In this article I will show you the best places to camp in the United States. The focus is on great and unique outdoor places where you can have an adventure every day you camp.
We selected this list from a mix of personal taste, internet reviews, and number of annual visitors. These are all protected or regulated by the national or state government, so you can expect top quality.
We have also included the websites so you can get up to date information and book from the comfort of your own home. Check them for availability and restrictions.
Table of Contents
This is not a ranking, so the places are listed in alphabetical order by state.
Read on to find out the best places to camp in each state.
Cheaha State Park
Cheaha State Park has areas for activities like picnicking, swimming, and fishing. The park’s scenic overlooks include Bunker Tower with an observation deck and a wheelchair-accessible wooden walkway on the Bald Rock Trail. Hikers can explore the Cheaha Trailhead of the Pinhoti Trail system, which connects to the Appalachian Trail.
For overnight stays, the park provides modern campsites, semi-primitive campsites, a 30-room hotel, chalets, and cabins. There are various lodging options, including lodge rooms, rock cabins, and A-frame chalets. Additionally, Cheaha State Park offers improved camping, primitive camping near the highest point, and CCC primitive camping near Cheaha Lake. The historic CCC Bald Rock Lodge is available for conferences, weddings, retreats, and family reunions.
Glacier Bay National Park
Glacier Bay National Park is most popular from late-May to early-September, with July being the peak month. Cruise ships bring about 80% of the visitors, and the park offers interpretive services and accommodations at Glacier Bay Lodge.
The park provides various outdoor activities like hiking, camping, kayaking, and bird-watching. Subsistence hunting is allowed only in the preserve, not in the park. Sport hunting and trapping are permitted in the preserve with required licenses and permits. You will encounter species such as bears, goats, wolves, and waterfowls.
Sport fishing is also popular, buy you need a license. There are species such as with halibut, Dolly Varden, and rainbow trout.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon has two main areas: the South Rim and the North Rim. The South Rim is the larger camping area, open year-round. You can take a driving tour along the rim, and shuttle access to Hermit’s Rest from March to December. The Rim Trail offers a scenic walking tour. Helicopter and small airplane flyovers are also available from various locations outside the park.
The North Rim is higher and only open from May 15th to October 31st. It has fewer roads but offers lookout points like Point Imperial, Roosevelt Point, and Cape Royal. You can take mule rides for deeper exploration, and hike in trails like the North Kaibab Trail. It goes down to the Colorado River, connecting to the South Rim trails.
Petit Jean State Park
Petit Jean State Park has a rustic atmosphere with log and stone buildings throughout the park.
Cedar Creek created the canyon, bluffs, and waterfalls. You will find Lake Bailey, a 100-acre area in which you can fish and pedal-boat.
You can also visit geological and archaeological wonders like Bear Cave, Rock House Cave, the Grotto, Turtle Rocks, Carpet Rocks, and Natural Bridge. The scenic overlook at Petit Jean’s grave offers a stunning view of the Arkansas River Valley.
The park features Mather Lodge, a historic 24-room lodge on the canyon’s edge, along with 32 cabins and 127 campsites for visitors. Park facilities include a visitor center, gift shop, boathouse at Lake Bailey, tennis and basketball courts, a swimming pool, and picnic areas. Not far from the main camping areas is the Museum of Automobiles.
Yosemite National Park
Glacier Point and Tioga Road provide stunning views, and a shuttle bus system helps navigate traffic congestion during peak summer. The park has 13 official campgrounds and several visitor centers, museums, and historic landmarks.
You will have a memorable camping experience. Yosemite Valley remains open year-round and offers activities like nature walks, photography courses, stargazing programs, and rock climbing classes. In winter, Tuolumne Meadows becomes a hotspot for hiking, rock climbing, and mountain climbing.
Rocky Mountain National Park
In the Rocky Mountain National Park you won’t run out of things to do. Camping, hiking to Bear Lake and Sky Pond, biking, horseback riding, and more. We recommend you visit the Maroon Bells, which have access by bus from mid-June to October. You can also visit the Stanley Hotel (which inspired The Shining) and drive in the Trail Ridge Road.
