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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


 

Wild Buffalo roaming near the campground in the Badlands National Park South Dakota

Wild Buffalo roaming near the campground in the Badlands National Park South Dakota

While the Mid­west might not nor­mal­ly be asso­ci­at­ed with amaz­ing out­door adven­tures, don’t be mistaken—if you are look­ing for adven­ture, you can find it in America’s Heart­land. Spread among the agri­cul­ture and hard-work­ing val­ues of the Mid­west are a mul­ti­tude of adven­ture activ­i­ties span­ning from epic moun­tain bik­ing to unique ice climbing.

Explore the Black Hills and Bad­lands Nation­al Park
For­get every­thing you might asso­ciate with a Mid­west­ern land­scape and vis­it the Black Hills and Bad­lands Nation­al Park in west­ern South Dako­ta. Fea­tur­ing enough attrac­tions and recre­ation­al oppor­tu­ni­ties to explore some­thing new every day any time of year, the begin­ning of South Dakota’s awe­some­ness is at the gates of Bad­lands Nation­al Park where rip­tides of fos­sil-filled and col­or­ful rock rip through the land­scape. Head fur­ther west and you’ll find your­self in the Black Hills with Crazy Horse and Mt. Rush­more to guide your way. Amid it, all is Custer State Park, an impres­sive 71,000-acre park home to bison, big gran­ite peaks, and thou­sands of dif­fer­ent sites to camp and explore.

Canoe the Bound­ary Waters
The Bound­ary Waters Canoe Area Wilder­ness (BWCAW) is full of cliffs, canyons, and sev­er­al thou­sand lakes and streams thanks to ancient glac­i­ers which once carved their way through the land that is now north­east­ern Min­neso­ta. Com­ing in at whop­ping 1 mil­lion acres in size, with over 1,200 miles of canoe routes, it’s easy to say you could spend the rest of your life explor­ing this Mid­west­ern adven­ture des­ti­na­tion and most like­ly not see all that the Bound­ary Waters has to offer. And bor­dered by Voyageurs Nation­al Park and Canada’s Queti­co Provin­cial Park, the Bound­ary Waters enables per­haps the most adven­ture you can find any­where in Mid­west, if not the entire Unit­ed States.

Ice Climb in Iowa
Set against the frozen corn­fields just out­side of Cedar Falls, Iowa is the state’s best (and only) ice climb­ing des­ti­na­tion. And it’s not a frozen water­fall cas­cad­ing down a rugged canyon bluff; instead, it’s a steep water­fall that was strate­gi­cal­ly made down the side of a grain silo. Yep, that’s right, a grain silo. For the last 15+ years, an avid adven­ture enthu­si­ast and asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at the neigh­bor­ing Uni­ver­si­ty of North­ern Iowa has been engi­neer­ing this ice water­fall for adven­tur­ers around the world to come check out. Tout­ed as one of the steep­est routes you’ll encounter any­where in the world, this is one recre­ation­al attrac­tion that shat­ters the many stereo­types of adven­ture in the Midwest.

Moun­tain Bike in Michigan
At first glance, you may not check out the Mid­west on the map for pre­mier moun­tain bik­ing des­ti­na­tions, but take a look clos­er and you’ll see world-class sin­gle-track rip­pling through each state. And per­haps the cream of the crop in the Mid­west moun­tain bik­ing scene is Cop­per Har­bor in north­east­ern Michi­gan. Fea­tur­ing over 32 miles of pure, untamed wilder­ness trails to nav­i­gate, this ride includes big geo­log­i­cal fea­tures, pro­fes­sion­al­ly designed trails, and stun­ning views of Lake Supe­ri­or, ensur­ing that this moun­tain bik­ing expe­ri­ence is one that will change your per­cep­tion on the Mid­west forever.

