The Capital Region New York State Parks near Albany and Saratoga provide a variety of family fun outdoors. These State Parks are an easy day trip from the Capital Region. Many of these parks provide a cheap family vacation including camping, access to kayaking and paddleboarding launches, sand beaches, and kid-friendly hiking trails. Most offer family hiking trails.
The cost of Visiting New York State Parks can vary. Many charges a vehicle admission. The Empire pass is an annual pass that covers admission for one low price of $80. In 2020 New York State is also honoring the National Parks 4th kids free pass at their State parks that charge vehicle entrance fees (not individual admission). You can find out more about the pass on the state parks sites.
While we have only visited a handful of these parks we are on a mission to visit more. This post will be continuously updated as we experience more parks and have more information to share.
1. Thompson’s Lake Campground – Thacher State Park
Thompson Lake State Park is located at 68 Thompsons Lake Road in East Berne, NY. It’s located near the Helderberg Escarpment and very close to Thatcher Park, making it the perfect place to Camp for a weekend. There is a kayak launch but you can also launch at the sand beach which is accessible to campers and day-trippers. Thompson’s Lake offers so many family fun opportunities. We have kayaked and paddle boarded here with our inflatable kayaks and paddleboard and it’s a lot of fun. The beach is a perfect place to take a dip and cool off in the hot summer. Empire Pass is accepted.
Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center
The Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center is located at 87 Nature Center Way in Voorheesville, NY. It is located near the shores of Thompson’s Lake in Albany County. The Nature Center offers a geologic model of the Helderberg Escarpment, a live honeybee observation hive, a bird viewing area, fossils, furs, and other hands-on collections.
It’s located near the Thompson’s Lake Kayak launch and the Thompson’s Lake State Park Beach which makes it a perfect addition to a fun day at the lake.
2. Thacher State Park
Thacher State Park is located at 830 Thacher Park Road in Voorheesville, NY. It is situated along the Helderberg Escarpment and is one of the richest fossil-bearing formations in the world. It provides marvelous mountain and valley views and many hiking trails. Empire Pass is accepted
There is a wonderful natural playground outside the visitor center which is where our favorite hike starts. Thacher State Park is also home to Wild Play Thacher, high ropes course.
Combine Thompson Lake, Thacher State Park, and 5 Rivers DEC Site
Consider Combining a weekend or a week of camping at Thompson Lake with trips to Thacher Park, wild play, and Five Rivers Environmental Education Center. If you are camping at Thomson Lake there’s plenty to do in the park and on the lake. Nearby hiking at Thacher along with wild Play Thacher are great additions to your trip. You can also head over to the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center (a DEC site) and check out their walking trails and nature center. It’s less than 20 minutes from Thacher park.
3. Saratoga Spa State Park
Saratoga Spa State Park is located at 19 Roosevelt Drive in Saratoga Springs, NY. The park is a National Historic Landmark known for its music, theater, golf, and spa.
As a kid growing up in the area we visited the state park often either before a concert at SPAC or just for a day trip. There’s a picnic area with restrooms, outdoor grills a playground, and a natural spring. There’s also a small Gieser midway down the stream toward SPAC. It’s always been a fun place to explore. Empire Pass is accepted
If you are heading to Saratoga you could combine the trip with a stop at the Saratoga National Park. There are also several parks within the town of Saratoga including Congress Park which has a carousel that offers rides for a small fee. Ben and Jerry’s is nearby for an afternoon treat. The race track in Saratoga is also a fun activity during the second half of summer.
Saratoga National Historical Park
Saratoga National Historic Park is located in Stillwater less than 30 minutes from Saratoga Springs. This was a significant battle during the American war because first time in world history that a British Army ever surrendered.
The site offers walking and biking trails including the 100-mile challenge. The Battlefield Grounds are open daily from sunrise to sunset. Saratoga Battlefield has several miles of hiking trails, However, the 4 1/4 mile Wilkinson Trail is the only marked trail although other trails are established, but not marked. Pedestrians may also walk or bike the Driving Tour Road using the marked Multi-Use Lane.