Campgrounds like Aspenglen, Glacier Basin, Timber Creek, and Moraine Park can be reserved on Recreation.gov. Longs Peak is available on a first-come, first-served basis in summer. Timber Creek is on the west, others are on the east closer to popular trails. Campsites offer tent-only options and staff assistance.
Summer camping fees are around $35 per night, and a vehicle entrance pass costs $35 for seven-day access to the park. Dogs are allowed in campgrounds, but not on trails.
Rocky Neck State Park
The park’s terrain suits different preferences, with clear waters and a stone-free beach for swimming. You can find scenic picnic spots and the historic Ellie Mitchell Pavilion. Hiking trails lead to points of interest like Baker’s Cave and Shipyard.
Rocky Neck’s rich wildlife includes alewives, ospreys, cranes, herons, and mute swans. Fishing opportunities include mackerel, striped bass, blackfish, and flounder.
Cape Henlopen State Park
Cape Henlopen State Park is a year-round open beach with two swimming areas with lifeguards. It also offers facilities like a bathhouse, showers, changing rooms, and a snack bar. The park has venues for group gatherings, including a pavilion and the “Officer’s Club”.
Fishing is popular, both from the beach and the fishing pier on Delaware Bay. There is a fishing center offering bait and tackle. Activities like disc golf, basketball, and hunting are also allowed, following Delaware’s regulations.
Ocala National Forest
The Ocala National Forest is a central Florida oasis, featuring a 60-mile scenic byway, 600 lakes, and 14 developed campgrounds for tents and RVs. You can find dispersed campsites along the 1,500-mile Florida National Scenic Trail.
The climate allows year-round recreation, with mild winters and warm, wet summers. Water-based activities like canoeing, fishing, and snorkeling are popular, and there are several hiking and biking trails throughout the forest. You can ride Off-road vehicles in designated trail systems, and there are horseback riding trails too.
The forest is also a wildlife management area, allowing hunting and fishing activities with permits. Additionally, you can also visit a public shooting range.
Cloudland Canyon State Park
Cloudland Canyon State Park offers several well-marked trails to explore its geology and natural beauty. The wheelchair-accessible trail provides a view of the canyon rim.
The Waterfalls Trail leads to beautiful waterfalls like Cherokee Falls and Hemlock Falls. Sitton’s Gulch trail starts from the Waterfalls Trail and goes to a parking area in Trenton. The West Rim Loop Trail is moderately difficult, but it rewards you with panoramic views of the area.
It also offers access to camping areas and beautiful vegetation. The Backcountry Loop Trail leads to secluded camping sites and showcases diverse flora. Bear Creek Trail is the longest one, and takes you on a scenic journey with creek crossings.
Haleakalā National Park
You can either stay at the Summit District or the Kīpahulu District, both of which offer front country camping accessible by car. If you prefer, you can also go tent camping or stay in cabins with the necessary permits and reservations. These are accessible through Halemau`u and Sliding Sands Trails. You can get a camping permit at the Headquarters Visitor Center during specific hours.
Sawtooth National Forest
Sawtooth National Recreation Area in central Idaho covers 750,000 acres of rugged mountain terrain. It offers numerous camping options along Highway 75, known as the Sawtooth Scenic Byway. Redfish Lake is a popular camping spot with stunning views of the Sawtooth Range. Glacier View is the largest campground, with 64 campsites available for reservation. There are other reservable campgrounds like Point and Outlet, while Heyburn and Sockeye are first-come, first-served. Nearby campgrounds include Alturas Lake, Stanley Lake, and Salmon River Campground.
You can camp in designated areas, marked by roadside markers. These primitive campsites lack amenities, and you must bring your own water and pack out trash. Advance planning is necessary to secure a campsite during the summer months.
Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park has over 13 miles of hiking trails. The park features 18 deep canyons, with French, LaSalle, Ottawa, and St. Louis Canyons offering long-lasting waterfalls. You can enjoy scenic views from attractions like Lover’s Leap Overlook, Eagle Cliff Overlook, and Beehive Overlook along the river trail.
Camping, fishing, and horseback riding are available, with 133 campsites, 100 of which you can reserve. You can see bald eagles fishing below the Starved Rock Dam or roosting on Leopold or Plum Island from December to February. Winter activities include ice skating, tobogganing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and ice climbing near the scenic frozen waterfalls.
