Finding free car side camping in the Adirondacks can be tough. There may be six million acres of protected forest preserve lands, but there are also 130,000 year-round residents, over 100 towns, and over 3 million acres of private lands within the boundaries of the park. Luckily, I’m going to share 15 Free Adirondack Campsites that you can drive up to in this post.
Free Campsites in the Adirondacks
Here we have a list of 15 drive up, primitive campsites in the Adirondack Park that won’t cost you any money. Many of these sites will allow you to stay for up to 3 nights on state lands free of charge. Anything between 3 and 14 days requires a permit. Often, permits are free. They’re simply required for a long-term stay. Please take care of these sites and be willing to share with others if there is enough room!
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Chapel Pond, Keene Valley NY
– GPS: 44.142588, -73.750566
– Approximately 6 sites
These free campsites in the Adirondacks can be found just off route 73 shortly after you pass Chapel Pond (coming from the East/ The Northway). It’s a tricky turn off that I’ve missed even after staying there a few times. Luckily, if you miss it coming from Keene Valley, you’ll be able to turn around at the Chapel Pond parking lot.
Chapel Pond is great for a quick overnight stay. The road noise is loud and this spot tends to be quite crowded as it is within the High Peaks Region. For a quick stay, it provides a legal place to sleep in close proximity to many trail heads in the Keene Valley and Lake Placid area.
The Chapel Pond Campsites are a 15-20 minutes drive from the Village of Lake Placid. Because they provide easy access to many hiking trails and a number of popular climbing areas, they experience heavy use.
Coreys Road Sites, Tupper Lake, NY
– GPS: 44.19338, -73.95403
– Approximately 6 sites
These sites can be found along the dirt road connecting the paved section of Coreys Road off of Route 30 to the Seward range parking lot. It’s just a few minutes out of Tupper Lake and about 15 minutes from Saranac Lake. Six primitive camp sites are tucked away back behind Axon Landing in a pretty remote drive-in spot!
The sites are quaint and very primitive. Some are larger and nicer than others; the first site past Stony Creek is most definitely my favorite! No cell-service here and direct access to only a few trails, but a lot of peace, quiet, and natural beauty.
Dacy Clearing, Fort Ann NY
-GPS: 43.531267, -73.566105
– 6-15 sites
There are 12 campsites with fire rings and some with outhouses in this area. There are 5 sites on Shelving Rock Road which is a gravel road with easy car access. Additionally, 7 more primitive sites lie between the gate and the Sleeping Beauty (summer) trailhead. Dacy Clearing road requires a higher clearance vehicle for successful passage. This area is best for passenger vehicle and tent camping.
These sites are about a 25 minutes drive from Lake George and fill up quickly. If all seem to be occupied, you might be in luck with this pro tip. Drive all the way back to the Sleeping Beauty trailhead. When you enter the parking area, turn left. Park as close as you can to the end of the lot and walk the foot path. About 50 years down the path, look to your right. There’s a ‘hidden’ campsite marked by a camping disc.
The sites are all nicely wooded and provide access to local trail heads such as Sleeping Beauty, Shelving Rock Falls, and Buck Mountain, as well as Lake George. Unfortunately, this makes this space quite busy with day hikers as well as overnight campers. This is a great spot to stay if you’re trying to knock out some Lake George 12ster!
Essex Chain of Lakes, Newcomb NY
– GPS: 43.901376, -74.278245
– Approximately 6 sites
This very remote spot will have you driving quite a ways down Cornell Rd off of Route 28. When you get to Woodys road make a right. This will bring you to a number of unnamed Adirondack Park Preserve roads.
These sites are incredibly remote, therefore making them very primitive. They’re best for tent camping, although a small camper would fit in the parking areas. If you’re looking for peace and relaxation, these are great sites for you!
Hope Falls Roadside Campsites, Northville NY
– GPS: 43.30407, -74.175423
– 3-5 sites
Hope Falls road is a seasonal use road located between Northville and Wells. The maximum RV length is 15 feet, however, sites are intended for tent camping.
They’re nothing fancy, however, they have everything you need. Sites are off the road a bit with a fire pit and access to Stoney Creek. All sites are designated by their yellow “camp here” discs.
Horseshoe Lake, Tupper Lake, NY
– GPS: 44.129496, -74.627604
– 11 sites
Off of route 30 just before South Bay of Tupper Lake lies route 421. About 6 miles from route 30 you’ll find a dirt road where 6 lake-side campsites can be found. Five additional sites are littered throughout Otter Brook road. This spot is away from traffic and in the beautiful Horseshoe Lake Wildforest area.
