfort station, showers, firewood, toilets, drinking water, electric hookups, picnic tables, ADA access
Buttermilk Falls State Park is a camping haven with 10 waterfalls hidden throughout its grounds. The major must-see is the biggest, Buttermilk Falls, which the park is named after. Buttermilk Falls State Park is also home to some of the nicest hiking trails in New York for families with kids. All the hikes are a manageable length with super scenic views along the way.
Buttermilk Falls State Park welcomes campers with small RVs, tents, or even trailers to stay the night. Alternatively, they have cabins available to rent, too. There are quite a few amenities around the Buttermilk Falls campground that make it a notably comfortable stay. There are electric hookups, firewood readily available, and even a full comfort station.
Niagara Falls / Grand Island KOA Holiday
A clean campground only minutes away from one of America’s most famous natural sites.
🗺️ Google Maps | Niagara Falls / Grand Island KOA Holiday Website | Reservations: make a reservation online, in advance | Amenities: 50 max amp, WiFi, pool, propane, fishing, firewood, pavilion, boat rentals, jump pillow, laundry, pickleball courts, playgrounds
Whether you’re from New York or 1,000 miles away, I’m willing to bet that you’ve heard the name Niagara Falls before. Did you know you can camp right near this famous state park, though? All you have to do is book a campsite at Grand Island KOA Holiday right near Niagara. This exceptional campground is less than 15 minutes away from the humbling natural attraction.
There are a lot of reasons to go camping in this area besides just visiting the famed falls. The KOA campgrounds are superbly clean and have more than 10 recreational activities on-site. Stuff like pickleball courts, catch-and-release fishing ponds, and a jump pad on the water for kids. At this campground, the whole family will be easily occupied for days.
👉 Pro Tip: These Niagara campgrounds are less than an hour away from the immense Lake Ontario on the border of the United States and Canada. If you’re running short on activities during your camping extravaganza, spending a day at Lake Ontario is an excellent option.
Hither Hills State Park
A scenic, well-equipped campground in Long Island right next to the ocean.
🗺️ Google Maps | Hither Hills State Park Website | Reservations: same day reservations allowed until 3 pm online or by phone | Amenities: Convenience store, picnic tables, playground, showers, recreation programs, swimming
When most people imagine camping, their fantasy takes place in the middle of the woods. However, there is a camping spot in New York for beach lovers, too – Hither Hills State Park.
This Long Island campground is my favorite New York City travel tip if you need an escape into nature. The tent sites are conveniently located right next to a sandy beach on the Atlantic Ocean. The campgrounds are well-organized and incredibly clean. There is even a playground on-site and recreation programs for the kiddos.
Lake George Camping Village
A family-friendly campground with tent & RV sites, and tons of luxurious amenities like a heated pool and basketball court.
🗺️ Google Maps | Lake George Camping Village Website | Reservations: Online reservation required | Amenities: Full RV hook-ups, WiFi, cabin rentals, toilets, hot showers, laundry, camp store, game room, playground, basketball court, game room nature trails
In the summer months, the adorable town of Lake George in upstate New York transforms into a paradise for camping and outdoor activities. There are many campsites around the area, but the best is Lake George Camping Village.
Instead of completely roughing it, this campground allows visitors to soak in nature with all the modern comforts. There are trailer sites and RV sites, full hookups, and even fast WiFi available. The camp store is packed full of necessities in case you forgot any equipment at home.
The star of the show at this campground is all the activities they provide. There are heated pools, nature trails, a game room, and a basketball court, and they even show outdoor movies sometimes. Plus, all the lake activities at the town’s namesake are only a 5-minute drive away.
Watkins Glen State Park Six Nations Camping Area
A picturesque camping spot nestled in the wilderness of the Finger Lakes region.
🗺️ Google Maps | Watkins Glen State Park Website | Reservations: Reserving in advance online or over the phone is highly recommended | Amenities: Parking, showers, dump station, ice pavilion, picnic area, dump station, playground, recreation programs, water fill-up station, hiking
Watkins Glen State Park Six Nations Camping Area is a tempting spot for camping enthusiasts. It’s located in the heart of the beautiful Finger Lakes region in Western New York.
The campground is meticulously maintained and there is plenty of privacy at each of the designated tent sites. There are numerous hiking trails weaving their way through Watkins Glen. The most popular trails are the Gorge Trail and the intense 11-mile Finger Lakes Trail.