Brown County State Park
You can enjoy over 35 miles of bike trails, with beginner and expert options. Fishing is available at two lakes, Ogle Lake and Strahl Lake, with bass and bluegill stocked. You can also explore 12 hiking trails totaling over 18 miles, leading to points of interest like the lakes and lookout towers.
The park has over 20 horse trails and a horsemen’s campground. You can also engage in cross-country skiing, sledding, and ice fishing in winter.
Maquoketa Caves State Park
Maquoketa Caves State Park offers a six-mile trail system that leads to various cave entrances and unique formations like flowstone and dripstone. The trails pass through the eastern valley, taking you to caves like Up-n-Down and Hernando’s Hideaway, and back to Dancehall Cave, a highlight of the park. On the western valley, there are more highlighted caves such as Rainy Day, Ice, and Barbell, as well as a restored meadow with diverse plant life.
The park features about 13 caves, some suitable for walking exploration, while others require experienced spelunkers due to tight spaces. Before entering the caves, you can learn about bats and White Nose Syndrome through interpretative signs. Additionally, there’s an interpretive center that provides information on cave formations and park history.
Camping options include upgraded campgrounds with pine trees and primitive hike-in sites, available for reservation. There are also two picnic shelters and a playground for children, which are used for park’s summer nature programs and work on a first-come, first-served basis.
Wilson State Park
Wilson State Park is a scenic and beautiful park located in the Smoky Hills, known for its rugged shoreline with cliffs and rocky outcrops.
The Wilson Wildlife Area, located on the upper end of the reservoir, provides 8,069 acres of public hunting area with diverse landscapes and a waterfowl refuge established in 1996. You can spot wildlife such as deer, pheasant, waterfowl, songbirds, and furbearers.
The Wilson Reservoir offers excellent angling for white bass and striped bass. If you want to hike, the Cedar Trail in the Otoe area is a one-mile loop with a concrete surface. Additionally, the 24.5-mile long Switchgrass Bike Trail is popular among mountain bikers.
Daniel Boone National Forest
The Daniel Boone National Forest offers a variety of recreational activities, attracting over a million visitors annually. It has about 100 developed recreation areas and 600 miles of trails, accommodating 15,830 visitors at a time.
The forest contains three state-managed parks: Buckhorn Lake, Cumberland Falls, and Natural Bridge, along with the Big South Fork National Recreation Area and the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail. Additionally, there are two designated wilderness areas: Beaver Creek and Clifty Wilderness, as well as the Red River Gorge, a National Natural Landmark.
Hunting is also popular, with the Pioneer Weapons Wildlife Management Area dedicated to primitive weapon use.
Lake Bistineau State Park
Lake Bistineau State Park is situated 30 miles east of Shreveport and Bossier City in north Louisiana. It offers day trips or overnight stays in the forested and hilly region of the state.
The lake was created as a massive engineering project after a logjam caused flooding in the area. The park provides various activities like fishing, boating, swimming, and sunbathing. It has almost 10 miles of forest trails for biking and walking, showcasing cypress and tupelo trees. For accommodation, there are deluxe cabins, a deluxe lodge, group camps, and RV spots with hookups.
You can visit the Germantown Colony Museum in Minden, commemorating German settlers who established a short-lived utopia in the 1800s. You can also enjoy Minden’s annual Minden Fasching Carnival and Parade, celebrating the town’s German heritage.
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park offers a range of activities to explore its beauty. The park’s diverse ecosystems host a rich variety of wildlife, including around 300 bird species.
Hiking trails cover 120 miles, suitable for various skill levels. Fishing opportunities are abundant, with cold and warm-water species available. Biking is a popular option to explore the park, either on the Park Loop Road or the carriage roads.
Guided tours, including narrated bus tours and ranger-guided bike or boat tours, provide insightful experiences. Additionally, two federal scenic byways offer scenic drives within the park’s borders.
Assateague Island is a 37-mile-long island managed by the National Park Service as Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. Two miles of the island are managed by the State of Maryland as Assateague State Park.
The State Park is the only oceanfront park in Maryland. You will see wild horses and enjoy activities like surfing, fishing, and swimming. Camping is allowed in designated areas with facilities like picnic tables, fire rings, and bathhouses.
