One of the best parts of living here? From even the deepest part of downtown Buffalo, you can find yourself surrounded by trees — and immersed in nature — in less than a half hour. And what better way to enjoy all the outdoors has to offer year-round than by going camping.
So if you have a hankering to get outside in the Buffalo area, here are a four of the best campgrounds that await. You don’t need expertise to take advantage of these sites: While they all offer traditional campsites for people who want to rough it in a tent, many offer places for trailers and RVs — and some even have permanent structures like cabins or yurts that can be rented.
Golden Hill State Park
9691 Lower Lake Road, Barker
Golden Hill is a relatively new state park, having only been acquired by New York in 1962. Prior to then, the property was owned by the Coast Guard — and that history led to the most unique feature of the park.
A decommissioned lighthouse sits on the shore of Lake Ontario. It was taken off-line in the late ’50s but is still intact, and its old keeper’s quarters can be rented as a place to stay overnight.
Golden Hill is also full of many other attractions. Trails throughout the park are perfect for biking and walking in the summer as well as cross country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling in the winter. They even added a disc golf course in late summer 2018.
As for camping, there are 58 sites spread across the park’s 510 acres. They range from basic campsites to those with 30- and even 50-watt hookups. Thirteen of the park’s campsites are considered premium, as they are located right on the lake shore and have breathtaking views.
There are also six yurts, which sleep six and come with a microwave and refrigerator, for a slightly more refined experience. (716-795-3885; parks.ny.gov)
Jellystone Park of Western New York
5204 Youngers Road, North Java
While this site may be too much for some campers who yearn to get away from it all, for many families, especially those with young kids, this spot can be an excellent way to make camping fun and accessible.
One in a large chain of “camping resorts” throughout the United States, the campground has amenities galore. There are traditional camp activities like swimming, boating and fishing on the large lake on the property. But there’s also mini-golf and an outdoor laser tag course. There are playgrounds, game rooms and a swimming pool all to keep kids active and entertained — and even a dog park so that the family’s four-legged friend is catered to as well.
The centerpiece attraction is a 16,000 square-foot, three story water playground equipped with jets, cannons and waterslides sure to keep kids cool and having fun on hot summer days.
The park has theme weeks all summer, complete with different events and activities. Of course, in keeping with the Jellystone theme, Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Cindy and other characters from the Hannah Barbera cartoon make appearances throughout the park.
Jellystone offers camping options for all levels of outdoorsmen. They have tent sites that contain nothing more than a fire ring, and RV sites with all the hookups for those whose definition of roughing it is slightly different. There are also cabin rentals available that sleep between four and 10 people. (800-582-9135; sunrvresorts.com)
Evangola State Park
10191 Old Lake Shore Road, Irving
Along the Lake Erie shore, about 45 minutes south of downtown Buffalo, sits the beautiful Evangola State Park in Irving. It covers a 733-acre area of the shoreline and surrounding forests.
The main attraction here is the inviting arched beach, which runs most of the length of the park. It’s quite deep — so it can accommodate large crowds without feeling cramped. The park also features paths for biking or walking through the forested, inland parts of the park. One of its most unique attractions is the 18-hole disc golf course that winds its way through the edges of the woods.
Evangola has 80 sites available for camping, 52 of which have electric hookups and would be suitable for a trailer. For campers who don’t want to bring their own equipment, they also have six yurts that sleep six and a small cabin that sleeps four. The sites are located close to the beach, and near a playground for children. (716-549-1802; parks.ny.gov)
Letchworth State Park
1 Letchworth State Park, Mount Morris
One of the most well-known attractions in all of Western New York, Letchworth is known as the Grand Canyon of the East — a beautiful gorge carved by the Genesee River to a depth of 600 feet in some places.
The river still flows through the heart of the park, traversing three major waterfalls as it wends its way from south to north across down the gorge. Those waterfalls are best seen from one of the many hiking trails that run along the river.
Letchworth is a year-round recreation paradise. In the summer, there are trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Visitors can take advantage of the river with kayaking and whitewater rafting. There are also tours offering a unique view of the park from the basket of a hot air balloon. Floating above the park, you can truly begin to appreciate its scale — and snap some amazing photographs.
In the winter, there are snowmobile trails that crisscross the park — a very popular destination once the snows roll in and the trails become passable. There are also cross-country skiing trails, as well as a tubing area.
The camping options are numerous within the park: There are 257 campsites suitable for a tent, and all come equipped with electrical hookups for trailers as well. There are also 81 cabins available for rent on the site.
Campsites are mostly located in the middle of the park, well away from the hubbub and noise of the many daily visitors. It’s a very peaceful place to camp, despite the parks busy reputation. (585-493-3600; parks.ny.gov)
Story topics: Wellness