Forget baseball! The real American past time has always been camping. Whether you love hiking up rugged mountains, ambling through pine wood forests, or kayaking across magnificent lakes, America’s diverse landscape has something for every kind of camper.
No matter where you live, you’re never too far from an amazing and unique camping experience. From Alaska to Florida, here are five of the best campsites in the US.
Why you should go: Home to Denali, the highest mountain peak in the country (you may know it better by its former name, Mount McKinley), Denali National Park is for campers who love to take in the scenery. Bus tours are the only way to see certain parts of the park, and you’re guaranteed to see some amazing wildlife including moose, grizzly bears, wolves, caribou, and mountain sheep.
If you want to camp as close to the mountain as possible, then you’ll want to pitch a tent at Wonder Lake. On a clear day, Denali’s peak is reflected in its pristine waters.
When to go: Most people choose to visit Denali National Park in the summer, when temperatures are milder. However, you may be surprised to know that the park has campgrounds that are open year-round. If you choose to camp in the winter, you can enjoy unique activities like dog mushing, snowshoeing, and skiing.
Why you should go: Glacier National Park makes our list of best campsites in the US because there’s such an amazing variety of things to do. With more than 750 lakes and over 3,000 miles of streams, you can fish, canoe, and kayak to your heart’s content.
There are also more than 700 miles of trail where you can hike, bike, and take in the park’s majestic mountains and diverse wildlife. Montana isn’t nicknamed “Big Sky Country” for nothing – if you really want to get away from it all and go to a place where the sky seems to stretch on forever, Glacier National Park is the camping destination for you.
When to go: The park is open year-round, but most visitor facilities are only open between May and September.
If you want to beat the crowds but still enjoy some river rafting and see the flowers bloom, early spring is the time to go. Summer is the busiest time of year, and for good reason – the trails are clear of snow and mud, the fish are biting, and the sun is shining.
Why you should go: Along the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, you’ll find over 800 miles of trail weaving between spectacular mountains, dazzling waterfalls, and gorgeous woods. It’s no wonder that Great Smoky Mountain National Park is well known as one of the best campsites in the US, attracting more than 11 million visitors each year.
If you’re the type that likes their creature comforts, you can rent a cozy cabin in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg and enjoy the tourist entertainment these towns have to offer.
If you’d rather get out of your comfort zone and go deeper into the wilderness, you can take on one of the park’s long backpacking trails. The only downside? Hikers aren’t allowed to set up their own camp – you’ll need to reserve a spot at one of the park’s campsites or shelters before you set out.
When to go: If you want to see Synchronous fireflies that light up the park at night, you’ll want to visit in late May or early June. However, because the firefly viewings are so popular, parking permits are only distributed through a lottery that can be entered in April of each year. If you can live without seeing the lightning bugs, we recommend visiting in late summer when the crowds are starting to thin.
Why you should go: If your favorite thing about camping is checking out the local wildlife, Everglades National Park in southern Florida is right up your alley – or should we say alley-gator.
It’s a completely different camping experience than the wooded hills of the north or the rocky terrain of the west, which is exactly why we’ve decided to include it on our list of best campsites in the US.
An abundance of wildlife thrives in Florida’s wetlands. In addition to the toothy state reptile, be on the lookout for manatees, dolphins, great blue herons, and the endangered Florida panther. There are also plenty of fun activities to enjoy on the water, including airboat tours, fishing, and kayaking.
When to go: Everglades National Park is open year-round, but the best time to go is in the winter months. As you might expect, Florida summers are hot and the mosquitoes are hungry, so wait until things cool off before you snag a permit and set up camp.
Why you should go: What, did you think we weren’t going to include America’s most iconic natural wonder on this list?
The Grand Canyon is by far one of the most popular camping destinations in the country, but that doesn’t mean that it’s an overcrowded tourist trap. With more than one million acres of land, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to get away and enjoy some secluded backcountry camping.
If the amazing views aren’t enough, there’s also thrilling whitewater rafting along the Colorado River, sightseeing on the Grand Canyon Railway, and hiking on the Bright Angel Trail.
When to go: The canyon’s South Rim is open year-round, but the North Rim is closed during the winter months. We recommend visiting in the winter or early spring when the weather is cool and the crowds are manageable. If you plan to stay at one of the more popular campgrounds, be sure to make your reservations well in advance.
As we wrap up our list of the best campsites in the US, we hope that you’re feeling inspired to start planning your next trip. There’s really no better way to connect with nature and your loved ones than camping out underneath the stars. So get out there and start making lifelong memories at a campsite near you!