You can reserve campsites between late April and late October, and off-road vehicles are permitted in specific areas with permits. Pets are prohibited in most areas, but kayaking is popular, especially on the calmer bay side.
Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area
The Boston Harbor Islands is the largest recreational space in Eastern Massachusetts. They consist of 34 unique islands and peninsulas, providing diverse experiences, such as exploring forts, enjoying picnics with harbor views, or camping under the stars. There are also hiking trails, beaches, and historical sites like Fort Warren and Boston Light.
The Boston Harbor Islands draw over half a million visitors annually and serve as an ecological habitat for local wildlife. These islands have significant historical importance, playing a crucial role in Boston and the nation’s development through political, social, and environmental changes. The park aims to preserve its history, protect habitats, and enhance public access and education.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore offers year-round recreational activities, such as hiking, camping, kayaking, boating, swimming, scuba diving, fishing, snowmobiling, ice climbing, and cross-country skiing.
During the summer, you can take a kayak or a boat tour to see the colorful rock formations, but specialized equipment and knowledge are necessary for safe paddling near the cliffs. Scuba diving is popular due to the many shipwrecks created by Lake Superior’s turbulent waters, with the Alger Underwater Preserve being a well-liked destination.
The high snowfall in winter makes it ideal for snowmobilers, and the park’s ice formations offer excellent opportunities for ice climbers.
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
The Boundary Waters Wilderness Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in Minnesota is an exceptional camping destination, covering 1,090,000 acres and offering various activities like canoeing, fishing, hiking, and stargazing. It has more than 2,000 backcountry campsites, 1,200 miles of canoe routes, and 12 hiking trails.
You will need permits for overnight visits, and advance reservation for trips between May 1 and September 30. Hiking options include trails to Eagle Mountain and longer routes like the Border Route and Kekekabic Trails. Canoeing is the preferred method of exploration, and fishing for various game species is popular.
BWCAW is also a Dark Sky Sanctuary, perfect for night sky viewing.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
The Gulf Islands National Seashore offers various recreational activities like snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, boating, fishing, wildlife viewing, biking, and camping. Ranger-led programs are also available.
You can spot diverse wildlife, including gopher tortoises, dolphins, and over 300 bird species. Snorkeling reveals sand dollars, starfish, crabs, and fish.
There are two developed campgrounds in the National Seashore, with primitive camping allowed in designated areas. In Florida’s Pickens Campground, water and electrical hookups are provided for RVs and tents. The environment features scrub oaks, brackish ponds, and pine forests. Mississippi’s Davis Bayou Campground offers similar amenities and surroundings. Primitive camping is allowed on some barrier islands, requiring boating or hiking to reach the sites.
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park in Missouri covers 8,781 acres and is connected to Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, totaling over sixteen thousand acres in the Missouri Ozarks.
The term “shut-in” describes a place where the river’s width is limited by resistant rock, creating cascades and waterfalls that form a natural water park.
The park has around 40% of Missouri’s plant species. The East Fork of the Black River houses the shut-ins, chutes, and waterfalls, creating a breathtaking canyon. This park is a paradise for experienced hikers and anglers seeking beauty and recreational opportunities.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is also known as the Crown of the Continent. It showcases stunning glaciated landscapes.
The park has numerous campgrounds, including the popular Apgar on the west side and St. Mary on the east side. Access to the park is from Kalispell airport and Amtrak stops at East Glacier, West Glacier, and Essex. Tour buses called Red Jammers offer guided tours in the park.
Historic wooden tour boats operate on some lakes and hiking is a popular activity with a vast trail network. Dogs are not allowed on trails due to wildlife concerns, but they can stay at front country campsites and along paved roads. The park is also known for climbing, kayaking, fly fishing, and limited winter recreation options.
Smith Falls State Park
Smith Falls State Park is a popular spot for kayaking, canoeing, and tubing on the Niobrara National Scenic River, with a landing close to the Smith Falls observatory. Besides water activities, the park offers hiking, fishing, camping, and historical sites.
Fred Krzyzanowski established these facilities to accommodate the growing public interest before the park was managed by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. The area around Smith Falls has unique biodiversity, including the rare Smith Aspen hybrid species.
