We love camping: spending time outdoors, ending the day roasting marshmallows over a bonfire, gazing into a blanket of stars. There’s hiking and biking and swimming, and a good night’s sleep after a day filled with fresh air and activities. What we don’t like so much is hauling the gear, setting up the tent, sleeping on the ground. Our solution is to book a cabin. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a roof over our heads and a bed to sleep in.
Here are five campgrounds in Massachusetts that offer the best of both worlds: an outdoor camping experience with a little side of comfort.
AMC Ponkapoag Camp
You don’t need to travel far to find the great outdoors. This Appalachian Mountain Club camp is located 13 miles from downtown Boston in the lush and expansive 8,500-acre DCR Blue Hills Reservation.
Book one of the rustic cabins located near the shores of 230-acre Ponkapoag Pond. There are 20 simple cabins, sleeping four to seven people, with beds, table and chairs, and a bureau. The cabins do not have electricity or running water or indoor plumbing, and you’ll need to bring your own linens or sleeping bags. Lanterns and flashlights are essential, too.
When the sun rises, outdoor adventure awaits! You’ll have access to the Reservation’s extensive trail network, including more than 125 miles of paths through marshlands, fields and forests. There’s a delightful loop trail around the pond, including a boardwalk through marshes to the shoreline. It’s also an easy walk from your cabin to the water, where there’s a small beach (lifeguards are often on duty during the summer season) with swimming, fishing, and paddling. Rowboat, kayak, and canoe rentals are also available.
In the evenings, head over to the Main Lodge for educational programs, held weekly during the summer season. The lodge also has a few hours of electricity each evening for reading, play, and charging batteries. 781-961-7007. (Call weekdays only, from 8:30 a.m. to noon.) www.ponkapoagcamp.org
Savoy Mountain State Forest
Lucky are those who snag one of the four cabins at this state preserve in the Hoosac Mountain Range in northwestern Massachusetts. The rustic cabins, overlooking scenic South Pond, accommodate up to four people with bunk beds, table and chairs, and a wood-burning stove. They’re primitive; you’ll need to bring your own linens and use the portable toilets on site, but you’ll have access to prime outdoor stomping grounds.
The forest has more than 10,000 acres of fields, woods, and wetlands, spiderwebbed with some 60 miles of trails. The short ½-mile-or-so loop hike to Tannery Falls is a must, offering great views of the 70-foot tumbling cascade for short effort. Bog Pond, with floating islands, is a popular jaunt, and if you’re looking for lofty views, scramble up Spruce Hill along the Busby Trail. There’s also fishing and swimming on South and North Ponds, and boating if you bring your own kayak or canoe. Forty-five campsites are also available, located in a former apple orchard. For reservations, visit ReserveAmerica at www.reserveamerica.com or call 877-422-6762. For more information on the state forest visit www.mass.gov/locations/savoy-mountain-state-forest or call 413-663-8469.
Boston/Cape Cod KOA Holiday
As camping goes, a stay in one of the cabins at this newly opened KOA campground, is rather plush. There are one- and two-room cabins, sleeping four to six people, some with patios, TVs, and mini-refrigerators, and deluxe cabins with two bedrooms, full kitchens, and private baths, sleeping up to eight people.
This rollicking campground is perfect for families who like lots of activities. There’s mini golf, a playground, lawn games, sports field, swimming pool, and more. When COVID-19 restrictions are further eased, more activities will be offered, like arts and crafts, an ice cream sundae bar, and outdoor movies. The campground, located 15 miles west of Plymouth, is also a great base for day trips into Boston or Cape Cod. 800-562-3046, www.koa.com/campgrounds/boston.
Pine Acres Family Camping
“Awesome place for a weekend getaway.” “One of our favorite places to go.” “Well-equipped and maintained.” “Super friendly staff.” These are some of the consistent comments made about this well-touted campground, just 50 miles or so west of Boston in the town of Oakham.
Seventy-acre Lake Dean is the centerpiece and major draw, the perfect place to cool down on a hot summer day, or to drop a fishing line in hopes of a few bites. There are three sandy beaches and a marina where you can rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats for a scenic spin around the lake. Other amenities include a large pool, arcade, tennis, yard games, and a playground. A full roster of special events with live music, food trucks, and activities may be introduced as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
Two-room cabins, sleeping up to six people, have electricity, outdoor water hook-up, picnic table, fire-pit, outdoor charcoal grill, and a mini-refrigerator. Full-service cabins have private baths, kitchenettes, heat and air conditioning, and flat-screen TVs. 508-882-9509, www.pineacresresort.com
Mohawk Trail State Forest
Looking to really get away from it all? This expansive, 6,000-acre forest in Charlemont will fit that bill. Here, you can walk among some of the oldest and tallest trees in the state, swim in clear river waters, gaze deep into a plunging gorge, and follow in the footsteps of early Native Americans.
Check into one of the six cabins, including four cabins that sleep up to five people and two smaller ones sleeping up to three people. The cabins are bare bones with bunk beds, and a chair and table, but showers and bathrooms are nearby.
And the great outdoors is at your doorstep, including some of the oldest and tallest Eastern White Pine trees in New England. Walk among the giants, hike trails to the banks of the Deerfield River to go swimming or fishing, or head to the top of Todd Mountain for valley-to-peak views. You can also walk a portion of the historic Mahican-Mohawk trail, a Native American foot path connecting Connecticut to the Hudson River Valley. For reservations, visit ReserveAmerica at www.reserveamerica.com or call 877-422-6762. For more information on the state forest visit www.mass.gov/locations/mohawk-trail-state-forest or call 413-339-5504.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at email@example.com