What’s your idea when it comes to the “right” way to go camping? Some say it isn’t truly camping if you’re not far from the noise and chaos of the modern world, pitching your tent in a perfect spot near a stream or a lake sans amenities like restrooms and showers. Others can’t imagine camping without bringing all or most of the comforts of home along with them, and many more fall somewhere in between. What really matters is what you want in a camping experience. These great places to camp offer something for just about every type of camper, from the Pacific Northwest to the Florida Keys.
For those who want something truly wild, remote and beautiful, Olympic National Park in Washington state is home to extremely diverse terrain, from ocean shores to Pacific temperate rain forest and alpine glaciers. No matter what kind of camping experience you’re looking for, it can be found here. To get away from the majority of park visitors, Campbell Tree Grove Campground, located at the edge of the park in the Quinault Rain Forest, offers an ideal place to camp. Sites are free in this primitive campground, and while there are no restrooms, there are outhouses with pit toilets available in addition to a fire pit, grill and picnic table at each one. The campground is filled with 500-year-old Douglas fir and Western cedar trees, with the West Fork of the Humptulips River running through. Taking a cool dip in one of its serene pools surrounded by cascading falls provides a truly magical outdoor experience.
If primitive sounds a bit too, well, primitive, there are concession-operated RV parks as well as cabin rentals available within the park at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and Log Cabin Resort on Lake Crescent. The cabins set on the edge of this deep emerald lake make an ideal base for families exploring the park; pedal boats, rowboats, kayaks, canoes and even hydro bikes can be rented here as well.
Dreaming of listening to the sounds of roaring waves and a beach camping experience? The Oregon coast offers the chance to do just that. Although there are numerous campgrounds along the entire coastline, Beverly Beach State Park is a favorite. Located between Depoe Bay and Newport, Oregon, here you can choose from tent sites as well as sites with full hookups for RVs and trailers, and even yurts. Yurts are ideal for the city slicker who isn’t really into rustic camping or doesn’t have the necessary equipment. The dome-like cabin structure comes complete with furniture, lighting and heat.
Joshua Tree National Park in California’s Mojave Desert makes for an ideal escape in the spring and fall. Just two hours from L.A., you’ll enter a whole new world. It’s like stepping onto another planet with its landscape filled with bizarrely shaped plants and enormous boulders that tower hundreds of feet in the sky. This is a popular place for rock climbers and hikers – in addition to the desert terrain, the park is home to 10 mountain peaks higher than 5,000 feet in elevation. It’s also one of the best places for stargazing in the world. Campers are often mesmerized by the clear night sky that reveals millions upon millions of intense, glowing stars.
Here you’ll find a variety of camping experiences, from free backcountry sites to more organized camping in one of the nine established campgrounds in the park. This destination isn’t for those who have to have the comforts of home, such as a shower, as facilities are fairly basic.
The Rocky Mountain State is known for its spectacular scenery, and you’ll find no shortage of campgrounds and sites from which to take it all in. Upscale campers are sure to enjoy Dunton Hot Springs Resort in Dolores, Colorado, set at the tail of the San Juan mountain range in Montezuma County. Cabins are stretched along the Dolores River, which is well-known for some of the best fly fishing in the state. You’ll find a slew of hiking and mountain biking trails to explore right off the property, as well as a renovated historic hot spring bathhouse and a saloon that serves locally sourced meats and veggies along with fantastic local wines.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’re looking for an adventure, take Lincoln Creek Road 11 miles southeast of Aspen off Highway 82, leading to a variety of campgrounds. There are 22 primitive-style campsites at Lincoln Gulch Campground, just off the highway, but by continuing on, you’ll find a number of places to pitch your tent along the creek, surrounded by breathtaking wilderness without another soul in sight.
In the Black Hills of South Dakota, camping at Custer State Park will put you in the heart of some of the most incredible scenery in the country, and just minutes from Mount Rushmore. The park is home to buffalo, deer, wild turkeys and even wild burros. Campgrounds include everything from primitive to modern sites with lots of amenities, including showers. Just outside the entrance off Iron Mountain Road, Spokane Creek Resort offers basic camping cabins as well as housekeeping cabins with full kitchens, RV sites and tent sites. An outdoor swimming pool, playground and general store are on site.
In the southeast, the Florida Keys provide a Caribbean experience without having to leave the country. Here you can snorkel with tropical fish, swim with dolphins and see a wide array of marine life, like the gentle manatee or the fearsome alligator. On Big Pine Key, Bahia Honda State Park offers “comfort camping” in duplex cabins that are set on stilts overlooking the water. Each comes equipped with kitchen appliances, utensils and linens. The park also has traditional camping in three different campgrounds, with sites that can accommodate everything from a small tent to large RVs.
Beach camping is available on Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. This barrier island off the Maryland and Virginia coast is filled with sandy beaches, forests, coastal bays and salt marshes. It’s even home to a community of wild horses. Camping is available only on the Maryland side of the island, with two oceanside and four bayside campgrounds, with all the amenities to make you feel comfortable.
Affordable, beautiful and memorable — there has never been a better time to go camping. The ease and fun makes it a great option for families, couples, and even just someone really ready to get away from it all. And with so many fantastic camping possibilities, you might even want to create a bucket list and plan to visit and experience them all!
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