The cool, wet canyons along the river are home to spruce and paper bark birch trees that date back to the Ice Age and prehistoric history of the Niobrara River Valley.
Valley of Fire State Park
Its name comes from the red Aztec Sandstone formations, created by ancient sand dunes 150 million years ago. These formations appear fiery when reflecting sunlight, making them a central attraction.
The park preserves three stone cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Franconia Notch State Park
The Lafayette Place Campground, located in New Hampshire’s scenic Franconia Notch State Park, offers an ideal base for hiking and exploring the White Mountains. The campground lies within a picturesque eight-mile valley, featuring attractions such as the Flume Gorge, Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway, New England Ski Museum, Echo Lake’s swimming beach, Profile Lake’s fly fishing spot, cycling trails, waterfalls, and opportunities to observe hawks and falcons.
You can join free nature programs to learn about the region’s environment. The campground provides 97 spacious wooded campsites for tents and RVs, all equipped with fireplaces. While open year-round, shower facilities and other services operate only from mid-May to mid-October.
High Point State Park
High Point State Park, located in northwest New Jersey, offers a mountainous terrain and various natural attractions for an active trip.
The park features the High Point Monument, providing stunning views of the area, and is reachable by a short hike from the campsite. Additionally, the Appalachian Trail passes through the park, offering more impressive vistas.
City of Rocks State Park
The City of Rocks State Park is a one square mile area in southwestern New Mexico, surrounded by scenic Chihuahuan desert landscape at an elevation of 5,200 feet. It features geologic formations of large rock columns, up to 40 feet high, resembling a city with streets.
These rocks were shaped around 34.9 million years ago by a massive volcanic eruption, and millions of years of erosion formed the striking columns seen today. The park offers campgrounds, hiking trails, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, birdwatching, stargazing, picnic spots, and a desert botanical garden.
Additionally, there is a modern Visitor Center with displays and restrooms. City of Rocks State Park is an ideal destination for adventure.
The region features over 100 communities, mountains, lakes, and valleys, spanning six million acres—the largest protected area in the lower 48 US states. It’s divided into ten distinct destinations, each providing its unique Adirondack experience.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a popular tourist attraction with millions of visitors each year. The park’s main visitor centers are Sugarlands Visitors’ Center and Oconaluftee Visitor Center.
There are 850 miles of hiking trails, including part of the Appalachian Trail. Mount Le Conte and Chimney Tops are famous hiking destinations. You will need permits to camping and backpacking.
Fishing, horseback riding, bicycling, and water tubing are common activities in the park. From late May to early June, Elkmont hosts synchronous fireflies, a fascinating sight for visitors.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The Theodore Roosevelt National Park has two main units with scenic drives, foot and horse trails, wildlife viewing, and backcountry activities. It offers camping at three developed campgrounds: Juniper, Cottonwood, and Roundup Group Horse.
The landscape changes from brown, dormant grass in winter to green with flowering plants in early summer. The park includes Theodore Roosevelt’s Maltese Cross Cabin and Elkhorn Ranch, with a museum providing background on his ranching days. The Elkhorn Ranch faces threats from nearby oil development.
The park is surrounded by Forest Service grasslands, offering dark night skies for stargazing. You may even see the northern lights. The nearby town of Medora provides a western experience with museums and nightly productions of the Medora Musical from June to September.
Hocking Hills State Park
The Hocking Hills State Park is a popular tourist destination with various attractions. Nature preserves and state parks like Hocking State Forest and Lake Logan State Park offer hiking, boating, and swimming opportunities. Canoeing and kayaking are popular activities in the area. Rock climbing and rappelling are permitted in Hocking State Forest.
Swimming and beaches are available at Lake Logan and Rose Lake. Hunting and fishing are allowed with permits, and bird watching is also possible. The region is rich in flora, including rare plants, and features numerous hiking trails throughout the state park.
You can also enjoy horseback riding, train rides, and air tours, as well as ziplining at Hocking Hills Canopy Tours. The John Glenn Astronomy Park offers day and night sky observation.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area
The Chickasaw National Recreation Area in south-central Oklahoma preserves partially forested hills near Sulphur. It was named after the Chickasaw Indian Nation, who were relocated there from the Southeastern United States in the 1830s.
