“What are the greatest spots to camp around me?” you may be thinking. One of the best parts about traveling throughout the United States is that there are so many wonderful locations to camp from coast to coast. On a weekend (or longer) camping trip, nature enthusiasts may enjoy fresh air, magnificent mountains, and beautiful lakes and streams. Not only may you pitch a tent here, but there are also lots of picnic sites, hiking routes, and possibilities for fishing, swimming, and other outdoor sports in the vast wide wilderness. From scenic forests in Maine to peaceful beaches in Florida and majestic mountains in Alaska, these are some of the most beautiful places to camp in the U.S.
While many of these parks have distinct, built-up campgrounds to choose from with features like running water and electricity for RV parking that are ideal if you’re planning a road trip, more experienced and outdoorsy types can also find plenty of spots for backcountry camping, where they can really rough it in the wild. In any case, don’t forget to pack your sleeping bag and check the website before you go to be sure your preferred campsite is available – many are only open seasonally, after all.
However, keep in mind that the majority of the campsites and national parks on this list are home to wild bears, whether black, brown, or grizzly bears. Remember to always be aware of your surroundings, read up on bear safety before you go, and take extra precautions — like locking up your food carefully and keeping some bear pepper spray handy — while you’re there.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park, located on Mount Desert Island, is the natural gem of the Pine Tree State. The park has approximately 50,000 acres of woodland, 24 lakes and ponds, and 158 miles of hiking paths, providing a picturesque background for all of your experiences. You’ll also find five campgrounds to set up your tent: Blackwoods (close to Bar Harbor), Seawall (less touristy), Schoodic Woods (situated on the Schoodic Peninsula), Duck Harbor (located on Isle au Haut and only reachable from the mainland by mailboat) and Wildwood Stables (available to guests with stock animals only). Campsites may be reserved online up to 60 days in advance. All campsites shut for the season during the winter, but reopen in May for spring, summer, and autumn camping.
White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire and Maine
If you’re looking for a challenging trek, go no farther than the northernmost area of the Appalachian Valley, which is towards the beginning (or finish, depending on which way you’re hiking) of the Appalachian Trail. The scenery of White Mountains National Forest is especially beautiful in the autumn, when leaf-peeping season is at its finest. There are also various campgrounds and cottages, which provide everything from fully constructed campsites suitable for families to stark backcountry locations suitable for people who love wilderness camping. The Barnes Field and Hancock campgrounds are open year-round — Barnes Field sites must be reserved ahead of time from mid-May to mid-October but are available on a first come, first served basis during the winter, while group sites at the Hancock campground can be booked anytime.
Minnewaska State Park Reserve, New York
Minnewaska State Park Reserve is located on Shawangunk Ridge, more than 2,000 feet above sea level, and surrounded by rugged terrain, just 94 miles from New York City. That’s a lot of area to walk, cycle, and enjoy the scenery. Reservations for the Sam F. Pryor III Shawangunk Campground are available online beginning in March each year, since it is closed during the winter months. There are 50 total tent sites (24 walk-in sites and 26 drive-in sites), as well as five car-camping sites, and amenities such as Wi-Fi, coin-operated showers, and communal fire pits and picnic pavilions.
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
About a 90-minute drive from Washington D.C., Shenandoah National Park offers more than 500 miles of trails, including the popular but strenuous 9.4-mile trek up Old Rag Mountain that’s a must-do for avid hikers (book your day-use ticket ahead of time online). This magnificent park, spanning 199,200 acres, provides many vistas of beautiful woods and waterfalls. Its amenities are available in the spring, summer, and autumn, and it offers five campsites. Note that while most campsites can be reserved online up to six months ahead, you must actually be there to book one of the first come, first served campsites — people tend to book long weekend stays starting on Thursday or Friday, so plan your trip accordingly. For the most up-to-date information on first-come, first-served campground availability, text SHENCAMP to 888777.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland
The Assateague Island National Seashore campsites are located around nine miles south of Ocean City, Maryland, and provide 37 miles of beach for camping, swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, crabbing, bicycling, kayaking, and seeing wild horses. Despite the fact that the Assateague Island National Seashore is situated in both Maryland and Virginia, camping is only accessible on the Maryland side. Campers are not allowed to bring in firewood from outside Maryland and the area is currently experiencing a canine distemper outbreak, so make sure any furry friends you’re bringing along are up to date on all their shots before you go. From mid-March to mid-November, campsites may be rented online, and most include picnic tables and a fire ring.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
When you go camping in Dry Tortugas National Park, situated just off the coast of Key West in South Florida, you may enjoy one of the world’s biggest barrier reefs right outside your tent. Campers may rent snorkeling equipment, spend their days lounging on the beach, or visit Fort Jefferson, a 19th-century bastion built by the Union army during the Civil War to blockade Rebel commerce lines. Pack a pair of binoculars since this region is also fantastic for astronomy at night and bird-watching during the day. All campers are advised to plan ahead and bring everything they’ll need (including tents, fresh water, ice, food, and fuel), carry out all trash, and book their ferry transportation from Key West as early as possible, as tickets tend to sell out months in advance.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
If you’re looking for a great place to go rafting, canoeing, and kayaking, Big Bend National Park along the Rio Grande in Texas is an excellent place to go. Hiking and backpacking paths go across the park’s desert, mountain, and river environments. You’ll find three developed campgrounds — Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, and Cottonwood — an RV camping area, and plenty of opportunities for backcountry camping. Backcountry permits are necessary for river excursions and allowed backcountry usage at the park’s primitive sites, and all require previous reservations.
