Best State Parks for Camping in the Finger Lakes of New York

During the summer months, most snowbirds return to their northern homes or embark on travel throughout the U.S.

In the northeast, states like Michigan, New York, Vermont, and Maine welcome snowbirds and other travelers with beautiful scenic views and plenty of outdoor activities.

When you visit New York, you can enjoy spending your days hiking, boating, swimming, fishing, and more in any of the 180 state parks.

The good news for snowbirds is that there are 72 New York State Park Campgrounds for overnight stay.

In this article, we've chosen to highlight some of the best state parks for camping in the Finger Lakes of New York.

10 Best Campgrounds in New York's Finger Lakes Region

rv at campsite during sunset

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Vicki (cofounder of this site) has spent 30+ years living in this area, and she's visited all (and camped in some) of the ten state parks mentioned. 

1. Buttermilk Falls State Park

Located in Ithaca, Buttermilk Falls State Park is open for camping from Memorial Day Weekend through Columbus Day (May 20 – October 9, 2022). 

Buttermilk Falls is one of the smaller state campgrounds. According to Reserve America (the site for online reservations), it has 25 campsites and 18 cabins for rent.

Explore 10 waterfalls, including Buttermilk Falls, along the Gorge Trail and Rim Trail Loop. You'll also enjoy a variety of woodland hiking trails, a small lake, a wetland area, and a small swimming beach. 

Take a virtual tour of Buttermilk Falls State Park here.

2. Cayuga Lake State Park

Known as the birthplace of American Feminism, Cayuga Lake State Park is also found in Seneca Falls, NY. It's also open from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day.

The campground has 252 campsites and 14 camping cabins for rent. Swimming and fishing are popular activities at Cayuga Lake State Park, and its level lakefront makes it a great place for the kids and grandkids too.

Take a virtual tour of Cayuga Lake State Park here.

3. Fair Haven Beach State Park

The sandy beaches and towering bluffs along the waterfront are highlights of this state park located along the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario. You can rent boats for sightseeing and fishing, and golfers will enjoy the 18-hole course at this state park too!

There are a lot of opportunities available to reserve one of the 181 campsites, 33 cabins, and 4 cottages in Fair Haven Beach State Park. Campsites are only open through Labor Day (early September), but the cabin and cottage rentals extend through early October.

Take a virtual tour of Fair Haven Beach State Park here.

4. Fillmore Glen State Park

Moravia is the home of Fillmore Glen State Park. The park was named for President Millard Fillmore, whose birthplace is just a few miles from the park. There's even a replica of the log cabin he was born in at the park.

You can make reservations for Fillmore Glen from late May through early October.

A smaller park with 60 campsites and 3 cabins for rent from late May through early October, Fillmore Glen boasts wooded hiking trails and five waterfalls. This park is “tucked away” and may not be as busy as some of the other local state parks.

Take a virtual tour of Fillmore Glen State Park here.

5. Keuka Lake State Park

Nestled in the rolling hills of the Finger Lakes is Keuka Lake State Park (one of my absolute favorites!)

You can visit wineries, enjoy fantastic food at local restaurants, and spend hours in the park riding bike trails or lounging by the lakeshore.

Keuka Lake State Park has 148 campsites, but you're out of luck if you want to rent a cabin. 

There is a boat launch and dock space available too. The campground is open from late May through early October.

Take a virtual tour of Keuka Lake State Park here.

6. Robert H. Treman State Park

If you enjoy hiking, beautiful waterfalls, and taking a swim, you'll want to check out another state park located in Ithaca, New York. 

With 70 campsites and 14 camping cabins, reservations may be harder to come by at this popular state park. But it is a park that extends its camping season until mid-November.

If you're a hiker, you'll no doubt want to see the 115-foot Lucifer Falls, one of a dozen waterfalls in the park's 9+ miles of hiking trails.

Take a virtual tour of Robert H. Treman State Park here.

7. Sampson State Park

One of the most extensive campgrounds in a New York State Park is found in Romulus (not far from Geneva).

With 238 campsites and 10 cottages, you may have an easier time getting a reservation if you're not trying to book a holiday stay. 

Sampson is located on former Navy and Air Force property and includes over 5 miles of lakefront on Seneca Lake.

There are 96 boat slips, bicycles for rent, a large recreation center, a restaurant, and a camp store. The campground is open from late May through Columbus Day.

According to Reserve America, almost the entire park is accessible for those with any physical challenges – including disabled visitors. Sampson Military Museum is another must-see for many visitors.

Take a virtual tour of Sampson State Park here.

8. Stony Brook State Park

Dansville is the home of Stony Brook State Park. If you enjoy hiking and waterfalls, this is another great park for you to explore.

There's also a stream-fed swimming pool with lifeguards (although guards' availability may affect hours.)

An important point – according to Reserve America, no electric services are available at any of the 88 campsites or in cabin (rustic) rentals.

Generators are allowed for a few hours each morning and evening, but check the rules for this park for more information.

Like most New York State Parks, Stony Brook is open for camping from late May through early October.

