Car free adventures in New York
Summer and camping are like peas and carrots...
Camping is as American as apple-pie...
Nothing like a night under the stars...
Did you notice that we didn't include the word "car" in those familiar themes? Yes, we love car camping, but there are plenty of options for those of us who want to spend a night or two outdoors without having to get behind the wheel.
For the City folk...
The New York metro area is surrounded by natural beauty and diverse camping opportunities, from hike-in spots in the Catskills and Taconic mountains to Long Island beach sites.
While driving from the City can be an expensive and frustrating endeavor, the metro region has multiple public transportation modes to quickly wisk adventurers to their nature getaway. We're talking Amtrak, MTA, and NJ Transit - with lines branching in all directions.
Mills Norrie State Park
Take Metro North to Poughkeepsie and grab a 15 minute cab from the station. The trip should take about two hours. Mills Norrie features 46 tent sites and 10 cabins available to rent. There's lots to do as well: hiking, cycling, skiing, and snowshoeing. The park is also just five minutes from the Vanderbilt Estates and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s previous home
Take New Jersey Transit to the Tuxedo or Harriman stops. The trip should take about 90 minutes. Harriman State Park is massive, and there's tons to do. Recommended camping spots are the Tom Jones lean-to or Bald Rocks, which you can find next to Island Pond.
Clarence Fahnestock State Park - NOT ACCEPTING CAMPING RESERVATIONS FOR 2018 DUE TO IMPROVEMENT PROJECTFahnestock is accessible via the Hudson Line on Metro North to Cold Spring, then a walk or cab ride to take you the 5 miles to the park. When it comes back on line for camping, Fahnestock is worth a visit with camping sites located on natural rock ridges. Canopus Lake beach is another highlight.
Hither Hills State Park
Hither Hills State Park is a three hour ride on the Long Island Rail Road to Montauk, and then a short hike or cab to the park.
The park is located right on the ocean, so you be treated to great views and breezes. There's also fishing, dune hiking, and biking.
Wildwood State Park
Another three-hour trip on the Long Island Railroad, this time to Riverhead, gets you to Wildwood State Park. The park has 600 acres of forest and two miles of beach to explore. Other park activities include stand-up paddleboarding, swimming, biking, fishing, or making the perfect campfire s’mores.
For state parks, reservations are always recommended and can be made at Reserve America. You can view transit schedules at MTA and Amtrak; you can also use Google maps directions to show transit options to a given campsite.
Other Parks & Private Campgrounds
Fire Island, Long Island
The less-inhabited eastern end of Fire Island offers camping, day hiking and swimming. There are 26 tent sites at Watch Hill campground, right on the other side of the ferry, or you can get backcountry permits for dispersed camping further down on the eastern tip of the island which you also access via Watch Hill. Both options require advance reservations, and the limited spots fill up quickly, especially for weekends.
To get there, take the Long Island Railroad to Patchogue, then walk over to the Watch Hill Ferry ($17 dollars round-trip). There is no driving allowed on Fire Island.
Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island
About an hour ride out of NYC via the S51 or S53 bus, Fort Wadsworth is one of the oldest military sites in the United States. There are also seven campsites available for overnight stays ($30 a night), each including a campfire ring, a grill, a picnic table. The Fort has bathroom and shower facilities onsite. You’ll have to reserve far in advance at Recreation.gov.
Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn
Called "Camp Getaway", Floyd Bennett Field sits at the edge of Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn, and accessible via the Q35 bus. Camping sites are equipped with drinking water, campfire rings, grills, picnic areas, recycling, and trash collecting. These spots go quickly so be sure to make reservations at Recreation.gov.
Croton Point Park
How about a 90-minute trip on the Metro North to the Croton-Harmon stop for a night out at Croton Point Park? There's a beach, hiking trails, fishing and boating, all within close proximity to the park's cabin and tent sites.
Amtrak for Upstaters
While the options are limited, there are upstate camping options in range of public transportation, including several parks that are within a walk or short cab ride of Amtrak stations.
Rome to Delta Lake State Park
Delta Lake is about 7 miles from the Amtrak Station in Rome, and home to a plethora of outdoor activities. There's a great swimming beach as well. Make sure to stop at Ft. Stanwix in downtown Rome before heading out to your campsite! More information at: https://parks.ny.gov/parks/66/hunting.aspx
Westport Amtrak to Split Rock Mountain Wild Forest
Westport is a stop on the Adirondack line running between New York City and Montreal (including Albany). Split Rock Mountain has four primitive campsites on the shoreline of Lake Champlain. More information at https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/50713.html
Port Kent Amtrak to Ausable Chasm
Another stop on the Adirondack line (New York City - Albany - Montreal), the Port Kent station is a short trip to (~ 3 miles) Ausable Chasm, the "Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks." Enjoy a lazy float down the chasm, a hike, or even rock climbing. More information at http://ausablechasm.com/.
The New York by Rail blog provides a few more rail-accessible camping option, although most are more than 10 miles from a staition, http://newyorkbyrail.blogspot.com/2015/09/campgrou...
How about adding a bike to your car-free camping adventure?
Scaling back your camping gear so that it can fit on your bike can expand your camping options, and bikes are permitted on most of the public transit options mentioned in this article. With a bike, you'll be able to access parks located farther from bus or train stations. Once you make camp, you can also use your bike to explore farther afield, or head into town for dinner.
New York's premier multi-use trail, the Erie Canalway Trail between Buffalo and Albany, offers tons of trailside camping opportunities. Nearly all of the larger cities along the trail are accessible by bus or train.
Check out Parks & Trails New York's CycletheErieCanal.com for bike-born trip-planning resources on the Canalway Trail.