Safe Travels: 10 best campgrounds in Upstate New York you should book now

Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series that features things to do in Upstate New York while we still experience the Covid-19 pandemic. Before venturing out, please take proper precautions and check for any changed business hours, park hours or availability. Safe travels!

There are literally of hundreds of camping areas around Upstate New York. Some are small “mom-and-pop” locations and others are huge and all-encompassing. Hey, it takes all kinds!

Here is a list of 10 that you should consider the next time you want to go camping in Upstate NY. Some are well-known and very popular, and others are a little “off the grid.” Are they the best? To some, maybe yes. Others? Well, Upstaters tend to find a camping spot and then return to it year after year. Or even generation after generation. Many of these on the list are in state parks, where you can find a long list of camping amenities to enjoy. Others are more rustic. And many are mostly focused on RV travel, perhaps more popular now than ever before. Happy camping!

Copake Camping Resort (Copake; Columbia County): A popular family destination for many years, this is an out of the way full-service camping area found east of the Hudson River and near the Massachusetts state line. The facility offers camping options for virtually every vacationer on the camping spectrum. They have comfortable rustic log cabins, plenty of open tent sites, full “big rig” RV sites and every imaginable amenity you can think of. Each tent site comes with its own picnic table, charcoal grill, and fire pit. The RV sites have full hook-up availabilities. The campgrounds have just undergone a full electrical update providing more than adequate power needs throughout. Activities for all ages include a large swimming pool, basketball courts, mini-golf, gaming arcade, horseshoes, a children’s playground and tennis courts. There is a schedule of live entertainment during the season and the campground has a fully stocked general store.

It is no wonder that this has been named Columbia County’s Best Campground for four years in a row!

Copake Camping Resort

2236 County Route 7

Copake, N.Y. 12516

Call for reservations: (518-329-2811)

Website: https://copakecampingresort.com/

Brennan Beach RV Resort (Pulaski; Oswego County): Maybe the prime RV resort in Upstate New York. The venue has a resort community feel to it, with many RV’ers returning year after year. For short termers there are cabins which can be rented that sleep up to seven people. There are communal activities in each camping neighborhood (or block) and on live entertainment night everybody pours into the party area for a good time. The bands that perform here are among the best in the Northeast. Brennan Beach offer 1,300 RV sites, making it one of the largest in the Northeast.

And if all of that is not enough to satisfy your RV camping needs, check out the beach! Yes, a gorgeous half-mile long sandy beach right on the edge of Lake Ontario. The sunsets here are among the best you will find anywhere.

Brennan Beach

80 Brennan Beach

Pulaski, N.Y. 13142

For reservations: (1-888-891-5979)

Website: https://brennanbeachrvresort.com/

Branches of Niagara Campground (Grand Island; Erie County): A wonderful camping facility with a wide assortment of camping options on their menu. They have fully appointed log cabins (facing a private lake), many RV sites sized to fit the small family camper all the way up to a big rig, dozens of tenting areas (each tent site has electric and is walking distance to bath house and laundry) and, wait for it, yurts! These yurts really take camping to another level. They are round poled buildings with canvas walls, a peaked roof, and a covered floor. First invented by the nomadic tribes of Central Asia, they are a cross between a tent and a cabin and are all the rage right now. This is one of the few camping areas to offer this popular “yurting” experience. Throw in the fact that this campground is a mere ten minutes away from Niagara Falls and you have a camping winner in Western New York!

Branches of Niagara Campground

2659 Whitehaven Road

Grand Island, N.Y. 14072

For reservations: (716) 773-5551

Website: https://branchesofniagara.com/

Bear Spring Mountain Campground (Downsville; Delaware County): A beautiful, rustic camping area tucked into the western corner of the Catskill Forest Preserve. The venue has more than 40 tent and trailer sites all located around a private lake and beach and surrounded by 25 miles of great Catskill hiking trails. This location is split into two distinct camping areas, about three miles apart from each other.

There are rowboat, kayak, paddle boat and canoe rentals for the lake as well as other amenities including a large picnic area with tables, grills, playground, horseshoe pits, volleyball, firewood sales, flush toilets and hot showers.

