Backcountry Camping Near NYC?
October 9, 2007 6:55 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone suggest some specific backcountry camping destinations?

So I’d like to go camping again. I haven't been in about a decade and since I am in a new city I need some help.

Through my research I have found that my idea of camping (hiking/canoing to a remote spot, lighting a camp fire, no cars/electricity/people) is technically now called backcountry camping.

My problem is it seems all of the specific information about destinations I find on the internet is intended for road trip camping, where you pitch your tent a couple feet away from you parked your car, which is definitely not what I want.

I would like to find a place where I can park, then hike for a while (or even rent a canoe and paddle for a while) and then setup camp. I am really big on being able to start a camp fire since we want to cook some Bannock.

Can anyone suggest any specific destinations that sound like this that are at most a 2 hour drive from New York City?
posted by toftflin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

Check out the alpine huts ;)

The hut-to-hut traverse is one of the best-kept-secrets of the east coast backpacking industry!
posted by Dayvan_Cowboy at 8:12 PM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Well, certainly the Catskills fit your requirements. It's about 2 hours from NYC, and campfires are allowed in designated campsites and at lean-tos.

As far as specific route recommendations go: How many nights/how strenuous do you want?

The Taconics, in CT, are also quite lovely and about 2 hours away.
posted by SampleSize at 8:50 PM on October 9, 2007

Try searching using the term backpacking--it seems that these days if you carry your crap a few hundred feet that qualifies. I bet these folks, at the Appalachian Mountain Club, would know where to go. Basically, you should be able to look at a map and find the nearest chunk of public lands (ie. National Forest) and go from there. Or, perhaps there is a state park nearby that has hiking trails and allows backcountry hiking.
posted by fieldtrip at 8:55 PM on October 9, 2007

The Appalachian Trail is close and a great section of it runs right past the Delaware Water Gap. There is a parking lot and trail head access right off of Rt. 80. I haven't been there for a number of years, but it is great section of the trail, with waterfalls, lush forest, beautiful vistas, etc. This is one of the absolute best times of the year to access it as well.
posted by caddis at 9:00 PM on October 9, 2007

If you're in NY then I strongly urge you to see the Adirondacks near Lake Placid. This is the perfect time of year to go as the crowds have died down and bugs are no where to be found. The only caveat is that it's bear hungry time so be sure to either bring a bear canister or supplies for a bear hang (rope and a couple carabiners). The High Falls region is quite nice with only a short hike in to the dam (where most of the sites are, they have lean-to's as well!) and then access to oodles of trails from there.
posted by LunaticFringe at 6:07 AM on October 10, 2007

Best answer: This is the best time of year to go hiking in the NY/NJ/CT/MA region, IMO -- no bugs, cool nights and crisp air.

The hut-to-hut traverse is one of the best-kept-secrets of the east coast backpacking industry!

It certainly doesn't feel that way if you're up there during the summer -- seems like half of Boston's up there some weekends! :)

If you like building camp fires, be advised that most of the areas on the AT between Delaware Water Gap and the CT/MA line don't allow 'em. The few that do only allow them at existing shelter fireplaces, IIRC. And if you're looking for solitude, remember the AT can be a bit of a zoo, especially on the weekends. The good news is there are plenty of excellent hiking and camping opportunities close to home that, lacking the AT's name recognition, offer a better opportunity to get away from pesky people.

Generally, real backcountry camping near NYC is hard to come by, and I like the idea of the Adirondacks, but also consider the Catskills -- they're much closer to the City and might fit the bill. Think about the Burroughs Range loop described in this page's first comment, only 180 degrees out of phase and in reverse: Start at the Slide Mountain Parking Area, over the Burroughs Range to the Woodland Valley Campground and then the Giant Ledge Trail back from WVC to a short road walk to the car. It's a rewarding three-peaker that isn't out of control if you take two days to do it (overnight at the relatively low-traffic the Terrace Mountain Lean-To: has a fire ring and is in a nice meadow about 0.9 miles off the main trail -- just pack in water if you camp there.)

Probably the best people to talk to would be the folks over at the NY/NJ Trail Conference -- they oversee all the major hiking trails in your area of interest, publish all the local hiking maps, etc. I'm sure they'll point you in the right direction.
posted by Opposite George at 2:28 PM on October 10, 2007

Oh, and the other thing about the 'Dacks, this time of year, is you should be prepared for snow and ice in higher elevations (not this second, obviously, given the past week's weather but it can cool down fast up there.) If you head up there be prepared for light winter conditions/sub-freezing overnights.
posted by Opposite George at 2:30 PM on October 10, 2007

Oh, duh. Just saw SampleSize's post. What s/he said. The Taconics are great (more intimate than the Catskills, more easy-going climbs) and probably the least crowded of the local hiking destinations. Think about Mount Alander and the South Taconic Trail, with possible side trips/loops to Mounts Frissell and Brace, Bear Mountain (CT), or Mts. Race and Everett -- again, the NY/NJ Trail Conference are your go-to folks for this. The AMC might also have some info as they own a cabin right between Frissell and Bear.
posted by Opposite George at 2:58 PM on October 10, 2007

Last note, I promise: it's a point of correction.

On that Catskills loop, you want to return on the Phoenicia-East Branch Trail, NOT the Giant Ledge Trail (!!!) The PEB trail goes by Giant Ledge, which is where I got confused -- my bad.
posted by Opposite George at 4:18 PM on October 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your responses.

Just to follow up and make this Ask Mefi complete: We went to the Catskills and did the Slide Mountain loop (like Opposite George recommended).

It was exactly what we wanted to do: It wasn't too crowded (The accent to Slide had more than a few day hikers, but come night time we were farely isolated), we got to make our Banock over a campfire, and we even bumped into a deer.

Hopefully we'll have time to try some of the other suggested locations before the snow falls.

Thanks again.
posted by toftflin at 4:48 PM on October 23, 2007

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