Sample text for Best tent camping, New York State : your car-camping guide to scenic beauty, the sounds of nature, and an escape from civilization / Catharine Starmer, Aaron Starmer, Timothy Starmer.

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Denning, New York
It's all free-of-charge on a first-come-first-served basis, and the sites are large, flat, shady, and private.

Beauty: 4 stars
Privacy: 3 stars
Quiet: 2 stars
Cleanliness: 2 stars
Security: 1 star
Spaciousness: 4 stars

Address: County Route 42, Denning, NY 12725
Operated by: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Information: (845) 240-6788;
Open: Year-round
Sites: Approximately 25
Each site has: Fire ring
Assignment: Choose from available sites; no reservations
Registration: Not required
Facilities: Port-a-potties from June-September
Parking: At designated lots
Fee: Free
Elevation: 1,096 feet
Restrictions: Pets: Dogs on leash with proof of currently valid rabies vaccination. Fires: In fire rings only. Alcohol: At site. Vehicles: None permitted; all sites walk-in. Other: Quiet hours 10 p.m.-7 a.m. (not enforced). Reservations: None taken, but call ahead if planning to stay more than 3 nights.

At the southern end of the Catskills, in the Sundown Wild Forest, lies the Peekamoose Valley, where 2,000-foot peaks-Samson, Van Wyck, and Peekamoose Mountains-funnel water into Rondout Creek through a series of picturesque waterfalls. In the midst of all of this is a campground that, while administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), is decidedly different than any of the Catskill's other offerings. If you're looking for a place to pitch your tent that's somewhere between backcountry camping and primitive but established properties like Devil's Tombstone (see page 28), then you'll find this is your sweet spot (or sweet 25 spots, to more exact).

The campground is stretched out over a mile and is made up of three separate fields, each containing 6 to 9 walk-in sites. (There's also a trailer field that requires permits; contact the DEC for more information on that area.) There's no running water, no trash pickup, no picnic tables, and only seasonal port-a-potties at the parking lots. But it's all free-of-charge on a first-come-first-served basis, and the sites are large, flat, shady, and private. From nearly every corner of the campground, you can hear the sound of the trickling Rondout Creek.

With the exception of two group sites and two accessible sites, each other one is limited to nine people and three tents. Part of the fun is exploring the winding paths to discover the best available spot for you. Be careful to select a site with a designated camping sign, as the DEC occasionally rotates locations to spread out the impact of campers. Admittedly, some of the former sites can be very tempting. And don't let the name "field" fool you; only a few sites are actually in fields. Most are nicely wooded options with ample of vegetation.

Approaching from the northeast along Peekamoose Road/County Route 42, the first area after the trailer field is the upper field with its two parking lots. Closest to the eastern lot, sites 1 and 2 sit across from the trailer field along a dry creek bed (or at least it's been dry when we have visited). Sites 3 and 5 are closer to the road, but are nicely situated among spruce trees on the opposite side of the field's well-worn main trail. Numbers 4 and 8 are even closer to the trail, while 6 and 7 are tucked away on little spurs near the western parking lot.

Further along Peekamoose Road, toward Sundown, the middle field features six sites and one small parking lot. While sites 1 and 2 (set off to the right of the lot) are both close to the creek, they are also somewhat close from the road. Still, they're a better choice than site 3, which is within spitting distance of the lot. We prefer sites 4 and 5 for their privacy and their soft, sandy perches next to the creek (and a nice little swimming hole), and site 6 for its grassy seclusion near an open field. As in other parts of the campground, small dry creek beds (some used as default trails) criss-cross near most of the sites, so be wary during periods of heavy rain.

The lower field, not much further down the road, houses nine sites. The sites are nicely spread and, thanks to their distance from the large parking lot and their location across an old bridge, they tend to be the quietest choices. From the lot, walk down a hill, cross the bridge to the information kiosk, and you will find sites 1 to 6 to the right and sites 7 to 9 are to the left. For the most privacy, check out site 1. About a quarter a mile removed from the rest of the sites past an old stone wall, it's remote and woodsy enough for the greatest of recluses. Site 3 is not far from the edge of the creek. While numbers 2, 4, 5 (the largest), and 6 are all scattered along the edge of a tall grass field bordering a steep hill thick with fir trees that cast shade upon the sites. Number 7 sits just past the information kiosk, while 8 and 9 (always good choices) are closer to the creek and are often home to some interesting art created with stones worn smooth by the water.

Because there are no reservations, you could show up and find the campground already full. On the plus side, impromptu getaways can be rewarded with free streamside campsites and absolutely no paperwork. Still, summer weekends fill up fast so don't arrive after dark on a Friday evening and expect luck to be on your side. Local DEC rangers do occasionally patrol, but rules, especially quiet hours, are treated differently by all. Be wary of rowdy parties, especially on holiday weekends. Previous tenants may leave presents for you, ranging from trash bags to well-stacked stone cairns. Just because there's no staff on-site, be sure to leave Peekamoose as you would like to find it.

Nearby in the Peekmoose Valley, you'll find a stunning swimming hole, lots of accessible waterfalls, and a variety of hiking options. Across the road from the upper field's eastern lot, a large boulder marks the trailhead to Bengle Hill and Vernooy Kill Falls, and just east along Peekamoose Road is the Peekamoose-Table Trail, a strenuous hike that rewards with a great views. For an easier route to views, drive to the nearby town of Denning for 1.2 mile hike to Red Hill Fire Tower. After all that climbing and sweating, be sure to cool off with a trip to the famous Blue Hole, a legendary swimming hole just 2 miles east along Peekamoose Road. It's chilly even in the peak of summer, but don't let that stop you from taking a memorable leap into the crystal clear water.

From I-87, take Exit 19, New York 28/Kingston/Rhinecliff Br. At the traffic circle, take the 1st exit and follow NY-28 W for 16 miles. Take a slight left onto NY-28A/New York City Rd. for 3 miles. Take a slight right onto CR 42W/W Shokan-Peekamoose-Sundown Rd. for 11 miles to the upper field entrance on the right.

Latitude N 41°54'34"
Longitude W 74°27'13"

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Camp sites, facilities, etc. -- New York (State) -- Guidebooks.
Camping -- New York (State) -- Guidebooks.
TRAVEL / United States / Northeast / Middle Atlantic (NJ, NY, PA). -- bisacsh
SPORTS & RECREATION / Camping. -- bisacsh
HEALTH & FITNESS / Healthy Living. -- bisacsh