UPDATED NOV 26, 2019
Sleeping under the stars is pretty much a no-go on the island of Manhattan, but head just a little bit north and you’ll find plenty of places to pitch a tent and feel one with nature, sans any light pollution. Need a map? Consult this list for a few tried-and-true destinations.
When you need an escape from the city, there’s no better place to go than the Catskills. Just two hours north of New York City, this mountain range is likely already on your NY bucket list. And Kittatinny Campground’s 250 acres are the perfect place to set up a tent — it has 350 grass-covered campsites along the Delaware River. While you’re there, take it easy and go fishing or breathe in the fresh air with a walk through the woods. But you can always get your adrenaline going with a little whitewater rafting or a visit to the adventure center next door, which hosts zip-lining, kayaking, and canoeing.
Renting a home on Fire Island doesn’t come cheap. All the more reason to pitch a tent — and you can book a spot online. Just make sure to plan in advance; there are only 26 spots available at Watch Hill Family Campground and they fill up quick. The campgrounds have enough elbow room for a two- or five-person tent, but if you’re bringing the whole crew, you’ll want to check out the group site. Never been that far east? Take the LIRR to Patchogue, then hop on the ferry to Watch Hill. Once you’re there, hang around the car-free island and enjoy the campsites’ amenities: running water, picnic tables, grills, showers, and bathrooms.
Sure, Montauk may be known for summer beach parties and wineries, but the Long Island destination is home to some quality camping sites, too. Namely, Hither Hills State Park. Here, nearly 200 campsites sit within steps of the ocean. When you’re not taking in the oceanside views, give your glutes a workout on the sandy walking dunes or check out the park’s hiking and bike trails. Fitt Tip: you’ll need a car for this one — it takes about two and a half hours to get there.
Trying to stay local? Look no further than Governors Island. Just a hop, skip, and a ferry ride away, Manhattan’s next door neighbor has started offering overnight stays. Like many things in New York, though, it’s not cheap. Less camping and more glamping (an understatement), there are three types of indoor accommodations—a luxury Summit Tent, the slightly smaller Journey Tent, and the bungalow-style Outlook Shelter—and let's not forget a farm-to-table dinner prepped by the on-site chef at night.
No car? Join the club. Another local-ish spot, this Staten Island campsite is (thankfully) accessible via mass transit. It also boasts some pretty sweet views. Throw some wood in the fire ring, sit back, and take in the Manhattan skyline, the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty while you chill outside your tent away from all the city noise. Oh, and did we mention the park also has beaches to swim or fish from, plus a Revolutionary War-era fort you can explore?
Malouf’s has a TON going for it. For one, it’s accessible via the Metro North and only an hour and a half from the city. Add the fact that it’s family-owned and operated and it’s a go-to spot for first-time campers (or ones without a whole lot of gear). Their platform sites are good if you're looking for a bit more shelter. But if you want to really rough it, check out their primitive sites. Plus, it’s a hike-in, hike-out spot, so not having a car actually works in your favor. Just remember to bring all the necessities with you; once you’re out there, you’re out there.
Camping in Brooklyn? Yep, it’s a thing. And we don’t mean pitching a tent in Prospect Park. Sleep under the stars at the old airfield, now managed by the National Parks Service. The space has 32 tent sites, each with its own picnic table, charcoal grill, and fire ring, as well as nine RV parking spots if you like camping with a side of luxury. While you’re out there, take a stroll or explore one of the many hiking and bike paths. And if you’ve got your own kayak, there are several launch areas around the park.
Less than two hours north of the city you’ll find Minnewaska State Park. Beautiful during the summer and the winter, this state park takes up 22,000+ acres in Ulster County, NY. Once there, you’ll find creeks, waterfalls, and tons of hiking trails. Not ready to leave after a day of outdoor adventure? Pitch a tent at the Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground. It’s got a pavilion, cooking area, showers, and bathrooms. It’s also strictly tent-only, so if you’re idea of camping includes an RV, this place probably isn’t for you. Plan accordingly, though: the open season runs from May to mid-November.
If you need a taste of the great outdoors and some beach time, Fahnestock State Park has you covered. The popular Hudson Valley camping site was closed for most of the 2018 season while a new water system was installed but is officially good to go now. Only about an hour and 15 minutes outside the city, it’s got plenty of scenic campsites, and even more activities. Find a spot along the park’s natural rock ridges to set up camp, then hike part of the Appalachian Trail in the morning before hitting the beach in the afternoon.
Another Catskill Mountains gem, this site about two hours from the city claims the title of biggest campground in the Catskill Forest Preserve. And this place has it all: hot showers, flushing toilets, seven camping loops, and numerous picnic pavilions. There are plenty of water activities—from kayaking to canoeing to swimming—an opportunities to get those muscles moving with several easy to strenuous hikes, too. Don’t miss out — on a clear day, you can see five states from the top of the cliffs!
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