camping in the finger lakes

Camping in the Finger Lakes: A Local’s Finger Lakes Camping Guide [2023]

Plunging waterfalls, dramatic gorges, and rolling hills covered with forests and dotted with charming villages and wineries make the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York one of the most unforgettable destinations in the state. Whether you’re just passing through the area or planning a full tour of this enchanting region, you’ll love what you find.

There’s no better way to get closer to the region’s most impressive natural wonders than camping in the Finger Lakes. Our ultimate (local!) guide to Finger Lakes camping spots includes the best destinations to visit in the Finger Lakes and where to stay – for every budget and every kind of traveler!

finger lakes camping

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Finger Lakes Camping

Located in Upstate New York, the Finger Lakes region is one of the most impressive areas of the state, with natural beauty everywhere you look. Whether you’re looking to camp along the shores of one of the region’s eleven finger-shaped lakes carved by glaciers or go off the grid in a state park or protected forest area, it’s undeniably one of the best places to camp in the state.

The Finger Lakes region stretches from west of Rochester, New York to east of Syracuse, New York, and down to the Pennsylvania border, covering a large swath of Upstate New York.

However, most consider the region just the area surrounding the lakes. For example, as a Rochester local I can say that we don’t really consider Rochester as part of the Finger Lakes – that’s more the Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake area, to us at least.

As the region is so large, it’s important to consider what destinations you’d like to visit most before settling on a Finger Lakes campsite. Ithaca is a popular spot for enjoying great food and numerous gorges (including Buttermilk Falls, Cascadilla Gorge, and the spectacular Robert H. Treman State Park). Watkins Glen State Park offers by far the most dramatic of the area’s scenery.

Alternatively, visiting the wineries on both shores of Seneca and Cayuga Lakes makes for a fun way to spend a day.

Camping in the Finger Lakes

Camping in the Finger Lakes runs the gamut of styles and experiences for both tent campers and those exploring the region in RVs. A number of private campgrounds dot the region near major natural wonders like the region’s most important trekking sites and wine regions.

State parks in the area are a great choice, but the most popular ones – including Watkins Glen State Park, Taughannock Falls State Park, and the parks closest to Ithaca – tend to book up many months in advance.

A few standout Kampgrounds of America (KOA) locations, including a KOA Resort near the stunning Watkins Glen and a KOA Holiday near Canandaigua Lake, are highlights for both tent campers and those traveling with RVs.

finger lakes campground

Best Camping in the Finger Lakes

Looking for a quick guide to the best destinations for your Finger Lakes camping experience? These are our top recommendations for camping spots in the region:

Keep reading below for our full reviews of these Finger Lakes campsites and more – and why these are the spots worth visiting among so many incredible places to enjoy in this unforgettable region of Upstate New York.

Travel Essential

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watkins glen campsite

Finger Lakes Campsites

1. Watkins Glen / Corning KOA Resort

Our top pick for the best campsite in the Finger Lakes is the Watkins Glen / Corning KOA Resort, located just minutes from the stunning Watkins Glen State Park, the undisputed jewel of the Finger Lakes region.

The amenities here truly make it feel like a resort, and include an indoor pool and hot tub, a fitness center, laundry, free wifi, a mini golf course, multiple playgrounds, a waterslide, and an endless list of activities every day. With so much to see and do within the campground, it’s particularly appealing for families and those traveling with RVs or those looking for an extended stay.

This campsite is conveniently located just 5 minutes from downtown Watkins Glen. Not only is this small town packed with charm, but it also has great restaurants (Nickel’s Pit BBQ is an absolute must!), a beautiful waterfront, and all the amenities you’d need including grocery stores, gas stations, and more.

Reviews and Bookings: Watkins Glen / Corning KOA Resort

2. Letchworth State Park

Known as the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park is one of the most impressive spots in the United States you’ve never heard of. As the Genesee River cuts through the Finger Lakes before ending in Rochester and emptying into Lake Ontario, it cascades into three major waterfalls in Letchworth, including one that is over 600 feet tall; needless to say, it’s an awe-inspiring spot.

Letchworth State Park is a great spot for Finger Lakes camping despite being located a bit far from some of the most classic destinations in the Finger Lakes, like the wineries around Seneca and Cayuga Lakes. The park has over 250 campsites and 81 cabins, making it one of the larger state park campsites in the area.

Cabins offer electricity and heating, and campsites all offer electrical hookups. The campground also has excellent amenities including a pool, pavilions, showers, a playground, and much more.

Reviews and Bookings: Letchworth State Park

3. Blueberry Patch Campground

Located within the Finger Lakes National Forest between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, Blueberry Patch Campground is just as scenic as it sounds. This secluded spot offers plenty of privacy and just a handful of primitive camp spots, all beautifully shaded and including fire pits and picnic benches.

While it doesn’t have some of the amenities of larger campgrounds, this is perfect for campers dreaming of disconnecting. The location is perfect for those looking to explore the area’s state parks or even wineries; this stretch between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes offers perhaps the greatest concentration of wineries in the state.

