10 Best Camping Sites In The U.S. You Absolutely Need To Visit

Health & Lifestyle
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Alexandra Lozovschi

Feeling the call of the wild? Here are some wonderful places to hang out in the great outdoors! After being cooped up inside during lockdown, there's no surprise you might be longing for wide-open spaces and fresh air. So grab your gear and head to the nearest camping site, and don't forget to bring your camera!

Below are some of the most scenic camping locations across the U.S. -- other than the Grand Canion and Yosemite National Park -- listed from coast to coast.

Acadia National Park, Maine

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Dubbed the Pine Tree State's "natural jewel," Acadia National Park in Maine spans 17 million acres of forest, 6,000 lakes and ponds, and 32,000 miles of rivers and streams.

Located on Mount Desert Island, it boasts three camping grounds -- Blackwoods, Seawall, and Schoodic Woods -- making it "the ultimate spot for campers who want to enjoy long stays, and primarily hike during their trip," per Kempoo.

"The amount of trails is insane, giving you weeks upon weeks of different avenues you could take to tame the hills and peaks, and truly experience everything that Acadia National Park has to offer."

For a unique experience, "hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain (the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard) during dawn and be the first person in the U.S. to see the sunrise that morning," suggests Greatist.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

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Boasting five campgrounds and over 200,000 acres of park space, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is a must-see for nature lovers who want to sleep under the stars.

Travel & Leisure praises the "glorious" park's eight-mile hike up Old Rag Mountain -- "a must-do for avid hikers." Greatist lauds the "magnificent viewpoints," waterfalls, and "miles of quiet, peaceful wilderness" that Shenandoah's 500 miles of trails lead to. Kempoo recommends it just as enthusiastically.

"The real treat is the wide-open, year-round dispersed camping spots that coincide with numerous hiking trails that show you the best parts of Virginia."

Big Bend National Park, Texas

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"If you’re looking for a great place to go rafting, canoeing, and kayaking, Big Bend National Park along the Rio Grande is an excellent place to go," advises Travel & Leisure.

This Texas gem offers three developed campgrounds, as well as options for backcountry camping. Hike along the park’s desert, mountain, and river landscapes or go on a backpacking trip.

"One popular desert hike is Devil’s Den, a moderate 5.6-mile route along the rim of and down into a limestone slot canyon," notes Greatist.

Added bonus: the park's remote location makes it the perfect place to take in the starry sky -- visit it in mid-August to catch the Perseid meteor shower. Expect gorgeous views of the Milky Way!

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

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If backcountry camping and speleology are your thing, then Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico is the place to be.

"This iconic cavern system and park is something you absolutely need to see before you hang up your hiking boots for good," says Kempoo.

"Photographs don’t do it justice: you need to see it to believe it."

This wondrous place hosts full moon walks, where park rangers answer questions about the nocturnal creatures in the area, cultural folklore, and astronomy. Be on the lookout for cave-dwellers flying through the sky: the cavern's Bat Flight Programs are said to be a fantastic spectacle!

Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

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Head over to Gunnison National Forest, Colorado, and soak up the grandiose mountain peaks, majestic lakes, and incredible wildlife. It's got 3,000 miles of trails and 1.6 million acres of public land, along with 30 campsites stretching across some of the most diverse terrains -- open meadows, evergreen forests, mountains, and lakes.

Explore the Black Canion and witness some of the most fantastic views of the Rocky Mountains -- "there’s over 2,000,000 acres of untamed wilderness waiting for you to adventure through," says Kempoo, as well as "some of the best hiking trails that your feet have ever walked over."

"You aren’t just stuck to camping: there are trails for ATVs and dirt biking, some for standard mountain bikes, standard cycling and running, each of which shows you a different side of Gunnison that you’ll remember forever."

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

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For a more rugged yet undeniably relaxing experience, drive up to the Badlands National Park in South Dakota and immerse yourself in the calmness of the open plains.

With 64,000 acres to explore, the park provides a unique chance to hike winding trails, admire impressive rock formations, come face to face with wildlife, and even hunt for fossils. The area boasts "one of the most complete build-ups of fossils in North America," per Greatist.

"Don’t be alarmed if you wake up to the sound of bison wandering past your tent, as it’s a regular occurrence," states TimeOut.

"Vault toilets, picnic benches, and a horse corral are the only amenities that are offered at the rural site, but you will get the chance to watch the prairie turn a golden color at sunset, see prairie dogs pop up from the ground, and hear wolves howling at night."

Glacier National Park, Montana

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A paradise for hikers, Glacier National Park in Montana grants access to more than 700 miles of trails through forests, meadows, and mountains, making it truly a dream come true for any outdoorsman. It has 13 developed campgrounds for you to pitch a tent in and over 1,000 sites that afford a splendid view of glaciers.

"You’ll get a glorious view from the Avalanche campground, looking down on Cut Bank, Fish Creek, and Quartz Creek, among the other half-dozen spots throughout the ridge," says Kampoo.

"Hiking trails can be a bit steep, so be certain to bring along a quality pair of hiking boots. If you’re into sightseeing, cresting the peaks near Many Glacier will take your breath away."

Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho

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One camping destination for the bucket list is Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho. The site is absolutely massive -- it encompasses over 750,000 acres of rocky terrain, per Kempoo -- and wonderfully diverse, luring you in with a phenomenal view of the steep Smoky Mountains and their myriad of hiking trails, as well as the five small waterfalls that pool into the Snake River.

"As you crest the mountain through 700 miles of trails, you’ll land on 10,000-foot peaks, and witness over 300 alpine lakes up on the cliffs."

For an accurate mental picture, think Bob Ross paintings, quips Travel & Leisure. Given its sheer size, you can visit this spot every year and still have plenty of new things to discover.

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

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Home of the deepest lake in the United States, Crater Lake National Park in Oregon also boasts incredible hiking trails -- and even a sleeping volcano!

Pitch your tent at the Lost Creek campground or park your RV at Mazama. Either way, the park's natural beauty will only become more mesmerizing as it "aesthetically changes every single day," notes Kempoo, dubbing it "a mystical spot."

"Some days you’ll see the central peak in the middle of the lake popping over the misty clouds, and some days you’ll have full clarity to enjoy the sights completely unprohibited."

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California

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Dense forest and booming wildlife await at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California for anyone looking for a surreal wilderness experience.

"Like the sky-piercing trees that grow only in this part of the world, Sequoia National Park’s scale is ancient and epic, and exploring this park (as well as Kings) is likely to expand your perspective on life," Greatist paints a splendid mental picture of the iconic parks.

"Waking up surrounded by massive, majestic scenery will make you feel like you’re in a world of make-believe. You’ll enjoy day hiking through the forest and setting up camp in scenic solitude."

There are 14 campgrounds to choose from and breathtaking hiking trails that lead up to 15,000 feet.

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