Even if you’ve got the gear and have read all the books, winter camping can be intimidating. But don’t give up before you start! Winter may be the best time of the year to camp, even for beginners. Campgrounds won’t be overrun, and you’ll have the time and space to refine your newly acquired skills. For your very first time out, there’s no need to blaze new trails. Try one of these eight campsites that offer a few (or lots of) amenities and a short (to no) hike in. You can always work up to a wintry peakbagging adventure in the future—New Year’s resolution 2021, perhaps?
Barnes Field Campground sits in the northeast corner of the White Mountain National Forest, the perfect place to begin your winter camping endeavors. In the cold weather, these campsites are first-come, first-served, self-service spots. For a truly low-stakes first winter outing, you can drive your car right up to the site. Bathroom and water facilities are within walking distance, as well as access to picnic areas, hiking, and cross-country ski trails. Its prime location is only a short drive from dozens of mountains to explore, including Adams and Washington.
Info: recreation.gov or 603-466-2713
Situated at the gateway to the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks, this campground offers a variety of shelter options, including basic tents, lean-tos, and canvas cabins. The stunning area is never short on gorgeous views or secluded trails, no matter the temperature. Take full advantage of onsite winter activities, including bonfires, ice skating, and ice fishing. You can even ride the Olympic Gondola at Lake Placid, only a short drive away.
Info: adk.org or 518-523-3441
Located at the southeastern base of Mount Cardigan, this wooded area features 20 tent platforms just steps away from the facility’s main lodge. Year-round campers have access to a fire ring and grill, outhouses within walking distance, a water source, and trail and weather information at their disposal. In addition to hiking options ranging from easy to difficult, Cardigan offers educational programs, group campfires, nature walks, and classes on beginner camping skills. For kids, there’s family-oriented programs, such as searching for wildlife and s’mores nights.
Info: www.outdoors.org or 603-466-2727
A mere 13 miles from Boston’s South Station and accessible by public transportation, AMC’s Ponkapoag Camp gives you the illusion of camping in the wilderness despite its proximity to the city. Surrounded by miles of trails in the 8,500-acre Blue Hills Reservation, campers can hike, bike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski to their hearts’ content. Ponkapoag represents a rewarding challenge for the determined novice camper: As a tradeoff for bringing your own drinking water, lanterns, and cookstove, you’ll score stunning scenery and a chance to unplug from daily life. Because Ponkapoag is a volunteer-run facility, reservation forms, available on AMC’s website, are taken only by mail.
Info: www.outdoors.org, or for general inquiries, 781-961-7007
Noble View’s hilltop location provides onlookers with a serene, astounding view of the surrounding woods, farm fields, water, and valleys. With recently updated accommodations, campers can rent tent platforms to pitch their own. The staff runs events year-round, and the surrounding area offers trails for snowshoeing and cross-country and downhill skiing, plus a stand of old-growth hemlocks for campers to explore.
This eastern Pennsylvania state park provides camping options from primitive to full hookups, secluded and busier sections, pet-friendly areas, and water-facing or in-the-woods. All sites, including the more rustic choices, are within walking distance of showers and electricity, ensuring the winter weather doesn’t lessen anyone’s camping experience. Activities include ice skating on Promised Land Lake, skiing or hiking the surrounding trails, and viewing the onsite eagle nest from an observation station.
Info: dcnr.pa.gov or 888-727-2757
Mohican calls the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which straddles the New Jersey–Pennsylvania border, home. Sandwiching the Delaware River, the park contains miles of hiking, including a section of the Appalachian Trail. Year-round campsites situated near the visitor center give campers plenty of areas to explore on their own while also providing access to the lodge’s gathering space and fireplace. Mohican offers weekend getaways and skills workshops throughout the year.
Info: www.outdoors.org or 603-466-2727
Winters in Virginia are noticeably milder than in Maine or New Hampshire, providing an ideal setting for beginner winter campers. This state park, in particular, offers a comfortable and unintimidating experience for newcomers, with primitive campgrounds just 100 yards from the parking lot. Expect frequent programs on nature and outdoor activities, assuring you’ll leave more knowledgeable than when you arrived.
Info: dcr.virginia.gov or 800-933-7275