My eyes have recently been opened to the wonder and splendor of NYS DEC campgrounds - they're cheap, clean and easy. They're not a "campground" with an overwhelming amount of amenities and too many comforts; they're really just a place to set up a tent or park your RV, and maybe go swimming, fishing or rent a canoe. I love it! We decided to stay at DEC's Eighth Lake campground, which was about 20 minutes outside of Old Forge, in the beautiful Fulton Chain Wild Forest area. I have to say - as a person who loves being around the water, to get to see all of the different lakes in this little region was wonderful, so breathtaking! For one night at Eighth Lake, with fees to register online, we only paid $31 ($22 for the site, $9 for fees). We also got a huge bag of firewood from them for only $7.
Photos of our site to come, but first! We made our drive up. From the CNY region, it was incredibly easy, it took us just under two hours - once you hit the Utica area, it's easy traveling on Routes 12 and then 28.
We left around noon, arriving to the trail-head of our first hike around 2:30 (included a lunch stop on the way!): Bald Mountain. Bald Mountain is just under a mile to the top, and it was one of the prettiest mountains. It was incredibly rewarding, because though it's such a short hike, the views are amazing the entire way up.
This was the view from one of the first landings we hit - amazing! It was unreal how beautiful the weather was this day - so crisp, clear and sunny, and the temperature eventually got up into the 60s and we were able to lose our hoodies!
It was nice to be able to stop every so often to enjoy another stunning view!
Now can I just say - this is Rudy and he is twelve years old (Aka 84 if you convert to human years), and he's never had more fun in his life than when we hiked Bald Mountain! It was his first mountain ever and I've never seen him so happy! So that really gives an idea of how easy this hike is. Aside from having some boulder-y patches you have to work at a bit (Rudy had to get lifted up these), it's definitely a very easy and doable hike for almost anyone who's mobile.
By the time we got back down to the bottom, it was nearing 5 o'clock, so we packed it in and decided we'd do our other two hikes the next day - which was good, because it got dark that night around 7, while dinner was still cooking! At Eighth Lake we ended up on site 41 - and if you ever stay there, the sites on the lake are amazing, no extra charge like a privately run campground has for being on the water and such an amazing and pristine view to have right off of your site.
For dinner we made my go-to campfire meal for life, foil packs - since we participate in CSA, we just threw the random vegetables that we had in our fridge from our share into the packs.
They ended up having chicken breast, carrots, kale and peppers, all topped with Trader Joe's Tuscan Italian Dressing. I've never done kale over the fire before and OMG was it good! Since we were only coming for the night, to minimize clean-up and things we needed to bring, I cut all of the veggies ahead of time, and took the chicken out of the freezer (still in the package) that morning, so we didn't need our cooler, a knife - and we made snacks and treats with what we had for the most part; it really took the hassle out of the weekend and made it such a nice, simple and relaxing overnight.
The next day we packed up and were out of the campground around 11. We just had some donut holes and fruit for breakfast. We did two more hikes - Rocky Mountain was the first - it was only .5 miles to the summit. By the way, all of these hikes and our campground at Eighth Lake were all off of Route 28, so easy! There's also Black Bear mountain right next to Rocky Mountain, but we didn't do that one because it's a little bit longer (5 miles roundtrip).
It was a little rough, and obviously very steep, but the views were so, so worth it. It was another just gorgeous day and totally clear at the top.
The lake is Fourth Lake, by the way.
There was this cute little island in the middle...
I told Daniel we should buy it... he didn't think I was funny.
From there, our last hike was to see Sis and Bubb Lakes!
This was just under a mile to see both lakes. This loop could be made longer if you go out to see Moss Lake too, but we were starting to get tired.
The view ended up being very much worth it - if only it hadn't been a fall day, the water looked so inviting (but you can bet that didn't stop Rudy from drinking at every stop)!
We ended up leaving that day around 1PM. All in all, we spent four hours in the car, spent the night tenting, and did two mountains and one trail for a total distance of just shy of five miles. I highly recommend this area if you're looking to see a lot of different things - you really get the most bang for your buck, time-wise! The only thing I would caution is that it is a very popular area with the waterpark being so nearby, so be prepared to not be alone on the mountains specifically. But again, definitely worth it for the amount we got to see in just 24 hours!