Camping isn’t just about getting back to nature; it’s also about disconnecting from your busy lives and enjoying uninterrupted time with your loved ones. The nature part is a total bonus!
With millions of miles of stunning mountains, pristine beaches and crystal blue lakes, the U.S. offers endless opportunities for those looking to spend a couple nights under the stars. But, not all camping destinations are made equal.
To help you get started on your next camping trip, we’ve figured out some of the best spots, how much it costs and what to look forward to during your stay. So without further ado, here are some of the most stunning spots to pitch your tent for a few nights.
America’s Best Campsites
1. GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK | AZ
What to know: Fees are $18-$25 per site per night. A maximum of 2 vehicles, 6 people, 3 tents are allowed per site.
Where to camp: The South Rim may be more popular among tourists, but the less crowded North Rim is more ideal for camping. The North Rim’s most developed campground, the Tuweep Campground, is by far one of the most memorable. It has nine rustic, first-come, first-served sites reachable by road. Although the drive is a bit tumultuous, setting up shop near a heart stopping, 3,000-foot drop above the Colorado River makes it all worth it.
Why you should go: As one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, it’s no surprise that the Grand Canyon made this list. Overwhelming in size and intricate in color, it’s the ultimate bucket list camping spot. Hikers, cyclists, wildlife seekers, and those who simply enjoy awe-inspiring views will all find their perfect home-away-from-home at this national park. And the beauty of it all, the trip can be as intensive or relaxed as you like—and still worth every second of your time.
2. GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK | TN
What to know: Campsites range from $14–$23 per night. Open year round, although some roads, campgrounds, and visitor facilities may be closed in the winter. Reservations and permits are required for all overnight stays.
Where to camp: All in all, there are 10 campgrounds to choose from, all equipped with running water and toilets. If you’re looking for something open year-round, Cades Cove and Smokemont are your best bets. Backcountry camping is also allowed (meaning you have to hike to a remote camping location), but requires permits and reservations.
Why you should go: America’s most visited park—a truly marvelous wooded playground for the adventurer and nature lover. Not only is the area steeped in rich history (Paleo Indians once inhabited this land), but it’s also home to cascades and waterfalls, hiking trails, wildflowers, bluffs, rock formations and so much more. Beware of bears and snakes; the area is known for them. If you follow the safety and food storage rules and these easy camping tips, then you’ll be just fine!
3. SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK | VA
What to know: Entrance fees vary by season, ranging from $10 to $15 per vehicle, valid for 7 days. The park is open year-round, but the campgrounds are only open spring through fall.
Where to camp: There are four campgrounds, each with their own set of pros and cons. The Loft Mountain Campground offers amazing views and is the largest campground in park; Mathews Arm Campground and Lewis Mountain Campground offer smaller, more primitive atmospheres; And Big Meadows Campground is closest to three waterfalls. Reservations for all sites are recommended, but there are first-come first-served spots available. Backcountry camping available, but you must get a permit.
Why you should go: This national park has roughly 200,000 acres of protected lands that offer sanctuary to all the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains’ natural wonders. Enjoy daily hikes that range in skill level, or take a quiet, peaceful stroll to one of the park’s many waterfalls. However, always be on the look out for bears, snakes, and ticks… this is their home too.
4. EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK | FL
What to know: Campsites range from $16-$30 per night, depending on the hookup. Open year-round. No reservations are accepted for individual camping sites.
Where to camp: There are two developed campgrounds, accessible by road, and more than 50 backcountry campsites, accessible mostly by boat. The most popular camping spot is Long Pine Key—a large, private campsite amidst tall pine trees and close to all the best trails.
Why you should go: When we think of “camping”, we envision mountains, rivers and forests, but the Florida Everglades, which doesn’t have any of those features, is equally fantastic! With a vast ecosystem that is home to crocodiles, alligators and hundreds of bird species, the Everglades are both magnificent and easily one of eeriest places you’ll ever visit. Plus, you can enjoy backcountry camping here as well, where you can choose from ground camping, platform camping and even beach camping!
5. WHITE MOUNTAIN NATIONAL FOREST | NH
What to know: Campsites vary from $16 to $22 per night and there is no entrance fee. Backcountry tent camping is free, but parking may require a permit.
Where to camp: Out of the 24 drive-in campgrounds and 800 total combined campsites, you should try one of the walk-in state park campgrounds first—they offer a truly rustic camping environment. Reservations are optional for some, but mandatory for others, so check in beforehand.
Why you should go: The White Mountains offer some of the most breathtaking vistas and opportunities to observe native wildlife in the Northeast. There are also plenty of rugged hiking trails, biking trails and rock climbing routes, if you’re up for the challenge. Or you can enjoy a nice family picnic and observe the surrounding wildlife.
So which park are you going to next? If you’re planning to visit one of these national parks listed, there are annual, national passes available—and with the introduction of initiatives that are making visiting national parks a lot easier, there is no excuse to not get out there and explore.