Chenango Valley State Park
Sometimes it is the overlooked, smaller parks that surprise you the most. Pulling up Google Maps, a quick trip through parts of New York state had us wondering where to set up camp for a weekend. The goal was to settle in and relax with some biking and hiking during the day and campfires at night.
The Finger Lakes stood out as the obvious choice, but having been there before, we wanted something different and looked towards the Central Region of NY State instead. Chenango Valley State Park fit the bill.
This small park is located southeast of Ithaca, not far from the Pennsylvania border. A little more out-of-the-way than the popular Finger Lakes area, it was the perfect weekend camping escape, surrounded by small towns and nature.
Driving in to the park, we passed by half a dozen deer grazing in a nearby field, so we knew we’d be happy hanging out here. Tenting at Chenango Valley State Park was a simple setup, and quite affordable too, as NY State Parks only charge $15/night.
Large sites, surrounded by plenty of trees and a largely flat terrain made it easy to get around the park by bike when we weren’t out hiking the trails, of which there are more than 20 to choose from.
The vast majority of the trails in Chenango Valley State Park are shorter than 1mile long, but a few offer a longer hiking experience, and almost all of them loop up and connect together so you can plan out a solid 10mile hike quite easily.
One trail to check out is the Ridge Trail. As the name implies, it offers some great views along the edge of the Chenango River. There is solid bird-watching here, we spotted a number of species, including the hawk photographed below, hanging out in a tree.
A little longer trail, offering different scenery, is the Chenango Lake trail. A good portion of this state park is dotted with small lakes, bogs and wetlands. Attracting everything from deer to ducks, there are picnic areas around the lake to stop and enjoy the setting.
When you’re ready to go beyond the confines of the small park, the road that brings you into Chenango Valley State Park has some great windy curves that can take you out to Chenango Forks and some other nearby towns, which are only about a 30 minute bike ride away.
Grab some grub at a local diner or burger joint like Lippy’s and then bike back into the park. With good weather, you can easily experience the nearby towns and explore a good portion of this park on a regular 2-night weekend trip.
My tip for you: don’t save up all your outdoor adventures for long weekends and holidays, get out there and explore smaller parks and places that can offer up an appetizer of adventure compared to the big, famous National Parks.
Chenango Valley isn’t a park for rugged off-road activities or backcountry camping, but it is a great park for a family adventure or short weekend camping and biking escape. There aren’t many other places that can offer a relatively quiet, and affordable, camping experience in Central New York State.
For directions, reservations and hiking and camping maps, visit the Chenango Valley State Park website.