Entrance to Saratoga National Historic Park is free. There is currently a large-scale construction project through 2022. Please check the Saratoga National Historic Park official website for updates on closures.
Creekside Classroom Environmental Education Center
Creekside Classroom Environmental Education center is located on Geyser Loop Road in the heart of Saratoga state park. The Creekside Classroom is an environmental education center that is open year-round. The Education Center sits on the bank of Geyser Creek and is a great way to start off your visit to Saratoga State Park.
4. Saratoga Lake State Boat Launch
Saratoga Lake State Boat Launch is located on Route 9P and has a parking capacity for up to 100 trailers. The lake is a Beautiful Lake and great for boating. I wouldn’t recommend it for beginner kayakers, especially in inflatable kayaks that tend to be lighter and have a bit less control with currents and wakes. Empire Pass is accepted but not sold at this location.
If you are looking to swim head to Browns Beach, run by the town of Stillwater.
5. Grafton Lakes State Park
Grafton Lakes State Park is located at 254 Grafton Lakes State Park Way, Grafton, NY. The park is located on a forested mountain that includes 5 ponds as well as hiking, fishing, swimming, and boating. The main pond offers a sand beach for swimming and is located past the Entry Booths. Mill Pond and Second pond are located outside admission booths and have small parking lots. These ponds are great for beginner kayaking and finishing. Empire Pass is accepted.
We really like Mill Pond for Kayaking as it’s small but there’s also a little picnic site you can paddle to and take a break. Then take a small hike before heading back to the pond for some more paddling.
6. Moreau Lake State Park
Moreau Lake State Park is located at 605 Old Saratoga Road
Gansevoort, NY. The park offers a forested campground and, a sand beach that is open to campers and day-trippers.
I grew up taking a day trip to this lake with my family. There are outdoor grills and picnic tables, a playground, and restrooms available so it’s a great place to spend the day or to even stay longer while camping. However, over the past couple of years, I have seen several locals posting about rashes caused by high bacteria levels in the water there and for that reason, we haven’t visited with our kids. Make sure to check local information on water quality before heading out. Empire pass is accepted.
Moreau Lake State Park Nature Center
The Moreau Lake State Park Nature Center is located at 605 Old Saratoga Road in Gansevoort, NY. The Nature Center at Moreau Lake features numerous wild displays. There are also opportunities to enjoy staff-led nature-based recreation programs for children.
7. Cherry Plain State Park
Cherry Plain State Park is located at 10 State Park Road Petersburg, NY on Black River Pond. It’s located about 1 hour east of Albany. The park has a day-use picnic area. Cherry Plain State Park also offers a boat launch, bridle paths, hiking, biking, and nature trails that serve for cross-country skiing in the winter. there’s also year-round fishing available. Camping is also available for overnight camping. Pets are allowed but with some restrictions including guarded beaches. Empire Pass is accepted.
8. Hudson River Islands State Park
Hudson River Islands State Park is located on the Hudson River in Coxsackie, NY. This state park is accessible only by boat. The islands of Gay’s Point and Stockport Middle Ground are home to many rare and endangered plant and animal species providing a scenic backdrop for Hudson River Islands State Park. There’s no entrance fee.
9. Shaul State Park
Shaul State Park is located on Route 30 in Fultonham, NY. This State Park offers Panther Creek, picnic grounds, as well as playing fields, a playground, and a nature/hiking trail. There is also a small camping area with 30 wooded tent and trailer sites. There is no entrance fee for day use.
10. Mine Kill State Park
Mine Kill State Park is located at 161 Minekill Road in North Blenheim, NY. It’s about an hour southwest of Albany and only 15 minutes from Shaul State Park. This park features the picturesque Mine Kill Falls in the scenic Schoharie Valley. Mine Kill State Park overlooks the NY Power Authority’s Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project. Empire Pass is accepted.
