As a seasoned outdoor enthusiast, I’ve always wanted to go camping in the Adirondacks. These New York mountains are part of the largest protected park in the lower 48 states, so they’re well worth checking out. But there’s plenty to know about camping in the Adirondacks before you head out.
The 6 ways of camping in the Adirondacks are:
- Designated campgrounds
- Cabin camping
- RV camping
- Backcountry camping
- Island camping
Of course, there’s a lot to consider when deciding how to camp. The best option for you will depend on your personal tastes, budget, and the activities you prefer. Read on to learn more about camping in the Adirondacks, and discover all the ways you can get your wilderness fix this year!
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Where Are The Adirondacks?
Established as a park back in 1892, the Adirondacks Region of New York has been frozen in time to preserve the best of what nature has to offer. With serene lakes nestled between towering snow-capped mountain peaks, and the sounds of peaceful streams babbling in the background, visitors often find it difficult to leave once they arrive.
The good news is, you can spend as much time here as you want! There are many ways to camp out in the Adirondacks, and you don’t have to limit yourself to just one option. Below is a breakdown of the most popular camping methods, and we’ll go through some pros and cons of each one so you can decide what’s best for you.
6 Ways Of Camping In The Adirondacks
1. Designated Campgrounds
Consider pitching your own tent in a designated campground for the best of all worlds. This method provides an authentic outdoor experience without skimping on convenient amenities like water and bathrooms. Perfect for those who want to get off the beaten path without straying too far away, designated campsites are plentiful in the Adirondacks.
There are 41 state-operated campgrounds throughout the region and dozens of private facilities run by landowners in the area. Depending on the campground you choose, you can have access to many modern comforts. Extensive facilities such as the Golden Beach state campground have hot showers, and those like the Adirondack Camping Village even have Wi-Fi.
More Rustic Options
Of course, some campgrounds are more rustic than others. For example, sites in the Darcy Clearing require a walk and don’t offer anything more than bare ground, a fire pit, and a view. These are especially suitable for active individuals looking to see the sights, hike, fish, and experience the Adirondacks’ natural beauty from a convenient base camp.
Most designated campgrounds are budget-friendly, costing less than $20 per night. Some cost nothing at all. They allow groups ranging from single people to large families, so it’s a great option no matter how many people you want to bring along.
Year Round Camping
You’ll find that many campgrounds are seasonal, meaning they’re closed during the harsh winter months. However, some of them are open all year long. If you’re willing to brave the elements, you could see beautiful winter wildlife right from your tent.
Camping is fun, but it can be a lot of work. Setting up the tent and cooking meals can eat into your valuable leisure time, and sleeping on the ground can wreak havoc on your muscles and bones. Luckily, there’s a solution. For those who want the experience of sleeping under the stars without compromising on luxury, glamping is the perfect option.
A marriage of the words “glamorous” and “camping”, this relatively new concept offers fully-equipped tents or lean-to structures complete with mattresses, stoves, and other amenities for maximum comfort in the wilderness. Glamping has really taken off in recent years, and it’s especially popular in the Adirondacks.
Plenty Of Choice
The region boasts ten official glamping experiences to choose from, each one more impossibly luxurious than the last. Most glamping tents are perfect for couples, as sleeping arrangements are often limited to two people. However, some sites, like Adirondack Safari in Lake George, do have larger tents and allow children, so it’s essential to check with your facility of choice before you book.
Glamping is a higher-priced option, with reservations starting at over $150 for most facilities. Add-ons and package deals like dinner and guide services are available at some glamping sites for additional charges as well. Keep in mind that the Adirondacks glamping options are only open during the summertime, so book early to reserve your spot in splendor!
3. Indoor Camping
But what if you don’t want to sleep in a tent at all? Renting a cabin counts as camping in my book, especially if you do it in the heart of the Adirondacks! Cabin rentals are a wonderfully versatile way to explore, as the region allows for all types of budgets and accommodation preferences.
There are hundreds of state-run and private cabin rentals available throughout the area. Cozy getaways like the Singing Mountain Adirondack Camp lie nestled down long-forgotten roads beckoning you to join them, while larger facilities like the St. Williams church on Long Point offer historic accommodations for groups of up to 22.
