- The USA is home to a diverse range of beautiful camping spots, from dense forests to arid deserts.
- Most national parks offer dedicated campgrounds for tents and RVs.
- Some locations permit wilderness or backcountry camping for free or for a small permit fee.
- Campgrounds with cabins provide an excellent alternative to sleeping in a tent for family vacations and special occasions.
A camping vacation is an excellent way to experience America’s broad range of natural phenomena and spectacular landscapes. Many of the best camping spots offer a range of engaging outdoor activities, including kayaking, scuba diving and skiing. Below, you can discover the best places in America to pitch your tent, whether you’re looking for a coastal getaway, forest retreat or desert adventure.
1. Minnewaska State Park Preserve, New York
Located just a 90-minute drive from New York City, Minnewaska State Natural Preserve in Ulster County offers glorious views of the rugged Shawangunk Mountains. There’s plenty of natural scenery to enjoy on foot or by bike, including serene lakes, dense forests and dramatic cliffs. It’s also the ideal location for a longer family break because it provides multiple outdoor activities, including scuba diving, horseback riding and skiing.
The preserve is home to the Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground, a tent-only facility with 50 camping pads. Each pad is suitable for up to two tents and four people, and around half have space for a car. On-site amenities include cooking facilities, a bathhouse and restrooms.
2. Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park in California became a protected area in 1864 and is famous for its breathtaking waterfalls and hikes. This park covers almost 1,200 square miles and is the perfect camping spot for enjoying views of the Sierra Nevada mountains and learning about fascinating local fauna and flora. It’s home to roughly 90 mammal species, including Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep and red foxes.
Visitors can choose between 13 picturesque campsites; only seven require prior reservations. The 1,200 square mile park also offers multiple dining options, including a fine dining restaurant and street food pavilion. Several on-site food markets and gas stations make Yosemite a convenient camping location for extended family breaks.
3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho
The world-renowned Yellowstone National Park covers a broader area than Rhode Island and Delaware combined and is home to North America’s largest high-altitude lake. Although most of the park is in Wyoming, it encompasses smaller parts of Montana and Idaho. One of Yellowstone’s defining characteristics is its unique thermal features, with over 300 geysers erupting impressive water fountains at regular intervals.
Staying at one of the park’s four campsites is one of the best ways to appreciate Yellowstone’s awe-inspiring geography. The Canyon Campground offers breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon and includes convenient amenities, such as restaurants, laundry facilities and a bathhouse.
4. Big Sur, California
If your perfect camping vacation includes gorgeous rugged ocean views, Big Sur in California is hard to beat. This famous coastal region stretches between Carmel and San Simeon, flanked by the beautiful Santa Lucia mountains. A trip to Big Sur provides the unique opportunity to observe local wildlife species, including majestic California condors and fluffy sea otters.
Although Big Sur is tranquil and sparsely populated, it offers various beautiful camping spots. Book a place in one of the state parks to enjoy forest walking trails among native redwoods and conifers. Alternatively, the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve allows easy access to shoreline trails and secluded coves — ideal spots for catching a glimpse of a humpback whale or sea lion colony.
5. Cayo Costa State Park, Florida
Set on the idyllic island of Cayo Costa, the Cayo Costa State Park encompasses 9 miles of stunning, unspoiled Gulf Coast beaches. Thanks to its secluded location and local conservation efforts, it offers visitors the unique chance to observe nesting species on the shoreline. Multiple shorebird species make their nests between late winter and spring, while turtle nesting season spans between May and October.
The island is only accessible by kayak or ferry service and provides campground spaces for up to 30 tents. The campgrounds offer picnic seating, restroom and washroom facilities and drinking water access. Nearby, you can enjoy multiple activities, including scuba diving trips to observe manatees and porpoises.