©istockphoto/PapaBearHike, Run, Bike, & Ski the Birkie Trail
What­ev­er sea­son you are able to go vis­it Hay­ward, Wis­con­sin, know that the Birkie Trail has you cov­ered. Com­ing in at an impres­sive 107 Kilo­me­ters, users can hike, bike, or cross-coun­try this lengthy trail which is also home to the world-famous Amer­i­can Birke­bein­er cross-coun­try ski race each win­ter. The entire trail is main­tained and looked after by the Amer­i­can Birke­bein­er Ski Foun­da­tion, so the next time you check out any mileage of this famous Mid­west trail, be sure to join the foun­da­tion or chip in a donation.

Rock Climb at Dev­ils Lake
The scenery at Dev­ils Lake State Park in Wis­con­sin is rem­i­nis­cent of the high alpine lakes found in the Rocky or Cas­cade Moun­tains. Turquoise blue waters, rolling topog­ra­phy, and enough recre­ation to shake a stick at, it’s no sur­prise that famous folks like the Rin­gling Broth­ers and Ulysses S. Grant have been not­ed to vaca­tion here. And while the park does not pro­hib­it rock climb­ing, it nei­ther pro­motes it, mean­ing this first-class climb­ing des­ti­na­tion in the Mid­west is a first-come, first serve basis and you shouldn’t expect to find any bolts in the walls. So bring your top-anchor skills to this crag, and pre­pare for the best rock climb­ing you’ll find in the Midwest.

Dive Deep Into the Mark Twain Caves
Bring the Adven­tures of Tom Sawyer to life in a tour of the Mark Twain Caves in Han­ni­bal, Mis­souri. Samuel Clemens, A.K.A Mark Twain, wrote about these majes­tic under­ground worlds in 5 of his books, and along­side his atten­tion, the cave gar­nished world­wide pop­u­lar­i­ty through their infi­nite cav­erns and out of this world dark­ness. Explore it your­self with the help of a guid­ed tour—and while you’re there, be sure to check out the above ground world as well. The Mark Twain Nation­al For­est offers some of the most icon­ic Mid­west camp­ing you’ll find any­where east of the Rocky Mountains.

Swim in the Lake of the Ozarks
How a Lake of the Ozarks vaca­tion looks is total­ly up to you. Whether you want a rugged adven­ture boat­ing, camp­ing, and moun­tain bik­ing, Lake of the Ozarks has you cov­ered. If you’re more into resorts, Lake of the Ozarks has all the shop­ping, din­ing, and golf­ing you can han­dle. And with the scenic back­drop of the reser­voir snaking through the heart of Mis­souri, what­ev­er adven­ture style you choose will at least be beautiful.

Get Lost in Cuya­hoga Nation­al Park
Ohio is home to one of the most under­rat­ed Nation­al Parks in the coun­try, and what that means for you is that your next vis­it to Cuya­hoga Nation­al Park will be full of unpop­u­lat­ed nat­ur­al beau­ty, avail­able camp­sites, and hours upon weeks of recre­ation­al oppor­tu­ni­ties right at your fin­ger­tips. And whether your trip to Cuya­hoga involves bik­ing, hik­ing, boat­ing, or even Earth­Caching, Cuya­hoga will deliv­er on all of your adven­ture needs. Top it all off with a scenic train ride through the park, and rest assured, you can find end­less enter­tain­ment at this Mid­west­ern Nation­al Park.


 

For some, spring break means crowd­ed beach­es, bustling ski towns and, occa­sion­al­ly, drunk­en mis­be­hav­ior. But if you’re among the for­tu­nate few who have a pre­cious week of spring­time free­dom, these over­looked vaca­tion spots will treat you to a unique expe­ri­ence far from the crowds.

Cochiti Mesa, New Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cochi­ti Mesa, New Mexico
Once con­sid­ered among the pre­mier climb­ing areas in New Mex­i­co, the amaz­ing faces at Cochi­ti Mesa have fall­en some­what out of favor recent­ly due to a lack of over­hang­ing jug fest. That’s all the more rea­son to vis­it this clas­sic sports area where crowds are thin and tem­per­a­tures beau­ti­ful in the spring.