Options For Everyone
With so many different options, cabins are perfect for nearly everyone. Most allow children, many allow pets, and some are ADA compliant. Whether you’re going solo or with a bigger group, you’ll be able to find a cabin located wherever you want, whether that’s on a lake, a mountain, or an island.
Most cabin rentals are reachable by car, but it’s important to do your research before you book. Some cabins are only reachable by boat, and some may not be reachable at all during the winter months. If you do want to book a cabin during the wintertime, consider lodging at one of theGreat Camps.
Constructed back in the 1800s, the Great Camps were designed to offer luxurious vacation lodging to wealthy families. Now, many have been converted into more modern facilities but have retained their integral historic design. These are a must-see in the Adirondacks, with some like White Pine Camp open all year long.
4. RV Camping
Want to experience the comfort of indoor camping while enjoying the freedom to pack up and move at a moment’s notice? RV camping could be your ticket to paradise. Whether you have a tried-and-trusted family RV or you’re planning on renting one for the summer, you’ll have your pick of sites to choose from.
There are dozens of RV-friendly campgrounds available in the Adirondacks region that have full electric and water hookups for your rig. Some of them include a whole lot more, with facilities like the Camp George RV Park boasting pools, a gym, a movie theater, and a trolley for the kids on-site.
A Free Option
Those who prefer a more nature-focused experience can find RV parking at many of the designated tent campgrounds spread throughout the region. If you don’t mind skipping amenities in general, you can park on various forest roads for free. This is an excellent option for flexible folks who want to bring along the whole gang without breaking the bank.
Costs for designated RV spots range from around $20 to $200, depending on the site and the number of people. Prices go down during the off-season, making a warm RV the perfect place to hole up in winter. If you go this route, remember to check for seasonal availability and roads closing due to snow – you don’t want to get your wheels stuck due to the weather!
5. Backcountry Camping
Want to get a little bit wilder? Backcountry camping will place you firmly in the middle of the majesty. You’ll need to hike out with all the supplies you require and find a suitable campsite all on your own, but that’s part of the magic: pure freedom, solitude, and peace.
If you want complete immersion in natural splendor, the rewards of backcountry camping are worth the exertion. You’ll be able to sleep in the wilderness, letting the wind lull you to sleep at night and bubbling streams wake you up in the morning.
Plenty Of Locations
There are 75 designated backcountry camping areas and several primitive lean-tos in the Adirondacks. Remember that backcountry camping is as rustic as it gets, offering everything in the way of scenery and solitude but little in the form of amenities.
You’ll need to be ok with carrying your tent, water supply, bug spray, food, and other essentials. All these items can weigh you down considerably, so expect to expend a lot of energy as you search for the perfect site. You’ll find designated backcountry campsites marked with a yellow disc, and most of them have a clearing or a fire pit.
If you prefer, you can make your own camp anywhere in the Adirondack Forest Preserve as long as you’re 150 feet away from the trail or any waterways. There are additional rules to backcountry camping as well, including fire restrictions and guidelines for drinking water.
Great For Budget Campers
It’s free to camp in the backcountry, so this makes it a fantastic option for budget campers. Backcountry camping can also be a good experience for groups and children, offering tremendous opportunities for family bonding through learning and new experiences.
Keep in mind that groups of more than ten and camping trips of more than three nights in the same spot require a permit, so be sure to obtain a permit if you need one. Keep your travels organized, and take note of the weather before you set off. Seasonal conditions like snow and rain can be unpleasant and dangerous, so it may be better to plan a fall or summertime trip in the backcountry.
6. Island Camping
Island camping is a special kind of experience. With over 30,000 miles of waterways, the Adirondacks offer unparalleled fishing, swimming, boating, and extreme watersports. The region is home to more than 3,000 lakes and ponds, making it a natural playground for kayakers, canoers, and sailors.
There are four major regions where you can camp on an island in this massive park. Each one offers a different experience and different amenities, so you’ll find a mixture of camping styles among the islands.
Lake Champlain boasts a rich history among its pristine waters. Kayakers and canoers can paddle out to Valcour Island, a Bird Conservation Area home to the historic Bluff Point Lighthouse built in 1874. Camping here is primitive and free, with the best spots close to sandy beaches.
If you prefer to have a few more comforts in your life, choose a more civilized island camping experience such as a site on Lake George. Campsites on these islands are affordable at around $30 per night but still offer toilets, fire pits, and even private docks for your boat.
