The United States is filled with beautiful open spaces. Parks and recreational areas offer something special for every camping enthusiast including green mountains, cool lakes and even rock strewn deserts. Some of the top camping destinations are world famous such as California’s Yosemite National Park while others are less well known, but no less inviting. You can choose from a range of activities like hiking, fishing and simply relaxing as you roast marshmallows over a crackling campfire. The top camping destinations also offer you the chance to reconnect with the outdoors and take a little break from our plugged in world.
10. Smarter Than The Average Camper
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park located near Hagerstown, Maryland is a fun-filled camping experience for the whole family to enjoy. Although Yogi the Bear and the gang cater to kids there are plenty of interesting things for mom and dad as well. For example, you can soak up a bit of important Civil War history at the nearby Antietam National Battlefield. Campers have plenty of options including staying in luxury cabins, parking an RV or simply pitching a tent. Whatever option you choose you’ll be busy enjoying a range of activities with the whole family including water sports, crafts and hiking. You can also expect visits from Yogi and his friends as they try to stay out of trouble. The park offers different themes and special events throughout the year such as Carnival Week held in the middle of August and Tailgate Weekend held the first weekend in September. Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park is located in a beautiful part of Maryland it does not offer the wide open expanses you’ll find in some of the national parks, but kids will enjoy the long list of activities that are sure to keep them busy.
9. Home Of The Warrior
Wyalusing State Park is located where the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers meet. Waylaying means “Home of the Warrior” in the Lenape language of the Munsee-Delaware Indians who settled the area in the 19th century. The Wyalusing Hardwood Forest is recognized as a National Natural Landmark. The area is also known for prehistoric Indian mounds that can be seen along the bluffs of the river valleys. Campers come from far and wide to see the exceptionally thick tree growth and the thriving bird populations that have made the Hardwood Forest their home. If bird watching isn’t your thing you can take a more active approach and try your skills at hunting and fishing. Campers can choose from two family campsites, group campsites as well as an indoor camping experience. The indoor camps are lodges with dormitories for large groups and include a commercial kitchen and recreation room. There are few amenities for campers except at the indoor camps, but you can experience all that Wyalusing State Park does have to offer for free.
8. Alligator Alley
Everglades National Park in Florida has more to offer than the famous “Alligator Alley” between Naples and Weston. This park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States and is home to a number of rare and endangered animals. The Everglades is actually one of the top camping destinations. Although the campgrounds are open year-round you may not want to visit during the wet season between June and November because the conditions can be unpleasant. The park offers traditional tent and RV campsites that are accessible by car called frontcountry camping. If you’re looking for a little more adventure you have the option of choosing a backcountry campsite. These sites are mostly accessible by boat or canoe. Some can be reached by hiking, but you should make sure you are well prepared and bring all the gear you’ll need. These backcountry sites include beach campsites as well as elevated platforms called “chickees.” Canoes offer a great way to share the Everglades’ waterways with the alligators as you see the sights or take advantage of the great fishing.
7. Pele’s Campground
The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the big island of Hawaii boasts not one, but two volcanoes. The Kilauea volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and Mauna Loa is the biggest shield volcano in the world. The volcanoes provide beautiful and unique landscapes as well as plenty of opportunities for scientists to study the volcanic process that formed the island chain. In traditional Hawaiian culture Kilauea is believed to be the home of the volcano goddess Pele. Offerings were brought to the crater to appease Pele. This National Park has two areas set aside for camping. One is the Namakanipaio campsite and the other is the Kulanaokuaiki campsite. You can bring your own tent or rent a tent to use during your stay in the park. But if you are looking for a little more luxury you can also stay in one of the cabins. There are plenty of sightseeing opportunities for hikers to explore the dramatic lava rock formations and unique flora that flourish in the park. Even though it’s Hawaii you should pack some warm clothes for the cooler overnight temperatures at elevation.
6. High On A Desert Plain
Joshua Tree National Park is located in southeastern California and is a short distance from Palm Springs. The Joshua Trees that give the park its name are native to the Mojave Desert and are a major attraction for visitors. The park includes both mountainous and desert terrain that offers plenty of hiking and camping opportunities for different tastes including tent and RV options. There are a number of unique geological features, such as Skull Rock, that are popular destinations. The park has nine campgrounds, but only two of them provide water and flush toilets for campers so keep this in mind when choosing a site. Backpackers have the option of backcountry camping. This can be an exciting experience, but make sure you are well prepared for the hot, dry conditions. Some of the hiking trails can be accessed from the campgrounds and some of these trails are also horse riding trails. In addition to the scenic hiking trails Joshua Tree National Park also has rock formations suitable for rock climbing. Whatever activities you choose make sure you pack plenty of water to cope with the arid conditions.