Ozark–St. Francis National Forests, Arkansas
Arkansas offers a lot of beautiful landscape that is sometimes ignored. The Ozark-St. Francis National Forests include 1.2 million acres of recreation area, nine beaches, several lakes and streams, and over 1,000 miles of hiking trails. Campers can choose between a number developed campgrounds for RV and tent camping, some of which, including Cove Lake, Redding, and the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area, are open year-round. Additional campsites available seasonally from May to October include Long Pool, Storm Creek, Shores Lake, and Lake Wedington. Primitive camping is also allowed inside the five wilderness zones; just remember to carry some water (or a water filtering equipment) and leave no trace.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Don’t underestimate the Badlands’ beauty. The weather may be harsh, but the scenery is stunning. There are plains and areas to look for old fossils among the numerous rock formations found in Badlands National Park. Inside the park, there are two campsites. Cedar Pass, the first, has 96 campsites, breathtaking views of the numerous rock formations, and amenities like running water and electricity. The second campsite, Sage Creek, is a smaller one with 22 first-come, first-served sites and no running water, however you may regularly see bison roaming about.
Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho
The rugged Smoky Mountains provide breathtaking vistas reminiscent of a Bob Ross painting. There are many of campsites scattered across this 756,000-acre forest, but Sawtooth National Recreation Area is one of the greatest. It’s a fantastic place to go hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing, rafting, boating, trekking, or cycling, and just get back to nature. While half the sites are available on a first come, first served basis, reservations can be made online ahead of time, with camping season taking place each year from late-May to mid-September.
Glacier National Park, Montana
There are 13 established campgrounds and over 1,000 campsites where you may stay and enjoy the breathtaking vistas of Montana’s Glacier National Park. Hikers can also enjoy more than 700 miles of trails through forests, meadows, and mountains. Many campsites in Glacier National Park are first come, first served, while others need earlier reservations. Check the website to see which of them will be open if you plan on doing some wintertime wilderness camping, otherwise the main camping season happens spring through fall each year.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
You can view the Rocky Mountains and abundance of animals and lakes just north of Jackson Hole. Grand Teton National Park is also near the National Elk Refuge, where you may see hundreds of elk depending on the time of year. Although you may stay at any of the six campsites inside the national park, Signal Mountain has received the most positive feedback. You’ll also discover an RV park and a hamlet with tent cottages if you want to go beyond basic tent camping. Whatever you do, make your reservation as long in advance as possible, since bookings for campsites up to six months in advance open online and tend to fill up rapidly. Keep a watch out for free-roaming bison, mule deer, and moose, as well as the odd bear.
Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests, Colorado
With almost 3,000 miles of trails and three million acres of public property, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests ensure a stunning perspective of the Rocky Mountains. The 59 campsites provide a range of scenery, including open meadows, evergreen woods, mountains, and lakes. Most are available seasonally, with a handful remaining open all year – check the website ahead of time for road conditions if you want to camp during the winter months.
Arches National Park, Utah
Nothing like waking up to fresh, white snow set against the red cliffs of Arches National Park on a frigid morning. The Delicate Arch Trail, one of the park’s most popular walks, takes you on a fantastic trip full of picture possibilities. It’s worth noting that Arches only has one campground, The Devils Garden, with 51 campsites, while there are additional options in the Moab region. Due to its size and the number of people who visit the park during the busier months, reservations are required for stays between March 1 and October 31 — campsites are available on a first come, first served basis from November to February.