The 6 Best Places To Camp In The Adirondacks
1. Putnam Pond
Best Adirondacks Tent Campground | Open Season: May – October | Best Feature: Connected Trail System
If you want a sampling of everything the Adirondacks have to offer, Putnam Pond Campground is a great place to begin. Located in the central-eastern region of the Adirondacks near Ticonderoga, Putnam Pond provides a plethora of hiking, fishing, boating, and swimming opportunities.
You’ll have the option to camp in the central area close to your car if you prefer, but those hoping for a more secluded experience can find sites hidden in the trees or set back from the road. There are 72 campsites in total, nine of which are remote and require a boat or trek to reach.
Here, you can hike the 12-mile trail around the pond or take an offshoot trail to visit other areas of interest like Heart Pond or Berrymill Pond. Alternatively, use Putnam Pond as your base camp to set off into the nearby Pharoah Lake Wilderness or climb Treadway Mountain for the excursion of a lifetime.
2. Camp Orenda
Best Adirondacks Glamping Experience | Open Season: June – October | Best Feature: Heated Toilet Seats
Camp Orenda beckons nature-lovers with a little slice of luxury nestled between the gently rolling hills of Johnsburg, New York. This glorious glamping retreat is easily accessible from Albany and Saratoga Springs, but it’s well worth the drive from pretty much anywhere.
You’ll have your pick of canvas cabins to choose from, each one equipped with luxe down bedding, freshly pressed linens, and comfortable mattresses. Each unit has an electric heater you can snuggle up to and a ceiling fan to cool you down, as well as electrical outlets to charge up all your devices.
These glamping tents sleep one to four people, making them a great choice for couples retreats or groups of friends.You’ll have access to Wi-Fi, but you probably won’t want to use it – you’ll be too busy splashing in the waters of Mill Creek, hiking the trails of nearby Crane Mountain, or enjoying farm-to-table cuisine grown fresh in Camp Orenda’s heirloom garden!
3. Old Forge Camping Resort
Best Adirondacks Rental Cabin | Open Season: All Year Round | Best Feature: Private Arcade
Old Forge Camping Resort is a top destination for family-friendly fun all year round. With132 log cabins and 60 cottages,thecampground has plenty of room for everyone. Each cabin sleeps up to four and each cottage has space for up to six, making these accommodations perfect for singles, couples, groups, and families with children of all ages.
The resort is situated near the town of Old Forge in the Central Adirondack region. Here, you’ll be able to take advantage of privately-owned Lake Serene for swimming and boating during the summer months. In the wintertime, you’ll enjoy direct access to hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails that meander through the mountains.
These cabins aren’t fancy, but they are clean, comfortable, and located near many Old Forge attractions. Hiking trails abound in the area, and the resort has private nature walks, boat rentals, and a volleyball pit.
4. Wilmington Notch Campground
Best Adirondacks RV Site | Open Season: Mid January – Mid October | Best Feature: Proximity To AuSable River
Wilmington Notch is the perfect base camp if you’re looking to sightsee in your RV. This state-run camp lies close enough to the towns of Lake Placid and Wilmington for gasoline and supplies, yet far enough away so that visitors aren’t distracted by civilization.
There are no direct water or electric hookups here, so stock up before you arrive. If direct hookups are must-haves for you, the Whiteface Mountain/Lake Placid KOA is down the road with electric, water, sewer, and cable TV. However, Wilmington Notch is a better adventure.
You’ll be able to walk right out of your camper straight to the AuSable River for the best fly fishing around, or explore numerous waterfalls on the connected trail system running to the site. If swimming and fishing in the river aren’t appealing, there are plenty of other options.
The grounds lie at the heart of the High Peaks and have quick access to Whiteface Mountain and tons of area attractions like Santa’s Village and the Lake Placid Olympic Village. Rigs of up to 30 feet can park in dozens of spacious back-in RV sites, with access to showers and restrooms.
5. Roaring Brook Falls
Best Adirondacks Backcountry Site | Open Season: All Year Round | Best Feature: 325 ft High On-Site Waterfall
For those who want a real rustic experience, backcountry camping is as authentic as it gets. The Roaring Brook Falls campsite is my personal favorite, and it’s conveniently located less than a mile up Great Mountain Trail in the town of Keene.
This campsite has no amenities to offer besides a fire pit and a world-class, million-dollar view of the Great Range. You’ll be able to see for miles from your snug mountain nest, with a wonderful water source just a few feet away.