The park offers activities like swimming, boating, fishing, picnicking, camping, and hiking around its springs, streams, and lakes. There is no admission fee due to the Chickasaw tribe’s arrangement with the U.S. government.
Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park offers various hiking trails and campgrounds. The park is mostly accessible during summer, as heavy snowfall causes road and trail closures in fall, winter, and spring.
Unlicensed fishing is permitted with no restrictions on size or species. The lake was stocked with Kokanee salmon and rainbow trout in the past, but now they reproduce naturally. Swimming is allowed, and boat tours operate daily during the summer, with access from Cleetwood Trail.
You can access bbservation points along the caldera rim by automobile via Rim Drive, a 33-mile long road with an elevation gain of 3,800 feet. The highest point in the park is Mount Scott, reached by a 2.5-mile hike If offers excellent views of the caldera and surrounding areas. Nearby attractions include Whitehorse Falls and Pinnacles Overlook Hike.
Cherry Springs State Park
Cherry Springs State Park is an 82-acre state park surrounded by the vast Susquehannock State Forest. It is renowned for its dark skies, making it a popular spot for stargazers and astronomers. The park’s location, high elevation, and lack of light pollution offer clear views of the Milky Way and other celestial objects.
The park has taken intentional measures to preserve its dark skies, including burying electrical lines and using red-filtered lights. It hosts star parties and public programs for astronomy enthusiasts. The Woodsmen’s Show isheld annually and celebrates the area’s lumbering history.
The park also offers camping, picnicking, and various trails for outdoor activities.
Charlestown Breachway is a golden sand beach in South County that offers a beautiful view of Block Island Sound and is popular for saltwater fishing. The parking lot is small and fills up quickly on hot days, but the beach itself provides ample space to enjoy the waves.
There are public restrooms and composting toilets available. A nearby boat launch allows access to Ninegret Pond and Block Island Sound. The beach offers swimming, and seasonal accessible beach wheelchairs are available. Off-hours saltwater fishing is allowed, and there is a gravel parking lot.
On the east side of the “Breachway,” there is a camping area with scenic views of Block Island Sound and walking distance to Charlestown Breachway State Beach. The campground does not have utilities.
Devil’s Fork State Park
Devil’s Fork State Park is famous for various fish species like rainbow and brown trout, largemouth, smallmouth, and white bass, crappie, bream, and catfish. It offers scuba diving facilities with good visibility and interesting views of submerged human habitation.
The 622-acre park features small waterfalls that feed lake Jocassee and is home to the rare Oconee Bell wildflower, with 90% of its global population found there.
Top activities include hiking the Oconee Bell Trail, taking a lake tour to see the “wall”. You can enjoying breathtaking waterfalls, fishing for rainbow trout, and driving to Jumping Off Rock for a panoramic view of Lake Jocassee and the Jocassee Gorges.
Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park covers 242,756 acres of eroded buttes and prairies. The National Park Service manages the park, with the South Unit co-managed by the Oglala Lakota tribe. The unique rock layers and geologic wonders attract visitors.
Additionally, the park houses a thriving mixed-grass prairie with over 400 plant species and diverse wildlife. You can explore the landscape through hiking, biking, or driving, with scenic trails like Door Trail and Window Trail. Camping and stargazing opportunities are also available in the park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a popular tourist attraction with millions of visitors each year. Surrounding towns benefit from tourism linked to the park. Two main visitor centers, Sugarlands and Oconaluftee, offer exhibits and information.
The park is accessible through U.S. Highway 441. Cades Cove is a well-preserved historical area attracting many visitors. There are 850 miles of hiking trails, including 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Mount Le Conte is a popular hiking destination with lodging available at LeConte Lodge. Laurel Falls and Clingmans Dome offer easy hikes with scenic views.
Camping and backpacking opportunities are available, with designated shelters and campsites. Fishing, horseback riding, bicycling, and water tubing are other activities in the park. The Elkmont area hosts synchronous fireflies in late May to early June.
Big Bend National Park
Big Bend National Park is one of the largest and least-visited parks in the contiguous United States, receiving around 370,000 visitors annually. Its main attractions are hiking and backpacking trails, including the Chimneys, Marufo Vega, South Rim, and Outer Mountain Loop trails.
