The Finger Lakes region in New York is a hidden gem for camping enthusiasts. With its stunning natural beauty, an abundance of outdoor activities, and plenty of campgrounds to choose from, it’s the perfect destination for those looking to get out and enjoy nature. Whether you’re an experienced camper or a beginner, camping in the Finger Lakes offers an unforgettable experience that will leave have you already planning your return trip before you depart.
One of the biggest draws of camping in the Finger Lakes is the breathtaking scenery you’ll encounter. Surrounded by eleven glacial lakes, rolling hills, and deep gorges, the region offers a picturesque backdrop for your outdoor adventures. From hiking along the scenic trails to kayaking on the crystal-clear waters, every moment spent in the Finger Lakes is a feast for the senses.
We’ll explore the best campgrounds in the Finger Lakes region, share tips for planning your camping trip, and highlight some of the must-visit attractions in the area. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat or an action-packed adventure, camping in the Finger Lakes will be a great experience.
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Best Campgrounds in the Finger Lakes
The Finger Lakes region offers a variety of campgrounds to choose from depending on your needs and preferences. From rustic campsites to luxurious RV parks full of amenities, every kind of camper can find their happy place in this region of New York.
1. Watkins Glen State Park
Watkins Glen State Park, located in the picturesque village of Watkins Glen, is renowned as one of the most popular and scenic parts of the region. Known for its views of 19 stunning waterfalls along the park’s gorge trail, this park is a must-visit destination in the Finger Lakes.
With 279 spacious and well-maintained campsites, Watkins Glen State Park offers a wide range of camping options for visitors spread out over 6 loops. Whether you prefer tent camping or RV camping, there are plenty of sites available to suit your needs, and the multiple loops create the feel of a much smaller campground.
For those looking for a bit more comfort, the park also offers 9 cozy cabins for rent, perfect for a rustic yet comfortable camping experience.
One of the highlights of Watkins Glen State Park is its Olympic-size swimming pool, providing a refreshing and relaxing way to cool off during the hot summer months, as there is no swimming permitted in the gorge.
2. Buttermilk Falls State Park
Located on the outskirts of the picturesque town of Ithaca on the southern end of Cayuga Lake, Buttermilk Falls State Park is a must-visit destination for camping enthusiasts.
The camping season at Buttermilk Falls State Park typically runs from May through October, allowing visitors to enjoy the mild weather and vibrant fall foliage that the region is known for. With 25 tent sites and 18 cozy primitive cabins, campers have 2 great options to choose from.
The main attractions at Buttermilk Falls State Park include a small lake, a swimming area at the base of the waterfall, and a Gorge Rim Trail Loop offering a great hike past cascading waterfalls and unique rock formations.
3. Cayuga Lake State Park
Cayuga Lake State Park sits on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, and although the campsites are not lakeside, a short walk leads to breathtaking sunrise views over the lake.
There are 252 campsites available at Cayuga Lake State Park, so campers have plenty of options to choose from, whether they prefer a tent or RV camping. Camping cabins are also available for rent.
One of the main attractions at Cayuga Lake State Park is its expansive swimming area, perfect for cooling off during hot summer days. Fishing enthusiasts can cast their lines into the lake, known for its abundant trout, bass, and perch.
Cayuga Lake State Park is known for its family-friendly environment, making it an ideal destination for a getaway with loved ones. Kids can enjoy playing on the sandy beach or exploring the playground, while adults can relax and soak up the surrounding natural beauty of the Finger Lakes.
4. Taughannock Falls State Park
Taughannock Falls State Park is not only home to one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Rocky Mountains, but it is also a fantastic destination for camping in the Finger Lakes region. Standing at a breathtaking height of 215 feet, Taughannock Falls attracts visitors from far and near.
For those planning to camp at Taughannock Falls State Park, it is highly recommended to make reservations well in advance. With only 68 campsites and 16 cabins available, the limited availability makes it crucial to secure your spot ahead of time.
Once you arrive at the park, you’ll have access to over seven miles of hiking trails that wind through the grounds, both in the gorge and around the rims. The park also features a marina with access to Cayuga Lake.
5. Finger Lakes National Forest
Nestled in the heart of the Finger Lakes region between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, the Finger Lakes National Forest offers a landscape with rolling hills, towering trees, and sparkling lakes. With over thirty miles of multi-use trails, it’s a haven for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.
Backpackers seeking a true wilderness experience will find space in the Finger Lakes National Forest. Here, backpackers are welcome to set up camp anywhere within the forest, as long as they follow the Leave No Trace principles and obtain a free camping permit from the park office.
Many campsites are available in the Finger Lakes National Forest free of charge, but many require a little hike from the road to reach. This is the perfect spot to camp without being surrounded by crowds in a primitive setting.
6. Bristol Woodlands
Located between the serene Canandaigua Lake and the much smaller Honeoye Lake, Bristol Woodlands offers the perfect retreat with a little less crowding. Situated in a prime location, this campground is within close proximity to a variety of attractions, such as the Cumming Nature Center and numerous wineries.
At Bristol Woodlands, you’ll find a range of amenities designed to enhance your camping experience. Enjoy a relaxing day by the pool or take a leisurely stroll along the on-site walking trails.
For those traveling in RVs, Bristol Woodlands offers 60 spacious sites, complete with full hookups. There are also a few cabins and some rustic tent sites. Pets are also welcome in this campground, as long as appropriate rules are followed.
7. Keuka Lake State Park
Located in the stunning Finger Lakes region, Keuka Lake State Park offers a prime camping experience for nature enthusiasts. With its picturesque location on the east side of Keuka Lake, this state park provides a tranquil escape for camping, hiking, and water activities.
