Camping is a favorite pastime for many. It’s an excuse to go to bed early, stare at the stars, and get your hands dirty eating gooey s’mores roasted over an open flame. From the wide prairie ranges, with the open spaces, to the incredible wildlife, and diverse climates. These things have made many parts of the U.S. hotspots for people who get their thrills from spending time off the grid, communing with nature.
From the RV camper to the survivalist, we sought out some of the best spots in the U.S. for everyone. Coastal sites, desert oases, urban campgrounds, mountainous climbs, and dusty valleys are all represented. If you like pitching a tent, hanging a hammock, or unwinding on a bedroll, we have found 25 of the best campgrounds in the U.S. for you to choose from.
The campgrounds offer both year-round and seasonal accommodations. If you have a family with a lot of different tastes, or if you want to switch up your experience from day to day, then Ludington will easily keep you entertained. Offering many choices from swimming in Lakes Michigan and Hamlin, beach walks, kayak rentals, jet skiing, sand dunes, marshlands, and forests made for nature hikes.
There are a limited number of campsites, however, there are several adjacent and nearby campgrounds. There are many photo opportunities and challenging trails which abound in the twisted Arches National Park where formidable red stones litter the ground. It’s easy to get lost, so anyone who fancies a challenge along with some spectacular sights is welcome.
Hawaii, though not exactly known as a camping region, due to the resort nature of much of the islands has one of the most stunning sites. Volcanoes National Park offers numerous light hiking or strolling trails. In the evening you can look out where active volcanoes light up the sky, and during the day you can explore the strange rock formations and flora that have formed from the lava.
The evergreen state has countless places for any outdoor enthusiast, but Olympic has more than just exceptional trees and hiking. It bears three completely different ecosystems, including a rainforest. Hike the hills or watch whales migrate when the season is right. Camp in any of the provided grounds or spend $5 on a backcountry camping permit and put up your suspended tree tent in any of the massive forestlands.
Pitch your tent amongst Aztec red sandstone formed by ancient dunes that date back to the dinosaurs. The campground’s namesake arch is one of the premier attractions, but you’ll also find petrified trees, narrow slot canyons and ancient petroglyphs, like the one at Valley of Fire’s second campground, which is better suited to RVs and trailers.
Sitting right at the juncture of the Colorado and Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree is one of the few really arid places in the U.S. where camping is a delight (don’t forget to bring LOTS of water). There are more than 10 mountain peaks in the area if you like to hike, but if going vertical is more your style, strap on your rock climbing shoes and get ready for some serious scaling. This is a handy winter location since off-season rates apply and it never gets unbearably cold.
We don’t want to send you to a tourist trap, but within the 2,400 square miles, there’s plenty to do that isn’t in the brochure. Grab yourself a fishing kayak and a recurve bow, then head out for some of the most amazing game fishing you can imagine. Rent a canoe and find your own fun on the waterways, or pack along your favorite mountain bike to test the remarkably challenging trails.
For watersport enjoyment without the coastal crowds, and some of the most laid-back fishing you can imagine, this is area idyllic. White sand beaches, boating, water skiing, and casting opportunities flourish around Lake McConaughy. It truly is a slice of paradise done Americana style. Dune buggy riders and those who enjoy desert adventures can hop over to the Nebraska Sandhills for a very different experience.
When woodlands, botany, and hiking get your motor running, this is the place to find sun-dappled glades full of some of the most astounding trees in the world. Due to the high arboreal content, amateur ornithologists will find all manner of nesting birds in the area who fill the woods with song. You’ll find less in the way of exciting activities and much more in the way of centering yourself in Zen calm. For those who enjoy hunting and fishing, this is a must-see place.
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MONTANA
Parks and camping areas aren’t ordinarily known for how exciting their roadways are, but Glacier has the Going-to-the-Sun Road which is 50 miles of winding highway wending its way through the festival of nature for those who want a little hairpin mountain joyriding. Naturally, that isn’t all that the park has to offer for campers. More than a thousand standard camping spots and an untold number of backcountry places nestled among the receded glaciers will entice any mountaineer armed with an ice ax.
There are 79 of the Jellystone family-friendly campgrounds in the country, and if you’re looking to take your kids on a nice, structured camping trip where there’s plenty of entertainment. We found the one in Hagerstown to be more enjoyable for everyone with lots of activities and a general theme park sense of fun that will keep the little ones amused and entertained without boring or annoying the adults. This one is definitely geared towards families.
