A proper camping trip feels like a deep draught from the refreshing waters of an alternate universe, a complete break with everyday reality. And wise Chronogram readers know exactly where to find this recharge, just half an hour from Kingston but a world away.
Opened by the infamous Robert Moses in 1929 and since expanded, North/South Lake Campground is the largest camping site in the Catskills. Here, you’ll pitch your tent beneath the former site of the Catskill Mountain House, favorite haunt of artists, eccentrics, captains of industry, and three US presidents. You can hike up there, 2,250 feet above sea level, and ponder the views that drew people to stay for months at a time; on a clear day, it’s said, you can see five states. But that’s only one of the choice destinations accessible from this campground: At Artists’ Rock, for example, you can take in the vistas that inspired Thomas Cole and birthed the Hudson River School of painters.
Besides the exceptional hiking (multiple trailheads are located within the campground, and it neighbors the Kaaterskill Falls trail), there are a variety of ways to have fun. The lake (formerly two separate bodies of water, hence the compound name) is an 83-acre gem of sweet mountain water, which, to anglers’ delight, is home to an abundance of chain pickerel, brown bullhead, pumpkinseed, black crappie, and largemouth bass. You can also rent a rowboat, kayak, canoe, stand-up paddleboard, or paddle boat and explore small islands. There are two beaches for swimming and sunning.
This is prime bird- and wildlife-watching territory. Sit quietly and wait for the migrating hawks, geese, and loons to pass overhead; listen past the crackle of your campfire for the call of the great horned owl. Walk gently and catch glimpses of deer, wild turkey, and black bear.
All this wonderful wildness surrounds you, and yet you’re cozily ensconced in an accessible, well-run DEC campground with flush toilets, hot showers, hookups, waste management, and a solar-powered phone charging station. Hop in the car and you’re just minutes from the restaurants and shops of Hunter. So pack a cool shirt and spend an afternoon playing tourist, then retreat to your fire pit under the stars. Rip Van Winkle never had it so good.