Good camping memories are like a soft flame that burns through the night. Something about that fresh air, open scenery, and step away from it all can really stick around in your mind and define what you want out of life. Choosing a great campground is generally pretty easy; avoid any open sewage reservoirs, make sure you have access to clean water, and if you can find a nice level spot to pop the tent, even better. But there are places in this country that are defined by their beauty and surroundings that can also be considered elite camping spots. Places so amazing that their beauty is not just seen, but felt alongside those open tent flaps and stovetop goulash. And here for you today, to get some of your tent stakes in the ground, are ten iconic campsites in the USA:
Sahale Glacier Camp, North Cascades National Recreation Park
To spend the night at Sahale (derived from a Native American word for “high place”) one needs to obtain a backcountry permit through the North Cascades National Park. These permits are free, but are also on a first come, first serve basis, and there is not necessarily an abundance of room at this well-sought campsite. But find yourself holding a permit, sharpen your mountaineering skills, and this campsite and its high mountain peaks can provide you with a lifetime of mountain memories.
Bright Angel Campground, Grand Canyon National Park
It should be noted that trekking down to the Bright Angel Campground located at the base of the Grand Canyon is totally optional, but it is the trek back up, that is mandatory. Filled with enough deep canyon views to inspire you to take up landscape painting, the trek down to this iconic campsite is a little treacherous for the first-time hiker, but as you spend your night in the middle of the Grand Canyon near the banks of the Colorado River, the sore legs you will feel in the morning (and on your way back up) will be well worth the sense of wonder you’ll experience at this campsite.
Richland Creek Campground, Lake of the Ozarks
The best way to explore all the Ozarks has to offer is by spending a night at the Richland Creek Campground. Nearly inaccessible by your ordinary commuter vehicle, this campground is especially welcoming to those who can travel by foot. What this means for you is a chance to explore the surrounding Richland Creek Wilderness and its wildlife, waterfalls, and rolling mountains without the encumbrance of the RV next door rocking its 90’s rock all night. Most sites here offer a picnic table and fire-pit, and all have access to fresh water including a nearby swimming hole that is perfect for cooling off during the hot summer months of the Ozarks.
Lonesome Lake at the Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, Wyoming
You really have to earn your campsite when visiting the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range of Wyoming. That’s because it’s no gentle slope to access this sought after view, instead, it’s a requiem for a Stairmaster as you make your way up the 5–10 miles to the dispersed camping area. Despite its difficulty, the fantastic 270⁰ range of huge mountain peaks attracts quite the crowd to the Big Sandy Trailhead (which is the access point). Despite that, camping is free once you make it fairly far up the path (and must be ¼ mile beyond the shores of Lonesome Lake), and you’ll need to bring your Leave No Trace Ethics because no amenities are available that far up the mountain.
White River Campground, Rainier National Park
If you can’t feel the excitement once you enter the gates of Mount Rainier National Park, you can certainly see it. That’s because at the center of this Pacific Northwest National asset is the impressive Rainier peak standing at 14,000+ feet. And while the park itself has a number of great campsites that you would have a hard time not enjoying yourself at, the most notable site is the White River Campground. That’s because, besides dramatic Pacific Northwest views, the White River Campground offers loads of access points to your favorite adventure opportunities. And whether you consider yourself a high altitude alpinist, professional day hiker, or an avid shutter-bug, reservations to White River Campground should be made today.
Jedediah Smith Campgrounds, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
There is something unique about camping near the Redwoods that dominate Northern California. Maybe it’s just a reminiscence of watching Fern Gulley as a kid, but spending time near these trees that can be traced back to a time before America existed gives you a rejuvenating spirit on just how big this world really is. And while there are plenty of spots to bask in this age-old glory, Jedediah Smith Campgrounds holds a special place in the Redwoods offering its users a daily dose of wildlife, ecology, and surely some of that same adventurous spirit that Jedediah experienced when he first explored what we know today as California.
Garden Key Campground, Dry Tortugas National Park
To access the primitive Garden Key Campgrounds in the Florida Keys of Dry Tortugas National Park you have to take a small ferry, so a little advanced planning is needed to stay at these sandy shores. But make your arrangements and be prepared for a camping experience like no other. Snorkeling, coral reef watching, amazing sunsets, and tours of the historic Fort Jefferson, all this is only made better by the stunning views of this oceanic island on the outskirts of the Gulf of Mexico. Be prepared to camp at Garden Keys, because, with limited access to the outside world, you’ll be left with your own resources and know-how while visiting Dry Tortugas.
Apgar Campground, Glacier National Park
All mighty Apgar, this is one campground to put on your bucket list. Located on the southern tip of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park of northwestern Montana, you can expect to see high alpine views, dense forests, and an abundance of wildlife including but not limited to grizzly bears, Harlequin ducks, gray wolfs, and golden eagles. And it’s not even just the rustic scenery and diverse wildlife that makes this campground worth visiting, Apgar also has access to over 700 miles of trails to explore for a lifetime to come.
Camp 4 – Yosemite National Park
Often referenced as the birthplace of modern climbing, Camp 4 in Yosemite National Park has the quickest access to the equally famous El Capitan big wall. Come take part in the fun at Camp 4 which features 35 tent spaces for climbers around the world to cram together and share stories of their recent crags (and share a little whiskey as well). It’s first come, first serve at this famous campsite, and make no mistake, it can fill up fast. But while you are there, bask in the glory that is modern rock climbing and share the space with climbing history as you try to avoid sharing your space with the local black bear denizen that roam the park.
Watchman Campground, Zion National Park
Sleep tight in Zion National Park knowing that the Watchman has an eye on you. And no, we’re not talking about that creepy park ranger who you’re not even sure is actually employed by the park, we’re talking about the rocky peak that is prominently visible from every camping spot in the Watchman, and which acts as a good appetizer for all the Zion has to offer. What’s even nicer about the view from this often times busy campsite (which is located just ¼ mile from the south entrance), is that it is a great launching point for exploring everything that heaven on earth has to offer.