The Best Places to Camp Around NYC Without a Car

This is how New Yorkers do it.

After getting to know every corner of your New York City apartment throughout the pandemic, a weekend surrounded by nature probably sounds like a dream. In a world where long-haul travel plans are just now becoming a future reality again, a socially-distanced camping trip may be just the change in scenery you need in the interim.

While vaccinations have made it easier to safely travel outside of your neighborhood, campsites are still taking precautions in an effort to keep everyone healthier. The New York State Parks website has shared a great resource highlighting the guidelines around camping in the state during COVID-19. A few general rules to follow no matter where you’re camping: campsites are still requiring visitors to wear a mask whenever leaving your campsite or interacting with people outside of their party, don’t allow guests on the campsite or anyone not registered to the site with the campground staff, be open to receiving a different campsite location to adhere to social distancing rules, and expect that access to on-site facilities (showers, bathrooms) may be closed throughout the day for cleaning. 

As a general rule, walk-in camping requests may not be accommodated for the time being. Visiting these campgrounds also includes utilizing public transportation, be it train, bus, or taxi. When taking public transportation, make sure to take the proper precautions—the CDC still recommends washing your hands before you leave and when you arrive at your destination, wearing a mask until you get to your final destination (and avoid touching your face), and practicing social distancing at all times.

All of this in mind, the good news is that you don’t have to travel far to get the exact opposite of the city: green forests, uncrowded beaches, private campfires, and the actual sound of crickets at night can be found within just a couple hours. We’ve pulled together 12 spots you can reach from NYC without having to talk your significant other’s cousin into borrowing their car. There are options for any kind of camper (amateur, pro, glamper), whether you’re looking to get away for one night or an entire week.

Cheesequake State Park
Cheesequake State Park | quiggyt4/Shutterstock

Cheesequake State Park, New Jersey

How far is it: One hour and 10 minutes by bus
What to expect: New Jersey State parks are taking similar measures to the New York State parks in that they’re requiring all visitors to wear a mask in shared spaces and to social distance from other campers. At Cheesequake, the draw is the variety of terrain you’ll encounter: fields, a hardwood forest, saltwater and freshwater marshes, Pine Barrens, and a swamp filled with white cedars. Reservations are required and can be made on the NJ Outdoors website. Currently, only tent and RV family campsites are open to be reserved at this location. The cabins, shelters, group campsites, and lean-tos have begun re-opening at other campgrounds around the state, so check the New Jersey Outdoors website for updates. At this campground, there are 53 tent and RV sites with fire rings and picnic tables ready to accommodate campers. There are also showers and bathrooms within walking distance of the campsites. Due to social distancing measures, limited availability should still be expected.
How to get there: Take the 133 NJ Transit Bus from Port Authority Station to the GSP Exit 120 Park & Ride. From there, hike 1.5 miles to the campground.

croton point park
Croton Point Park | Flickr/Jimbo in Jersey

Croton Point Park

How far it is: 1 hour and 30 mins by train
What to expect: This 508-acre park in Westchester County offers cabins and tent sites for rent on a nightly basis. Nightly cabin rental rates start at $65, while nightly campsite rentals start at $30. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is limited availability for RV and tent campers in adherence with social distancing protocols, so it’s best to call ahead and confirm space before you make the journey. (You can check the park’s website for updates on availability or closures.) Campers visiting Croton Point Park will find a nearby beach, hiking trails, fishing and boat launches, playing fields, and picnic areas.
How to get there: Take Metro North to the Croton-Harmon stop.