11. Peebles Island State Park
Peebles Island State Park is located at 1 Delaware Avenue North in Cohoes, NY, Peebles Island offers spectacular river and rapids views along the miles of paths through the gently rolling and wooded landscape. It’s great for fishing and picnics. and in winter visitors can cross-country ski, hike, and snowshoe. Empire Pass is accepted.
12. Schodack Island State Park
The Schodack Island State Park is located at 1 Schodack Island Way
Schodack Landing, NY. Which is about 20 minutes south of Albany. The Park includes the shores of the Hudson River and Schodack Creek and has been designated a State Estuary, as well as a Bird Conservation Area. The park offers multi-use trails including a bike trail, volleyball nets, horseshoe, and a kayak/canoe launch site. Empire Pass is accepted.
Most of these Historic sites require an admission fee that is not covered by the Empire pass. Some may allow you on the grounds for free while admission to buildings is for free.
1. Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site
Bennington Battlefield State Historic Site is located at 5157 Route 67 in Walloomsac, NY. It’s about an hour northeast of Albany and about a half-hour from Grafton Lakes State Park. The park offers game fields, interpretive panels, and more. It’s a great place to enjoy a picnic overlooking the battlefield. There’s a 2.7-mile trail system that displays a series of interpretive signs.
The Bennington Battlefield is the site of a Revolutionary War battle. The battle resulted in a decisive victory for the Americans. The Park site offers educational material to go along with your visit which includes:
Teaching with Documents- Grade 7
4th Grade Lesson: Battle of Bennington
4th Grade Activities
2. Crailo State Historic Site
Crailo State Historic Site is located at 9 1/2 Riverside Avenue in
Rensselaer is just over the bridge from Albany. The Historic site houses interpretive exhibits highlighting archeological finds from the Albany Fort Orange excavations. The Crailo State Historic Site tells the story of Dutch inhabitants of the upper Hudson Valley Visitors will find interactive programming and offers guided tours. Tours cost $5 per adult, $4 for Seniors/Students, and Children 12 and under free.
Albany’s Tulipfest is a celebration of the area’s Dutch heritage. There are many special events the week leading up to the festival and would be a great time to combine a visit to this State Historic Site with some other Dutch Heritage activities.
3. Grant Cottage State Historic Site
Grant Cottage State Historic Site is located at 1000 Mt McGregor Rd
Wilton, NY. It’s approximately 20 minutes north of Saratoga State Park. Touring the college entails walking the porch for views of the 4 room cottage. Entrance to the Cottage is by guided tour only. Tours start every 30 minutes with the last Tour of the day at 3:30 p.m. The Cost is $9 per adult $7 for Seniors 62+ and $5 for children 17 and under. Children 6 and under are free. A Private tour is available outside normal business hours for $100
Adults: $9Seniors (62 & up): $7Ages 17 & under: $5 Children under 6 and Veterans and active military with id are FREE.
4. Crown Point State Historic Site
The Crown Point State Historic Site is located at 21 Grandview Drive
Crown Point, NY. It’s located about 2 hours north of Albany and about an hour east of Lake Placid near the NY/VT border near Lake Champlain. It would make for a nice day trip when visiting Lake Placid.
This 18th Century fort ruin is fun to explore. You can also watch the story of Crown Point and enjoy the interactive exhibits. Admission is $4 per adult, $3 for seniors, and kids 12 and under free. Crown Point State Historic Site is not listed on the empire pass as a covered park.
5. John Brown Farm State Historic Site
John Brown Farm State Historic Site is located at 115 John Brown Road in
Lake Placid, NY. This site is the home and grave of abolitionist John Brown. It offers special programs including civil war encampments and musical performances. Lake Placid is a fun family destination year-round. If you are heading up to the area make sure you plan time for all that Lake Placid has to offer families.