Reviews and Bookings: Blueberry Patch Campground

watkins glen camping

4. Watkins Glen State Park

Home to the most dramatic gorge in the Finger Lakes, Watkins Glen State Park is one of the jewels of the entire region. Hiking the 1.5-mile Gorge Trail is a must for the best views and is relatively easy in comparison to some of the other treks in the region.

Watkins Glen State Park offers 276 campsites, including some with electrical hookups. The park also offers nine rustic cabins for rent, which do not offer electricity. Shaded, back-in camping spaces with fire pits are both beautiful and highly functional for an ideal camp setup.

Keep in mind that camping sites at this incredibly popular state park book up quickly for the entire season – you’ll likely need to book months in advance to reserve your camping spot. Can’t find space at the state park? Check out the Watkins Glen / Corning KOA Resort instead – it’s just five minutes from the entrance of the park.

Reviews and Bookings: Watkins Glen State Park

5. Canandaigua / Rochester KOA Holiday

Located just a few minutes from the charming lake town of Canandaigua on the western side of the Finger Lakes region, Canandaigua / Rochester KOA Holiday is an excellent choice for campers and RVers looking for a good mix of amenities and a fantastic location near Canandaigua Lake. It’s conveniently less than half an hour from Rochester.

This KOA Holiday has tent sites, cabins, and RV sites with options for extended stays. The amenities on site make it a particularly appealing destination in the Finger Lakes for families, with an impressive playground, a new heated beach-entry pool, a laundromat, wifi, sports courts, and more.

Canandaigua Lake just a few minutes away has parks with lake access and rentals of kayaks and other water sports equipment.

Reviews and Bookings: Canandaigua / Rochester KOA Holiday

6. Taughannock Falls State Park

The most dramatic waterfall in the Finger Lakes is undeniably Taughannock Falls, making this one of the most popular destinations for hikers, campers, and day-trippers. Its convenient location just minutes from Ithaca and an easily accessible falls overlook means even a 10-minute stop-off here rewards visitors with a spectacular view of the falls.

Camping at Taughannock Falls State Park is the best way to enjoy the park’s numerous trails, and the park is one of the most popular in the region. The park offers 68 beautiful campsites with picnic benches and fire pits, including some with electrical hookups, as well as 16 cabins with electricity.

Book your stay far in advance – we’ve missed out on camping here several summers in a row even when planning months in advance!

Reviews and Bookings: Taughannock Falls State Park

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7. Sned-Acres Family Campground

Overlooking the western shores of Cayuga Lake, Sned-Acres Family Campground is a private, family-run campground property with stunning lake views.

While the campground has spots for primitive tent camping, it’s really more designed for those arriving with vans or RVs and provides excellent extras like wifi, a swimming pool, and a laundromat. The campground also has several cabins available for rent.

The campground is located in the heart of wine country and makes for a great place to stay if you’re looking to enjoy a wine tour of the area. Some of our favorite wineries between Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake are just a short drive away, and the impressive Finger Lakes Cider House is just a 10-minute drive. Taughannock Falls State Park and the gorges south of Ithaca are just beyond.

Reviews and Bookings: Sned-Acres Family Campground

8. Buttermilk Falls State Park

Buttermilk Falls has long been one of my favorite destinations for hiking in the Finger Lakes. Dramatic falls cut through an impressive gorge where hikers can swim in ultra-clear natural pools along the way. Proximity to Ithaca, a relatively easier hike, and a swimming hole with a lifeguard at the base of the main falls make it a family favorite that even the most intrepid trekkers will also enjoy.

Buttermilk Falls State Park has a smaller camping area than some of the other area parks, with just 25 campsites and 18 cabins. Campsites are beautiful and shaded yet rustic and do not offer electrical hookups; some cabins offer electricity, but others do not, so check the website carefully before making your reservation. Overall, it’s a camping spot we love and would gladly return to again!

Reviews and Bookings: Buttermilk Falls State Park

finger lakes campsite

Travel Essential

Don’t head out on your adventure without comprehensive travel insurance! Good travel insurance may cover lost or stolen gear, medical emergencies, delayed or canceled flights, and more. Check out the policies available from SafetyWing or compare plans using Visitors Coverage.

Finger Lakes Glamping

For a slightly more amenity-rich experience, there are plenty of glamping and semi-glamping experiences in the Finger Lakes. After our stay at the Watkins Glen / Corning KOA Resort, we felt that this certainly constitutes a “glamping,” or glamping-adjacent experience. The amenities, activities, and incredible location just minutes from the state park certainly made it more comfortable than any camping trip we’d been on before.

Firelight Camps

The most well-known Finger Lakes glamping destination is Firelight Camps – and it’s by far the best in the area. Beautiful tents with hardwood floors are fully furnished and complete with plush beds and private porches that overlook untouched woods. The campground has direct access to the trails in Buttermilk Falls State Park.

Located just outside of Ithaca, Firelight Camps also hosts regular events, concerts, and other activities that are worth checking out even if you’re not staying here.

Reviews and Bookings: Firelight Camps

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.