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Welcome to our guide to some of the best free campsites you can find in New York. No matter whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast and nature lover, or you’re just looking for an affordable and adventurous getaway.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best places to stay in New York for completely free, so that you can focus on having the best time ever, without it costing you a cent!

Each of the camping sites on our list will have everything you could need for your camping trip, and there will be plenty of scenic landscapes, hiking trails, and lush forests for you to explore during your stay.

East Otto Forest Campground

East Otto Forest Campground

With over 1,300 acres of space to explore, there’s no surprise that the East Otto Forest Campground is beloved by campers and hunters alike. With over a dozen designated tent-pitching sites right across the property, you should have no issue when it comes to finding somewhere to pitch up, even during peak season.

On-site there’s an incredible array of natural beauty on show, including plenty of wetlands, tree species, and even several manmade ponds. This means that there are plenty of different areas for you to explore during your time there.

There aren’t any trails on the property, at least not formal trails. However, there are some unused farm roads and skid trails for you to make your way around.

Just be sure that you contact the local forest ranger if you plan on camping for more than 3 nights!

Location – Kriedeman Forest Road, East Otto, NY 14729

Sugar Hill Fire Tower Camping

Sugar Hill Fire Tower Camping

Situated in Watkins Glen, New York, Sugar Hill Fire Tower is the largest of the designated campsites in the entirety of Sugar Hill State Forest. This spot is immensely popular, and with only nine acres of open field for you to choose from, don’t be surprised if you arrive to find the site filled up by the time you get there.

Throughout the campsite, you’ll find fire rings and picnic tables, as well as a restroom with running water, which opens during the summer months.

The gate opens to vehicle traffic and the water gets turned on every year in early May, before being shut off again by October, which means that the summer months are the best time to visit to make the most of the facilities here.

When you arrive, you’ll be required to fill out a self-issued camping permit to ensure that your stay is validated, so be sure not to forget!

Location – 3361 Tower Hill Rd, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Finger Lakes National Forest


If you’re looking for some excellent and free places to camp around New York, don’t be afraid to make your way to Finger Lakes National Forest, which has plenty of ample camping grounds that will allow you to camp.

There are over 16,000 acres of space for you to soak up during your stay in Finger Lakes National Forest, and with some of the campsites being entirely free, you’ll be able to make the most out of the beauty and activities of the forest without having to spend a single cent.

The area is especially great for those who enjoy plenty of hiking trails and walks, with the surrounding area brimming with some of the best trails in the state, and there are also some established shelters and lean-ons you can use during your time here too.

Some of the campsites require a reservation, while others are first come first serve, so be sure to check ahead of time what campsite you’re aiming for before making your way here.

Location – Burdett, NY 14818

Thomas Farm, Hounsfield

Thomas Farm, Hounsfield

Looking for something a little different on your camping adventure? A stay at Thomas Farm is certainly one for you! This land is privately owned by the family who farm here. The grounds are always well-maintained, and you’ll be able to bring an RV of any length here.

You can either stay the night for free, or if yu’re planning on staying for two nights or more, then you’ll be able to extend your stay with just a small donation to the farm.

There are also plenty of low-cost activities that you and your family will be able to enjoy during your stay here, which means that it’s certainly an option worth considering if you’re looking to experience some of the great outdoors.

Location – 17553 County Route 75 Sackets Harbor NY; Hounsfield, New York

Moose River Plains Camping Corridor

Moose River Plains Camping Corridor

With nearly 3,000 acres of space in the Moose River Plains Camping Corridor, there are plenty of primitive camping spots for you to pitch down throughout your journey through the stunning scenery provided by the Moose River Plains Wild Forest.

You’ll be able to tell where the designated campsites are located thanks to the yellow “Camp Here” discs found at the entrance to each camp, and while some of the sites are designated as tent-only sites, there are still plenty of campsites that can be used by smaller campers.

Eight of the campsites throughout the camping corridor are accessible campsites and include specially designed picnic tables, privies, and fireplaces, which makes camping accessible for those with disabilities.

Just be sure to remember that none of these campsites will have any hookups for water or electricity, so it’s a great way to experience a true off-grid camping trip!

Location –  Inlet, NY 13360

Five Ponds And Pepperbox Wildernesses

Five Ponds And Pepperbox Wildernesses

As a part of the Adirondack Forest Preserve, both the Five Ponds Wilderness and the Pepperbox Wilderness make up the immense area that spans over 130,000 acres. There are very few trails that run throughout this wilderness, making them some of the remotest parts of the area.

Throughout this space, there are a large number of designated tent campsites and lean-tos that you’ll be able to make use of. Designated tent campsites will be marked with the usual “Camp Here” yellow disc.

Despite being slightly remote, there are plenty of activities to get up to throughout your time in this wilderness, including fishing, boating, paddle boarding, and even snow-shoeing and skiing during the winter months.

Several loop trails can be discovered here, so be sure to bring some suitable footwear if you want to explore everything that this wilderness has to offer.

You’ll want to make sure that you’re equipped with all of the gear you need when camping here, as the remote campsites will mean there are no hookups for water or electricity, so it’s down to you to keep yourself safe.

Location – Lowville, NY 13367, USA

How To Camp Safely In New York

If you’re planning on heading out to any of these free camping sites we’ve listed here, or maybe a different campsite in New York, then it’s worth familiarizing yourself with some of the informal rules that should be followed while camping.

Setting Up Your Tent

When it comes to making camp, it’s always best to use one of the designated camping sites that you’ll be able to find throughout your adventures. They’ll often have flatter ground for you to camp on and will have fire rings and a pit privy for you to use too.

These campsites are generally operated on a first come, first served basis, and if the campsites are full, then you’ll need to abide by the 150-feet rule, which suggests that your tent must always be at least 150 feet away from a body of water, a road, or a trail.

If you’re going to be camping for more than 3 nights, or with a group larger than 10, then you’ll need to contact the local park ranger to apply for a permit to do so.

Lean-To Use

You’re not allowed to place your tent inside of a lean-to and must be kept at least 150 feet away from the lean-to.

The lean-tos are to be used on a first come first serve basis, but it is proper etiquette to share if another group shows up after dark, especially if there’s strong wind or rain. The second group must then leave in the morning to find somewhere else.

Fire And Fire Safety

Fire safety is extremely important when camping in the wild, and you should always try to use pre-established fire rings or pits where possible.

All fires should be less than 3 feet in height and 4 feet in diameter, and only charcoal or untreated wood can be used as fuel.

You should also never build your campfire in a “No Fire” zone, under overhanging branches, on steep slopes, dried grass or leaves, and away from rotten stumps or logs.

Leaving No Trace

Leaving no trace is a simple yet important step on your camping adventure. Simply pick up what you put down, leave nothing behind, and don’t try removing any rocks or plants from the site.

Final Thoughts

We hope that this guide to the best free campsites in New York has been able to help you find exactly what you were looking for, enjoy your trip!

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