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
The Arch Rock Campsite is a tranquil camping sanctuary surrounded by spectacular red sandstones located approximately 45 minutes from Las Vegas inside Valley of Fire State Park. Arch Rock is one of only two campsites inside the park, with 29 sites available during the busiest months (spring through autumn), whereas Atlatl Rock Campground has 44 sites and is open year round. All sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The park, which opened in 1935, is home to 2,000-year-old petroglyphs, strange rock formations, and stunning panoramas of its trademark red sandstone.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
If you want a breathtaking vista, there is no better site than the Grand Canyon. Throughout the summer, reservations are recommended for two of the three constructed campsites. A permit is also required for backcountry camping. Although the South Rim is simpler to access, it may become busy. If you don’t mind a little longer drive, visit the North Rim for a more private vacation. Note, however, that North Rim campgrounds are only open seasonally from mid-May to mid-October, while several sites along the South Rim are open year-round, including the Mather Campground and Trailer Village in South Rim Village. Two other South Rim spots, Desert View and Ten–X, are only open seasonally from mid-April to mid-October and mid-May through September, respectively.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Keep in mind that Carlsbad Caverns National Park requires timed admission reservations for everyone who want to visit. While ranger-guided tours at Carlsbad Caverns National Park have largely been suspended as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, you can still book a spot on the 1.5-hour King’s Palace Tour, which offers a look at the unique rock formations found inside the cavern, such as helictites, soda straws, and draperies, among others. In the late summer and early autumn, it’s also an excellent area to see bats in the caves. It should be noted that the park only allows backcountry camping, and all campers must get a permit from the park’s visitor center upon arrival (camping facilities and other accommodations may be obtained seven miles away in White’s City or 20 miles away in Carlsbad). When at the visitor center, inquire about the park’s seasonal Bat Flight Programs and Night Sky Programs, since these are only available at particular times of the year.
Olympic National Park, Washington
Nothing beats camping adjacent to this stunning coastline, which is defined by various sea stacks. There are 14 separate campsites in Olympic National Park, some by the shore and others in the rain forest, so you may experience a range of sceneries. Before you travel, check the campground status page on the park’s website to see if there are any seasonal or weather-related closures. While most are first come, first served, you can reserve a spot ahead of time online during the summer at the Mora, Hoh Rain Forest, Karaloch, and Fairholme campgrounds, as well as the Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort RV Park & Campground and Log Cabin Resort RV & Campground.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Crater Lake National Park is home to the United State’s deepest lake (1,943 feet!) and a sleeping volcano, so there are plenty of photo opportunities for nature lovers. Campers can choose between two campgrounds: Mazama, for RV and tent camping from June to late September, and Lost Creek, which was closed for all of 2022 and but is normally open from July til mid-October for tents only. Backcountry camping is also available with a permission.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Joshua Tree National Park has nine campgrounds, including Jumbo Rocks, which is notable for its large boulder boulders that shield campsites from the wind. It is highly recommended that you book your campsite ahead of time online — especially during the busy season, which happens between November and May, as well as on holidays, weekends, and any spring day — as most of them can be reserved up to six months in advance. Be aware that certain sections of the Cottonwood, Black Rock, and Indian Cove campgrounds may be closed during the summer — those campgrounds, as well as Ryan and Jumbo Rocks require reservations all year round, while the others are available on a first come, first served basis.
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is a must-see for anybody who enjoys nature, particularly for a wonderful camping vacation. Nearly 95% of the park is designated wilderness, and there are 13 popular campgrounds scattered throughout the park, as well as backcountry camping for people who really want to rough it. Note that the Tuolumne Meadows Campground is expected to remain closed for renovations through 2023 or possibly 2024 depending on the construction schedule. Visit the park’s campground page to discover more about the ideal times to make reservations and join the North Pines Campground early access lottery.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California
Want to view some of North America’s largest trees? Look no further than Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, where you can set up camp among any of 14 scenic campgrounds. Choose from several different areas throughout the parks — Grant Grove Village, the foothills of Sequoia National Park, the Lodgepole and Giant Forest areas, Cedar Grove, and the Mineral King area — and make your reservations in advance. All campsites are available from spring through autumn, with the exception of the South Fork, Potwisha, and Azalea sites, which are open all year.
Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii
Haleakal National Park is well-known for its 10,023-foot dormant volcano, which provides excellent views of Maui’s natural scenery. There are designated campsites at the Kpahulu and Hosmer Grove campgrounds, as well as extra housing in the park’s historic wilderness cabins. Visitors looking for a more natural experience may visit the Hlua and Palik basic wilderness camping sites. Whichever form of camping you like, you must make reservations in advance to camp here all year and are only permitted to spend three nights each 30-day period.
Denali National Park, Alaska
If you’ve never traveled to Alaska, you’re missing out on some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the country. Denali National Park offers 6.1 million acres of land full of wildlife, beautiful trails, and plenty of plants, creeks, and mountains, including Mount McKinley, North America’s tallest peak. Pick from five existing campsites — except Wonder Lake, which will be closed until 2024 — and make your reservation online as soon as possible to prevent disappointment.