Harriman State Park
Harriman State Park | Flickr/Jason

Harriman State Park

How far it is: One hour and 30 minutes by train and cab
What to expect: There are plenty of great spots to camp overnight inside Harriman State Park, but your best bets are the Tom Jones lean-to or Bald Rocks. Campers are currently still able to pitch a tent using their own gear within 300 feet of the park shelters. Just remember to keep your distance from other visitors! If you want as little hassle as possible, Tentrr has also set up a handful of canvas-walled tent sites available to rent. When it comes to activities, pick a clear day to set aside for hiking Island Pond and Lake Skenonto. The park has everything you’d ever need for a solid weekend outdoors: grills, cabins for rent, playing fields, picnic tables, showers, a beach, biking, fishing, hiking, and boat rentals. While some of these recreational activities and spaces may remain open as we all practice proper social distancing etiquette, don’t count on being able to access them all—it’s best to call ahead before getting your hopes up.
How to get there: Take New Jersey Transit to the Tuxedo or Harriman stops.

Malouf's Mountain Sunset Campground

How far it is: One hour and 35 minutes by train and shuttle bus
What to expect: Malouf’s Mountain Sunset Campground can accommodate any level of camper. This is a great spot for amateurs who aren’t quite sure what kind of gear it takes for a fun weekend of camping—they’ll set you up with what you’ll need, from the tent to the cooking supplies (but bring your own sleeping bag). If you’re looking for something a bit more remote, they’ve also got you covered. The campsite shares the continued measures they’re taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among campers and employees, including an enhanced cleaning protocol, mandatory mask wearing in public areas, a bathhouse capacity, and no group reservations at the time (you can read the full update here). While you’re there, check out the package deals they offer, some of which include discounted Metro North tickets.
How to get there: Take Metro North to Beacon, where you’ll catch a shuttle to the Malouf Mountain trailhead. Heads up—you do have to hike in and out of this campsite, so be careful to pack only as much as you can carry.

Canopus Island
Canopus Island | cwheelsone/Shutterstock

Clarence Fahnestock State Park

How far it is: One hour and 40 minutes by train and cab
What to expect: You won’t be the only camper getting off at the Cold Spring stop, so plan to catch an early train to make social distancing easier. There are plenty of amazing views, but the Canopus Lake beach is what people really come to experience at Clarence Fahnestock State Park. The campground is located on natural rock ridges, making it easy to find private little alcoves to spend your night underneath the stars. There are 80 campsites with daily rates starting at $15 available to rent in the park and you’ll find bathroom and shower facilities centrally located. Given the new COVID-19 guidelines, expect the available campsites to vary in an effort to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Check the park’s website before planning your trip for the most up-to-date information.
How to get there: Take the Hudson Line on Metro North to Cold Spring. Once you get there, grab a cab to take you the 5 miles to the park.

Mills Norrie State Park
Mills Norrie State Park | Flickr/rachel in wonderland

Mills Norrie State Park

How far it is: 2 hours by train and cab
What to expect: At Mills Norrie State Park, you’ll find 1,000 acres of campgrounds—including 47 sites with tents and 10 cabins available to rent—and tons of activities: hiking, cycling, skiing, and snowshoeing. If you’ve somehow managed to get your boat to the park, there’s also lake access from the campground. The park is also just five minutes from the Vanderbilt Estates and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s previous home, in case you get tired of taking in nature. The campground is currently open and accepting visitors, but you’ll have to make a reservation—no walk-ins will be accommodated, due to the new COVID-19 protocols. To make a reservation, visit the state park website.
How to get there: Take Metro North to Poughkeepsie and grab a 15-minute cab from the station.

Fire Island Lighthouse
Fire Island Lighthouse | Michael Rega/Shutterstock

Watch Hill Campground, Fire Island

How far it is: Two hours by train and ferry
What to expect: Ditch the horns honking outside of your window for some crashing waves—Watch Hill Campground is home to 28 campsites, including seven glamping locations, situated a short walk away from the beach on Fire Island. The nightly rates depend on your time of visit: Rates start at $25 a night for anyone staying between May 21 and June 24, as well as September 7 through October 11; and rates start $35 a night for campers visiting between June 25 and September 6. Note that there is a three-night minimum stay for weekend visitors and a one-week minimum stay for those camping for the 4th of July and Labor Day weekends. This is a great campground for those looking to disconnect with a long walk (or five) along the shore. Make sure and reserve ahead of time—this spot is popular.
How to get there: Take the Long Island Railroad to the Babylon stop from Penn Station. From there, transfer to a Montauk-bound Long Island Railroad train and get off at Patchogue Station. Your final leg of the journey is a ferry ride to the campground from the nearby Watch Hill Ferry Terminal.