Park at the Great Mountain trailhead and take the short hike to view the falls before meandering the miles of surrounding trails. Take your rest in the evening time at this grassy site, pitching your tent on the ground or hanging your hammock in the grove of trees nearby.
6. Blue Mountain Lake
Best Adirondacks Island Camping | Open Season: All Year Round | Best Feature: Solitude
Resting peacefully in Hamilton County, Blue Mountain Lake offers over 1,200 acres of serene waters to explore. There are six campsites to choose from, each one of them free and available to the first person who signs them out.
You can’t reserve these sites, so arrive early to the southeast edge of Blue Mountain Lake to launch your canoe or kayak. You’ll find a map at the boat launch, which should give you good directions to the available campsites, but if you end up lost, it’s all part of the adventure!
Paddle enticing private hamlets as you cast for salmon, trout, bass, and other delicacies of the lake. Take a dip into the refreshing blue water during the summertime, or set off for a landlocked hike up to Castle Rock Mountain to view the lake in all its quiet, massive glory during the fall.
Camping In The Adirondacks – Features And Amenities
As you plan your camping trip to the Adirondacks, it’s a good idea to learn a bit about the features and amenities this region has to offer. After all, you’ll want to plan your visit around some activities. Luckily for you, there’s plenty to see and do. The park’s natural wonders will make your jaw drop, and the man-made attractions are sure to impress as well.
High Falls Gorge
Are you visiting Lake Placid? Don’t forget to take a short jaunt over to High Falls Gorge, a breathtaking site where you’ll see four distinct waterfalls roaring down into the captivating oblivion of the gorge itself. Meander over glass walkways and wooden bridges leading directly to the falls, witnessing the power of this feature up close and personal.
The awesome AuSable Chasm is America’s oldest natural attraction, and it’s also just a short drive away from Lake Placid. This gorge was carved deep into bright red sandstone thousands of years ago, and you can float right through it as you marvel at the towering multicolored walls. Scale the stone itself on an Adventure Tour, or take an ice-cleat hike on the ridgeline during winter.
The Wild Center
If you’re near Tupper Lake, don’t miss the Wild Center. This natural history museum is a fully immersive experience offering 50,000 feet of interactive natural exhibits and plenty of room to roam outside. You can swing high above the pines in a manufactured spider web, climb through the treetops to explore a twig house, and have all your questions answered by a certified naturalist here.
Those camping near Lake George, Saranac Lake, Raquette Lake, Indian Lake, or Ticonderoga may be lucky enough to attend one of the famous Winter Carnivals of the Adirondacks. These spectacular events are a much-needed reprieve from grey, snowy winter days in the mountains. They feature all sorts of contests, live music, cook-offs, and merrymaking.
If you want a slightly more adrenaline-fueled summer experience, skip a day at the lake in favor of an Adirondacks water park. Six Flags Great Escape hosts roller coasters and lazy rivers in the Lake George Region. At the same time, privately-owned parks like Calypso’s Cove and the Enchanted Forest Water Safari await with family-friendly fun in Old Forge.
Camping In The Adirondacks – Important Things To Know
Is there anything you should keep in mind while planning your trip to the Adirondacks? It’s a huge region, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the information out there. Instead of panicking, read our rundown of the most important things to remember as you plan.
Fees & Charges
There are no entry fees for the Adirondacks. You won’t go through a gate when you arrive, and the only sign that you’ve entered will be an unobtrusive plaque on the side of the highway welcoming you to the region.
However, you’ll probably have to pay a fee for lodging. Keep in mind that the prices listed for state-run campgrounds and accommodations are for New York residents only, and they generally get a $5 discount. Those visiting from out of state will need to bring some extra cash to cover the difference.
Want a pro tip? If you’re a student, a military veteran, or over the age of 65, bring along an ID that proves your status. Some campgrounds and visitor centers offer discounts for these particular groups, so you’ll be able to save some money on entry fees if you qualify.
Rules & Regulations
While the Adirondacks offer unparalleled freedom, there are still rules you’ll need to follow when you’re there. Regulations often change by season and are for your safety and the safety of the wildlife. For example, movement is restricted during the winter months to prevent hiking and climbing injuries, and summertime cookouts are limited to designated areas to avoid forest fires.