The area is locat­ed between the Alberqueque and San­ta Fe, New Mex­i­co, in some beau­ti­ful­ly rugged desert land­scape. There’s a lot of nation­al for­est land in the area to camp or a devel­oped area is also near­by. For more infor­ma­tion and direc­tions, check out Ran­dal Jett and Matt Samet’s guide­book host­ed by the Los Alam­os Mountaineers.

Pere Marquette State Park, Grafton, Illinois

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pere Mar­quette State Park, Grafton, Illinois
The weath­er in this forest­ed state park on the banks of the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er is a lit­tle hit or miss in late March and ear­ly April, but fick­le rains and pos­si­ble snow flur­ries add to the attrac­tion of a lodge with an enor­mous fire­place and life-size chess­board. With fish­ing, hik­ing and many oth­er out­door activ­i­ties near­by, the hotel will be qui­et ear­ly in the sea­son. Ten­nis courts will be open (but maybe chilly) and the mighty Mis­sis­sip­pi will be swollen in her banks, throb­bing south­ward with spring melt­wa­ter, an amaz­ing and mes­mer­iz­ing spec­ta­cle that is not to be missed.

Lake of the Ozarks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake of the Ozarks
The largest, non-flood con­trol lake in the Unit­ed States, Lake of the Ozarks cov­ers 55,000 acres of fun for boaters and fish­er­men in the heart of the Ozark Moun­tains. This cen­tral­ly locat­ed aquat­ic can be a lit­tle over­whelmed with boaters and row­dy partiers dur­ing pop­u­lar sum­mer week­ends, but ear­ly in the sea­son tends more on the tran­quil side.

Ear­ly sea­son fish­ing can land super-sized bass, the sur­round­ing forests are in ear­ly bloom. Many hotels still offer off-sea­son rates.

Assateague Island, Maryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assateague Island, Maryland
This pop­u­lar sum­mer­time camp­ing area and beach are cool but full of peace and qui­et in late March. But with high tem­per­a­tures in the 50’s, hardy campers will find a mag­i­cal land­scape, miles of uncrowd­ed beach­es and wild ponies! Build a roar­ing fire at night, enjoy the unpol­lut­ed night sky with a few friends and have a great, inex­pen­sive break from the grind.

Shelf Road, Colorado2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelf Road, Colorado
This is a super­store of sum­mer climb­ing des­ti­na­tions, but ear­ly in the year, Shelf Road is plen­ty warm to climb. Mod­er­ate spring weath­er makes for pleas­ant days on myr­i­ad well-bolt­ed sport routes and a great way to get the fin­gers revi­tal­ized after a win­ter of ice climb­ing or ski­ing. Some­body men­tion ski­ing? A short dri­ve will bring you from Shelf Road to Monarch Moun­tain, where snow­pack lasts late into the spring. This trip makes for a dou­ble-wham­my spring break sports trip.

Culebra, Puerto Rico.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cule­bra, Puer­to Rico
Ok, so Puer­to Rico is def­i­nite­ly on the Spring Break radar. Unless you are Puer­to Rican, how­ev­er, Cule­bra is prob­a­bly not. This tiny island is one of the Span­ish Vir­gins that are actu­al­ly clos­er to the U.S. Vir­gin Islands than main­land Puer­to Rico. For a $3 fer­ry ride from Fajar­do, you will be in a trop­i­cal par­adise that is as funky as it is fun.

Many days, the island is a ver­i­ta­ble ghost town with just a hand­ful of locals shar­ing the streets with the occa­sion­al pass­ing sailor. On busy Puer­to Rican hol­i­days, how­ev­er, look out! Thou­sands of Puer­to Ricans make the trip from the main­land on long week­ends to camp at pop­u­lar Flamin­go Beach or par­ty onboard yachts and sail­boats. Regard­less, the place has an amaz­ing vibe and is still well off the beat­en path. So if you’ve got mon­ey for a plane tick­et, pack your bathing suit and a light tent, fly to San Juan and then find your way to the fer­ry dock in Fajar­do. Next stop, paradise.