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The Ultimate Road Trip from NYC: Hudson Valley and Upstate New York

Hudson Valley and Upstate New York

Only a few short hours away from the hectic pace of New York City, you’ll find idyllic towns, crystal blue lakes, and bucket-list hikes to some of New York’s most impressive waterfalls. On this unforgettable East Coast road trip, embrace small-town charm in the Hudson Valley, breath in the fresh air of the Adirondacks in Saratoga Springs, and immerse yourself in the arts and music culture of Woodstock, New York. To help get you started, we’ve put together an epic four day road trip from NYC to Hudson Valley and Upstate New York!

Travel Time from New York City to Upstate New York

This road trip from NYC begins and ends at the Escape Camper Vans’ Jersey City location, and spans 398 miles. While this entire route could be completed in about seven hours, we recommend taking your time and planning for at least four days to make the most of your long weekend getaway to Upstate New York.

TOTAL MILES: 398 miles

TOTAL TRAVEL TIME: 4 days, 7 seven hours

Best Time of Year for an Upstate New York Road Trip from NYC

From vibrant fall foliage to a magical winter wonderland, each season in New York offers a completely different experience. As a year-round destination, the best month to visit the Hudson Valley and Upstate New York depends on what type of trip you’re interested in (and how well you handle the cold).

Fall

The fall is one of the best seasons to venture to Upstate New York and the Hudson Valley. The entire area becomes draped in rich hues of reds and yellows, and the cool temperatures are perfect for hiking through the Catskills. While the foliage peak changes slightly each year, the end of September and first half of October are typically the best weeks for seeing the fall colors at their most vibrant. October’s spooky season is also the perfect time to head upstate for a haunted road trip!

Winter

Although skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts will love Upstate New York in the winter, it may not be the best season for a camper van road trip from NYC. Most campgrounds will be closed, there’s a high risk of unexpected snow storms affecting your plans, and the temperature can be blisteringly cold.

Spring

Spring is another great time to explore New York state. While the beginning of the season can still be chilly, by April the flowers start blooming, wildlife is more abundant, and the weather in the Hudson Valley is ideal for long days spent outside. The crowds are also more minimal compared to the summer, so it’s a great time to hit the trails if you’re seeking both warm weather and a bit of solitude. 

Summer

The summer is definitely the most popular time to embark on an Upstate New York road trip from NYC, especially for families who are taking advantage of school break. However, because the area is so widespread, you can always find a less frequented hike or an underrated small town to explore. With that said, summer road trippers should definitely book their campgrounds well in advance, as they tend to fill up very quickly in July and August. 

Preparation for a Camper Van Road Trip from NYC

To make the most of your quick trip from NYC, we recommend planning ahead as much as possible before your journey. This way, you can make the most of your adventure without wasting precious time dealing with any logistics or searching for available campgrounds.

Camping

Because most of the campgrounds on this route fill up quickly and often require reservations, it’s important to book your sites well in advance. This is especially true if you’re traveling during the summer, which is primetime for camping throughout Upstate New York. If you’re unable to book in advance, not to worry- there are tons of dispersed, or free, camping options throughout New York state.

Supplies

Before hitting the road, make sure you have all the supplies and gear that you’ll need for your long weekend getaway. Stock up on some of Escape Camper Vans’ helpful add-ons, including a kitchen kit for your camper van meals, as well as an extra bedding kit since nights upstate can be chilly. Summer road trips will also require plenty of sunscreen, while anyone embarking on a winter excursion will need to add snow chains to their camper van rental.

Food

While all of the areas on this itinerary are brimming with charming restaurants, eating out for every meal adds up quickly. Before leaving our Jersey City hub, stop by a local grocery store and grab ingredients for easy to make meals and road trip snacks. Be sure to stock up on plenty of water as well, since not all campgrounds offer potable drinking water. 

Which Camper Van is Best for a New York State Road Trip?