You’re not allowed to touch the wildlife, and you aren’t permitted to take any natural souvenirs like rocks, either – even if you find a super cool one! It’s a good idea to research the individual campground you plan on visiting before you arrive to learn about any rules specific to the area. That way, you won’t get any unfortunate surprises.
The Adirondacks have mild summers and harsh winters. The weather changes rapidly here, so it’s important to check and recheck the forecast as you make your way to the campsite. Even if the sky is blue when you arrive, it could be pouring by nightfall. And in the wintertime, bright white horizons can drop freezing sleet at a moment’s notice.
The good news is, you won’t have anything to worry about if you come prepared. Tent campers should bring along extra tarps to provide an additional layer of protection both above and below the tent. Everyone should pack layers of clothing, and it’s a good idea to have some extra rations and snacks on hand just in case roads become temporarily blocked due to downed trees, snow, or mud.
Camping In The Adirondacks – Best Time To Visit
No matter when you plan to visit, you’ll be able to enjoy unique landscapes and once-in-a-lifetime adventures. However, all seasons aren’t created equal. The best time of year for heading to the Adirondacks depends mainly on what you hope to do during your trip and what kind of activities you want to partake in.
If I had to pick the best time to visit, it would be summertime. And I’m not alone – most visitors prefer to travel during peak season, which runs from May to August. Temperatures in the summer months stay comfortable in the upper 70s, rarely dropping below the 50s at night.
The warmer weather offers a chance to sample all the watersports you want. Boating, waterskiing, fishing, swimming, and floating are all available in the summer. Camping outside is much more comfortable as well, and you’ll be able to sleep easy without worrying about frost and snow.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to consider. Campsites and nearby attractions become more crowded during this time, and you’ll have to book well in advance at most facilities. Prices tend to go up, and the heat can be oppressive for some. However, the wide range of summertime opportunities more than makes up for any inconvenience.
Autumn in the Adirondacks offers a unique opportunity to see foliage as you’ve never seen it before. The alluring cascade of colors confounds and captivates in equal measure, providing a backdrop of glorious golds, radiant reds, and mesmerizing oranges to gaze upon.
Temperatures drop and leaves begin to change around September, with October and early November encompassing the best of autumn in the Adirondacks. You’ll find pleasant opportunities for hiking and camping during the fall, as temperatures can linger in the 60s during daylight hours.
Attendance begins to drop as well, and some facilities start lowering prices as visitors head back to their everyday lives. You can score some good deals on campgrounds in autumn, but remember to pack your fleece and flannel! Temperatures often drop below freezing at night, even with lingering summer warmth.
Wintertime in the Adirondacks is not for the faint of heart. You can expect freezing daytime temperatures in the 10s and 20s from late November to mid-March, while nighttime temperatures get down to the negatives. The numbers may sound frigid to some, but they’remusic to the ears of snow-lovers.
Wintertime activities like skiing, snowboarding, and low-elevation hiking attract brave cold-weather tourists each year. While you won’t want to hop into the lake, you can skate on top of it during these magical months, and the frozen landscape provides a backdrop of astonishing beauty for those unaccustomed to white winters.
Many camping facilities are closed during wintertime in the Adirondacks, but you still have options. Newbies can attend workshops to learn winter skills or explore Winterfest in January at Heart Lake. The Adirondack Mountain Club hosts all sorts of winter events, while campgrounds like Grace Camp in Keene Valley offer cabins all year long.
If you don’t mind getting dirty, spring can be a magical time of year in the Adirondacks. From March to the end of April, you’ll find birds chirping, leaves unfurling with new growth, and fresh spring rains breathing life back into the landscape.
Temperatures in the springtime usually range from the 30s to the 40s. Some freezing is to be expected, especially in early springtime as the snow melts. Adirondacks officials caution against hiking at elevations above 3,000 feet during springtime, as slopes get muddy and treacherous.
However, valley hiking draws in a plethora of visitors in the spring. Many campgrounds remain closed during the so-called “mud season”, but backcountry sites are still open. White-water rafting season and fishing season also begin in the springtime, meaning that cabins and lodges begin opening their doors for visitors.
Camping in the Adirondacks is best in the summer. There are lots of different options, from backcountry camping to RV camping, and there are even glamping choices too. The region has lots of amenities and activities on offer to suit all budget levels, for individuals, couples, groups and families.