Though it may be difficult to find free camping sites in the Northeast of the United States, it isn’t impossible. If you take the time to do some digging, like what you are doing right now, you would be surprised with everything that you find. There are actually some great free camping spots in New York; sure to leave you with a memorable and rewarding camping experience.
Though summertime is popular for campers, both spring and fall are too great seasons for camping. You get to reconnect with nature and really, who doesn’t love camping?
Though there are plenty of camping opportunities in and around New York, we’re sure that you would like to know the free camping options. Well then look no further. We are here to provide you with our selection of the 10 best free campsites in New York. Hence, keep reading this word to word and you are sure to find yourself an amazing spot to go camping in; to top it off, it shall be free! Aren’t the best things in life free?
Hence, without further adieu. here is our list of the 10 best free campsites in New York.
1. Long Pond State Forest
Located near Smithville, New York, Long Pond State Forest is a great location to go camping. There are various designated campsites within the forest and you are only allowed to camp in these campsites of the forest.
Long Pond State Forest is a great way to experience nature. You will find yourself nestling within the trees, as the birds chirp beautiful melodies.
The campground comprises of 10 campsites which are located in various parts of the forest. Each campsite comes with a fire ring, a community toilet and a parking pad. If you are looking to camp here, you would have to contact them in advance to avoid any disappointment. The campsites are offered on a first-come-first-served basis, hence be sure to plan ahead and contact them prior to actually arriving.
You can find the contact details on the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation website. Click here.
2. Hikok Brook Multi-Use Area
Located near Barryville, New York, the multi-use area features the beautiful Hikok Brook with an ample amount of parking space, perfect for campervans. There is also a small pond within the area which is great for fishing.
The 1,036-acre area has various designated campsites within the public forest. If you prefer, you could also consider camping by the pond. If you do consider camping for more than three nights or are camping as a group of more than 10 people, you would require a permit which can be acquired from a Forest Ranger.
There are various hikes that you can go on, a fair few short hikes to the longest hike being the Pond Loop trail at 1.9 miles. This is a great spot for new hikers looking to experience hiking.
The area is open for the public from the 1st of May and remains open until winter when Forest Rangers decide to close the area due to winter conditions.
If you are looking to go camping here, we do advise you to contact them beforehand, so as to ensure that you don’t face any disappointment with the site being full.
You can find their contact details on the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation website. Click here.
3. East Otto State Forest
Located within the towns of East Otto and Otto of New York, the forest is open for recreation year-round. Covering 1,354-acres, camping is a common recreational activity within the forest.
There are a variety of trees of various sizes and a few manmade ponds and wetlands. There are no formal hiking trails in the forest, however, there are some old skid trails and farm roads that provide for some great hiking opportunities.
There are 14 designated tent sites that are offered on a first-come-first-served basis. Though there are no outhouse facilities, the sites come with a primitive fire ring. Parking is only available at the entrance of each site; you aren’t allowed to go beyond that, hence it is best suited for tent campers.
Fishing is popular at the Stickney Pond on Krideman Forest Road and Utley Brook which is located in the northeastern part of the forest. Horseback riding, though not a major activity is also available for those looking to gallop along the forest roads.
If you are looking to book a site for camping, we do recommend that you contact them early. The contact details are found on the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation website. Click here.
4. Moose River Plains Complex
Located in the towns of Webb and Ohio, the Moose River Plains Camping Corridor is a 2,907-acre area that is a part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, within the 79,587-acre Moose River Plains Complex.
With approximately 130 miles of marked and maintained trails, the complex is great for hikers who are looking to climb mountains and explore nature. The Black Bear Mountain Uncas Trail for instance is a 2.2-mile hike that accends 700 feet. There are shorter trails such as the Travelling Rock Trail which is only 0.2 miles. On the other hand, you would also find monstrous trails like the Seventh Lake Mountain trail, which is a 12.8-mile hike. Obviously, there is plenty of hiking opportunities, based on what your levels of expertise are.
