Best campsites in the U.S.
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Camping is one of the most fun, rejuvenating vacations you can plan, and it has multiple benefits. Spending time in nature can help you de-stress by unplugging and embarking on a new adventure. A camping vacation is also one of the most budget-friendly trips you could take since you won’t have to shell out for a hotel or expensive meals.
Camping is also a good choice for those looking for lower-risk travel options during the Coronavirus pandemic — social distancing is much easier to practice in the great outdoors.
One of the most difficult parts of camping is picking a good campsite. You want somewhere you can explore while feeling safe at the same time.
Check out our list of the top seven best places to camp in the U.S. and head out to your next destination.
Best campsite in the U.S.
Cades Cove at Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains are an excellent spot for campers throughout Spring and Fall. The national park is more than 500,000 acres, offering plenty of campgrounds to choose from. The Cades Cove Campground makes our list for its scenic setting, history and nearby activities.
If you’re camping with young children, Cades Cove is an excellent choice. You can choose from tent-only camping or opt for standard electric hookups. During peak season from March through December, rates are the same across all campsites at $25 per day.
Amenities include flush toilets, drinking water and a camp store that stocks necessities along with bike rentals. While you’re camping, you’ll have access to hiking and biking trails that lead to waterfalls and horse stables.
Hidden Valley at Joshua Tree
The Hidden Valley Campground at Joshua Tree National Park offers an immersive desert experience. There are 44 campsites available at a first-come, first-serve basis at $15 for six people.
This campsite is best for seasoned campers and may not be suitable for families. It doesn’t offer many amenities, though each campsite comes with pit toilets, grills and picnic tables. There is no running water or electrical hookups, so you’ll have to come prepared.
Near the campgrounds, you can enjoy hiking and climbing. The campsite is pet-friendly, so your furry friends can come along as well. Some coyotes and wildlife are active near the campground, so be aware and alert during your stay.
Islay Creek at Montana de Oro State Park
Montana de Oro State Park is located on the coast of California, just north of Pismo Beach. It offers several different campgrounds, but the Islay Creek Campground is one of the most beautiful and highly rated. The campground sits close to the coast, so you can wake up to morning ocean views.
This campground offers 50 campsites that can accommodate up to eight people. The sites don’t offer full amenities, but they’re a step up from completely disconnected camping. You’ll have access to vault toilets, potable water, picnic tables and fire rings at each site.
Grassy Point at El Vado Lake State Park
Grassy Point is an excellent campground for the entire family, including your pets. Situated right next to El Vado Lake, you’ll wake up to views of the water and surrounding mountains. If you’re an avid fisher, you’ll love boating onto the lake for a fresh catch every day. The kids won’t get bored either since there’s plenty of swimming, paddling and horseback riding.
At Grassy Point, you can choose from tent-only sites or ones with electrical hookups. Amenities include fire rings, flushable toilets, potable water, showers and picnic tables. Day use fees at Grassy Point are $5 per vehicle or $10 per night with an additional $4 for electrical hookups.
Grant Village Campground at Yellowstone
If you’re visiting Yellowstone National Park, it can be exceptionally difficult to book the best campsite for your needs. The Grant Village Campground is an excellent choice for individuals, couples and families. Located within Grant Village, you can enjoy a rustic camping experience with nearby access to stores and other amenities.
Camping rates at Grant Village vary depending on the number of people you’re with. There’s a $32 nightly fee along with group campsite costs that range from $136 up to $399. Grant Village is more costly than other campgrounds since it can accommodate large groups of people with 430 different campsites.
Strawberry Campground at Malheur National Forest
Malheur National Forest is located in East-Central Oregon and boasts a mixture of rugged terrain along with beautiful forest prairies and streams. The Strawberry Campground sits among a heavily wooded area with access to several hiking trails and streams for fishing.
Each campsite costs $8 per night and $4 for each extra vehicle. There are 10 campsites available at a first-come, first-serve basis, and they’re not available for reservations. These campsites could be great for small families, though they don’t offer full amenities. Each campsite has potable water and one vault toilet.
Ausable Chasm Campground
The Ausable Chasm Campground in New York offers one of the most exciting and adventure-filled camping experiences. If you’re looking for a more unplugged, tent-based campsite, this campground may not be for you.
At the Ausable Chasm, you can choose from cabins, tent sites, water and electric and water, electric and sewer. This campground is packed with amenities that include a rec room, shuffleboard, disc golf, showers, swimming pool, camp store and WiFi connectivity.
This campground is excellent if you’re looking for many daily activity options for adults and kids. Choose from a variety of tours along with rock climbing, tubing, hiking and more.
Big Meadows Campground at Shenandoah National Park
Camping at Shenandoah National Park is a must for outdoor enthusiasts. The park is known for its beautiful colors as the seasons change, along with lush, shady campsites among the trees. The Big Meadows Campground is great for backpackers who want to camp somewhere they can spend a lot of time bird watching, berry picking and hiking.
At the Big Meadows Campground, you’ll have access to standard non-electric sites that can accommodate small to large groups. The fee is $20 for standard non-electric sites and $45 per night for group sites. Big Meadows is open May through October during peak season and October through November at a first-come, first-served basis.
How to book popular campsites
Many campsites at popular parks like Yellowstone or Yosemite can book up fast, and even up to a year in advance! Since some of these are so competitive, you’ll want to make sure you do your research beforehand and see what campsites require a reservation, and when is the earliest that each starts accepting reservations. Every park’s system varies, so you’ll want to look at each’s website for all of the details — but you may need to book the minute reservations are available to ensure you have a spot.
If you aren’t able to find a place in your desired area, you might have some luck by taking advantage of other’s cancellations. You can frequently check a park’s website or call their reservations line to see if a spot has opened up. This strategy will work best for those who have a flexible schedule.
Some parks, like Yellowstone, also provide a few first-come-first-serve campgrounds. You might be able to snag a spot here, but make sure to get there early in the day when you’re traveling to a popular park during peak times.
Using points and miles when camping
While camping is about as budget-friendly of a trip that you can plan, there are a few ways that points and miles can help offset any costs incurred. Using miles from a card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card can offset the park entrance fees and campsite fees since they can be redeemed against any travel purchases put on the card.
You can also earn travel rewards when paying for these fees since many cards earn bonus points on travel expenses like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (2x points on travel) and the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (3x points on travel).
If you need to fly to get to where you want to go, airline miles can also offset the costs of getting to your favorite campsite. Once you’ve arrived at the airport, there are a number of ways to get rental cars for cheap to save on the final leg of your journey.
Before heading out on your next camping trip, figure out everything you want to do and see. Our top seven best places to camp include areas throughout the U.S. with different environments, climates and scenery.
If you’re camping alone or with a few other people, you may want a spot that has access to your favorite activities like camping and climbing. On the other hand, if you’re camping with a family you may need to prioritize amenities to make the trip easier for everyone.
No matter what you choose, remember to have fun and immerse yourself in the camping experience. Try to disconnect and enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.
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