A couple of weekends ago, my family went on our first camping trip since moving to the 50th state. The night before we left was crazy, to say the least. Bryan and I raced up and down the stairs of the house packing up our SUV for our weekend getaway. We dusted off the gear that hadn’t seen the light of day in Hawaii. To be honest, our camping gear hadn’t been used since before I was pregnant with Emily. However, while it may have been a while since our last adventure, we did have A LOT of camping gear. This was all thanks to one of our favorite things to do in New York: camping (okay glamping) at Malouf’s Mountain.
What is Malouf’s Mountain?
As their website will tell you, Malouf’s Mountain Sunset Campground, is a hike in, hike out, unique camping resort. Located about 1.5 hours outside of NYC in Beacon, New York, they really cater to those that don’t have a car or a house with storage space for camping gear (read: Manhattanites). However, since Bryan and I did have a car and enough storage space in our Connecticut condo, over our four years of frequenting Malouf’s Mountain we accumulated many items geared to giving us more of a glamping experience instead of roughing it.
For people like us that don’t actually hail from the city that never sleeps, just park your car at the Beacon MTA stop for the length of your stay at Malouf’s Mountain. We never had any problems doing that. Once you park, call Malouf’s Mountain for a shuttle bus ride. (I’ll discuss more on shuttle bus pick up in the next paragraph.) Just note that the shuttle bus is probably also picking up people coming up from NYC on the MTA. Therefore, try to plan your arrival time with the arrival of the MTA from NYC so you don’t have to wait too long.
The Hike In / Hike Out Concept
In order to get to Malouf’s Mountain, you need to hike in and hike out. This is not as hard as it seems. Believe me, I’m one of the most out of shape people you’ll ever meet. If I can do it, you can do it too. Someone from the campsite will pick you up from the Beacon MTA train stop and drive you to the access point of your choice. There is a 30-minute hike option, a 2.5-hour hike option, and a 3-5 hour hike option. BUT, the best part is: you don’t have to hike with your gear. The campsite allows you to bring 1 backpack, 1 sleeping bag and 1 cooler per person. After you get dropped off at the starting point of the hike, the Malouf staff will drive all your stuff to the campsite for you. How awesome is that?
So which hike (or access point) should you choose at Malouf’s Mountain?
I haven’t tried the 3-5 hour hike so I can’t provide an opinion on that option, other than to say that you need to bring your own trail map (and be good at reading it). I have, however, completed the 2.5-hour hike once and the 30-minute hike numerous times.
The 30-minute hike
The first year we stayed at Malouf’s Mountain we opted for the 30-minute hike. It was hard (due to the steepness) but manageable and really did only take 30-minutes or so. That year, everyone else that was picked up from the Beacon train station opted for the longer hike. This included families with young kids. We were slightly embarrassed. So embarrassed that the following year I signed us up for the 2.5-hour hike.
The 2.5-hour hike
I knew that selecting the 2.5-hour hike was the right decision when we were picked up by the Malouf bus to take us to the hiking trail and the other campers there were all around our age and included a few marines (read: super in shape). Then Dick (the Malouf owner) called out my name and gleefully stated, “You guys are the only ones signed up for the long hike. Everyone else is doing the shorter one.”
Um… say what?
So, off we went. The hike seemed good for the first 5 minutes or so and then the straight-up-the-mountain hike began. I had to break every minute or so. But finally, at about the halfway point of the hike, we reached the top of the mountain and it was breathtaking.
The second half of the hike was much easier (obviously, since it was all downhill). However, we still vowed that we would stick to the 30-minute hike going forward. And we always did. All joking aside, (although the hike was pretty tough for us), the main reason we stuck to the 30-minute hike after our 2.5-hour fiasco is that we got really lost. There are actually a lot of signs set up to help you navigate through the woods. We were just really bad at finding some of them.
The hike back down
No matter what hike everyone takes to get to the camp, everyone takes the 30-minute hike back down the mountain. On “check out” day, “guests” take all their gear down to the main meeting area of the camp. This is Malouf Mountain’s “lobby” so to speak. The “guests” leave their gear there for one of the staff to drive down the mountain. Then, sans bags, everyone hikes 30-minutes down the mountain to the meeting point. A shuttle holding everyone’s gear will meet all the “guests” that just “checked out” and will drive everyone back to the Beacon MTA stop.