6. Acadia National Park, Maine
Spanning 47,000 acres on Maine’s Atlantic Coast, Acadia National Park is home to some incredible natural features. These include over 20 mountains, almost 64 miles of rocky shoreline and distinctive pink granite, a testament to the park’s volcanic past. These diverse habitats sustain a wealth of native amphibians, mammals and birds, including agile loons diving into the lakes and ponds.
Acadia National Park contains four campgrounds, each offering a unique view of the landscape. The Blackwoods Campground offers wooded pitches within a short walk of the coast. Alternatively, reserve a space at the picturesque Duck Harbor Campground on Isle au Haut for a more secluded experience. This rugged island is only accessible by boat and offers spaces for up to six people under lean-to shelters.
7. White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire and Maine
Boasting incredible mountainous views, White Mountain National Forest is the ideal location if you enjoy more challenging hikes. Alternatively, you can ride the historic, steam-powered Mount Washington Cog Railway right to the top of the highest mountain in northeastern America. It’s best to visit in autumn when the trees turn a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and yellows.
White Mountain National Forest permits wilderness and backcountry camping but recommends consulting a trail guide to help you choose the best spots. Multiple dedicated campgrounds are also available, including large sites suitable for bigger groups.
8. Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Badlands National Park in South Dakota is home to one of America’s most dramatic natural landscapes, comprising vast canyons, rugged rock spires and beautiful layered formations. It’s also one of the country’s richest fossil sites and contains sprawling wildlife prairies teeming with fascinating plants and wildlife. A visit to the fossil preparation lab is a particular highlight, allowing you to learn about the park’s extensive scientific work from its team of paleontologists.
This park offers paid and free official camping grounds with spaces for tents and RVs. Alternatively, backcountry campers can use any area at least half a mile from the roads and trails.
9. Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Forming part of a 25-million-acre World Heritage Site, Glacier Bay National Park is one of the jewels in Alaska’s crown. Most of the park comprises a network of rivers, streams and glaciers to create a unique marine biome surrounded by snow-covered mountains and rugged rock formations. Therefore, it’s the ideal spot for kayaking and rafting — two of the best ways to explore Glacier Bay National Park in all its glory.
You can camp free of charge at the Bartlett Cove Campground, which offers tent-only pitches surrounded by dense rainforest. The park also permits backcountry camping, although this option is most suitable for experienced wilderness campers.
10. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Crater Lake National Park contains America’s deepest lake with a volcanic island at its center, making it one of the most unusual natural spectacles in the USA. About 7,700 years ago, Mount Mazama’s colossal eruption created a vast crater, forming Crater Lake and the whimsically named Wizard Island. The site is also home to forest and meadow habitats. These areas are home to several native songbirds, making Crater Lake National Park a popular vacation spot for bird-watchers.
Campers can stay at one of two dedicated campgrounds set in the heart of the forest. If you’re not a fan of tent sleeping, there are also 10 cozy log cabins containing 40 rooms in total.
11. Gunnison National Forest, Colorado
There’s no better place to enjoy imposing views of the Rocky Mountains than the Gunnison National Forest in Colorado. Comprised of evergreen forests, tranquil lakes and expansive meadows, this beautiful location offers 3,000 miles of hiking trails from beginner to extreme. The Black Canyon is a particular highlight, affording breathtaking views of the iconic Painted Wall Overlook.
Gunnison National Forest offers multiple camping options, including tent, RV and group sites. It also permits dispersed wilderness camping. Alternatively, consider renting one of the eight on-site cabins if you prefer more protection from the elements.
12. Arches National Park, Utah
As the name suggests, Arches National Park is renowned for its unique red-rock arches. The park is home to more than 2,000 of these fascinating rock formations, surrounded by deserts and rugged soil crusts. There’s a hiking trail to suit every experience and ability level, from gentle walks to challenging peaks.
Arches National Park has a single campground with 51 pads for tents and RVs. It’s worth booking well in advance if you plan to visit between March and October due to high demand. If you can’t get a space, numerous alternative camping grounds are available in nearby Moab.