Car Camping In The Catskills

This weekend was Columbus Day and we had a long weekend.  My husband and I decided to go car camping in the Catkills.  We also wanted to re-use some of our equipment from when we went hiking in Peru.  To be honest here, we never camped before with the exception of our Inca Trail jaunt so this was an experiment.  I also wanted to test this idea of "car camping" literally.  We have a Subaru Outback and thought we could possibly, actually use it to camp in instead of a tent. 

We chose the Catskills because it is a 2 hour drive from us (and from New York City).  The fall foliage is also gorgeous this time of year.  We've been there once and know that there are some great small towns along with good roadside farm markets.  Hunter Mountain is also here and great spot for skiing or snowboarding in the winter.  We spent a total of 36 hours in the Catskills enough for us to enjoy the fall weather, test out our experiment and eat, good local food.

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First Day


We left our place early Sunday morning.  It was rainy and chilly, but when we arrived the rain subsided.  We stopped first at Vinnie's Farm Market to grab some food, more specifically one apple cider donut for each of us, a pretzel with fennel seeds and a small bucket of fresh tomatoes.  We had brought coffee from home in our reusable mugs and enjoyed our donuts with coffee.  Vinnie's Farm Market is a large, roadside market with so much local produce.  If you go inside, you'll also see lots of homemade jams, prepared soup, pastries, etc.  It's cash only so be prepared.  We only had less than a $20 on us which was good or we would have bought a car load of local vegetables and homemade treats.  Prices are very reasonable.


Lots of different pumpkins and squash at Vinnie's Farm Market.  It's Cash Only there so bring some bills.


We started with a hike at Kaaterskill Falls.  The falls was very dry.  We ended up hiking all the way to the top and then some since it was easy to navigate and the paths were dry.  Hiking up the falls is short, but slightly steep.  In the past, we've seen the falls with raging waters, but this time around, there was barely a trickle.  Just use Kaaterskill Falls in your GPS.  It will lead you to a small parking lot.  If it's full, you'll have to find parking on the shoulder and walk to the base of the falls.  We followed the Blue Trail and spent around 3 hours along the trail and by the falls itself.  We sat down and watched the mountains and the fall foliage in it's splendor.  On our way down, we actually hiked on the rocky creek since it was so dry.  A little disclaimer that we did this because there was no water at all.  Use caution as the rocks and boulders are unstable and slippery.  Do so at your own risk.  There's no fee to access. Be mindful and carry your trash out with you.


Very light flow of the Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills.


The creek was so dry that we were able to traverse through it from the base of the falls to the start of the road. Do so at your own risk! The rocks can be slippery and jagged.  


After our hike, we continued on to Tannersville and had a late lunch/breakfast at the Catskill Mountain Country Store and Restaurant.  It's a store with a no frills restaurant attached to it.  Good portion food from local farmers.  We walked around the Main Street for a little bit before checking into our campground reservation.

We reserved a campsite at the North-South Lake Campground, which is less than 10 minutes from the Tannersville Main Street at a cost of $40 for the night.   Once we checked in, we scoped out our site and found it suitable.  A 3 minute walk from the bathrooms and our camp site neighbors seemed ok.  We were farther from the lake, but we drove around for a bit and took in some of the lake sights before getting some supplies.  So we were not as prepared as we thought and had to buy a few essentials before staying for the night.


We bought firewood from a nearby General Store.  You can also purchase it at the check-in booth.  We went back to the Main St. on Tannersville and found Last Chance Antiques and Cheese Cafe where the owner was very nice.  We had a chance to sample a local cheese.  We ended up buying a local hard cheese called Moonlight and a fig goat cheese along with some crackers and a large peanut butter cup.  We also picked up a bottle of wine at the liquor store a few stores away.  As you can tell, we don't do conventional camping food. We settled in by the fire and munched on our purchases.  We figured we had a late lunch and were able to survive on fruit, cheese and wine. 

Warm by the fire.

Getting the fire started.  A large bag of firewood was enough for 4 hours. You must use treated firewood in the park.

Wine, fruit, cheese, crackers, fire, all set.


We camped in our Subaru.  Yes, no tent.  We actually, literally car camped.  Surprisingly, it was roomier and warmer than I thought.  We layered a large comforter and then our two sleeping bags over it.  It was probably around 40 degrees.  During the night, the wind was howling like crazy and with the window cracked, I could hear the wind whipping through, shaking the trees and eventually dropping small acorns on our car.  Very annoying so my husband had to get up in the middle of the night to move the car a few feet away from the dropping acorns.


Second Day

We woke up a little bit later than usual, around 8am.  It was a bit cold and I personally did not want to get out of the car.  We left the campsite to have a warm breakfast at Selena & Nick's Diner.  Another no frills diner that hit the spot.  We had to be out of our campsite by 11am, but we still had access to the grounds.  We then drove back to the campgrounds and drove around the lake for a bit.  We did one last short hike to the Catskill Mountain House.  It's a short .22 trek and you will be rewarded with a view into 4 states if the sky is clear.  We spent some time here taking in the scenery and the sunshine.  We drove around the grounds some more because you can't beat the gorgeous fall colors. 


The North Lake the day before. Cloudy, but still beautiful.

The South Lake under blue skies.  The wind was whipping, but the colors were wonderful.

The South Lake under blue skies.  The wind was whipping, but the colors were wonderful.


Top of the Catskill Mountain House.  On a clear day, you can see across 4 states though not sure how you will know which state is which.


Fall foliage in the Catskills is amazing.


We left the campgrounds and headed north to the Mountain Top Arboretum.  It is a living museum of trees and shrubs.  Very beautiful and many of the trees, shrubs, flowers are labeled so you know what you are looking at.  Nice place to stroll around.


The view from the bathrooms at the Arboretum.


The view from the Arboretum.  I want that house.


After the Arboretum, we headed to Woodstock to grab lunch at Sunfrost Farms before driving back to Jersey.  Another beautiful drive and we arrived at a farm and restaurant.  The wind was not as strong here so we had a chance to sit outside under the sun.  We had some sandwiches and fresh squeezed orange juice.


Behind the pumpkins is a seating area for lunch.  Great green space for the kids to run around in. 



We tried to bring what we needed.  We knew we would be eating out most of the time to try out the local food.  We brought our own reusable water bottles, mugs and utensils.  Our mugs doubled for coffee and wine.  Things that we ended up buying: tomatoes transferred to a paper bag, apple donuts and pretzel in paper, wine, cheese wrapped in paper, goat cheese in plastic container, a bag of firewood in a plastic bag and a paper box for a sandwich that we did not finish.  We had extra bags and were able to use that for some fruit and vegetables that we purchased.  We did not need to use single-use cups for coffee or straws.  The restaurants we went to were all sit down so with a few napkins here and there, generally little waste.  The park also has an extensive recycling program so you can do that before you head out of the campgrounds.  Overall, we did not generate as much trash on this trip.  Yay!


Camping Gear

  • 2 sleeping bags for 45 degree weather
  • 1 large size comforter
  • 2 beach chairs
  • Utensils and a knife
  • Reusable Cups and Bottles
  • 2 extra blankets and towels
  • Subaru Outback
  • Treated firewood + matches (bought locally)



  • Fruits: apples, oranges
  • Cheese purchased locally
  • Energy bars
  • Wine purchased locally
  • Water to be refillable at certain stations
  • Ate out three times: 1 breakfast and 2 lunches


Clothing Gear and Toiletries

  • Hiking boots
  • Lots of layers for warmth
  • Windproof and rainproof jacket
  • Caps or hats (it gets cold in the mountains)
  • Small backpack
  • Standard toiletries bag

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