Family-Friendly Campgrounds Near NYC for Summer 2021 Camping

Mongaup Camp attracts plenty of families thanks to its lake-front location and friendly park rangers. Photo courtesy of the site
Mongaup Camp attracts plenty of families thanks to its lake-front location and friendly park rangers. Photo courtesy of the site

Planning a family camping trip may seem challenging for New Yorkers because it often requires plenty of equipment, including a car. But, your next camping adventure might be easier than you think. There are plenty of family-friendly campgrounds nearby that offer amenities to make camping fun and easier for kids and families. And after the year we've had, an easy getaway is a welcome news in summer 2021.

If you don't have camping gear, there are even campgrounds that provide nearly everything you need to have an amazing camping experience. We've rounded up a handful of great family-friendly campgrounds nearby, all with availability for booking in summer 2021. Make your plans soon as camping has been a popular pandemic vacation and spots are being snapped up.

Camping is a great experience for kids, and though there are several deluxe campgrounds offering fancy perks, many camping sites are low-tech, so they allow families time to unplug and reconnect with one another. If you're looking for getaways a little further from city limits, consider embarking on one of these epic East Coast road trips or visiting one of these top national parks.

We've highlighted these campgrounds at their best, but keep in mind the 2021 camping season is likely to look different than those in the recent past. While there are no traditional camping spots open in NYC this summer, you can go glamping on Governors Island or at Camp Rockaway in Queens.

Upstate New York Campgrounds Open for 2021 Reservations

1. Mongaup Pond Campground – Livingston Manor

In northeastern Sullivan County, not too far from the famous Roscoe Diner, this large New York State Park campground sits on the largest body of water in the Catskills, so there's plenty of water fun to be had. Swimming, boating, and fishing are just a few of the activities to enjoy.

A few years ago, on my family's visit, we found kids running or biking from site to site, making it feel like a suburban street in the middle of the woods. My son made plenty of new friends during our stay. The park offers fantastic ranger-led nature programs for children and plenty of hiking trails.

The best part is perhaps the ice cream truck that drives around the campground twice daily, selling anything you may have forgotten and fun extras such as glow sticks and soda. The Catskill Fish Hatchery is right outside the park for a nice diversion, if needed.

RELATED: Catskills, Adirondacks, and Hudson Valley Visitors Guide

Canoe on shore at Little Pond Campground
Little Pond Campground offers plenty of kid-friendly water activities to while a lazy day away. Photo courtesy of NYS Environmental Conservation

2. Little Pond Campground – Andes

This is my family's favorite place to camp. On the western side of the Catskills, Little Pond, as the name implies, is small but offers a 13-acre pond, ranger programs, a swimming beach, kayaks, canoes, and rowboats to rent. The area is famous for its fishing, including the popular trout spot, Beaverkill River, right outside the park, but junior anglers can drop a line right into the pond. The camping sites are wooded, allowing for some privacy, and many are even right on the pond. Families with kids who can carry their own weight can choose a remote, no-cars-allowed site and pack or canoe in their gear. There is also a small camp store, diner, and grocery store in town for last-minute essentials.

RELATED: 7 Favorite Upstate New York Getaways

Tent set-up on raised platform Malouf's Mountain Sunset Campground
The hike-in-only Malouf's Mountain Sunset Campground is ideal for first-timers. Photo courtesy of the campsite

3. Malouf's Mountain Sunset Campground – Beacon

Malouf's Mountain Sunset Campground is a perfect camping site for both first-time urbanites and seasoned campers. You can get to the area any way you like, but if you don't have a car, the proprietor will collect you and your gear at the Beacon train station, drop you on the trail to the campground, then bring your gear. The sites are platformed and stocked with a kitchen box, table, and everything else you might need for roughing it. All you have to do is pop up your tent and have fun. You can even order ingredients for all your meals in advance and have them waiting for you when you arrive, or you can order prepared meals from a local restaurant, both for an extra fee. For a more rustic experience, opt for a primitive site that is completely DIY. Read our full review of Malouf's Mountain Sunset Campground.

4. New York City North/Newburgh KOA – Plattekill

An hour and a half by car from New York City and also accessible by train to Beacon, this campground is a great spot for art lovers as it's close to both Storm King sculpture park and Dia Beacon. This camping site has all the amenities, including a snack bar, coffee shop, and wine store. You won't have trouble keeping kids entertained here as there are activities galore, including two swimming pools (open during peak season), basketball, bike rentals, fire truck rides, and a jumping pillow. If you go in the fall, there's apple picking, too.

