My husband and I got into camping about 3-4 years ago and started when we joined a group camping trip with a bunch of other New Yorkers up in the Catskills. I had never camped before in my life and my husband hadn’t gone on a trip since he was a kid. We had no tent, so we rented from the campground and had nothing but a sleeping bag with no pillow. We were very poorly equipped and what made it worse was that it rained ALL.NIGHT.LONG. I don’t mean a drizzle. I mean it rained so hard our neighbors packed their tent and sopping wet gear in the middle of the night because their tent leaked and was flooded. Most people would have been discouraged from ever camping again after that experience but that only motivated me to do better. With each subsequent trip we took , I learned something new and bought something to make each trip more comfortable and easier. I mention this story only because it is precisely this reason that most people avoid camping no matter how much they say they love the outdoors. Most people don’t even know where to begin when it comes to what gear they need to bring.
In recent years, glamping sites have popped up, giving camping options to those who don’t have the equipment needed to survive a few days unplugged in the woods. One of these sites is Hemlock Falls.
Hemlock Falls is a privately-owned, family-run business. Husband and wife team, Rob and Kim live on the property, and along with children and their spouses, they built and maintain all 36 acres of land and the 4 sites they built within it. Their daughter Michelle handles bookings through Airbnb. Within the area lies 3 waterfalls and 2 swimming holes that are available to their guests. The care they’ve put into this entire project is not something I can put in words but needs to be seen.
I’m not getting into the nitty-gritty details here since all the information you need can be found on their website or Airbnb listings. So Hemlock Falls has two Deluxe Sites (Falls and Fieldstone) and two standard sites (Glen and Ridge). All four have toilets (porta-potty) and camp kitchens. Tents have queen sized beds with memory foam mattresses, bamboo linens and pillows. The sites have solar lanterns for you to use and fire pits with zero gravity camp chairs. The kitchen has the basic necessities like the camp stove, pot and pan, utensils and dinnerware. If you haven’t seen it already, I posted a site tour on my IGTV channel. That should show you what’s included with each site. The difference between a deluxe and standard site is also outlined on their FAQ page.
The sites are nestled in groves and are far apart from each other to give you just the right amount of privacy without being too far apart. I’ve stayed in small, crowded campsites in the past and nothing ruins a camping trip than loud, drunken neighbors and loud music. There is no running water in the site, washing and cleaning water are provided in jugs for you to use. I was told they used to give the camp shower bags to all guests until they noticed no one used them. So if you need one, definitely mention it upon booking.
All sites are hike-in. You park in a designated area near the road where they meet you with an ATV where you load all your gear, and food on to which will be delivered to your site. Someone will walk you to your site and give you a brief tour of the area so you’ll know your way around. There are paths you can follow so there’s no fear of getting lost in the woods. Paths are steep and muddy in some places so watch your step and wear proper footwear.
What should you bring?
My husband and I stayed at The Falls site for 3 days and 2 nights, during a week when it just so happens that none of the sites had been booked. We had never been more alone in our lives. But not once did we feel unsafe. We were equipped with everything we needed to keep us comfortable.
Being an overly prepared camper, I brought extras of things I thought we might need on top of what was already available for us there. Most of the things I brought I didn’t need and some I was glad I did, like collapsible storage bowls which I used to prep for salads, marinades or scramble eggs for breakfast. The enamelware set in the kitchen didn’t include bowls so these were helpful. I brought a cast iron skillet with me but didn’t need it since the pot and pan that was provided was sufficient enough. They even provide you with a pour over coffee maker with #2 filters and a camp kettle for your morning coffee. If you’re unsure if something you’ll need is available. Don’t hesitate to contact them, they’re very responsive and helpful. You are given 5 gallons of water in two jugs to use for washing your dishes. Plus another jug in the bathroom to brush your teeth and wash your hands. It takes a little skill to know how to wash dishes for 4 meals using less than 5 gallons of water but we managed fine. I’m sure if you asked for a refill, they’ll oblige but we never had that problem. Between the camp shower, kitchen water and the bathroom water, we had enough to last us 3 days without asking for more. We didn’t even finish them all. We of course brought our own drinking water which we used for cooking as well.
Since we stayed in a deluxe site, our tent had a USB outlet that was connected to solar panels attached to the deck which had enough power to charge a phone. Standards sites don’t have this feature so bring portable battery chargers with you or don’t use your phone too much. Depending on when in the season you go, the Catskills can be really cold or really hot, so dress and pack accordingly. During our stay, we had low 80 degree days and cool upper 50 degree nights. There are extra blankets in the tent and there’s a propane powered heater in there if you ever needed it.
Bring an umbrella or rain jacket in case it rains during your stay, the path between the tent to the kitchen is uncovered and the toilets in standards sites are detached so you may need it if ever.
BRING LOTS OF BUG SPRAY AND SUNSCREEN. I mean it! You’re in the woods. There will be bugs, spiders, frogs and random critters. Vien brought a rattan fan with him everywhere which not only helped during hot days, but helped swat bugs away.
Be smart and don’t eat anywhere near your tent and keep food in the provided animal resistant cooler. Bring a separate cooler for your beverages or dry food like bread and snacks. One big bag of ice will last 3 days in their cooler. Dispose ALL food scraps and garbage in the provided animal resistant trash can and if you can, move the can away from your tent and kitchen before retiring for the night. The land might be privately owned but black bears are native to this area and they will come and go as they please.
Bring hiking boots and water shoes. Most of the trail is paved or lined with straw but the path to both falls are very rocky and uneven. Swimming with water shoes is also very highly recommended. The swimming hole in Hemlock Falls is about mid-thigh deep for someone like me who’s 5’10” and the water in Save Point Falls is about chest to shoulder deep with shallower edges.
Because of the nature of the sites, they don’t allow anyone under 18 or more than 3-4 people max for deluxe sites or 2 people for standard sites which is understandable with the limited water supply and toilet situation. They are however, pet friendly so bring your pup. If you’re lucky, you might meet their Hemlock Falls mascot, Mr. Po.
Is it worth it?
YES. Let me explain what you are paying for.
Comfort. You get the beauty of the outdoors with a comfortable bed to sleep in.
A fully equipped kitchen. You don’t need to subsist on granola bars or dehydrated meals during your stay.
Privacy. You don’t get that in a campground. I’ve never been able to say I was naked in the woods. I can say that now. HAH! The maximum number of guests you’ll encounter during your stay would probably be no more than 8 other people.
Access to two swimming holes and three beautiful waterfalls. If you’re lucky, you’ll have the whole place to yourself. Tell me where you can get all that elsewhere.
Ease. You bring nothing but clothes, food and yourself. Leave the rest to them.
How long should you stay
That depends on you. Our 3 day, 2 night trip was sufficient enough but having camped for longer in the past, I don’t see why we couldn’t stay for longer. Two night stays are their minimum which is understandable, given the amount of work needed to prepare for each guest. I think that’s a good enough time to enjoy the site, visit the surrounding area and relax at the same time.