North/South Lake Campground
One of New York’s most scenic campgrounds is located in the beautiful Catskill Forest Preserve.
🗺️ Google Maps | North/South Lake Campground Website | Reservations: same day reservations allowed until 3 pm online or by phone | Amenities: Boat launch, comfort station, firewood sales, fishing, kayak and paddle boat rentals, picnic shelters, recycling station, showers, water fill-up station, telephone
North/South Lake Campground is probably the most popular campground in all of upstate NY. It’s nestled in the Catskill Forest Preserve to the West of the Hudson River and the environment is divine. People love it here because it has everything you’d expect to find at a thriving campsite.
As its name suggests, it’s right on the banks of an enormous lake that’s packed full of potential things to do, like boating and fishing. There are plenty of BBQ pits, grills, and picnic shelters available, so meals will be easy as pie. Additionally, there are a ton of nearby spots for hiking up to sweeping views of New York and a few of the trails even lead to waterfalls.
It’s the full New York camping experience.
7 Tips For Camping in New York State
Make a Reservation in Advance
Camping is one of the most popular New York activities to do in the summer. The best campsites will fill up fast during the height of the camping season. Go online and book a campsite way in advance to ensure that you nab a spot.
Never Leave Food Out
New York is filled with all types of crawly critters and dangerous animals. When you go camping in New York State, you’re entering their territory and you must be mindful.
If you leave trash or food out by your campsite, it will attract all these creatures right to you. Clean up everything as soon as you finish and always keep an eye out for wildlife.
Dogs Need Rabies Certificates
Lots of campgrounds in New York allow dogs. However, almost every single one requires a valid certification proving your dog has been vaccinated for rabies. Bring this paperwork along with you to show when you check-in.
Carry a First Aid Kit
Even though camping in New York is safe, you never know what can happen when you’re at the mercy of the elements. There are about a hundred survival shows out there that prove it. Just in case of an emergency, always carry a solid first aid kit on your adventures, like this Home Stock Plus Survival First-Aid Kit for Camping.
In the summer, New York can easily get up to 90 degrees. However, a coolness can settle over the state in the evening, making it difficult to sleep or get comfortable. Bring along extra layers of clothes or even an additional blanket to keep yourself toasty on a New York camping trip.
For more tips on what to bring, check out our checklist of camping essentials.
You can still have the full experience of camping in New York without roughing it by opting for a glamping site or cabin. Almost every campground on this list also offers fancier accommodations like these. Many even come with a cable tv!
Travelers who prefer a more luxurious camping experience should book their site in advance, though. These camping spots often fill up the fastest.
Always Leave No Trace
There is a huge problem with visitors to New York’s nature leaving litter behind. Don’t be that guy. Treat mother nature with respect, pick up your trash, and at least try to leave your campsite a little better than you found it.
FAQs About Camping in New York State
Can I camp anywhere in New York State?
No, you cannot just camp anywhere in New York State. There are designated areas in New York for free camping, but even these spots have strict rules about where visitors are allowed to camp. For example, you cannot camp within 150 feet of any road, hiking trail, pond, stream, or spring unless given direct permission. If you plan on camping for more than three days in one spot or with a group of more than 10 people, you will need to have a permit from the New York State Forest Ranger.
Where can you camp for free in NY?
Visitors can camp for free at many places in New York, including parts of Sugar Hill Fire Tower right near Watkins Glen, Moose River Plains Complex, and North Harmony State Forest. Lots of primitive campsites without any amenities will allow visitors to camp for free.
What is the most popular campground in New York?
The most popular campground in New York is the North/South Lake Campground in the Catskills. The North/South Lake Campground has hundreds of campsites and hosts thousands of campers throughout the year. On the campgrounds, there are two different beaches, picnic areas, and lots of outdoor activities to do.
How much does it cost to camp in New York State parks?
The price of camping in New York parks varies depending on which campgrounds you’re staying at. Some of the campgrounds in New York are completely free and others require a small fee of $10-$25. If you plan on glamping or staying in a cabin in New York, it’ll be significantly more expensive and more comparable to the price of a hotel.
Thanks for reading my guide to camping in New York State. Are you ready to get out there and discover NY nature on a camping trip? You can turn your little camping trip into a full-blown excursion across New York by making it a road trip. Just check out my 7-day New York road trip itinerary to get started.
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