RELATED: Car-Free Weekend Getaways From NYC

Campsite at Hither Hills Camperlines up on the shoreline
Camping at Hither Hills is an inexpensive way to visit Montauk. Photo by John Williams/courtesy of NYS Parks.

Long Island Campgrounds Open for 2021 Reservations

5. Hither Hills State Park – Montauk

Want to head out to Montauk but not shell out a month's rent on a hotel? Book a spot at Hither Hills State Park. This grassy, open campground is mere minutes from Montauk's famous sand and surf, where you can enjoy fishing, paddleboarding, and surfing. On the other side of the camp is a lake if you need a break from the ocean. The park also offers playgrounds, walking trails, and ranger-led programs. The sites do not have cooking options, and there are no barbecue grills or fire pits, so plan accordingly or head into town to dine out. Spots at Hither Hills book quickly, so plan as far ahead as you can.

RELATED: Best Family Campgrounds on Long Island

Tents set-up at Fire Island's Watch Hill
Camp near the ocean at Fire Island's Watch Hill. Photo by Kevin Farley via Flickr.

6. Watch Hill Campground – Fire Island

Years ago, getting a reservation at Fire Island's coveted Watch Hill campground was by lottery only. Today, you can book a spot online, but with only 26 sites, families must plan well in advance. For the best availability, plan a late-summer getaway. Campsites here are sandy and bare but steps from the ocean and the rest of the national seashore's amenities, including a snack bar, full-fledged restaurant, and general store. This is another car-free destination—you must arrive by boat, like elsewhere on Fire Island. If you have your own boat, you can park it at the dock while camping. Otherwise, take a ferry from Patchogue (accessible via the Long Island Rail Road) to the Watch Hill terminal and hoof it to the campground. It is about a 20-minute walk from the dock.

RELATED: 100 Things to Do in New York State with Kids Before They Grow Up

High Point State Park lake view
High Point State Park offers stunning views and miles of beautiful trails to traverse during your stay. Photo by Mommy Poppins

New Jersey Campgrounds Open for 2021 Reservations

7. High Point State Park – Sussex

Camp at the highest point in the Garden State at the aptly named High Point State Park, in the Skylands region. The park offers cabins and 50 tent sites and is a great spot to kick off a hiking trip with more than 50 miles of groomed trails, including parts of the Appalachian Trail. The view from the summit is amazing, with a 360-degree panorama of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. A war veterans memorial sits at the top, reachable by car or foot.

8. Stephens State Park – Hackettstown

The Musconetcong River runs through this small park on the edge of Allamuchy Mountain State Park. Families can pitch a tent along the river, but few of the campsites are actually on the waterfront. One cool feature: Check out the remnants of the locks from the circa-1831 Morris Canal that was inside the park's borders at the time. There are plenty of other activities here, including fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and boating.

9. Pleasant Acres Farm Campground – Sussex

2021 update: The campground is open only to RVs.
Located on a working farm, this campsite is great for animal lovers. Kids can milk cows, chase pigs, and pet goats. This site is equipped with all the modern amenities, and there are even cabin and cottage options. There's also an Olympic-size swimming pool and plenty of activities to keep kids occupied, including miniature golf and horse-drawn hayrides.

RELATED: Best Family Campgrounds in NJ

Child riding bike on a path through the woods at Dingmans Campground
Dingmans Campground offers plenty of activity options and is an excellent spot for camping newcomers. Photo courtesy of the campground

Pennsylvania Campgrounds Open for 2021 Reservations

10. Dingmans Campground – Dingmans Ferry

2021 update: The river trips and canoeing have been canceled for the foreseeable future.
This was the site of my now 11-year-old son's first camping trip when he was just a tot. Camping here is easy for new parents or first-timers. It has a camp store, where you can buy simple meals and get respite from the weather. Both were particularly useful when we arrived in the pouring rain and needed to feed our toddler. Dingmans Campground is a privately run facility on the Pennsylvania side of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area with more than 100 sites, some along the river. It's a popular spot for paddlers, thanks to easy access to the river. You can rent a canoe or kayak nearby, hit the water on your own, or opt for one of the canoe trips led by the campground.