From the Escape Camper Vans in Jersey City, you can choose to rent the Mavericks or Mesa vehicles. Both camper van models feature queen sized beds and kitchenettes, and sleep up to five people when you add a rooftop sleeper. However, the Mavericks is nearly two feet shorter than the Mesa. While both vehicles would be perfect for a trip to the Hudson Valley and Upstate New York, your ideal van choice will ultimately depend on your group size and personal preferences. 

Hudson Valley and Upstate New York Road Trip Itinerary Stops

Day 1- Drive from NYC to Beacon, New York

Begin your journey at the Escape Camper Vans in Jersey City, conveniently located just outside of New York City. After loading up your camper van, hit the road and head straight to Beacon, one of Hudson Valley’s most idyllic towns. 

Situated right along the Hudson River, the quaint village of Beacon offers numerous hikes, jaw-dropping views, and plenty of quintessential small town charm. As you stroll down Main Street, pop into dozens of locally owned boutiques, used books stores, and even a cat cafe. Beacon is also an ideal base for exploring other nearby towns in the Hudson Valley, like Cold Spring and Garrison.

People and an camper van walking next to alpacas on a road trip.

Things to do in Beacon, NY

Hike Mount BeaconMount Beacon offers several trails to choose from, all of which reward hikers with sweeping views of the Hudson River. Casino Trail is one of the most popular options, as it traverses past the ruins of an old abandoned casino.

Visit Dia Museum Housed in a former box-printing factory, this contemporary art museum features a variety of collections, spanning pieces from the 1960’s to the works of present day artists. The spacious building contains both permanent and temporary exhibitions, along with special events and lectures scheduled each month.

Bannerman’s CastleThis abandoned castle located on a 6.5-acre island in the Hudson Valley is one of the area’s most unexpected attractions. Enjoy a quick boat ride to the alluring island, or hop on a kayak tour that includes a guided visit to the incredibly well-preserved castle ruins. 

Places to Eat in Beacon, NY

Ziatun– 244 Main St, Beacon, NY 12508: Delicious, Palestinian-Arabic cuisine is served in a cozy ambiance at this quaint restaurant on Main Street. The menu features a wide selection of flat bread wraps and various mezze, including plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.

Wonderbar Beacon– 449 Main St, Beacon, NY 12508: Just beside Beacon’s old-school movie theater, this stunning locale offers decadent small plates, hearty main dishes, and a sensational cocktail list.

Campgrounds near Beacon, NY

Fahnestock State Park Campground– Clarence Fahnestock State Park, Putnam Valley, NY 10579: Only twenty minutes away from Beacon’s Main Street, this lovely campground operates all year and advanced reservations must be made online. While there are no hookups or dump stations, the site does provide showers, picnic tables, fire rings, and grills.

Winding Hills Park– 76 Old Rte 17K, Montgomery, NY 12549: Just on the other side of the river, this spacious campground operates from May through October and reservations are only required on certain holiday weekends. Amenities include showers, picnic tables, and fire rings.

Day 2- Saratoga Springs, New York

After an early breakfast at your campsite, make the two hour drive up to Saratoga Springs, a stunning city nestled in the heart of Upstate New York. Since the first portion of this drive will weave through the rest of the Hudson Valley, we recommend taking Route 9W, which follows the Hudson River. While this may extend your trip a bit, it’s worth passing by all the quaint towns dotted along the river.

Once you arrive in Saratoga Springs, breathe in the fresh mountain air and spectacular views that surround this charming city. Located along the foothills of the Adirondacks, Saratoga Springs provides a myriad of outdoor excursions, as well as a vibrant downtown area filled with museums, restaurants, and local shops.

Two people sitting inside and escape camper van on a road trip through the hudson valley

Things to do in Saratoga Springs, NY

Saratoga WinerySaratoga Springs is known for its many wonderful wineries, and this is one of the best in the area. In addition to delicious wine made on site, they also offer locally brewed beers, a full dining menu, and live outdoor music performances.

