Illustration by Mike Reddy
The Adirondacks is rich in Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) campgrounds, some of the most convenient and cost-effective options for woodsy getaways. Choosing a favorite is highly subjective—often a happy blend of personal preferences and family traditions—but what follows is a sampling of likely contenders. For those new to the scene, a couple of tips: regional state campground use has soared in the last few years. Sites can be booked up to nine months in advance (newyorkstateparks.reserveamerica.com) and waterfront locations are snapped up at lightning speed. Plan accordingly. If you don’t end up getting the spot of your dreams on your first visit to a campground, do some recon while you’re there: scan for sites that fit your camping style and needs and note them on the map you get at check-in for future reference. Find a full list of Adirondack campgrounds at www.dec.ny.gov.
Forked Lake (Long Lake, 80 sites, pit toilets, boat rentals) used to be an off-the-radar darling, but it’s become more popular in recent years—including with the ursine crowd, so be sure to use the onsite bear boxes and don’t bring food into your tent. Still, compared to some larger camping hubs, this place has a mellow vibe, with a mix of boat-in and hike-in sites dotting an archetypal Adirondack lake. Motors are allowed, but these waters don’t attract much high-speed traffic.
The newest addition to the DEC stable is Frontier Town (North Hudson, 77 electric and non-electric sites, hot showers, flush toilets), with sparkling facilities, playgrounds and an area for equestrian camping. There isn’t a deep wilderness feel here, but it’s a convenient base for Essex Chain or Boreas Ponds outings and a 1.6-mile multi-use trail also leaves from the campground. Bonus: Paradox Brewery (paradoxbrewery.com) is stationed right outside the front gate.
At the tippy-top of the park, Meacham Lake (Duane, 223 sites, hot showers, flush toilets, boat rentals) is a family-style Eden fitted out with a beach, playground, volleyball court, horse-shoe pits and picnic shelters. It’s the only development on this breezy 1,200-acre lake—though you’ll have to share the waters with the resident loons. Sites range from primitive walk-in numbers to group sites for up to 12 people.
The sizable swimming area at Moffitt Beach (Lake Pleasant, 261 sites, hot showers, flush toilets) makes this historical campground a go-to destination in the southern Adirondacks. Stationed on Sacandaga Lake (not to be confused with its cousin, Great Sacandaga Lake), the complex boasts dozens of waterside sites, from beach-adjacent to tucked away in a neighborhood known locally as “Siberia”—the best bet for those more interested in serenity than sandcastles.
Nicks Lake (Old Forge, 112 sites, hot showers, flush toilets) is another good choice for families, sporting a beach, playground, hiking trails, ballfield and basketball court. Powerboats aren’t allowed, making the lake a safer space for novice paddlers, and all the attractions of Old Forge are a quick trip away.
Location, location, location. The village of Lake George is great, but camping at Rogers Rock (Hague, 332 sites, hot showers, flush toilets) gives you a taste of the quieter northern end of the Queen of American Lakes. There are a handful of island sites, as well as mooring buoys and a pumpout station for boaters.
Wilderness Campground at Heart Lake
The Adirondack Mountain Club’s Wilderness Campground at Heart Lake is surrounded by designated wilderness areas near the village of Lake Placid and it offers a classic experience. There are private tent sites, lean-tos and canvas cabins; hot breakfasts served in the historic Adirondack Loj; canoe, kayak and SUP rentals; plenty to learn at the High Peaks Information Center; and access to the numerous trails leading into the Adirondacks’ highest peaks, including Wright, Algonquin and Marcy. And then there’s the lake itself, perfect for a post-hike dip. (1002 Adirondack Loj Road, Lake Placid, 518-523-3441, adk.org)
John Dillon Park, Long Lake
Proving the theory that the Adirondacks is for everybody, John Dillon Park is all about accessibility. Everything is designed for campers with mobility needs, from fishing and boating to campsites with ramps, ADA-certified fire rings, picnic tables and sleeping platforms. Free tours of Grampus Lake on Dillon Park’s accessible pontoon boat are perfect for viewing ospreys and loons, while all 3.5 miles of trails here are built to allow adventure for all. (2150 Tupper Road, Long Lake, 518-524-6226, paulsmiths.edu/johndillonpark)
Lake George Escape, Lake George
Looking to go big? Lake George Escape Family Camping Resort is the place for you. It’s kid friendly, with sites in the woods, along the Schroon River, and around area ponds. Amenities and activities here make all the difference, including a sandy swimming beach, a dog park, wagon rides, mini-golf, fishing, nature trails, tubing, volleyball and tennis, with equipment available to borrow. The campground is just minutes from Lake George Village and close to hiking and adventures on the Hudson River. (175 East Schroon River Road, Lake George, 518-623-3207, lakegeorgeescape.com)
The Inn on Piseco Lake, Piseco
With surrounding wilderness areas, Piseco Lake is a dreamy location in the southern Adirondacks that draws visitors for mountain views and great fishing. The Inn on Piseco Lake, which serves some of the best pancakes around, offers campsites near a sandy beach or tucked into the woods. This is an ideal basecamp for paddling the lake or exploring the Northville-Placid Trail. There’s also Speculator, with its small-town charm (visit Charlie Johns!), or big views from Echo Cliffs, overlooking Piseco Lake. (471 Old Piseco Road, Piseco, 844-322-5500, pisecoinn.com)
Blue Ridge Falls Campsites, North Hudson
This quiet, pine-scented spot is perfect for starry nights and s’mores. It’s across Route 84 from its namesake: a series of postcard-worthy falls on The Branch. Sites are well spaced, allowing for privacy and gorgeous views of the surrounding wilderness. Look for labradorite in the river, fish for trout, take a hike into the Boreas Ponds Tract or the Upper Works, visit a bison farm, cool off in the pool, or just chill. (3493 Blue Ridge Road, North Hudson, 518-532-7863, blueridgefallscampsite.com)
Lake Placid / Whiteface Mountain KOA
The North Pole KOA, a Wilmington staple, sits in a sweet spot of forest close to mountain-bike and hiking trails, Whiteface Mountain, Lake Placid’s Main Street and, yes, Santa Claus himself at nearby Santa’s Workshop. But for those who don’t want to hop back in the car, there’s still plenty of adventure right at the campground, with its scenic location, playground and walking trails by the Ausable River. (5591 Route 86, Wilmington, 518-946-7878, koa.com/campgrounds/lake-placid)
No tent? No sleeping bag? No problem. You can get a taste of roughing it without any of the rough parts in a fully furnished platform tent—with amenities that include gourmet bites, yoga classes, music, bonfires and more—at these retreats around the park.
(518) 600-1026, adirondacksafari.com
346 Schroon River Road, Warrensburg
(347) 287-7359, camporenda.com
90 Armstrong Road, Johnsburg
(646) 539-9438, glampful.com
162 Hatzenbuhler Road, Broadalbin
(518) 223-8666, canada-usa.huttopia.com
1571 Lake Avenue, Lake Luzerne
North River Hobby Farm
(518) 812-7770, www.northriverhobbyfarm.com
83 Cemetery Road, North River