NYC Backcountry Camping from Public Transportation
July 9, 2016 7:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm thirsting to get outdoors this summer, and would love to do some hiking/camping a bit off the beaten path. But I live in Brooklyn and don't have a car. What are my options?

Any ideas are welcome, but for the record my fantasy would include: beautiful mountain vistas, lake or creek swimming, a fire in the evening, free/low-cost camping, minimal human exposure.

Any kind of transportation is fine -- train, rideshare, even bike, though I'd have to outfit my bike. I'll probably start with one night but then expand to multiple nights.

Thank you!
posted by vecchio to Science & Nature (12 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Bear Mountain State Park is an easy boat/train ride up the Hudson from Chelsea.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:32 AM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lots of options here. There's a lot of different ways to get to Bear Mountain, but I prefer taking the Jersey-side Metro North line up to Tuxedo, as there's a trail that starts only a short walk away from the station.
posted by greenland at 8:53 AM on July 9, 2016

Hiking link here In the same vein, take the Metro North Hudson Line to Manitou or Breakneck and hike Breakneck Ridge or Anthony's Nose.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:14 AM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't believe camping is allowed at Bear Mountain or Breakneck Ridge.

Malouf's Mountain Campground will pick you up at the Beacon train station and drop you at the trailhead, optionally taking your gear ahead to your campsite, and you can also rent their gear. I haven't camped there myself.

If you're willing to mix train and bike you have some good options, depending on how far you're willing to bike. The Peekamoose campgrounds at Sundown Wild Forest are really nice—all primitive walk-in sites along the crystal-clear Rondout Creek, and completely free. There are porta-potties at one of the campgrounds and at a couple of the trailheads along Peekamoose Road. The downside: it's nearly a 50 mile ride from the nearest Metro-North stop (Poughkeepsie) and not an easy one. Note that there is no water except the creek, so bring something to filter it.

Some more accessible options that I haven't yet tried personally (focusing on the Hudson Metro-North line, since that's where I live) but hope to this summer:
posted by enn at 9:48 AM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've gone out in groups with a guide from Destination Backcountry Adventures - they leave from Brooklyn in a van and the groups I went with were fairly small (5-10). They do overnights and day trips, and the people were diverse and interesting. It's paid but it's really not much above what you would be paying anyway to get out there, and the guides were really knowledgeable and helpful.
posted by maggiemaggie at 10:37 AM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't believe camping is allowed at Bear Mountain or Breakneck Ridge.

The Bear Mountain link I posted literally has a page devoted to camping.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:02 AM on July 9, 2016

I'll probably start with one night but then expand to multiple nights.

Choose the number of nights and/or being willing to part with some cash if you don't use your whole reservation. But do make a reservation.

Make a plan. You need a certain amount of food for one night and another amount of food for multiple nights. Don't assume you can wing it (my SO and kid went to Bear Mountain the other day and found that it was "full" i.e., they couldn't get in even for day hiking).

I love camping and don't mean to be a bummer. On the contrary! The real bummer will be if you make assumptions instead of reservations.
posted by whoiam at 12:05 PM on July 9, 2016

The Bear Mountain link I posted literally has a page devoted to camping.

If you're referring to the "Camp" link at the top, that goes to a page for camping in all New York State parks which has nothing to do with Bear Mountain. If you're referring to something else, I'm not seeing it. There is no link to make a camping reservation as there is for the three state parks to which I linked.
posted by enn at 1:38 PM on July 9, 2016

Best answer: but for the record my fantasy would include: . . . minimal human exposure.

This is the part that is going to be tricky. I am not sure how you define "minimal human exposure" but Bear Mountain and Harriman State Parks (there is no camping there in the sense that hiking in and setting up your tent is not allowed, but there is a lean-to on the AT just up from Lake Tiorati and you can spend the night in the lean-to. There are organizations like Outward Bound that own campgrounds along Route 6 between Long Mountain Circle and Route 17 where you can camp if you are attending one of their events), Breakneck Ridge and Minnewaska are crawling with people during summer weekends. During the week is a little better, but there are still a lot of people at all three.

My girlfriend and I regularly do day hikes during the week, and now that it's summer we see 3-5 people even in the more remote parts of the Catskill mountains. That is about the best you can hope for. Anything less is a nice surprise. Contrast that with a recent hike we did on a remote Catskill mountain on a Saturday where we counted 27 people.

You mentioned a rideshare -- can you rent a car?

What about the Adirondack High Peaks? Again, during a summer weekend it is like being in Grand Central Terminal but during the week if you choose carefully you could put together a hike where you could camp without that many people around.

There are hiking groups that have rideshares or hire a van to get people up there.
posted by mlis at 7:21 PM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: MTA has a web page with links to details about outdoorsy destinations that are reachable via MetroNorth.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 7:29 PM on July 9, 2016

The Urban Park Rangers hold overnight camping (by online lottery) in various NYC public parks. They even supply the tents! It's the easiest way to camp out in NYC without a car that I can think of... I try to remember to enter the lottery every week during the summer, and usually win 1-3 times every year. I've stayed overnight in parks in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and even Central Park once! It's all completely free. You can always get to these parks by public transportation.

For your good-to-have list: There is always a campfire involved. I'm afraid there's no lake swimming, but the park rangers always lead the group on a night hike. There are usually a lot of kids, I have to admit!
posted by lgandme0717 at 9:00 AM on July 10, 2016

Best answer: Trailways from NYC to Potsdam will get you to the Adirondacks. Keene Valley and Lake Placid have the most options. It's mostly riverside, mountainside, and forest camping in Keene and Lake Placid. You can send me a message if you want more info for that area.
posted by release the hardwoods! at 11:24 AM on July 10, 2016

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