What does a campsite reservation come with?
You have two campsite options to choose from: Primitive or Platform. In all honesty, in the four years we stayed at Malouf’s mountain, I never saw anyone stay at the Primitive site.
The Platform Site
The Platform Site gives you a LOT of items (included here). However, the three most important items were a tarp over your tent, a floor under your tent, and a gas stove with pots and pans for cooking. You can even request that you borrow a tent for an extra $12 a night. The first year we went we didn’t want to borrow a tent because we thought it would be really fun to set up a tent ourselves. I think the owners of Malouf’s Mountain thought we were crazy. And we were. Tent set up was not as easy as we thought.
The tent we brought and painstakingly put up ourselves was the same size as the tents provided by Malouf’s Mountain. Therefore, we figured we would save ourselves the hassle going forward and rent a text the next time. At least that’s what we thought at the beginning of our trip.
By the end of our vacation, however, we realized that we wanted a bigger tent. At the very least so that our bags could be left inside the tent. We decided to dream big and decided we also wanted to stand up in our tent. So after that first year, we returned home and bought a humongous tent that we could put all of our bags in, stand up in, and even hang a lantern from the ceiling. That tent became our home away from home for our week-long stays for the next three years.
Yes, our tent was so prissy that it had a welcome mat.
The Primitive Site
As I said, no one ever stayed at the Primitive Site while I was camping. However, if you so choose to, it IS a good $30 cheaper. The Primitive Site comes with a picnic table, fire pit with grill and garbage can. That’s it. You even have to gather your own firewood versus the Platform Site where the lovely staff at Malouf’s Mountain delivers firewood to you daily.
The first year we went to Malouf’s Mountain there were several people vying for the few open Platform sites. Worried that we wouldn’t get a spot, I asked Bryan if we should attempt “primitive camping”. His answer was, “Let’s be real. I don’t think that’s going to work for us.” He definitely had a point.
What do you eat?
The food options are one of the coolest things about Malouf’s Mountain. Before you show up at the camp you can order groceries from their pretty extensive list. The groceries will show up (vacuum sealed) in a cooler with ice. If you are there for longer than a couple of days, the staff breaks up your order to provide you different coolers every couple of days. This way you know you are only eating fresh food stored with fresh ice.
Since Malouf’s Mountain allows you to bring 1 cooler, we often planned huge meals around what we ordered. We would bring the non-perishable items up in our cooler for sides and / or appetizers. For example, to go with our 14 oz steaks, we often brought bread, garlic, olive oil, and corn to go with it. Yum!
While we loved, loved, loved the fire pit and used it to cook food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, one of the great things about the platform site was the gas stoves in the “kitchenette”. Especially for breakfast!
What did you do for days on end at Malouf’s Mountain?
Relax! For us, two people with no kids (at the time), stressful jobs, and probably a little (read: a lot) too dependent on electronics, it was nice to just unplug and getaway. We took naps. We read books. We ate and drank.
We also talked about how much more active our camp neighbors were than we were. So if you are like our camp neighbors and need a little bit more excitement in your vacation, I did see a lot of other campers use their time on Malouf’s Mountain to go on multiple hikes.
We also were really excited to build fires in our fire pit.
What about a bathroom?
Hallelujah! Lights, piping, hot showers! Let me tell you, outhouses are a deal-breaker for me. It’s fine for an event or a fair, but not for days on end. I used to be a peer counselor at a high school camp. I signed up to work in the kitchen every year even though I could barely cook. Why did I sign up for a job I could barely do? Because the students that worked in the kitchen were the only students that had access to a real toilet and shower.
Malouf’s Mountain has a lovely community house that includes men and women bathrooms, showers, sinks for dishes and a washer and dryer. While we never used the washer and dryer ourselves, we saw a lot of people that did. We did, however, trek down to the community house after meals to wash our dishes. Since the place was wired with plugs and electricity, this was also when we recharged our iPhones. We also trekked down to shower every night. There was a row of individual showers that locked, was wired with electricity and provided hot water in the pipe. It also included a small changing area next to the shower, similar to showers at a gym. Definitely my type of camping!