There are various primitive tent sites, campsites and lean-tos that are offered on a first-come-first-served basis. There are various campsites which share the shores with water bodies, making them scenic location to pitch a tent. Most of the campsites only have a fire ring. Roadside campsites come with picnic tables and a community toilet.
For those looking to camp at the Moose River Plains Complex, we do recommend that you contact them well in advance to book your campsite. The contact details are found on the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation website. Click here.
5. Sugar Hill State Forest
Located outside of Watkins Glen in New York, Sugar Hill Recreation Area is a well maintained free campsite within the Sugar Hill State Forest. The 9.085-acre Sugar Hill Forest has various hiking trails and the recreational area including Sugar Hill Fire Tower is great for camping.
A portion of the Finger Lakes Trail is located within the area, making the forest an ideal location for hikers. The multiple-use Six Nations Trail system which is a series of loops and spurs covering a total of about 35 miles, is also located in the area.
The Sugar Hill Recreational Area is a great spot for family picnics, with tables, charcoal grills, picnic pavilion and a restroom which is only available during the summer months.
Horseback riding and fishing are popular activities within the forest. Spencer Pond, which is a one-acre, warm water, man-made pond located on Tower Hill Road is an ideal spot for those looking to fish.
The Sugar Hill Recreation Area is the largest designated camping area in Sugar Hill State Forest and is available on a first-come-first-served basis. The 9-acre area of camping has limited fire rings and picnic tables.
If you would like to book your site at Sugar Hill State Forest, we do recommend that you contact them early and book in advance. Their contact details are found on the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation website. Click here.
6. Five Ponds Wilderness Area
Located in Star Lake, New York, this 107,230-acre Five Ponds Wilderness area is a part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Offering some of the remotest wilderness in Adirondacks, the wilderness area only has a few trails that access these lands.
The area has 52 miles of marked foot trails, including the High Falls Loop trail which is a 15-mile hike between Dead Creek Flow Trailhead and High Falls Trailhead. There are shorter trails for the inexperienced hiker, such as the Janack’s Landing Trail which is only 0.2-miles in length.
There are 14 lean-tos in the Five Pond Wilderness Area, all offered on a first-come-first-served basis. There are 30 designated tent sites on Lows Lake in the Bog River Complex, 21 designated tent sites on the northern shore of Stillwater Reservoir and 45 designated tent sites on the banks of Oswegatchie River. There are also various other designated primitive tent sites within the area.
Paddling and boating are rather popular in the area with fishing being a favourite within 12 named rivers and streams and 105 ponds and lakes.
If you would like to book a campsite for your visit, we recommend that you contact them ahead of time. Their contact details are found on the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation website. Click here.
7. Dix Mountain Tract
Located in the towns of Keene, North Hudson and Elizabethtown in New York, this 45,208-acre of Dix Mountain area is a part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve and the High Peaks Wilderness. The terrain is rough, mostly rocky and mountainous with 9 peaks that rise above 4,000 feet.
The Dix Mountain Area has 49 miles of marked and maintained trails and various other un-marked paths. The trails offer hikers the opportunity to scale mountains, to a summit elevation of more than 4,000 feet. The range of hiking trails offers something for the beginner as well as the more seasoned hiker. The Dix Mountain trail has two trails, one to the north and one to the south. The North Trail is 6.8-miles in length to the summit while the south trail is 6.0 miles to the summit.
Rock climbing is popular in the mountains and is ideal for adventure seekers. For those that are looking to the calmer spectrum of life, fishing at Chapel and Round Ponds are also a frequently visited activity within the area.
There are 33 designated primitive campsites and 3 lean-tos within the Dix Mountain Area, with most campsites being located by steams or other water sources. All primitive tent sites, campsites and lean-tos are available on a first-come-first-served basis, hence you should look to book in advance.
If you are looking to camp in the Dix Mountain Area, we do recommend that you contact them early and make arrangements for your trip. You can find their contact information on the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation website. Click here.
8. Bonaparte’s Cave State Forest
Located in the towns of Diana and Pitcairn, this 1,435-acre state forest has historical roots connected to Napoleon Bonaparte, which is where the forest gets its name.