Without some of the sophisticated modern amenities found elsewhere, the experience here is a nostalgic and fun throwback to family camping vacations of a generation ago. Kids age 5 to 13 can join the Junior Naturalist Program here where they are encouraged to join supervised games and activities while here, and then being rewarded with a colorful embroidered patch to take home.

Opened in 1984, this was New York State’s 50th official campground. Note: This is not to be confused with Bear Mountain State Park in the lower Hudson Valley.

Bear Spring Mountain Campground

512 E. Trout Brook Road

Downsville, N.Y. 13755

For reservations: (607) 865-6989

Website: https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/24454.html

Gilbert Lake State Park (Laurens; Otsego County): An attractive “pocket park” about 30 miles from Cooperstown. There are numerous campsites and cabin rentals available during the summer season. There are also about a dozen miles of hiking trails which crisscross the park’s space making this a natural for hikers, walkers, joggers, and (in the winter) cross country skiers. The lake has long been one of the area’s best swimming places. A lifeguard is on duty and there is a sandy beach to relax on and to let the small ones have fun. There is also a playground and a disc golf course on site.

There is a picnic pavilion on one end of the park, which is one of the park’s earliest buildings, and a public beach on the other. One of the great assets to this beautiful park is that it not only was one of the first state parks in Central New York, but also because many of the older, original stone buildings were built by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s. The roadways, cabins and public areas were all carved out of the wilderness by the young men of the CCC. In tribute to them, the park has a New York State CCC Museum near the public beach area. Inside is an extensive display of memorabilia, artifacts, original park plans and dozens of large photographs of the men who cleared the land and built the structures of this 1,600 acre park in the 1930s. A nice touch.

Gilbert Lake State Park

18 CCC Road

Laurens, N.Y. 13796

For reservations: (607) 432-2114

Website: https://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/gilbert-lake-state-park/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NY&parkId=64

Evergreen Trails Campground (Angelica; Allegany County): Whether it be a stay in one of their rustic cabins, a wooded RV site, secluded, creekside tent site or spacious seasonal site, Evergreen Trails Campground has something to accommodate everyone. It is a perfect vacation or weekend get-away. The campground has two large ponds for fishing, swimming or relaxing, and the whole camping community is welcome to join in a busy schedule of events and entertainment throughout the season.

All tent sites have electric and water and are situated among the tall pines in a thickly wooded area. RV sites are also available. The wood cabins are very popular, with 28 to choose from. Many of them overlook a burbling stream. Cabins include electricity, stove (or hot plate), refrigerator, and dining room furniture. You also will have access to pure spring-fed water. Port-a-potties are located throughout the campground.

If during your stay here you get an itch to see the surrounding countryside, you are perfectly located just twenty minutes away from one of New York’s greatest natural assets Letchworth State Park.

A quick look at the camp site’s Trip Advisor online reviews shows near unanimous high praise for the friendly assistance of the owners and staff as well as the pristine beauty of the forest setting.

Evergreen Trail Campground

8403 County Road 15

Angelica, N.Y. 14709

For reservations: (585) 466-7993

Website: http://www.evergreentrails.com/

Rogers Rock Campground (Hague; Warren County): This is one of two popular campgrounds in the greater Lake George area listed in this article. The lake is 33 miles long and this campsite anchors the north end of it. The campground has been a favorite family destination since it first opened in 1947 and offers up 328 camp sites on or near the lake. This is also a favorite of guests who like to fish as the lake is loaded with northern pike, salmon, largemouth bass, yellow perch, bullheads, lake trout, brown trout, and smallmouth bass.

Because of the size of Lake George, all types of boats are allowed on the water, including motorboats.

Hague is located just ten minutes south of historic Fort Ticonderoga, one of America’s most famous Revolutionary War forts (guided tours are given). The village of Lake George can be a dizzying place in the summer as thousands of families arrive for both day and nighttime fun. Although on the same lake, Rogers Rock Campgrounds provides a peaceful respite in the woods far from the souvenir shops, miniature golf courses, pizza stands, beach activity and family arcades of the village just a half hour south.

