Ready to pack up your gear and head out into the wilderness for spectacular views, nature walks, rock climbing, waterfall swimming and nights spent sleeping under the stars? America is full of stunning camping destinations in virtually every variety of landscape imaginable, from the dramatic Badlands buttes in South Dakota to the lush volcanic forests of Hawaii. Here are 12 of the nation’s most incredible camping spots.
Kalalau Beach, Hawaii
(image via: grantloy)
Mist-obscured volcanoes, palm trees and incredible vistas of crystalline blue-green seas await at Hawaii’s Kalalau Beach, on the Na Pali Coast in Kaua’i. The 11-mile Kalalau Trail may be one of the most difficult on the Hawaiian Islands to navigate, snaking along elevated ridges above a sea too dangerous for swimming, but the trek is worthwhile to camp beside towering waterfalls and mysterious caves. You’ll have to get on a wait list for a permit, though – this spot is protected from being overtaken by too many tourists at once, and it’s a desirable destination.
Jedidiah Smith Redwood State Park, California
(image via: miguel vieira)
The monumental natural beauty of centuries-old redwood trees are the main feature of Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, which is bisected by the last major free-flowing river in California. Named for the first white man to explore the interior of northern California, this park is densely forested and bustling with wildlife like bobcats, black bear, deer, coyote, mountain lions and river otter. At the campground, you’ll be sleeping right on the banks of the Smith River.
Continental Divide Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
(image via: brianandjaclyn)
The Continental Divide Trail in Colorado is no easy hike, but if you’re up to the challenge, it will offer incredible rewards. The entire trail is 3,100 miles long, extending from the Canadian border in Montana all the way down to the Mexican border in New Mexico. The section that runs through Rocky Mountain National Park doesn’t entirely travel the actual divide, but once you get above the treeline, it offers some of the most amazing views of this region that anyone can ever take in. Get a backcountry permit before camping.
Garden Key Campground, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
(image via: joe parks)
Take a ferry ride from Key West, Florida to the Dry Tortugas, a remote series of islands constituting the Dry Tortugas National park, for a tropical camping experience on Garden Key. A 10-site, primitive campground is sheltered within the shade of mangrove trees, just off the water, adjacent to historic forts and lighthouses.
San Gorgonio Mountain, California
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The tallest peak in Southern California, San Gorgonio Mountain offers 360-degree views and alpine scenery. And even if you can’t get all the way to the summit, just camping within view of the mountain is a rewarding experience in itself. A free Wilderness Permit sir equipped to hike the trail and to camp. South Fork Trail offers a gradual ascent to the peak and backwoods camping spots. Alternately, you could choose the San Gorgonio Campground, which offers family campsites for vehicles and RVs.
North Rim Campground, Grand Canyon National Park, Utah
(image via: steve dunleavy)
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon might just be the most beautiful natural place in America, with sweeping vistas of the Grand Canyon National Park from a higher elevation and more remote location than the more popular South Rim. Camping here is restricted tod eveloped campgrounds only, which fill up fast; reservations can be made up to six months in advance.
Memaloose State Park, Oregon
(image via: glennwilliamspdx)
Camp right on the Columbia River within Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge at Memaloose State Park. All of the region’s foggy, hazy natural beauty is on display here, along with a granite monument marking the resting place of a local pioneer. Open meadows, shooting stars and grass-covered domes make this a family-friendly camping experience.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan
(image via: jsorbius)
The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Ontonagon, Michigan is certainly a hidden gem compared to more obvious locations like Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Canyon. Quiet and peaceful, this area on Lake Superior is right near a boat launch and offers kayaking opportunities, beaches and nature walks. Campsites have electricity and water.
Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
(image via: doug letterman)
Get up close and personal with bison, elk, pronghorn and bighorn sheep in ‘America’s Serengeti’, the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park. This valley is home to an extensive variety of wildlife, including bears and wolves, with mountain peaks bordering a wide expanse of plains on either side of the Lamar River. Head to Madison Campground in the Tower-Roosevelt area as a home base.
South Fork of Arrigetch Creek, Arctic National Park, Alaska
(image via: ilyaktsn)
The Arrigetch Peaks area of Alaska is one of the most remote places in America, and a climber’s paradise. The summits are around 6,000 feet in elevation. But the best camping spots are down at Arrigetch Creek, particularly the South Fork where the banks offer flat spaces with views of the mountains on all sides.
White River Campground, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
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Camp at the base of Mount Rainier in Washington State, with the most beautiful views at White River Campground in the northeastern section of the park. It’s the closet campground to Sunrise Point, which, as its name suggests, is an ideal location from which to enjoy the rising sun. There are 112 sites, but the word is that site D29 is the one to try to snag.
Sage Creek Primitive Campground, Badlands National Park, South Dakota
(image via: puroticorico)
The landscapes of the Badlands of South Dakota are almost alien in their starkness, looking a bit like our imaginings of Mars. There’s nothing quite like laying on your back o these rocks and looking up at the stars just beyond the buttes that spike up into the sky. You’ll have to carry in your own water, but that’s a small price to pay to sleep under the wide open sky at Sage Creek Primitive Campground, where many people don’t even bother with tents.