6. Johnson Hall State Historic Site
Johnson Hall State Historic Site is located at 139 Hall Avenue in Johnstown, NY. It’s a large estate with lovely grounds and gardens. The Historic site is a 1763 Georgian-style estate of Sir William Johnson, an Irish immigrant, and Molly Brant, a Mohawk Indian, and their eight children. Differing cultures, traditions, and languages combined to create a unique life for the Johnson family as the estate bustled with their busy personal and work lives. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for Seniors, and free for children 12 and under.
7. Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site
Schoharie Crossing is located at 129 Schoharie Street in Fort Hunter, NY. It’s about 40 minutes northwest of Albany. Enjoy many special events here like live music and interactive learning at Schoharie Crossing. Discover the stories and the wonders of the Erie Canal at your leisure through the new tour by cell.
Within the site’s boundaries are many structures dating from the three eras of the canal’s development. At the eastern end of the site is the Putnam Lock Stand at Yankee Hill which houses an exhibit on Erie Canal stores. The site’s largest structure is the remains of the Schoharie Aqueduct, which carried the water of the Enlarged Erie Canal over the Schoharie Creek.
Fort Hunter and the Lower Castle Mohawk village. See artifacts from that portion of our history on display at the Visitor Center. The site includes the Putnam Lock Stand at Yankee Hill which houses an exhibit on Erie Canal stores and the Schoharie Aqueduct, which carried the water of the Enlarged Erie Canal over the Schoharie Creek.
Fort Hunter, an 18th century for, is also located in Schoharie Crossing. Schoharie Crossing also is where the Lower Castle Mohawk village is located. Here you can check out artifacts from that portion of our history on display at the Visitor Center.
There is no admission fee to Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site. Some fees apply for special events, educational services, tours, and the use of picnic areas. There is $3 per person for guided tours which are available by reservation. Fort Hunter charges $3 for children and $6 for adults for a mansion tour.
8. Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site
Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site is located at 32 Catherine Street in Albany, NY. Philip J. Schuyler, a Revolutionary War general, US Senator, and businessman owned this mansion. Guests are part of a guided tour of the mansion focusing on Philip Schuyler’s life. They have beautiful gardens and offer occasional events. We visited this Historic Site during an easter garden event where kids got to explore the garden on a scavenger hunt and also collect easter eggs they turned in for prizes. Tours are by reservation only and cost $5 per adult $4 for Seniors/Students and children 12 and under free.
Martin VanBuren Home National Historic Site
Martin Van Buren Home National Historic Site is within 30 minutes drive from Albany. While it is not a Capital Region State Park near Albany and Saratoga, I included this as a great free option. It’s only 1 of 2 National Park Sites (Saratoga National Historic Park is the other) currently open in the Capital Region and Saratoga Areas. It’s a great site to learn about the US and American history.
Martin Van Buren was our 8th president of the United States from 1837 to 184 and a founder of the Democratic Party. He had also served as the 9th governor of New York, the 10th United States secretary of state, and the 8th vice president of the United States.
There is no charge for tours or to walk the grounds which are available year-round from 7:00 a.m. to sunset. Pick up a brochure and site bulletin in the parking lot and follow the three-quarter-mile wayside loop to learn more about the founder of the Democratic Party. Visitors must, however, register for a tour of the house by stopping at the visitor center.
Things to do at New York State Parks near Albany and Saratoga Summary
Many of these parks offer hiking and swimming. In addition, some offer camping and even kayak rentals. We absolutely love bringing our inflatable kayaks and inflatable paddle board whenever we can. Many of these Parks also have playgrounds and offer space to enjoy outdoor sports.
When visiting the parks, stop at the visitors center if there is one. You can also ask for a map and information at any Ranger or Park station including at the park entrance.
Capital Region New York State Parks near Albany and Saratoga Summary
The Capital Region New York State Parks near Albany and Saratoga provide a variety of family fun outdoors including hiking, kayaking, and swimming. These State Parks are an easy day trip from the Capital Region. We love hiking Thacher in the fall, Kayaking Grafton Lakes, and Thompsons lake in the spring and summer. Swimming on sand beaches is available at many of these sites which is always a fun way to spend summer.
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