Get your camping, hiking, and leaf-peeping on just an hour or two from New York City in the expansive and picturesque Hudson Valley.
From the Catskill mountains to historic villages along the river, the south-eastern corridor of New York has a certain romance. These sweeping vistas inspired the Hudson River School painters and continue to lure artists from New York City, less than an hour away. Today, the Hudson Valley is a blend of charming towns, rolling farmland and protected forests, as wells as posh resorts and restaurants. The Metro-North commuter line run as far north as Poughkeepsie for campers who don't have a car.
Harriman State Park and neighboring Bear Mountain State Park are an ideal home base to explore both nature and civilization. Harriman is the second largest park in the state, but only 40 miles from the city. The quiet forest holds 200 miles of hiking trails and dozens of lakes. The largest, Lake Sebago, has fishing, boat rentals, and a public swimming beach. Campers can make reservations at two campgrounds or book a rustic cabin.
For thinner crowds, head north to the Catskills. These rolling green peaks have some of New York's best hiking and skiing. The area also has many private campgrounds and cottages, including camping resorts that tend toward the glamorous with mini fridges and saunas.
North-South Lake is a popular family campground, with sandy beaches, boating, and a playground, as well as hundreds of tent sites. Hike up to the Kaaterskill Falls for a gorgeous view. Experienced hikers can press onward to the Devil's Path, one of the most dangerous trails in the East. For quiet nights, head to the nearby Minnewaska State Park Preserve, which has a much smaller campground and easy trails.
It goes without saying that you can explore the river valley by water as well. The Hudson River Greenway Water Trail stretches over 250 miles from Manhattan to the Adirondacks. The Greenway's map covers access points for kayak launching, along with nearby campsites in state parks.