Drenched in WWII history and located on the east shore of Seneca Lake, Sampson State Park is a must for RV travelers who are both water lovers and history buffs. During World War II, the site was the location of the Sampson Naval Training Station. It was also used in the Korean War (known then as the Sampson Air Force Base), where it provided basic training to troops. Once the area was declared surplus to requirements, it was purchased in 1960 by the New York State Council of Parks and opened shortly after that.
Sampson State Park is known for having an amazing view and some of the very best sunsets over Seneca Lake. The park now also has a military museum, a sandy swimming beach on Seneca Lake, boat launches, and a marina with over 100 boat slips. Recreational activities are aplenty and include tennis, basketball, volleyball, swimming, a scenic lake trail, hunting, biking, hiking, and geocaching.
RV Camping at Sampson State Park is very popular during the summer. There are 309 campsites with 245 30-amp electric and 64 non-electric sites. The campgrounds can accommodate RVs up to 40 feet in length, and the surfaces vary from gravel, paved, or grass. The park is open all year round; however, camping closes for the winter at the start of November.
Located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, Sampson State Park is easily accessed off NY-96A. The closest major town is Geneva, which lies around 11 miles south, and major cities like Rochester and Syracuse are only an hour away. The terrain leading to the park is mostly flat, and you will be able to take major service roads to the park no matter which direction you're coming from. The park is very accessible, and once inside the park, roads are wide and paved. Those navigating large rigs or hauling trailers should have no trouble getting around as there are no steep hills, sharp turns, or low hanging branches near the roads. During the wintertime, roads in and around the park may become icy and difficult to maneuver, so be sure to check the local weather forecast and road conditions before heading out.
There is lots of overflow parking available inside the park, but during the summertime, parking can be limited around the lake because the park is a popular swimming spot.
Canandaigua / Rochester KOA is the place to be if you’re looking to dive deep into nature and escape city life. Close to the campground, enjoy a wine-tasting trip down the Canandaigua Wine Trail, shop the local antique and farmers markets, or head back to the 19th-century with a visit to Genesee Country Village. When you stay at Canandaigua/Rochester KOA, you’ll find yourself surrounded by beautiful, varied terrain, along with plenty of tranquil fishing spots and miles of wonderful hiking trails. Set up camp at this KOA and enjoy amenities like a dog park, a seasonal pool, a convenient snack bar, and Wi-Fi. Play a game of miniature golf, or rent a bike to tour the grounds. Rigs up to 90 feet are welcome, and propane and firewood are available on-site for purchase.
The campground at Sampson State Park is huge. There are six different loops in total, all within the same campground. The majority of the 309 campsites are electric, with 30 amp connections available. If you want to get off-grid, there are also 64 non-electric sites available. Each of the six loops contains a toilet block and showers, a water collection point, and two dump stations can also be found at the entrance to the campground. Other amenities in the campground include picnic areas, a swimming beach, a boat launch, a public telephone, a playground, and disabled camping access. Pets are allowed at all campsites if they are leashed. There are concessions available at the park office, but a grocery store is located less than 10 miles away if you need to pick up more supplies. The campground is closed from the start of November until the middle of April, and reservations can be made up to nine months in advance.
If the campground at Sampson State Park is full, there are a few alternative camping options in the surrounding area. The Finger Lakes National Forest is under 30 minutes south of the park and offers numerous primitive sites for small rigs from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day. Keuka Lake State Park is around an hour west of Sampson and offers water and electrical hookups at over 100 campsites from March through December. Taughannock Falls State Park can be found just 20 miles east of the Sampson State Park and features 68 electrical sites in its pet-friendly campground from April through October.
If you want to do some hiking in Sampson State Park during your RV vacation, you are in luck. There are two different trails for you to explore. We recommend the Lake Shore Trail, also known as Sampson Lake Trail. At around two miles long, the trail follows the old Lake Round and runs parallel to the shore of the lake. If you get tired along your walk, or you want to sit and enjoy the scenery, take a break and rest on one of the benches that sit along the trail.
There are some great opportunities in Sampson to do some birdwatching. The lake, trails, and woodland of the park attract a variety of different birds all year round. If you are on the trails, keep a lookout for birds such as blue jays, red-winged blackbird, northern cardinal, downy woodpecker, and the eastern bluebird. Other larger birds that are known to call the park home include wild turkeys, Canadian goose, ospreys, and turkey vultures. If you look at the sky, you may even be able to see a red-tailed hawk! Don't forget the binoculars in the Airstream as you wander the park.
Hunting is allowed at Sampson State Park during the specific hunting season. You are allowed to hunt deer, duck, Canadian geese, turkey, snow geese, and brant. A separate special park permit is required for all hunting at Sampson State Park. You must also wear a blaze orange hat or vest if you are hunting during the five-day shotgun hunt or late muzzleloader season. Portable tree stands are allowed within the park, but they must have the owner’s name, address, and phone number and be removed at the end of the season.
Of all the lakes in the Finger Lakes region, Seneca Lake in Sampson State Park is famous for having the best sunsets. But it's not just the sunsets in this park that will have you reaching for your camera. Because the park was once a Naval training center and an Airforce base, there are numerous monuments, a memorial, and even a museum that give you a chance to capture your own piece of history when you visit. The Lakeshore Trail winds around the shore of Lake Seneca and offers sweeping views of the lake and the local wildlife that call the park home. Wherever you wander, you won't want to forget the camera in the Class A.
Seneca Lake is a great spot to get out on the water and do some boating. You are allowed to use both motorized and non-motorized boats on the lake, and there is also a pump-out station for powerboats. The marina at Sampson State Park has just over 100 boat slips and multiple large ramp launch sites. The marina is open from early April until mid-October. If you didn't tow your own boat behind the Sprinter, boat rentals are available when the marina is open for business during the peak season.
Family members of all ages enjoy spending some time in the Military Museum located in the park. The museum was built to showcase the history of the Naval and Air Force bases that once occupied the state park. Inside the museum, you will find artifacts and displays that showcase what used to happen at the old bases. Volunteer Air Force and Navy veterans run the museum, and the hours are dependent on volunteer support. It's opening hours vary, but if you are in the park between May and September, it will be open for you to enjoy. There is ample parking available for rigs and other vehicles just outside of the museum.
There is a small swimming beach in Sampson State Park that is located next to the playground. The beach features lifeguards during the summertime, and it is the most popular place to swim at the lake. The beach is sandy, and the water level varies from shallow to deep as you start to wade farther out into the lake. The swimming season in the park begins during the middle of June and continues until Labor Day. Although there is additional parking near the beach, the lot fills up quickly during the summer months, so if you're planning on parking the motorhome nearby, you may want to arrive early on in the day.
Anglers flock to Sampson State Park to try their luck at fishing on Seneca Lake. The lake is known for being home to an impressive number of fish species, including multiple types of trout, landlocked salmon, large and small-mouthed bass, northern pike, yellow perch, lake sturgeon, and many more. You can cast out from the shoreline, or drop a line in from the boat. If you're in the area during Memorial Day weekend, an annual Lake Trout Derby takes place on the lake, with a first-place prize of a whopping $10,000!