Saratoga Spa State Park Hike to twelve different mineral springs, along with numerous spouters in this picturesque park. The most popular path within the park is Geyser Trail, which will lead you to all twelve of the natural springs.

Saratoga Lake During the warmer months, spending a day on the lake is an obligatory Saratoga Springs activity. Rent a kayak, go fishing, take a refreshing dip, or book an unforgettable sunset cruise

Day Trip to Lake GeorgeThe historic town of Lake George is only thirty minutes north of Saratoga Springs, making it an easy day trip while you’re in the area. Walk through the charming village, learn about American history at the Fort William Henry Historical Fortress & Museum, or take a tour of the town’s stunning lake.

Places to Eat in Saratoga Springs, NY

The Merc– 430 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866: Upscale comfort food is served in a warm and inviting setting at this popular eatery. Their brunch menu is an especially big hit in town, featuring an extensive menu of classic breakfast items as well as Bottomless Mimosas. 

Hattie’s Restaurant Downtown– 45 Phila St, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866: This Saratoga institution has been serving authentic Southern cuisine since Hattie Gray opened its doors in 1938. While they offer a robust menu of Louisiana-inspired dishes, their award winning fried chicken is their biggest crowd pleaser!

Campgrounds near Saratoga Springs, NY

Whispering Pines Campsites– 550 Sand Hill Rd, Greenfield Center, NY 12833: This well developed site offers several amenities, including hookups, dump stations, showers, laundry facilities, and a swimming pool. Operating from mid-May through September, mandatory reservations can be made directly on their website. 

Lee’s Park– 1466 NY-9P, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866: Located along Saratoga Lake, this scenic campground is open from May through October and features showers, as well as lake and fishing access. While reservations are recommended, walk-ins are accepted from 12-7pm each day. 

Day 3- Woodstock, New York

Today, drive about one and a half hours south of Saratoga Springs, to the bustling village of Woodstock. Known for its thriving art and music scene, along with some of the most popular hikes in New York, this vibrant town is one of the most coveted destinations in the Catskills. 

Be sure to take an obligatory walk down Tinker Street, Woodstock’s main drag which is brimming with colorfully painted shops, vintage stores, restaurants, and an enormous amount of tie dye souvenirs.

Woodstock is also a great base for exploring other spectacular hikes and towns in the Catskills. Phoenicia and Sauguerties are particularly scenic, both of which are less than twenty minutes away from Woodstock. 

An escape camper van set up for camping. There are friends sitting around a campfire on a road trip from NYC.

Things to do in Woodstock, NY

Hike to Kaaterskill FallsThe Catskills are filled with breathtaking hikes, and this trail is one of the most popular in the region. A quick 1.4-mile path through the stunning Catskill Mountains leads to Kaaterskill Falls, the highest cascading waterfall in the entire New York state. Rushing down 260-feet, this two-tier waterfall is one of Upstate New York’s most jaw-dropping sights.

See a Show at Levon Helm’s StudioThe town of Woodstock is celebrated for its ties to the music world, so seeing a live show while you’re here is practically mandatory. Held in a rustic barn that was built in 1975, this historic studio hosts weekly performances in a truly unique setting.

Opus 40 Located on a 63-acre property, this impressive sculpture park and museum features an astounding 6.5-acre sculpture. Created by artist Harvey Fite, the massive work of art took over forty years to complete!

Day Trip to Bethel Woods MuseumMany people incorrectly (though understandably) assume that the historic Woodstock Music Fair took place in Woodstock. However, the iconic event was actually held in the quaint town of Bethel, located about ninety minutes away. Take a step back to 1969 as you tour the fascinating Bethel Woods Museum, which is dedicated to the history and significance of the legendary festival. 