The park also offers 118 miles of the Rio Grande for recreational use, allowing personal boats with a free river float permit. You can cross the river to visit the Mexican village of Boquillas, with the official border crossing open on specific days.
Birdwatching is popular due to the park’s diverse bird species, and there are five paved roads leading to various points of interest. Additionally, Big Bend is recognized as an international dark-sky park, offering breathtaking views of stars and the Milky Way.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park is highly popular but faces traffic congestion from March to October. To avoid crowds, consider visiting during less busy seasons or be patient. Ranger-led programs are currently unavailable.
You can take short routes like hiking to the Windows Loop Trail, Delicate Arch Trail, Devil’s Garden, or Sand Dune Arch. For half a day, options include hiking to Dark Angel spire or Fiery Furnace, or heading to Klondike Bluffs. Scenic drives can take you to Windows area or Delicate Arch Viewpoint.
Smugglers’ Notch State Park
The park features 14 lean-to shelters and 20 campsites near Route 108. It serves as a trailhead for various hiking trails leading to Mount Mansfield State Forest. One of these trails is Sterling Pond Trail, passing through a dense secondary forest and rising 900 feet to Sterling Pond, which allows fishing and swimming.
Additionally, the park provides opportunities for mountain climbing and spelunking, with numerous large boulders, caves, and vertical cliffs on Mount Mansfield and Elephant’s Head.
Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park is known for its 105-mile long Skyline Drive, running along the mountain ridge. It offers over 500 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, and biking, including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
Backcountry camping is allowed with a “Leave No Trace” policy. You must be cautious of wildlife, like bears and venomous snakes. The park has campgrounds, cabins, and lodges for accommodations. Rapidan Camp, Herbert Hoover’s fishing retreat, can be accessed through a hike.
The park is dog-friendly, except for some specific trails. Streams and rivers attract fly fishermen, and there are numerous waterfalls. One popular hike is the Dark Hollow Falls Trail, leading to a 70 ft cascade with wildlife sightings along the way.
Olympic National Park
The Olympic National Park offers diverse experiences and activities. The park’s interior features a network of hiking trails through a beautiful rainforest with vibrant green plants. Backpacking along the beach is a unique opportunity, but be cautious of tides and obstacles along the coast.
Winter brings winter sports activities at Hurricane Ridge, with a ski area, snowboarding, and backcountry terrain accessible on certain days. The park also offers rafting and boating opportunities on rivers and lakes, with fishing allowed in several rivers.
The Hurricane Ridge viewpoint provides panoramic views, and various trails and picnic areas. Unfortunately, the Hurricane Ridge visitor center burned down in May 2023.
Seneca State Forest
Seneca State Forest provides canoes, rowboats, and paddleboats for cabin guests free of charge. The Pocahontas Country Club and Snowshoe’s Hawthorne Valley offer golfing near Marlinton on Rt 219.
You can swim in the Greenbrier River or at Watoga State Park’s pool. The lake is full of trout and offers bass and bluegill fishing. The nearby Greenbrier River offers various fish species for anglers.
Hunting is allowed in the forest during the season, with a 500-foot no hunting zone around forest facilities. You can find deer, bear, turkey, and small game.
Apostle Islands National Seashore
The Apostle Islands National Seashore offer public docking with a small fee for overnight use. Fishing is popular on Lake Superior, with various trout and salmon species.
Camping options range from basic to more luxurious sites, and you will need a permit. Hunting is allowed on certain islands for specific periods, with game including deer, bears, and small game.
Kayaking is a common way to travel between islands, and scuba divers can explore rock formations and shipwrecks with a free permit.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park offers a captivating experience with its famous geyser, Old Faithful, and numerous geysers and hot springs. The park also features the stunning Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the vast Yellowstone Lake, and diverse wildlife, such as bears, wolves, moose, and bison.
Geysers and hot springs are in different areas like Mammoth Hot Springs and the Old Faithful area. Explore the park’s history at Fort Yellowstone and enjoy activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, and ranger-led programs. You can also enjoy boating, fishing, and wildlife viewing on Yellowstone Lake.
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