Hiking is good within the state forest, with trails offering views of Mud Pond. North Mud Pond Trail and Mud Pond Ext. Trail both offer the chance to view the pond, with the North Mud Pond Trail being 0.66 miles and the Mud Pond Ext. Trail being 0.011 miles.
There are four primitive campsites and two accessible primitive campsites located on Mud Pond and Waugh PFA Roads. Campsites include tables, fire rings and privies. There is no portable water source and you will have to carry your trash with you since there is no trash pickup service.
There are three ponds within the forest, Green Pond, Mud Pond and Duck Pond, which are all great for fishing. All in all, it would provide for a great experience of the outdoors.
For more information regarding booking campsites, please visit the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation website. Click here.
9. North Harmony State Forest
Located in the towns of Harmony, North Harmony and Sherman, the North Harmony State Forest is a 2,561-acre area that is used for various outdoor recreational activities. The forest is a natural habitat for wildlife species including deer, rabbit, grouse and turkey.
There are opportunities for hikers to explore the wilderness such as the Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail which runs through a length of 3.2 miles within the forest. There are no motor vehicles allowed on the trail.
There are picnic shelters at Jasper Park which is located on Warner Road with a fire ring or grill at each pavilion, with picnic tables. There is a port-a-john located within the park for restroom facilities and camping is allowed here in designated areas.
There are designated horse trails on the property, which makes it a great location for horseback riding. Fishing is also popular on Wiltsie Marsh, where non-motorised boats are allowed.
There are various designated camping sites within the forest with primitive camping being allowed. Campsites must be 150 feet away from the nearest trail, road or body of water. If you are camping for longer than 3 nights or camping as a group of more than 10 people, you do require a permit which can be acquired from a Forest Ranger.
For more information, visit the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation website. Click here.
10. Bombay and Brasher State Forests
Located in the towns of Brasher and Norfolk, Bombay and Brasher State Forest is a large reforestation area comprising of 22,242-acres. There are extensive trails and road systems within the forest area, which makes it great for hiking and horseback riding. There are over 4,500-acres of wetlands within the forests making it well suited for fishing.
Both properties in combination have more than 66 miles of hiking trails and unpaved roadways which provide for ample opportunities to explore the outdoors on foot. There are 25 campsites that are scattered within various parts of the forest area, with a majority of them being located around the man-made pond in Walter Pratt Memorial Park.
St. Regis and Deer River are both great locations for trout fishing and are popular for brown and rainbow trout. Primitive camping is allowed within the forest, so long as you are 150 feet away from the nearest road, trail or water body. Once again, camping for longer than 3 nights, or with a group of more than 10 people would require a permit, which can be acquired from a Forest Ranger.
For more information, visit the New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation website. Click here.
Things to Remember When Free Camping
When you are free camping, obvious to state the amenities that will be offered would be on the lower end, often being limited to fire rings and maybe toilets. However don’t expect electricity, water and sewage hook-ups. You would be lucky to have a community toilet and a trash can. Hence be sure to pack accordingly and be prepared for the rugged outdoors.
Just because there are no trash cans doesn’t mean you litter the campsites. In fact, since the campsites are free, you should make it a point to leave the campsite in better condition than when you found it. Do Not Litter!
If you require access to power, we do recommend that you carry your own generators or solar panel system. When it comes to water, makes sure to pack plenty of drinking water for the entire trip.
Free Camping in New York
As you may have noticed from reading this word to word, there are some amazing free camping opportunities in New York. If you take the time to look into the details of planning a trip and contact these sites well in advance, we are sure you will not be left disappointed.
We worked to provide you with an informative article on our selection of the 10 best free campsites in New York. However, there are so many free campsites in New York that we could not include them all within this article. For those of you, who would like to dig a little deeper and look for the other free campsites in New York, we do recommend that you use Campendium. Their database of free campsites in New York includes about 109 free locations that you can go camping. As always, we hope you do the necessary planning that is required for your trip and finally choose a campsite that offers the most.
We hope that you found this article helpful and informative and that we have done our part by sharing our 10 best free campsites in New York with you.