Take a virtual tour of Stony Brook State Park here.

9. Taughannock Falls State Park

The Finger Lakes are filled with parks with waterfalls, and one park you won't want to miss is Taughannock Falls State Park in Trumansburg.

The 215-foot Taughannock Falls are described on the New York State's Park and Recreation website as “one of the outstanding natural attractions of the Northeast.”

In addition to hiking and viewing the falls on the gorge and rim trails, there is a swimming beach and boat rental available.

Only 68 campsites and 16 cabins are available to rent at Taughannock Falls State Park. Book your visit as early as possible to secure a reservation. The campground is open from late May through early October.

Take a virtual tour of Taughannock Falls State Park here.

10. Watkins Glen State Park

If you aren't from New York State, this park name may still be familiar because Nascar Racing events have happened here at Watkins Glen International since 1986.

Located in the village of Watkins Glen, this park is one of the most popular in New York State. The trails around Watkins Glen State Park offer spectacular views of 19 waterfalls, and visitors can enjoy an Olympic-size swimming pool during their stay.

There are 279 campsites and 9 cabins for rent at this state park, open from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day.

Busloads of tourists visit the Glen throughout the summer. Avoid peak travel days when possible.

Take a virtual tour of Watkins Glen State Park here.

State Park Camping Reservations in the Finger Lakes Region

Now that you've seen all that the state parks in the Finger Lakes of New York have to offer, it's time to figure out how you'd make a reservation to stay in one and explore this region. 

Just keep in mind that each campground has different facilities, services, and programs. New York State Park Campgrounds also have varying schedules to open and close for the season.

Making Reservations at New York State Campgrounds

According to their website, walk-in reservations for campsites will not be permitted at New York State Park Campgrounds during the time you can register online. This excludes DEC Campgrounds. 

You can make a same-day reservation until 3 p.m. on the day of arrival, and camping reservations are accepted up to nine months in advance. Walk-ins may be permitted to register at some parks after 3 p.m.

You'll make an online reservation using the New York State Camping Reservation System at Call 1-800-456-CAMP (TDD:1-800-304-1265) to make phone reservations.

You can stay at a campsite (when available) for up to 14 nights. If you want to return, you'll need to leave for a minimum of 2 days between registrations. Some parks have minimum night reservations at different points in the season.

New York State Park Campground Fees

There are various fees you'll pay to camp at a state park in the Finger Lakes. Currently, these start with reservation fees ($7.25 online, $1.25 in person) and a campsite base rate of $15 per night at most campgrounds.

Amenity fees are added based on the campground, location, services available, and peak days during the season.

Non-New York State residents also pay an extra $5 nightly fee.

You can find more detailed information for specific New York State Park Campgrounds here. A great camping checklist is also available when you make a reservation.

Can I Get a Refund For a New York State Campground Stay?

You should contact Reserve America (1-800-456-227) if you need to cancel before the day of arrival. Otherwise, you'll need to contact the campground you planned to visit. The cancellation fee is based on when you cancel your reservation.

You'll pay a $7.25 fee if you make any change to an existing reservation as long as you do it at least one day before your scheduled arrival date.

If you fail to cancel your reservation in advance, you may not receive any refund.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is purchasing an Empire Pass worth it for camping in New York State Parks?

If you plan to visit New York State Parks regularly, purchasing the Empire Pass will likely save you a lot of money. Daily admission rates vary between parks but run between $6 and $10. A 2022 season pass costs $80 for unlimited day-use entry and can be shared within a household and used by others.

You can also purchase a 3-Year Empire Pass for $205.00 or a 5-Year Empire Pass for $320.00. If you don't want to renew every few years, you can buy an Empire Pass that never expires for $750.

Unfortunately, camping is excluded from your Empire Pass. 

Are pets allowed in New York State Parks and Campgrounds?

If you plan to bring your dog(s), it's essential to check with the specific park you want to camp in as to whether they are allowed. And keep in mind, there is a strict two pets per site limit when permitted. 

You'll also need proof of rabies vaccinations and to follow all of the rules related to pets in the park.

Is there a senior discount at New York State Parks?

Those who are 62 or older can get into many state parks free on weekdays (with the exception of holidays). While this doesn't apply to every state park, having “senior status” with the New York State Golden Park Program can save you some money at state historic sites and state-operated golf courses.

To access this benefit, your New York State Driver's License (or another state identification card) serves as your pass at the entrance of the park you visit.

What New York State Parks in the Finger Lakes have cabins to rent?

You have a few options if you are looking for cabins to rent for your camping experience. Cabins are a great option that allows you to enjoy camping even if you don't have an RV, trailer, or tent.

Many of the top state parks in the Finger Lakes region that offer cabin rentals include Cayuga Lake State Park, Fair Haven State Park, Robert H. Treman State Park, and Watkins Glen State Park.

The price of a camping cabin rental varies based on location, cabin type, capacity, and more. A 7-day minimum may be required during peak season and 2-night minimums at some locations, even during off-peak times.


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