There are 113,000 federally managed campsites in the U.S. and 166,000 campsites across state parks! Though not all can claim they’re the best of the best. Picture it: A little dusty patch of land with a view of your neighbor’s RV. Not exactly inspiring. But there are some sites that will absolutely take your breath away, whether you’re perched on a cliff above the ocean, have a piece of island paradise or are looking at sweeping vistas. With so many to choose from, we found the five best campgrounds in the U.S., according to 10 travel and camping experts.
And when you set out for your next vacation, campgrounds are a great option! In a survey of 2,000 U.S. residents, 60 percent answered that they feel their absolute happiest while on vacation. When asked to specify what new activities they’d like to try, respondents cited camping and taking a cross-country road trip. Both of these options can be rolled into one cross-country “camp-cation.”
Another reason to camp is to pass down a love of The Great Outdoors. In a poll about camping, the average respondent believes that learning how to properly camp is nearly impossible if you don’t get into it before you’re 11 years old. And a study found the average child between six and 16 years old spends only an hour a day outside, but plays video games over twice as long. So, if you’ve got young kids in your family, it may be time to get out the camping gear. If you need an equipment upgrade, here’s a list of the best camping chairs.
With prices of just about everything rising, you can save a lot by staying at a campsite instead of a hotel. According to Car and Tent, state and national parks don’t cost much to stay in, with some as little as $15 a night and others only $35 for access to both water and electricity at your campsite. But the average cost of a hotel room in the United States is $180 a night. And most hotel rooms can’t promise the same scenic views as a campsite. That is, if you stay at one of the best campgrounds in the U.S. and not one of those dusty patches. So, keep reading to discover the best of the best sites to visit on your next trip to the wilderness! Are you seasoned in camping? Leave your campground recommendations below in the comments!
The List: Best Campgrounds, According To Experts
1. Campground at Assateague State Park
TimeOut recommends you take time to visit this state park: “This island has it all: beach camping, swimming, surfing, crabbing, kayaking and, oh yeah, tons of wild horses just roaming the grounds. With 37 miles of shoreline, there’s plenty of beachfront campgrounds to go around. Just note that Assateague Island has both a state park and a national park. If you want a warm shower, then camp at the state park campground. And don’t forget to lock up your food if you don’t want the horses to ransack your tent.”
“The island offers beach camping, swimming, sunbathing, surfing, paddle-boarding, crabbing, bird watching, fishing, hunting, biking and ocean kayaking. That should be plenty to keep you busy,” The Outbound writes.
PureWow advises campers to “bring along firewood and anything they need for potentially bad weather. It’s incredibly scenic, with camps on both the bay side of the island and overlooking the ocean.”
2. Kīpahulu Campground at Haleakalā National Park
PureWow says to prepare to be wowed by this remote campground: “Hawaii has a plethora of camping available on its islands, but one of the most scenic is in Haleakalā National Park at Kīpahulu Campground on Maui. The area is lush, filled with streams and waterfalls, and the views of the coast are unparalleled. The campground is slightly remote, although you can drive in, and it’s limited to three days. There are toilets and picnic tables, as well as a water-refilling station, but be prepared to be away from civilization during your stay and pack both sun and rain gear. Once situated, it’s the hiking trails that will draw you in.”
“The Haleakalā National Park backcountry also offers prime wilderness tent camping, with utterly unique views of sliding sand, jutting rock cliffs and rich vegetation. Grab a permit from the visitor center and set off on your island adventure to the hike-in sites and wilderness cabins. Visit Haleakalā National Park in the late spring or early fall to avoid the highest temperatures and most of the rainy season,” Lonely Planet recommends.
“Haleakalā National Park is known for its 10,023-foot dormant volcano,” Travel + Leisure writes. “No matter what style of camping you’re into, you must make reservations ahead of time to camp here throughout the year.”
3. Mather Campground at Grand Canyon National Park
Insider raves about this campsite: “Mather Campground in Grand Canyon National Park offers 327 campsites equipped for both traditional tents and RVs. Each one comes with a campfire ring with a cooking grate, a picnic table, parking space, and room for up to three tents. The campground is nestled in a wooded area that has access to thousands of miles of nearby hiking trails and canyon views. Located on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park in northern Arizona, campers looking for a more isolated spot will appreciate the wide-open spaces.”
An excellent stay is almost guaranteed, according to Travellers Autobarn: “Mather Campground is the only campground within Grand Canyon Village. Camping anywhere in the Grand Canyon is sure to be a treat; however, Mather Campground sits 2 minutes from the South Rim, and 4 minutes from the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, and is sure to be an excellent spot for your stay.”
You can visit Mather Campground any time of year. “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,” Travel + Leisure writes in their review.
4. Kirk Creek Campground at Big Sur
Trips To Discover recommends this picturesque place to pitch your tent, saying, “Kirk Creek Campground offers the chance to unzip your tent in the morning and watch a glorious sunrise over the glistening waters of the Pacific. Perched just above the ocean, it doesn’t get much better than this. Campers will not only enjoy the amazing panoramic views, but access to a picturesque cove and rocky beach known for jade discoveries and easy access to an abundance of trails that lead to majestic Redwoods, cascading falls, lush meadows and streams.”
BestLife describes what makes this location so beautiful: “Generally speaking, Big Sur is the stretch of California’s Central Coast that’s bordered by the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The area is known for its beachside cliffs, an abundance of redwoods (it’s part of Los Padres National Forest), hiking trails, and the fact that it’s located along the famous Pacific Coast Highway — all of which make the locale an extremely popular camping spot.”
“Kirk Creek is a short walk away from a rockier beach, but the peaceful sound of the waves, incredible night sky, and beauty that surrounds you make up for it. You won’t need an Instagram filter at Kirk Creek,” adds Travellers Autobarn.
5. Blackwoods Campground at Acadia National Park, Maine
VacationIdea thinks camping at Acadia is the best way to experience it: “Acadia National Park is best experienced by camping at one of the campgrounds in the park. Blackwoods is open year-round and has the closest access to Bar Harbor and the park’s best hiking trails. Each site is nestled in the woods and just a ten-minute walk to the ocean.”
“Located on Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park is the Pine Tree State’s natural jewel. The park boasts nearly 50,000 acres of forests, 24 lakes and ponds, and 158 miles of hiking trails, offering a scenic backdrop for all your adventures. You’ll also find five campgrounds to set up your tent. Blackwoods [is] close to Bar Harbor. Reserve campsites online ahead of time up to 60 days in advance,” Travel + Leisure says.
Have you been to any of these campsites? If so, tell us about your experience in the comments!
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- The Outbound
- Lonely Planet
- Travellers Autobarn
- Trips To Discover
- Travel + Leisure
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Nice tips! Just a note: it’s sunsets at Kirk Creek. Sunrises happen on the East Coast. We’ve camped there and it’s a 10. But the raccons carry boltcutters — serious banits there. So watch your food!