If you are looking for a little history to go along with your hiking and trail riding, you’ll find that there’s a nice mixture of modern and archaic on these islands. Several Civil-War sites offer tours that will pique your curiosity and provide you with background on the area. Then, jump onto a stand-up paddleboard to take a tour of the surrounding surf. Natural tide pools and other wonders dot the landscape punctuated by lighthouses and other man-made treasures.
Encompassing 700,000 acres spread across 21 counties, choosing where to camp inside the forest named for frontier folk hero Daniel Boone is a challenge. Climbers should head for Red River Gorge’s Koomer Ridge Campground, where they’ll have access to sandstone cliffs. More into waterfalls? Time your trip to Cumberland Falls Campground around a full moon, when the 125-foot wide sheet of water creates a rare lunar rainbow known as a moonbow.
Camping is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in the Badlands. Painted rocks litter the landscape with plenty of climbing opportunities as well as just more scenic vistas per square mile than anywhere else. Hosted events in the park help bring out its glory, and artifact hunters can find all manner of fossils and leftovers from early humankind. Be careful of the venomous animals in this area though!
Anywhere along the front range of the Rocky Mountains, you’ll be able to throw up a tent and live contented, but if you want a place that is extremely climber friendly and wants visitors to be challenged more than relaxed, this is the spot for you. It’s a long drive up a winding dirt path, but once up there you’ll see nothing but kindred spirits who can suggest great fishing holes and rocks to hop.
This barrier island is a true escape, a car-less outpost accessible only by boat with more than nine miles of pristine beach. Spend your days kayaking along the coast, biking inland trails, or scanning for manatees and dolphins, then wave the day trippers goodbye and crash in one of 30 primitive campsites where the rhythm of the surf will lull you to sleep.
For those who just long for the space to do as they please, there are the 6 million acres of the Adirondacks. Spend time camping out on your own personal island, walk among the trees, visit with locals in one of the small towns that lay about the area, boat, sail, canoe, climb, hike, and revel in nature’s bounty. If it isn’t here, you don’t need it.
Just a little way from the Dallas Airport is a spot where you can camp if you so desire, but you can also rent a lovely cabin complete with WiFi for that home-away-from-home experience. Right on the shores of Grapevine lake, there’s plenty to do on the water and plenty of wineries and festivals to help take the edge off your trip.
Located in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, this lake sits 6,300 feet above sea level and allows visitors to enjoy one of the largest desert bodies of water in the world. Bald Eagles and Blue Heron are likely to soar overhead as you are able to land some impressive lake trout and other biters. Hike, climb, stroll, or while away the hours basking in the sun.
Glamping meets the backcountry at Gulf State Park’s three walk-in Outpost sites, where canvas tents set on the sand look pulled from a wanderlust Pinterest board. Each comes with four beds, an outdoor sink, port-a-potty, fire pit and, perhaps most importantly, peace and privacy.
Outside of Yellowstone, there are probably few places quite as visited and therefore as touristy as Yosemite, but the problem is that it is nearly unparalleled. 95% of the park is completely natural, meaning you won’t be bothered by cars, ATVs, or other distractions. It’s just you and nature.
Camping doesn’t need to be a lot of work, stress, and strain. Head to the Hot Springs of Arkansas when you’re looking for a natural spa treatment done out in the glory of nature. Soak yourself carefree in the natural sprints of the Ouachita Mountains. You can take tours or go on a few walkabouts, but we aren’t sure why you would.
Dedicated to environmental education, hit pause and appreciate the wilderness around you at this non-profit wildlife refuge. Explore 40 miles of trails, paddle on one of the property’s 10 ponds, navigate the orienteering course and duck into the onsite museum, or ditch the great outdoors for antiquing in nearby Woodbury or a tasting at a local vineyard.
Central to the park is, as you would expect, a glacier that can be hiked. The majority of the rest of the park is water where rafting is highly encouraged, so long as you know what you’re doing. Trails are generally unmarked, which means you should only head out if you’re looking for a challenge or wish to end it all the hard way.
Every camper of any skill level will find something to love in Acadia. Head out into the waves for swimming in the chop, boating, fishing, or snapping up Maine lobster. Tackle Cadillac Mountain if you’re looking for a vertical ascent. Go deep into the woods in any direction. For whatever you want out of your camping experience, Acadia provides.