Places to Eat in Woodstock, NY

The Mud Club– 43 Mill Hill Rd, Woodstock, NY 12498: Freshly brewed coffees, bagels, and pastries are served in a charming outdoor setting at this incredibly popular bakery. On Fridays and Saturdays, you can also check out their Sourdough Pizza Project.

The Bear Cantina– 295A Tinker St, Woodstock, NY 12498: A breathtaking outdoor deck overlooking a tranquil stream makes this one of the most scenic eateries in town. Enjoy the view while digging into delicious Mexican fare, including an extensive vegan menu.

Phoenicia Diner– 5681 NY-28, Phoenicia, NY 12464: Located a few towns over in Phoenicia, this classic diner has become a Catskills institution. Opened in the early eighties, the retro diner focuses on locally sourced ingredients and does not take reservations, so you may have a bit of a wait.

Campgrounds near Woodstock, NY

Kenneth L. Wilson Campground– 859 Wittenberg Rd, Mt Tremper, NY 12457: Operating from May through October, this lakeside campground accepts reservations up to nine months in advance. Amenities include flush toilets, picnic tables, a recycling center, and boat rental opportunities. 

Phoenicia Black Bear Campground– 17 Bridge St, Phoenicia, NY 12464: Fall asleep along the Esopus Creek at this serene site, which is open from April through December. Reservations are mandatory and facilities include hot showers, a dump station, electric and water hookups, and firepits. 

Day 4- Drive from Woodstock to New York City

Sadly, your tranquil New York adventure comes to an end today. After packing up your camper van, trade in peaceful forests and quiet towns for the frenetic energy of NYC. The drive from Woodstock to the Escape Camper Vans’ Jersey City hub is only about two hours, passing through several scenic towns and parks along the way. Just remember to have your camper van back by your pre-determined drop-off time

Pro Tip- If you have extra time, make a detour on your way down to the city and head to Bear Mountain. You can drive straight up to the summit where you’ll find unparalleled views of the Hudson River and surrounding landscapes. 

Why Rent a Camper Van for a Hudson Valley and Upstate New York Road Trip?

Renting a camper van from NYC is the best way to explore the quaint towns and captivating landscapes of Upstate New York. From added flexibility to less stress, there are a number of reasons why a camper van is better suited than a traditional RV for a New York road trip.

Mobility- It would be tough for a large RV to drive through the Hudson Valley’s tiny towns- many of which are made up of narrow streets and tight parking spaces. Our compact camper vans are much more practical for navigating these smaller villages, and the same goes for the winding roads that you’ll encounter throughout the Catskill Mountains and Upstate New York.

Easier- Not only are our compact vans easier to maneuver on New York roads, but they’re also less intimidating for anyone who isn’t used to driving a larger vehicle. Conversely, a bulky RV would be far more daunting for a first-timer, therefore making the entire road trip experience far less enjoyable.  

No Sewage or Electric Hookups- Many of the campgrounds on this route do not provide hookups, and the ones that do tend to book up very quickly. While this isn’t an issue for our self-contained camper vans, this would make finding a suitable campsite extra difficult for a traditional RV.

Flexibility- With your comfy beds and fully equipped kitchenettes ready to go, you don’t have to waste time setting up and breaking down at each campsite. Instead, you can spend more time exploring, rather than putting up a tent or dealing with the necessary logistics of an RV.

Fun Design- Every Escape Camper Van is custom painted by a talented artist. Not only does this make for a colorful backdrop to any photo, but it’s also a great conversation starter. It can be awkward trying to make friends with fellow campers, but our multicolored vans work as the ultimate icebreaker!

Reserve With Escape Camper Vans for your Road Trip from NYC

Driving up to the Hudson Valley and Upstate New York is considered to be one of the best road trips from NYC, and it’s not hard to see why. Whether you’re embarking on a quick weekend getaway or a longer journey, there are countless trails to explore and charming towns to visit! Click the button below to reserve your Escape Camper Van, and get ready to trade in crowded city streets for New York’s fresh mountain air.

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