11. Otter Lake Camp Resort – East Stroudsburg

2021 update: The indoor pool and game room are currently closed. Guests must wear a mask when entering all public facilities.
A year-round destination in the Poconos, Otter Lake Camp Resort offers all the bells and whistles and is located near many attractions such as Steamtown, Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark, National Canal Museum, and The Emrick Technology Center. There are indoor and outdoor pools, plus a beach on the lake, tennis, racquetball, and basketball courts, horseshoe pits, and more organized fun.

RELATED: Family-Friendly Campgrounds Near Philadelphia.

Tents set-up at Staten Island Fort Wadsworth campsite
The Staten Island Fort Wadsworth campsite offers views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and a short commute. Photo by Kathy Garofalo/courtesy of Gateway National Park.

New York City Campgrounds Not Reopening for 2021 Reservations

12. Fort Wadsworth – Staten Island

2021 update: Fort Wadsworth will remain closed for the season.
You may already know about the Urban Park Rangers FREE family camping program, but did you know families can pitch a tent at one of seven rustic camping spots at this national park?

Campers at Fort Wadsworth in Gateway National Recreation Area can enjoy fantastic views of Manhattan, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and Lady Liberty from their tent camping sites. The park also offers beaches for swimming and fishing, birding, playgrounds, and tours of the Revolutionary War-era fort. Note: there is usually only cold water available in the on-site showers.

In true NYC style, the park is accessible via mass transit. Just hop on the bus from the Staten Island Ferry. The campsite is open from late May through late September, and booking opens about a month in advance. Be sure to call the campsite directly to make a booking: 718-354-4655.

13. Floyd Bennett Field – Marine Park

2021 update: Camping at Floyd Bennett Field will remain closed for the season.
Also in Gateway National Recreation Area, Floyd Bennett Field's campsite is larger than Fort Wadsworth's, with 32 tent sites and nine RV sites. The park offers more amenities, too, including a camp store, fishing, hiking, biking (you can rent at Aviator Sports and Event Center), swimming, birding, archery, and ranger-led programs for kids.

Take the subway to a public bus or park your car on the street nearby. It's a great option for urban families who want to give camping a try without a travel commitment. Check out our full review of this campsite.

Things to Know Before You Go Camping

  • Reservations are a must. The best sites in a park can book up a year in advance for summer camping.
  • State-run facilities tend to be rustic and situated in state parks, while privately run campgrounds usually offer amenities that include pools, electricity, stores, and entertainment.
  • Many campsites close in mid-October and stay shuttered through the winter.
  • Some parks offer rustic cabins, yurts, and teepees as accommodations for longer trips or families who don't want to rough it.
  • Firewood restrictions are in place at many camps, so don't bring your own without checking first. You can purchase wood on-site or from a local dealer.
  • Most camps have showers and bathhouses with flush toilets. Some more primitive spots may have outhouses. Check before you book.
  • Bears are common in some of these areas. Heed any warnings from park rangers.
  • Bring bug spray, and be sure to check yourself and your kids for ticks daily.
  • Contact the campground to find out if you can bring your pet with you.

Basic List of Equipment for Family Camping

  • A tent. For the best experience, set it up before the trip to make sure you know how to do it when you arrive.
  • A sleeping bag or bedroll for each person. You can bring an air mattress with sheets and blankets if you prefer. Mats to cushion the ground provide warmth, too.
  • Flashlights, lanterns, and propane fuel are nice to have. You can buy rechargeable LED lanterns: They aren't the brightest, but they are tent-friendly and can charge your devices in a pinch.
  • Pack for rain. Even if you don't use what you bring, it's better to be safe than sorry.
  • Food. Keep it cold in a cooler and store it in your car to avoid pests.
  • Beverages. Milk boxes are perfect since they don’t need refrigeration until opened.
  • If you don’t want to grill for every meal, bring a portable propane stove with fuel, pots and pans, and utensils for cooking.
  • Charcoal and matches for the grill.
  • Mess kits or paper plates, cups, and plastic silverware.
  • Leave the toys and iPads at home. Instead, bring crayons and paper for nature rubbings, binoculars, magnifying glass, card games, glow sticks, beach stuff, a bike, and a fishing pole.

This article was first published in May 2010 and is updated annually.

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