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Backpacking Rules & Regs NY and NJ
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Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Backpacking Rules & Regs NY and NJ on 12/07/2009 09:57:08 MST Print View

Any place online that is a resource for the rules and regulations for backpacking in NY and NJ? I'm trying to to my first backpack since moving here from CA, and I can't find a place that clearly states the rules; e.g. permits and all that. Most places just talk about day hikes and reserving car campsites.

I have my maps, so I can plan out a route.

I know I could call the ranger stations, but I thought I'd check here first.

I'm looking at the Harriman and the Catskills, etc.

Brian Markey
(bmlaw) - MLife

Locale: Northeast
Harriman on 12/07/2009 11:46:41 MST Print View

For Harriman, go to

Another good site on hikes in the area is the New York - New Jersey Trail Conference at

b s
(smyth) - F
Re: Backpacking Rules & Regs NY and NJ on 12/07/2009 13:07:41 MST Print View

"Most places just talk about day hikes and reserving car campsites."

Ha. Well, speaking for Jersey, that's beacause that's all that most places offer! Seriously though, there's some to do down in the Pinelands and "wilderness camping" at Round Valley Reservoir, but most of the backpacking in NJ is centered around the AT section that runs through the NW corner of the state. Specific permit requirements up there are probably park specific - Waywayanda, High Point, Stokes, etc. but I can't remember ever getting a permit for an overnighter on an AT section (Pinelands and Round Valley - permit required).

I've done a few trips to Harriman and the Catskills too over the last few years and never needed a permit. The NY-NJ Trail Conference Maps are a great resource and most of them have the overnight camping regulations printed on the back. I'm sure you can find it on their website too as Brian stated above.

Edited by smyth on 12/07/2009 19:06:55 MST.

Spruce Goose
(SpruceGoose) - F

Locale: New England
Re: Backpacking Rules & Regs NY and NJ on 12/07/2009 14:18:34 MST Print View

Harriman/Bear Mtn: Pretty sure you're only supposed to overnight at the lean-tos. There are 10, I think (could be wrong, though).

- Big Hill
- Stockbridge
- Cohasset
- Bald Rocks
- Car Pond Mtn
- Tom Jones Mtn
- Big Hill
- Dutch Doctor
- Herbert Mine
- William Brien Memorial

Catskills (and Adirondacks): You can find info at the DEC website here. The site is hard to navigate, but the information is usually there...somewhere. Note that some of the "rules" posted on the website may be more accurately described as "suggestions", as they may not be found in the actual rules and regs. I'm particularly thinking about the "Lean-tos shared" statement, but there may be more.

I backpack pretty extensively in the area, although it's been a couple years since I've visited Harriman. I've never gotten any permits or anything.

Edited by SpruceGoose on 12/07/2009 14:20:05 MST.

Joseph Scalia
(jscalia) - F

Locale: NorthEast
NJ/NY on 12/07/2009 16:43:28 MST Print View

Backpacking along the NJ AT simply requires you to camp at designated backpacker sites or shelter areas or anywhere at least "100 ft from the trail". No permits or reservations. If you park your car at one of the State Park lots they want you to register in the Park Office so that if you dont come back for your car they can call Search and Rescue to find you. Some areas along the AT will send out Park employees to scout the more popular areas to make sure everyone gets to a site before sunset to prevent no gooders from loitering and having a drinking party. Fires are usually not allowed at most sites.

Catskills trails are considerably less populated than NJ so rules are a little more relaxed. Still no permits or reservations needed. Just park and hike and dont camp too close to the trail.

Also, no fireworks or weapons except for hunters with license on designated hunting days.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: NJ/NY on 12/07/2009 19:00:35 MST Print View

Thanks all for the feedback. The DEC website is what I was looking for. The State Parks website, where I started out, told me nothing. The maps said the shelters were first-come, first served, but that's all.

I'm just used to CA, where you need a permit for national forests, parks and wilderness areas, and the state parks generally have reservation only campsites.

I'll definitely check with the nearest ranger station inre parking; getting towed might get me kicked out of zipcar.