Rogers Rock Campground

9894 Lake Shore Drive

Hague, N.Y. 12836

For reservations: (518) 585-6746

Website: https://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/rogers-rock-campground/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NY&parkId=515

Buttermilk Falls

Buttermilk Falls, as seen from the Gorge Trail in Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca. The falls drop a total of 500 ft., from Buttermilk Creek towards Cayuga Lake. Buttermilk Falls State Park is located off of Rt. 13 in Ithaca and includes several hiking trials, a small lake, campground, pavilion and pool.Kate Collins | syracuse.com

Buttermilk Falls State Park (Ithaca; Tompkins County): While most campgrounds have a singular, outstanding feature, like a sandy beach, horseback riding, or maybe a place to see a spectacular sunset, Buttermilk Falls campground has its own stand out feature: one of Upstate prettiest waterfalls and swimming holes. There is a beach area around the lake at the foot of Buttermilk Falls.

The waterfall, formed by Buttermilk Creek cascading down a series of rock ledges, feeds a deep, cool swimming hole that is one of the most popular in the Ithaca area. The campground’s amenities include hiking, fishing, nature trails, playing areas, swimming, and organized activities during camping season.

Visitors can choose among cabins or tent sites which contain grills and general camping accessories. This is a family friendly park in a beautiful natural setting. One word of caution, however. On an Upstate hot, dry summer day, when the creek water is low (or even nonexistent), you will be disappointed in not seeing the beauty of the 165-foot-tall waterfall in action.

The park is just south of the city of Ithaca. During an extended camping stay, a visit to the city is a fun side trip.

Buttermilk Falls State Park

112 Buttermilk Falls Road E.

Ithaca, N.Y. 14850

For reservations: (607) 273-5761

Website: https://newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/buttermilk-falls-state-park/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NY&parkId=182

Hamlin Beach State Park (Hamlin; Monroe County): Located just a few miles northwest of Rochester, this park features one of the best campground beaches in the state. Thousands visit each summer for the long stretch of sand along the shore of Lake Ontario. Cool breezes keep the summer mug away and the swimming is great here (lifeguards are on duty). The park has a campground with 265 tent and RV sites and with such a large population located close by, the sites fill up fast.

For those who prefer their camping days spent out of the sun, the park and campground also have several buildings, shelters, pavilions and shaded areas under tall trees. Multiple grilling areas dot the grounds.

Come for the beach, enjoy the wave action at the lake, and definitely stay for the sunset. This is a great campground.

Hamlin Beach State Park

1 Hamlin Beach Blvd.

Hamlin, N.Y. 14464

For reservations: (585) 964-2462

Website: https://parks.ny.gov/parks/hamlinbeach/maps.aspx

Lake George RV Park (Lake George; Warren County): Lake George is without a doubt the magnet that draws tens of thousands to the Adirondacks every summer. There are many camping options for you to choose from.

For families, especially with young children, it is hard to beat the Lake George RV Park. Set in a wooded area just minutes from the honky-tonk feel of the village’s business district, this park sprawls over 125 beautiful acres.

With a whopping 425 RV sites available you are sure to find a great spot, make new friends, and enjoy the many activities located withing the RV park itself. Each site comes with electric, water, septic, grills, fire ring, picnic table, wi-fi and cable TV.

Although the public swimming beach area is just a short distance away, the park has its own large indoor and outdoor swimming pools. There are numerous ways to spend your day whether on any of the four tennis courts, four children’s playgrounds, or the two basketball courts, or even just spending time with the family at the park’s very own little kids “water park.”

Most families will choose to spend the day in the village enjoying the restaurants, shops, cafes, tourist attractions, wax museums, game arcades and more. But at night, when everybody is tired, you will return to a campground dotted with glowing campfires as families gather to relive the day’s events.

Lake George RV Park

74 State Highway 149

Lake George, N.Y. 12845

For reservations: (518) 792-3775

Website: https://www.lakegeorgervpark.com/

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