Blue Mountain Campground, Saugerties

How far it is: Three hours by bus
What to expect: Despite limited availability, Blue Mountain Campground is welcoming campers with the expected restrictions highlighted above. Nightly rates for a campsite start at $39—you can rent both RV hook-ups and wooded tent campsites (there are 60 sites total)—and will grant you access to plenty of hiking trails, including views of the nearby Haines Falls. There’s an on-site laundry room for guests, as well as full-service restrooms and a campground shop for any forgotten toiletries. If you’re looking to get relatively far from the city for a basic camping experience with some hiking thrown in, this will check all of the boxes. Plus, this campground is open year-round, which is a relatively rare find.
How to get there: Head to Port Authority Bus Terminal and catch the Adirondack Trailways bus. A round-trip ticket will cost $62.

Hither Hills State Park
Hither Hills State Park | Elzbieta Sekowska/

Hither Hills State Park

How far it is: 3 hours by train
What to expect: Hither Hills State Park is located right on the ocean, presenting the ideal wake-up call from your tent—the sound of waves hitting the beach. You can fish year-round if you’ve got the right permit; hike the walking dunes of Napeague Harbor; hike through pine, oak, shad, and Russian olive trees; bike the region; or cross-country ski, depending on when you visit. Nightly campsite rents begin at $35.
How to get there: Hop on the LIRR to Montauk and call a cab or hike the short distance to the 189-site campground.

Wildwood State Park
Wildwood State Park | Flickr/bunnyojisan

Wildwood State Park

How far it is: 3 hours by train
What to expect: If you’re focused on getting a good hike in, Wildwood State 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—note that some of these may not be available due to increased COVID-19 safety measures. Nightly rates start at $22 and it’s best to book a campsite on Reserve America before you make your journey there. Be warned: There are no pets allowed at this campground.
How to get there: Hop on the LIRR to Riverhead and grab a cab at the station for the 15-minute ride to the campground.

Lake George
Lake George | majicphotos/Shutterstock

Lake George Escape

How far it is: 6 hours by bus and cab
What to expect: Lake George Escape is great for families looking to spend some quality time outside the craziness of the city. You can rent a site for your tent, a furnished cabin, or a spot to hook up your RV, but expect to be asked to social distance from other campers and to wear a mask in shared spaces. You’ll find all of the usual campground activities—hiking, fishing, playing fields, bonfires, swimming at the beach—but the best things are the one-hour tubing trips on the nearby Schroon River. There is a chance that some of these activities may be restricted due to social distancing measures, so it’s best to call ahead for availability.
How to get there: Take a Greyhound bus from Port Authority to Lake George, then grab a cab from the bus station to the campground 6 miles away.

Lake Placid
Lake Placid | Flickr/Bob C Images

Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain

How far it is: Eight hours and 30 minutes by bus and cab
What to expect: Not only are there tent spots (some with built-in lean-tos for extra shelter), but the campground also offers cabins and glamping sites, as well as RV parking. The Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain campgrounds are open all year round. You can fish, bike, play a round of mini-golf, swim in the onsite pool, or start a campfire. There are also on-site bathrooms and showers within walking distance. Like all of the other campgrounds on this list, prepare to work with social distancing guidelines and don’t forget your mask.
How to get there: Hop on a Greyhound bus at Port Authority to Lake Placid. From there, take a cab—or bike!—from the bus stop to the campground at Whiteface Mountain.

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Erika Owen is a Brooklyn-based travel writer and the author of three books: Lawbreaking Ladies: 50 Tales of Daring, Defiant, and Dangerous Women from History, The Art of Flaneuring: How to Wander with Intention and Discover a Better Life, and Fodor's Essential Iceland.