Wilderness abounds in New York State. From the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, from the Adirondack Mountains to the Catskills, from the St. Lawrence River to the Hudson, millions of acres of public lands are dotted with hundreds of campgroundsbut you probably only have a precious amount of limited time. Where should you go? When should you go? That’s what Best Tent Camping: New York State is for. With this book, authors Aaron, Cate, and Timothy Starmer help you make the wisest use of your time in the wilds of New York.
Divided geographically into seven sectionsLong Island, Catskills/Hudson Valley, Central/Leatherstocking, Adirondacks, St. Lawrence River, Finger Lakes, and Westernthe book is a helpful reference for camping enthusiasts throughout the state. Historical tidbits, descriptions of wildlife and the occasional personal anecdote add flavor to the campground descriptions. Star ratings and maps make choosing the best place to pitch a tent a simple task.
Making reservations online or blindly over the phone can put a camper miles from the restroom, stranded with no shade, or in the middle of a busy campground trail. Maps will help campers avoid those pitfalls, and wherever possible the authors have even recommended specific campsites for maximum privacy, spaciousness, or beauty.
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
It's all free of charge on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the sites are large, flat, shady, and private.
Beauty: 4 stars
Privacy: 3 stars
Quiet: 2 stars
Cleanliness: 2 stars
Security: 1 star
Spaciousness: 4 stars
Address: CR 42, Denning, NY 12725
Operated by: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Contact: 845-240-6788; www.dec.ny.gov/lands/75346.html
Sites: About 25
Site Amenities: Fire ring
Assignment: Choose from available sites; no reservations
Registration: Not required
Facilities: Portable toilets June-September
Parking: At designated lots
Restrictions: Pets: Dogs on leash with proof of currently valid rabies vaccination Fires: In fire rings only Alcohol: At site Vehicles: None permitted; all sites are walk-in Other: Quiet hours 10 p.m.-7 a.m. (not enforced) Reservations: None taken, but call ahead if planning to stay more than 3 nights.
At the southern end of the Catskills, in the Sundown Wild Forest, lies the Peekamoose Valley, where three 2,000-foot peaksSamson, Van Wyck, and Peekamoose Mountainsfunnel water into Rondout Creek through a series of picturesque waterfalls. In the midst of all of this is a campground that, while administered by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), is decidedly different from any of the Catskills’ other offerings. If you’re looking for a place to pitch your tent that’s somewhere between backcountry camping and primitive but is an established property such as Devil’s Tombstone (see page 25), then you’ll find this is your sweet spot (or 25 sweet spots, to be more exact).
The campground is stretched out over a mile and is made up of three separate fields, each containing six to nine walk-in sites. (There’s also a trailer field that requires permits; contact the DEC for more information on that area.) There’s no running water, no trash pickup, no picnic tables, and only seasonal porta-potties at the parking lots. But it’s all free of charge on a first-come, first-serve basis, and the sites are large, flat, shady, and private. From nearly every corner of the campground, you can hear the sound of trickling Rondout Creek.
Each site is limited to nine people and three tents. Part of the fun is exploring the winding paths to discover the best available spot for you. Be careful to select a site with a designated camping sign, as the DEC occasionally rotates locations to spread out the impact of campers. Admittedly, some of the former sites can be very tempting. And don’t let the name “field” fool you; only a few sites are actually in fields. Most are nicely wooded options with ample vegetation.
As you approach from the northeast along Peekamoose Road/CR 42, the first area after the trailer field is the Upper Field with its two parking lots. Closest to the east- ern lot, sites 1 and 2 sit across from the trailer field along a dry creek bed (or at least it’s been dry when we have visited). Sites 3 and 5 are closer to the road, but are nicely situated among spruce trees on the opposite side of the field’s well-worn main trail. Numbers 4 and 8 are even closer to the trail, while 6 and 7 are tucked away on little spurs near the western parking lot.
Farther along Peekamoose Road, toward Sundown, the Middle Field features six sites and one small parking lot. While sites 1 and 2 (set off to the right of the lot) are both close to the creek, they are also somewhat close to the road. Still, they’re a better choice than site 3, which is within spitting distance of the parking lot. We prefer sites 4 and 5 for their privacy and their soft, sandy perches next to the creek (and a nice little swimming hole), along with site 6 for its grassy seclusion near an open field. As in other parts of the campground, small, dry creek beds (some used as default trails) crisscross near most of the sites, so be wary during periods of heavy rain.