5. Mount Olympus
The wilderness area now known as Olympic National Park had originally been designated the Olympus National Monument in 1909. But whatever you call it this region of northeastern Washington is one of the most scenic places in the United States. The park contains several diverse areas including the Pacific coastline, a temperate rainforest in the west, a drier forest in the east as well as an alpine area with majestic snowcapped mountains. The park offers a network of hiking trails, but it can be difficult to reach some of them because none of the roads extend into the interior. The diverse ecosystems found in the park support a wide range of activities including canoeing, rafting, fishing, skiing, snowboarding. There are even opportunities for whale watching during the migration season. Olympic National Park offers several campgrounds to choose from or you can hike further into the interior for some backcountry camping. There are also two lodges and two resorts to choose from, but you’ll need to make reservations well in advance. The Hurricane Ridge Viewpoint is one of the most popular places to take photographs because of its expansive views of the forests and mountain peaks.
4. Big Sky Country
Glacier National Park is located in Montana and is made up of more than a million acres of scenic wilderness. The park’s mountain ranges were created 170 million years ago by a huge movement of the Earth’s crust known as the Lewis Overthrust. This glacial activity formed U-shaped valleys and exposed a large number of well preserved fossils. As of 2010 there were 25 active glaciers in the park. The park supports a wide variety of animals including grizzly bears, mountain lions, mountain goats and wolverines. You’ll also find many thriving populations of birds and fish. You will have opportunities to see these beautiful animals, but some of them can be dangerous so you must remain vigilant at all times. Glacier National Park offers 13 campgrounds to choose from with more than 1,000 sites. There are also plenty of areas around the park where you can set up your tent in the backcountry. Once you have your camp set up you can take advantage of the more than 700 miles of hiking trails that allow you to explore some of the most scenic areas of the park. If you need to give your feet a rest you can see many of the park’s amazing sights by driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road.
3. Island Getaway
Acadia National Park in Maine is the oldest national park in the United States east of the Mississippi River. Acadia occupies most of Mount Desert Island and a number of smaller islands. It also occupies a part of the mainland called the Schoodic Peninsula. The park is only a little more than 49,000 acres, but it encompasses a diverse wilderness area that includes forests, mountains, lakes and ocean shorelines. Many different kinds of animals live in the park including black bears, coyotes, minks, foxes, owls and bald eagles. There are four campgrounds to choose from in the park with both RV and tent camping. There are also several group sites available, but you’ll have to make your reservations in advance. Unlike many of the other national parks Acadia does not allow backcountry camping. You can enjoy a wide range of activities including hiking, boating, swimming and great fishing that includes the chance to catch fresh Maine lobsters. Cadillac Mountain is one of the most popular destinations in the park. Its pink granite summit offers visitors stunning views of the forests and lakes below.
2. Golden Arches
Arches National Park is located in eastern Utah and is well known for its dramatic rock formations. More than 2,000 of the dramatic arch formations populate the park’s 76,000 acres making it the highest concentration of natural arches on Earth. The park lies on top of a vast underground salt bed which over the course of millions of years formed the dramatic arches and other geological formations. One of the areas most popular sites can be seen from the park’s visitor center. The Moab Fault is 2,500-foot uplift of rock thrust above desert floor by powerful geological processes. But if you go to Arches National Park you have to see the arches such as the famous Delicate Arch. It will be well worth the effort to hike out to see as many of the arches and other unique rock formations. Unfortunately, there is only one campground inside the park. In the spring and summer you’ll likely have to make campsite reservations as much as six months in advance for the limited number of sites. The campgrounds are first-come, first-served during the winter months.
1. The Mountains Are Calling
Yosemite National Park spans nearly 748,000 acres and receives an average of four million visitors a year. Visitors flock to see natural wonders like El Capitan and Half Dome. The park sits on the Sierra Nevada mountain range which experienced a dramatic geologic upheaval about 10 million years ago. This upheaval resulted in a series of steep slopes and narrow canyons. Glacial ice flows formed the famous U-shaped Yosemite Valley that attracts tourists from around the world. The park offers a rich diversity of wildlife including black bears, coyotes, white-headed woodpeckers and bobcats. Yosemite National Park offers 13 campgrounds to choose from. Tent camping is popular in the park, but there is also plenty of RV camping and several lodges and hotels where you can enjoy a relatively pampered stay. Campgrounds are usually full from April through September so you’ll want to make reservations in advance. There are 800 miles of hiking trails in the park and many of the trailheads can be easily accessed from the campgrounds. A regular shuttle service makes many attractions just a short ride away. Yosemite National Park has a lot to offer and its stunning natural beauty makes it one of the top camping destinations.