Joseph Scalia
(jscalia) - F

Locale: NorthEast
parking on 12/08/2009 08:55:20 MST Print View

dont worry about the parking situation, most parking areas along the AT are primative dirt areas and you wont get towed if you park overnight. You can find these parking areas marked on official AT maps or the NJ/NY Trail Conservancy maps for North NJ and Catskills trails.

b s
(smyth) - F
Re: parking on 12/08/2009 09:08:35 MST Print View

I've used these parking areas too mostly without issue. However, I did have all of my windows smashed out when I used a pull-off for an overnighter in Harriman once, so there's always a risk.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: Re: parking on 12/08/2009 10:15:32 MST Print View

Those last couple hundred yards walking back to the car always give me some anxiety; is it going to be intact? In CA, my main concern was that a bear would smell something that spilled on the floor a month ago and tear the window frame off.

I suppose here, with so many towns being close to the trailheads, bored teenagers could be a problem.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Bakcpacking near NYC on 12/12/2009 15:58:11 MST Print View

The DEC bought up a big chunk of the southern Gunks. Great place to hike and hardly anyone hikes the high ridge section. We didn't see another backpacker over a three day weekend on the ridge section.

Harriman has a nice assortment of trails, but is more popular.

Kevin Sullivan
(bustedchucks) - F
In which I provide a little info and a long winded editorial. on 12/13/2009 19:27:50 MST Print View

As mentioned, in Harriman/Bear mountain you are supposed to only camp in or near the shelters. That said, stealth (and exceedingly not so stealth) camping is common practice. Given its proximity to the NY metro area, the "backcountry" is surprisingly peaceful, especially this time of year. I backpacked the Ramapo-Dunderberg a couple of weeks ago and and only ran into a handful of people on a beautiful weekend. A huge portion of the hiker traffic is centered around the visitors center on 7 Lakes Drive. Let them have Pine Meadow Lake, we'll wander around the rest.

The place gets a bit of a bum rap, but there is a lot to like: loads of trails for near endless loop possibilities-all of which are maintained entirely by volunteers from the NYNJTC, home to the first section of the AT, lots of history, even George Washington has been hiking here. Coyote, bear, fox, plenty of deer, timber rattlers, black racers are really common. I've seen bald eagles and red-tailed hawks, and see vultures soaring overhead on nearly every visit. Blueberries galore in season, some really nice hemlock groves, a few scrambly talus slopes, hundreds of glacial erratics, loads of mountain laurel, a largely deciduous forest that puts on a nice autumn show and over thirty lakes. That is all a bit more than you were asking for, but I was up there this weekend for a short hike, and was thinking about how much time I spend up there and how much I like the place. Nothing epic, just a really pleasant forest.

Catkills: you can camp anywhere you want as long as you are: 150 feet from a body of water, a road, or a trail and below 3500 feet. In winter you can camp above 3500 feet, but no fires unless it's an emergency. There are also a lot of designated backcountry sites where the above rules don't apply; IE, you can camp five feet off the trail on a lake shore if there is a little yellow "camp here" disc. The Adirondack regs are pretty much the same, and you need a bear can in the eastern high peaks wilderness. BearVault won't do, we breed 'em smart over here.

No permits required unless you're in a group of 10 or plan on spending 3 nights in the same place. There are a few placed where you have to pay for parking.
That link will get you started on some public transportationable trips in the area.

Edited by bustedchucks on 12/13/2009 19:47:11 MST.

Jim MacDiarmid
(jrmacd) - MLife
Re: In which I provide a little info and a long winded editorial. on 12/14/2009 12:08:28 MST Print View

This is all great advice.

I've heard about the Marcy Dam bear. Having moved here from CA, I'm used to carrying a cannister. Here though, I can use my Ursack w/liner insert and save 10oz over my Bearvault. I'd lazy, and I'd actually just rather carry the extra bit of weight than deal with hanging my food. Also never was sure if there'd be a proper tree for hanging where I was camping. Not so much and issue here, so I guess I should practice and learn. The Ursack by itself should be enough to prevent bear access (if leaving my stuff smushed up) if I fail in my hanging.

Do most people here hang?

It's nice to know that stealth camping is common. I'm all for rules and regs to protect these areas from the lowest common denominator, but I understand and appreciate low-impact ideals, and if I picked a stealth(illegal) spot, I promise no one would be able to tell I'd been there.

Edited by jrmacd on 12/14/2009 12:10:19 MST.