There are a few waterfront sites. These sandy beaches are perfect for water lovers. Horseshoe lake is perfect for fishing and paddling; if you’re looking to hike there are also a few trail heads within 15 minutes of these sites. Check out the Tupper Lake Triad for these hikes.
Jones Pond, Paul Smiths, NY
– GPS: 44.455758, -74.186797
– 5 sites
Five sites with beautiful, filtered views of Jones Pond await! There is an outhouse that is in pretty good shape and each campsite has a fire ring. The campsites are all connected by a lovely little trail that runs alongside the lake; it’s my favorite place to be on a crisp, fall Adirondack morning.
Jones pond is my all time favorite campsite of the Adirondacks. I *almost* didn’t share it with y’all because I would be devastated if it was ruined – so please do your part and LNT – but that wouldn’t be fair. Nature is NOT mine to divvy out! However, it is the duty of all who enjoy it to advocate for its protection.
Jones Pond is a short 10 minute drive from Saranac Lake. It’s a peaceful, waterside spot with a boat launch for non-motorized watercrafts. Fishing for Northern pike and Yellow perch is permitted in Jones Pond as well. There are a variety of spots for small and large groups to enjoy.
Mason Lake, Speculator NY
– GPS: 43.599992, -74.422869
– 7-8 sites
Just off Route 30, on Jessup River Road, you’ll find a dirt road that is home to 7-8 free Adirondack campsites. The very first spot is reserved for day use only. It has a picnic table and a boat launch.
The rest of the sites are quaint and close to the lake. You can hear the road from these sites, however, they provide great paddling and fishing access. You’re also in close proximity to a number of local hikes. Snowy Mountain and OK Slip Falls are relatively close by and beautiful!
McKeever Road Sites, Old Forge, NY
– GPS: 43.609103, -75.076804
– Approximately 5 sites
An absolutely gorgeous spot just 15 minutes south of Old Forge. Five to ten campsites can be found off of the long, narrow, well-kept gravel road. The gravel road is about 1 mile off of Route 28; with two different roads that fork off from the main parking area. You’re going to want to take Wolf Lake Landing Road to find your campsites!
This a great, remote spot with a lot of different recreational opportunities. The Moose River and Woodhull Lake are available for paddling, fishing, and swimming as well. There’s also a beautiful trail to the Woodhull Fire Tower nearby as well.
Moose River Plains, Inlet NY
– GPS: 43.671379, -74.708237
– 100+ sites
Within 3500 acres you can find over 100 free, primitive campsites. The Limekiln Lake-Cedar River Road is a seasonal access road extending 23 miles through the Moose River Plains. The road stretched from the Limekiln Gate in the west, near the community of Inlet, to the Wakely Dam Gate at the end of the Cedar River Road in the east which lies near the community of Indian Lake.
This is an absolutely beautiful, remote spot with endless possibilities. The Moose River Plains region is arguable one of the most beautiful free Adirondack campsites you can find. There are approximately 130 miles of maintained trails as well as more than 65 ponds and lakes. It’s an absolutely stunning spot to camp in summer and fall! It would be an equally beautiful place to camp in the winter if you had a snowmobile to access the sites.
Northwood Club Road, Minerva, NY
– GPS: 43.818551, -74.060555
– Approximately 8 sites
Northwood Club Road is open from Mid-May through December. The campsites can be found on a dirt road about 5 miles from pavement. There are a cluster of 4-5 sites right over the Boreas River, however, if you continue further down the road you will have additional sites to consider. If you go far enough, you’ll make your way to the Huntly Pond campsites as well.
This is a peaceful, quiet spot on the water. Most sites come equipped with a fire pit – as always, please be mindful of your flames! There are local hiking trails nearby as well: Moxham Mountain, Vanderwhacker Fire Tower, and the Boreas Loop trail would be great day trip options!
Piseco-Powley Road Campsites, Piseco, NY
– GPS: 43.309818, -74.654435
– 19 sites
This 20 mile-long primitive road is home to approximately 18 primitive free Adirondack campsites and a number of trails. The road stretches from Stratford to Arietta, crossing the East Canada Creek at its southern terminus.
This road cuts through the Ferris Lake Wilderness, providing access to remote sections of the forest. Over 100 miles of hiking and multiple-use trails can be found here. The sites are primitive, however, they’re remote and take you away from it all!
Route 8 Campsites, Johnsburg, NY
– GPS: 43.53038, -74.144669
– Approximately 15-20 sites
Route 8 is a main road in the Adirondacks, which means it is open year round! There are about 20 different primitive campsites along the road here between Wells and Bakers Mills. The sites are not obviously marked from the road, it will be up to you to find the yellow campsite disc.
