5 Best Free Camping Spots in New York

By Kyle & Olivia Brady | Founders of Drivin' & Vibin' | We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases.

5 Best Free Camping Spots in New York

Free camping in the Northeastern portion of the United States has gotten a reputation for being difficult to find.

But we’re here to tell you: there are actually a number of free camping spots in New York. You simply have to know where to look.

We’ve been there, done that, so we’d like to share with you our 5 Best Free Camping Spots in New York.

What You Need To Know About Free Camping

Firstly, when you are free camping, you are not typically going to be provided with hook-ups for electricity, water, or sewage. Most free campsites are going to have few to no amenities.

You may get lucky enough for there to be a vault toilet and a trash can, but oftentimes not even that. So you pack it in and you pack it out.

Do not leave the campsite in any lesser condition than you found it. In fact, try to leave it a little better than when you arrived.

That also means you are likely going to have to supply your own power via a generator or solar panels, bring enough fresh water to last the duration of your stay, and have enough black/gray water capacity until you reach a dump station.

That said, here are our top five picks for free camping spots in New York.

Sugar Hill Fire Tower – Watkins Glen, New York

GPS: 42.3872, -77.0026

Sugar Hill Fire Tower is a wonderfully maintained free campsite outside of Watkins Glen, New York. Camping is available on a first-come, first-serve basis in a nine-acre open field with a limited number of fire rings and picnic tables.

Other facilities include a picnic area with picnic tables, a pavilion, an accessible horse-mounting platform, open horse stalls, and during summer months a restroom with potable water. There is also access to the Six Nations Trail System, as well as the 75-foot-tall Sugar Hill Fire Tower.

Watkins Glen State Park

Moose River Plains Camping Corridor

GPS: 43.6892, -74.7505

The Moose River Plains Complex is part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve with 116 primitive roadside campsites located along the Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road, Otter Brook Road, Rock Dam Road and short spur roads off of them.

Roadside campsites are numbered and most have a picnic table, fire pit, and toilet. All designated campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and cannot be reserved. Designated campsites are marked with a yellow “Camp Here” disc. There are no hook-ups for water or electricity.

East Otto State Forest Campground

GPS: 42.4257, -78.7871

Located near the New York towns of East Otto and Otto, camping is allowed at 14 designated sites along Kriedeman Forest Road that are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The sites are marked with a yellow camping disk.

These sites are numbered and have a primitive fire ring. There are no outhouse facilities. Camping for more than three nights or in a group of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.

East Otto State Forest covers 1,354 acres. No formal trails exist, but old ski trails and farm roads provide some opportunities for hiking.

Hickok Brook Multi-Use Area

GPS: 41.5017, -74.8764

Hickok Brook Multi-Use Area is located near Barryville, New York. It features multiple use trails, Hickok Brook, a small pond, and ample parking areas.

You can find many campsites along the public forest access road, and near the pond. Yellow camping markers mark the campsites. Camping for more than three nights or in groups of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger.

The gate into Hickok Brook opens May 1 and remains open until winter conditions make the road impassable as determined by the Forest Ranger.

Image Source: Trailkeeper.Org

Long Pond State Forest

GPS: 42.4191, -75.8382

Long Pond State Forest is located near Smithville, New York. You can only camp at designated sites here.

There are 10 campsites around Long Pond, each of which has a fire ring, parking pad, and access to a community toilet. These 10 camping sites around Long Pond are open all year on a first come, first serve basis.

There are Plenty of Free Camping Spots in New York

As you can see, it’s just not true about the dearth of free camping spots in New York.

Not only are there several places to camp for free, New York State lands typically are well marked so you know where camping is allowed and where it is not.

The above list represents the five best free camping spots in New York, but it should serve as a jumping off point for you in your travels. There are many more places to explore and camp for free in New York.

Always remember to do your best to leave any site you use better than you found it, so we can keep these amazing camping sites free for years to come. 

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below:

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