So you’re about to start planning your next camping trip, but where should you go? Camping is a wonderful pastime for so many Americans, and it is a great way to explore the outdoors and lose yourself in nature.
Before you embark on your next trip, take some time to learn about the best camping sites in the United States. These five sites are some of the most spectacular in the country, with amazing geographic qualities, outdoor activities galore, and options to meet all your camping needs. Keep reading to find your perfect camping destination.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Joshua Tree National Park is a protected area located in southern California. Named for the Joshua trees that are native to the Mojave desert, the park is a vast 790,636 acres. Because it is located at the area where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet, it has a unique environment composed of two different elevations and ecosystems.
This park is known for unique rock formations and desert views. One of the most well-known rock formations in Joshua Tree is Skull Rock, which is a skull-shaped rock that wows visitors. Over time, erosion has created two “eye sockets” in this rock, which have led to its skull-like appearance.
If you are interested in scenic desert views, Joshua Tree is the perfect place. The entire park is composed of a beautiful desert landscape. Keys View, a lookout area, is a great spot to stop if you’d like to soak in some more desert views. This lookout offers vast mountain views and an overlook of Coachella Valley.
Alongside the rock formations found throughout the park, one of Joshua Tree National Park’s campgrounds is actually called Jumbo Rocks Campground, because it is known for the massive rock formations throughout the campsite. This area is popular for visitors, as they are in awe of the large boulders.
If you choose to camp at Joshua Tree National Park, there are a wide variety of activities you can participate in, including hiking, biking, stargazing, rock climbing, backpacking, horseback riding, and ranger programs.
When it comes to camping, there are nine different campgrounds to choose from within Joshua Tree. Because it is located within the desert, the summer is the slow season, so reservations are not required June through August. However, reservations are recommended throughout the rest of the year.
Zion National Park, Utah
Zion National Park is located in southwest Utah and stands at 146,597 acres. The park is located at the intersection of the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert, making for a diverse ecosystem. Zion Canyon is the park’s prominent feature, with the canyon being up to 15 miles long and 2,640 feet deep.
The Narrows are one of the most well-known attractions of Zion. This area of Zion Canyon is the narrowest section, with walls a thousand feet high and the river only 20 to 30 feet high. This is one of the most popular areas in Zion to hike, although the area is so narrow that you must hike through the Virgin River. This hike is one of the most premier hikes in the park and is almost always filled with excited explorers.
Angels Landing is a very unique rock formation that is another popular attraction at Zion National Park. In 1926, a trail was cut into this solid rock, which allows visitors to climb to the top of Angels Landing. Once hikers reach the top, they are greeted by a spectacular observation point 1,500 feet above Zion Canyon.
The Kolob Canyons are another main attraction. They are located in the northwest corner of the park and cut into the western edge of the Colorado Plateau. The Kolob Canyon create majestic peaks, with walls up to two thousand feet tall. These canyons leave visitors in awe, as they wow with their beautiful landscape and coloring.
Aside from these popular canyons, there are many outdoor activities to partake in at the park, including backpacking, biking, climbing, hiking, horseback riding, and river trips, as well as sunset viewing and stargazing.
If you choose to camp at Zion National Park, there are three campgrounds to choose from. South and Watchman Campgrounds are located within the park, while Lava Point Campground is located about a one hour drive from Zion National Park.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone is a wilderness recreation area located on top of a volcanic hot spot. It was the first national park in the U.S. and is comprised of over two million acres of land. The park is located mostly in Wyoming, but also spreads into parts of Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone is known for its wildlife and many geothermal features.
The most widely known geothermal display at Yellowstone is Old Faithful Geyser. Old Faithful is a cone geyser, and erupts on a very predictable schedule. The geyser has erupted every hour or two for the last twenty years. This means that visitors almost always are able to witness Old Faithful erupt.
Grand Prismatic Spring is a hot spring located inside Yellowstone. This hot spring is the largest in the United States. Grand Prismatic Spring is popular not only because of its size, but also for its striking coloration. This spring has shocking blue water, surrounded by beautiful orange and yellow rings. The beauty of this hot spring makes it well worth the visit.
The park boasts a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, photography, cycling, boating, fishing, horseback riding, and more. There are also guided tours and ranger programs to partake in. During the winter months, you can also participate in snowmobiling, skiing and snowshoeing, and snowmobile and snowcoach tours.
Yellowstone is a great place to camp, with 12 campgrounds and over two thousand sites to choose from. There are also numerous backcountry campsites available.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the U.S. The park includes the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains and part of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Appalachian Trail passes through the center of the park. Overall, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is 522,419 acres.
Some of the main features of the park include Cades Cove and Clingmans Dome. Cades Cove is an isolated valley area located in the Tennessee area of the park. This valley was home to many of the original settlers of North America before the park was created. Clingmans Dome is the highest peak in the Smoky Mountains. This mountain is a great spot for hikers to visit, as it has a paved trail and an observation area at the top.
Smoky Mountains National Park also boasts a wide range of outdoor activities for visitors. These activities include things like hiking, biking, horseback riding, picnicking, and fishing. In addition, viewing wildlife, wildflowers, and the fall colors is very popular in the Great Smoky Mountains. There are also some historic buildings within the park that are popular for visitors to explore.
The park also has some more unique attractions that make it a great spot for families. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a great place to visit with children. In addition, Ober Gatlinburg, an amusement park and ski area, is located right outside of Smoky Mountains National Park. This amusement park offers many activities for the whole family, including skiing, mini-golf, wildlife encounters, and more.
If you are interested in camping at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are ten developed campgrounds throughout the park that the National Park Service maintains. There are also backcountry, group, and horse campgrounds available, depending on various visitor needs.
Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite is a 747,956 acre park located in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. The park is known for its distinctive granite cliffs, waterfalls, streams, and giant sequoia groves. One of Yosemite’s most unique features is that almost 95% of the park is designated wilderness.
Two of the most popular geographic features at Yosemite are Half Dome and El Capitan. Half Dome is a well-known rock formation that was named for its shape. This granite dome has one sheer face while the other three sides are rounded, making it look like a half dome. El Capitan is a vertical, granite rock formation that is about 3,000 feet tall at it highest point. Because of its unique shape, El Capitan is very popular among rock climbers.
Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in the park, making it one of the main attractions for visitors. The waterfall is at its peak during the late spring, so that is the best time to see Yosemite Falls in all its glory.
If you’re interested in outdoor activities, Yosemite has numerous options. You can partake in hiking, biking, bird watching, horseback riding, rock climbing, and more. Also, Yosemite offers tours of the park, both ranger-led and auto tours. There are also many aquatic activities to participate in, including fishing, various water activities, and water sports.
Camping at Yosemite is a great option because there are 13 different campground options, meaning there is lots of space for campers of all kinds.
It’s Time to Camp!
Now that you’ve learned about the top five camping sites in the U.S., it’s time to embark on a camping trip of your own! At any of these sites, you can have an amazing and unique experience. All you need is a sense of adventure, and you’re well on your way to having the best camping trip.
Go have fun! Just be sure not to litter, nobody likes people who litter!