Route 8 is a beautiful stretch of road! Route 8 runs alongside the East Branch of the Sacandaga River and its tributaries. Along this route you’re fairly close to Gore Mountain, Auger Falls, and Crane Mountain for day trip activities.
South Meadow, Lake Placid, NY
– GPS: 44.19338, -73.95403
– Approximately 10 sites
The South Meadow primitive camp sites are scattered along a seasonal dirt road. All sites are marked with campsite markers with space for a single car or two to park next to the site.
The turnoff for this road is about a mile out from the ADK Loj and Heart Lake parking lot. Along this road you’ll find the trailhead for the old Mount Van Hoevenberg trail as well as the South Meadow Gate which provides access to the High Peaks Region.
This is an awesome place to set up camp if you plan to travel into the High Peaks Wilderness from the Loj or the South Meadow Gate. Keep in mind that this road is not maintained and all campsites are first come first served. These free Adirondack campsites are very popular – I would have a back up plan if you’re arriving on a weekend.
Important to note. You will not find fire rings at these campsites. Fires are prohibited in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness. Please practice Leave No Trace principles during your stay!
West River Campsites, Wells, NY
– GPS: 43.366046, -74.351588
– 13 sites
Towards the end of West River Road in Wells, you’ll find 13 designated campsites. These free Adirondack campsites can accommodate tent sleepers or RVs. There is no cell service here, however, you can usually acquire some in town.
The sites are primitive but many have outhouses that are in decent shape. This is a beautiful spot alongside the river and is in close proximity to a few local hikes. The Auger Falls trail and Pine Orchard trail are among the most visited in the area!
Free Adirondack Campsites in the Backcountry
There are free, primitive sites throughout the Adirondack Park. Many of them require a paddle or hike to get too – It’s important that you’re prepared to spend a night in the wilderness when planning on staying at one of these sites. Also, keep in mind that you could hike 3-8 miles in to a site to find it occupied. It’s always important to have a back up plan.
Food Storage When Camping in the Adirondacks
No matter where you camp in the Adirondack Forest Preserve proper food storage is imperative. In the backcountry, all food should be stored in a bear can unless you’re in the High Peak Wilderness. If you’re camping in the High Peak Wilderness, anything with a scent needs to be put in bear-resistant canisters. This is for your safety as well as the safety of the bear.
When car camping, storing your food inside your locked vehicle in a dark container is your safest bet. Retiring all pots, pans, utensils, and scented supplies to your locked vehicle is best practice. Additionally, all coolers should also be locked inside your vehicle when unattended.
Human Waste Disposal in the Adirondack Park
There are many areas where pit toilets or outhouses are present for you to do your business. In the event that one of these lovely structures isn’t present, you’re required to dig a cat hole when you have to go number 2.
Cat Hole Requirements
- 200 feet from water, trails, and camp
- a spot that receives ample sunlight if possible
- 6-8″ deep and 4-6″ wide
- filled with organic dirt when finished
- cover with organic, native materials
All toilet paper should be carried out with you. For my female camping friends, I suggest looking into a Kula Cloth for your sanity.
State Land Classifications in the ADK
- Forest Preserve
Public lands in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks.
– Can Cam in Forest Preserve
- State Forests
Protected lands outside the Adirondack and Catskill Parks.
– Can Camp in State Forests
- Wildlife Management Areas
Owned by New York State under the control and management of the DEC for the production and use of wildlife.
– Cannot camp in Wildlife Management Areas
- Conservation Easements
Limits or restricts development, management or use of property for the purpose of preserving, or maintaining the environment.
– Camping depends on what the land is designated for.
As always, leave no trace; for your safety, the longevity of the forest, and the safety of our wildlife it is imperative that you educate yourself on the 7 LNT Principles.
Free Camping Websites
In the event that you’re ever looking for free camping outside of the Adirondack Park, I thought it might be helpful to provide you with some resources. These sources can help you to find a free campsite anywhere in the United States and Canada.
Some of the Best Adirondack Camping is Free
Although these free Adirondack campsites might not cost you any money, they don’t come without a price. These sites will cost you your diligence; please be sure to leave no trace and, as always, drive away from these sites leaving them better than you found them. Personally, I like to collect all of the garbage that may have been left behind and clean up the fire pit -if applicable- before I head out at the end of my stay.
Knowing the 7 Leave No Trace Principles is the key to being a good outdoors advocate. Complete this free Leave No Trace Online Awareness Course before heading out there!
It is imperative that you educate yourself on proper outdoor etiquette and use your voice to advocate for the land you enjoy spending your time on. Improve everyone’s camping experience by putting the land first.
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