City life has its advantages—short commute, proximity to good bars—but a few hours in the Wissahickon aren’t enough to satisfy my need for trees, dirt and wildlife. So I asked local experts Christina Saboe, owner of Grad Hospital’s Fireside Camp Supply, and Charlotte Bonner, co-owner of Trove General Store in Paoli, for their favorite camping spots within a few hours of the city—places where you can pitch a tent and try something new: canoeing, mountain biking, fishing and more. See you on the trails.
If you want to canoe …
Go to: Wharton State Forest, Hammonton, New Jersey.
Explore Jersey’s protected Pine Barrens via the serpentine waterways that meander through cedar, pine and oak forests. Traditional camping options abound, but if you want to really rough it, stay at the Mullica River or Lower Forge campgrounds — the no-running-water, no-shower sites are only accessible by foot or canoe. $3 a night for state residents; $5 for nonresidents.
If you want to hike …
Go to: Ricketts Glen State Park, Benton, Pennsylvania.
There are 26 miles of trails in this park northwest of Wilkes-Barre, but you really want to check out the Falls Trail, a challenging 7.2-mile loop peppered with nearly two dozen waterfalls. Of the 120 in-park campsites, 26 face Lake Jean. Starting at $19 for state residents and $21 for nonresidents.
If you want to mountain bike …
Go to: Raystown Lake, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.
Surprise: This man-made lake is a killer place to mountain bike, with three large, hilly loops totaling more than 30 miles. Stay at Seven Points Campground, which has 250-plus sites, including dozens of lakefront options. Starting at $25 per night.
If you want to surf …
Go to: Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes, Delaware.
Surfers flock to Delaware’s Herring Point for its long, beginner-friendly waves. While you can’t camp on the beach, there are more than 150 different sites within the park that are all about a mile from the sand. Starting at $33 per night.
If you want to fish …
Go to: Hibernia County Park, Coatesville, Pennsylvania.
Fish in either the Brandywine Creek or Chambers Lake — or both. The former is a draw for cold-water fishing, and the latter is stocked with warm-water fish. Book a site in the Lake Campground, which features water views from your tent. $15 per night.
This article first appeared in the June 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.