With a total of 148 campsites spread over 3 loops, Keuka Lake State Park accommodates both tents and RVs. The campground offers options for electric hookups at 53 of the sites. However, this park does not offer cabin rentals.
The highlight of Keuka Lake State Park is its boat launch, making it a great destination for water enthusiasts who enjoy kayaking, canoeing, or fishing. Camping at this state park also provides easy access to the Keuka Lake Wine Trail
8. Watkins Glen/Corning KOA
If you’re looking for a camping option near Watkins Glen State Park in New York, the Watkins Glen/Corning KOA is a great option for those who are rewards members who love to take advantage of their amenities. This campground offers a range of amenities and activities to make your camping experience enjoyable.
Whether you prefer tent camping or RVing, Watkins Glen/Corning KOA has you covered with a variety of camping options. From tent sites to large RV sites to cabins and seasonal sites, all can be reserved at this KOA.
One of the unique features of this KOA is the indoor swimming pool. Even if it rains during your stay, you can still take advantage of this amenity and have something to do!
With its convenient location near Watkins Glen State Park and a range of amenities and activities, the Watkins Glen/Corning KOA is a perfect choice for camping in the Finger Lakes, especially for those who often take advantage of the KOA amenities.
9. Robert H. Treman State Park
Robert H. Treman State Park is a popular camping destination located just outside of Ithaca, New York.
The park offers 70 campsites, perfect for both tent camping and RVing, as well as 14 camping cabins. Due to its popularity, it is advisable to make reservations in advance.
One of the park’s main attractions is the breathtaking 115-foot Lucifer Falls. This stunning waterfall is a must-see, and visitors can enjoy stunning views from the Gorge Trail which runs alongside it. You can also swim at the base of the Lower Falls within the park, one of the more unique swimming holes in the Finger Lakes.
In addition to the falls, Robert H. Treman State Park boasts over 9 miles of hiking trails. The trails in Robert H. Treman State Park are some of the more adventurous we’ve encountered in the Finger Lakes.
10. Sned-Acres Family Campground
Sned-Acres Family Campground is a conveniently located camping destination located in the heart of the Finger Lakes region. Situated on the western shore of Cayuga Lake, this campground offers a variety of amenities and modern conveniences to enhance your stay. The campground features a camp store where you can stock up on essentials and grab any last-minute items you may have forgotten.
While the sites here are not as shaded or private as some others throughout the region, the campground makes up for this con with loaves of fresh bread and a family atmosphere.
The open grounds also provide a narrow view of Cayuga Lake and there is easy access to wineries and activities.
11. Sampson State Park
Sampson State Park, located on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake, is a destination for camping in the Finger Lakes region that provides easy access to stunning sunsets over Seneca Lake.
With its expansive campground offering 238 campsites and 10 cottages, Sampson State Park provides plenty of options for all types of campers. The campground at Sampson State Park is equipped with a range of amenities.
The park features a marina with nearly 100 boat slips, making it a perfect spot for boating and fishing enthusiasts. There are also opportunities for other sporting activities including basketball, volleyball, and tennis
Tips for Camping in the Finger Lakes
The Finger Lakes region is a camping paradise with plenty of great campsites to choose from. To ensure you have the best time possible, here are a few tips for camping in the Finger Lakes:
- Choose a site near water. With so many beautiful lakes and ponds in the region, you’ll want to find a campground with lake or pond access for swimming, fishing, or boating.
- Make sure you are aware of the amenities that your campsite has to offer like toilets, fire pits, and electricity so that you are prepared for your experience when you arrive.
- Bring bug spray – gnats, mosquitoes, and other insects can be a real nuisance!
- Prepare to be without technology – camping is about connecting with nature; some of these locations make it easier than others because there isn’t much cell phone service near the deep gorges
- Make sure to clean up after yourself – leave nothing but footprints so that future campers can enjoy the Finger Lakes as much as you did. Practice Leave No Trace principles!
Must-Visit Attractions in the Finger Lakes
The Finger Lakes region in New York is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, wine connoisseurs, and history buffs. With its picturesque lakes, an abundance of outdoor activities, wine-tasting opportunities, and historical sites, camping in the Finger Lakes provides easy access to all of these activities.
Top attractions in the Finger Lakes include the region’s beautiful state parks. Watkins Glen, Taughannock, and Buttermilk Falls, among others, are known for breathtaking gorges filled with stunning waterfalls.
For wine enthusiasts, a visit to the Finger Lakes wouldn’t be complete without exploring the region’s world-renowned wineries. With well over 100 wineries scattered throughout the area, wine-tasting adventures are plentiful, where you can sample some of the finest wines the region has to offer. Many wineries also offer stunning views of the lakes. Meagan’s personal favorite is Montezuma Winery.
If you’re interested in history, a visit to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls is a must. This park commemorates the first Women’s Rights Convention held in 1848 and offers tours, exhibits, and educational programs. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the women’s suffrage movement and the fight for equal rights.
Also, don’t skip over a visit to the Corning Museum of Glass. This museum showcases the art, history, and science of glassmaking. You can watch live glassblowing demonstrations and even try your hand at creating your own glass masterpiece. It’s a unique attraction that can provide a little different experience during your stay in the Finger Lakes.
Camping in the Finger Lakes is the perfect base for exploring everything that the region has to offer. With its stunning landscapes and plentiful activities, it is truly a paradise for those seeking either adventure or relaxation. Whether you are hiking through breathtaking trails, fishing in crystal-clear lakes, or simply enjoying the peacefulness of the campfire, camping in the Finger Lakes is a perfect getaway.
Guest Author: Samantha is the owner and creator behind PAonPause, exploring travel around the US’s Great Lakes states and the National Parks. She believes that any occasion can be a great excuse to travel and does so as much as possible while still working full-time. She loves to share her time exploring the outdoors with her 2 rescue dogs
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