The Lower Field, not much farther down the road, houses nine sites. The sites are nicely spread and, thanks to their distance from the large parking lot and their location across an old bridge, they tend to be the quietest choices. From the lot, walk down a hill, cross the bridge to the information kiosk, and you will find sites 1–6 to the right and sites 7–9 to the left. For the most privacy, check out site 1. About a quarter-mile removed from the rest of the sites past an old stone wall, it’s remote and woodsy enough for the greatest of recluses. Site 3 is not far from the edge of the creek. Numbers 2, 4, 5 (the largest), and 6 are all scattered along the edge of a tall grass field bordering a steep hill thick with fir trees that cast shade upon the sites. Number 7 sits just past the information kiosk, while 8 and 9 (always good choices) are closer to the creek and are often home to some interesting camper-created art made with stones worn smooth by the water.
Because there are no reservations, you could show up and find the campground already full. On the plus side, impromptu getaways can be rewarded with free streamside campsites and absolutely no paperwork. Still, summer weekends fill up fast, so don’t arrive after dark on a Friday evening and expect luck to be on your side. Local DEC rangers do occasionally patrol, but rules, especially quiet hours, are treated differently by all. Be wary of rowdy parties, especially on holiday week- ends. Previous tenants may leave presents for you, ranging from trash bags to well-stacked stone cairns. Just because there’s no staff on-site, be sure to leave Peekamoose as you would like to find it.
In the surrounding Peekamoose Valley, you’ll find a stunning swimming hole, lots of accessible waterfalls, and a variety of hiking options. Across the road from the upper field’s eastern lot, a large boulder marks the trailhead to Bangle Hill and Vernooy Kill Falls, and just east along Peekamoose Road is the Peekamoose–Table Trail, a strenuous route that rewards the industrious hiker with great views. For an easier route to views, drive to the nearby town of Denning for a 1.2-mile hike to Red Hill Fire Tower. After all that climbing and sweating, you’ll want to cool off with a trip to the famous Blue Hole, a legendary swimming hole just 2 miles east along Peekamoose Road. It’s chilly even in the peak of summer, but don’t let that stop you from taking a memorable leap into the crystal-clear water.
From I-87 (New York State Thruway), take Exit 19, New York 28/Kingston/Rhinecliff Bridge. At the traffic circle, take the first exit and follow NY 28 West 16 miles. Take a slight left onto NY 28A/New York City Road for 3 miles. Make a slight right onto CR 42 West/West Shokan–Peekamoose–Sundown Road, and drive 11 miles to the Upper Field entrance, on the right.
Table of ContentsNew York Campground Locator Map
Authors’ Top New York Campgrounds
1 Sears Bellows County Park
2 Watch Hill
3 Wildwood State Park
Catskills and Hudson Valley
4 Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park
5 Devil's Tombstone
6 Little Pond
7 Mills-Norrie State Park
8 Mongaup Pond
9 North-South Lake
11 Taconic State Park: Copake Falls Area
12 Woodland Valley
Central, Leatherstocking, and Capital
13 Bowman Lake State Park
14 Cherry Plain State Park
15 Delta Lake State Park
16 Fair Haven Beach State Park
17 Glimmerglass State Park
18 Green Lakes State Park
19 Max V. Shaul State Park
20 Moreau Lake State Park
21 Whetstone Gulf State Park
22 Adirondak Loj: Wilderness Campground at Heart Lake
23 Alger Island
24 Ausable Point
25 Brown Tract Pond
26 Buck Pond
27 Cranberry Lake
28 Eighth Lake
29 Forked Lake
30 Indian Lake Islands
31 Lake George Islands
32 Lake Harris
33 Lincoln Pond
34 Little Sand Point
36 Meacham Lake
37 Putnam Pond
38 Rollins Pond
40 Saranac Lake Islands
41 Mary Island State Park
42 Wellesley Island State Park
43 Buttermilk Falls State Park
44 Keuka Lake State Park
45 Stony Brook State Park
46 Taughannock Falls State Park
47 Watkins Glen State Park
Western New York
48 Allegany State Park: Cain Hollow (Quaker Area)
49 Lakeside Beach State Park
50 Letchworth State Park
Appendix A: Camping-Equipment Checklist
Appendix B: Sources of Information
Appendix C: Suggested Reading and Reference
About the Authors