The 13 Most Breathtaking Places To Camp In The United States

Camping is an American pastime. From the days on the frontier, when camping was a means of survival, to today, where some Americans choose to live their entire lives traveling between campsites, the tradition of pitching a tent in a beautiful place is essential to the American character. And if there is one thing that makes the United States uniquely different from any other country, it is the raw, rugged, natural beauty of our 50 states. Luckily for us, we can camp in nearly all of them.

We're going to take you on a tour of the most breathtaking places to camp in the United States. But instead of following the sun and going east to west, we're going to do it a little differently and go west to east. From the sun-drenched, tropical beaches of Hawaii to the shores of Maine's largest lake, these stunning campgrounds will have you packing your bags and making travel arrangements the moment you've finished reading.

The natural wonders of the United States are displayed prominently through our national parks, public lands, state forests, and conservation areas. Each of these 13 picks takes advantage of these places, from popular, well-known campsites to more remote hidden gems. Regardless of where you choose to go, you'll certainly be in for breathtaking natural splendor at any one of these amazing places.  

Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park, Hawaii

Hawaii sits deep in the Pacific, some 2,400 miles from the coast of California. Despite being the most isolated state, Hawaii brims with life and activity, mostly in the form of tourists. And while many people will flock to the beaches of O'ahu or Maui, our recommendation for the most breathtaking place to go camping in Hawaii is the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park.

The chiseled green mountains and stunning coastline make this park on the northwestern side of Kauai Island a beauty to behold. There are three campsites in the park, Hanakoa, Kalalau, and Milolii, which can only be accessed via ocean shuttle. The trip is well worth it. The valleys, waterfalls, ocean mist, and dazzling sunsets make the Nāpali Coast a truly amazing place. Kayak or swim in the crystal blue water, stargaze on a pitch black night, or just relax on the beach. If you're up for a good walk, the Kalalau Trail consists of multiple trails with varying degrees of difficulty. Walk the paths of the ancient Hawaiians and take in some of the most beautiful sights of the Pacific Ocean.

A permit is required to camp here, and is only available for purchase online. Permits are, thankfully, available up to 90 days in advance of your visit. Rates vary for Hawaiian residents and visitors from other states. Note, however, that there are several helicopter landing zones. These are for emergency evacuation and camping is prohibited there. 

Bartlett Cove Campground, Alaska

By far the most remote U.S. state, Alaska offers something you can't find anywhere else. It's pure wilderness, containing some of the most iconic natural landmarks in the entire country, like Mount Denali and Kodiak Island. So, if you're looking for something even more remote than the Nāpali Coast, look no further than Bartlett Cove Campground.

Part of Glacier Bay National Park, Bartlett Cove offers some pretty unique amenities for a campground. As you are in the middle of one of the most densely populated areas for bears in the world, Bartlett Coves has bear-proof food storage that will keep your essentials safe from the huge, hungry wanderers. Composting toilets are another unique feature of the campground. While there is no fee for camping, you still need to fill out a permit application confirming that you understand the rules. You can stay for 14 days at a time, and a maximum of 30 days out of the calendar year.

Set yourself up on the beach and gaze out across the gorgeous glacial water that gives Bartlett Cove such a reputation for beauty. Visiting in summer is your best bet for great temperatures and access to wonderful outdoor opportunities such as hiking, kayaking, and swimming. Firewood, fire rings, and a warming shelter are available if the weather turns. Overall, if you don't mind a good hike, Bartlett Cove is the place for you.

Kirk Creek Campground, Big Sur, California

Anyone who has even been to or lived in California knows that there is no shortage of beautiful places to camp. However, there may be nowhere more breathtaking than the dramatic coastline of Big Sur. This rugged and mountainous region of California's central coast is a prime camping area for ocean lovers. And while there are many campgrounds nestled throughout Big Sur, none are better for ocean views than Kirk Creek.

Part of the Los Padres National Forest, Kirk Creek Campground is set atop a 100-foot, oceanside bluff. The campground has 40 sites for both RV and tent camping. As it is one of the most popular campgrounds in Big Sur, reservations are strongly recommended. Two sites, however, are open for first-come, first-serve camping, though don't count on them being available. If you snag a site, you'll see why reservations are the way to go. The bluff offers outstanding views of the Pacific Ocean. As it is westward facing, the sunsets at Kirk Creek are nothing short of luminous. 

As the campground is nestled so deeply inside Los Padres, no water is available onsite. So, fill your water jugs before heading into the campground. Firewood and fire rings are available, as are pit toilets and picnic tables. Leashed dogs are welcome, which is a plus for those traveling with canine companions. 

Glacier View Campground, Idaho

Between mountains, streams, forests, and valleys, Idaho is filled with beautiful scenery that any camper would be happy to pitch a tent in. As camping is one of Idaho's most cherished traditions, you will find no shortage of breathtaking places to park your camper and get a fire going. However, there might be none more beautiful than Glacier View Campground.

Part of the Sawtooth National Forest in southern Idaho, Glacier View Campground has some beautiful frontage on Redfish Lake and, does indeed, come with views of the surrounding Smoky Mountains, which were carved by glaciers thousands of years ago. With 64 campsites to choose from, this 756,000 acre park is at your doorstep — or tent step. Canoeing, fishing, hiking, and cycling are just a few of the adventures you can experience from your base of operations.

This is a seasonal campground open only from May to September. Dump stations, equestrian stables for those riding horses, flush toilets, water filling stations, and playgrounds are all available on site. You can also rent boats at the Redfish Lake Lodge and spend a day on the water. Reservations are accepted, but first come first serve is more common.

Bear Mountain, South Dakota

Heading eastward into the Black Hills of South Dakota is Bear Mountain. Though not the greatest known of South Dakota's numerous camping areas, Bear Mountain camping does offer something unique. It is within easy driving distance of the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore, and Custer National Monument, while still managing to feel secluded. Bear Mountain is the third-largest peak in the Black Hills and offers sweeping views of Black Elk Peak and the Cathedral Spires.

Bear Mountain Hilltop Campground is a free campsite that is filled with abundant wildlife and nature. It's close to a mountain top stream that attracts everything from deer to wild turkeys. You'll also have access to one of the last remaining Fire Towers in the Black Hills. This is not an overused campground, so you may very likely have the place entirely to yourself.

Hiking loops will also take you further up and around the mountain to multiple areas that have great views of the valley and mountains beyond. Tent camping is probably the most logical, though a 30 foot RV could fit into one of the spaces. This is first come first served camping, so no reservations required.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Michigan

The state of Michigan is one of the most geographically unique in the entire country. It is comprised of two separate peninsulas that jut out into the Great Lakes. One is in the shape of a mitten, while the other stretches eastward from Wisconsin. This is the Upper Peninsula, a relatively remote wilderness that has enchanted the likes of Ernest Hemingway with its trout streams and deep woods. It is in this wilderness that Tahquamenon Falls State Park is located.

Covering nearly 50,000 acres and containing over 35 miles of hiking trails, Tahquamenon is a camper's dream. It's secluded enough to make you feel like you've gotten away from the busy pace of daily life, while also providing many modern amenities such as phone charging stations, water and food purchasing areas, boat ramps, flush bathrooms, and picnic tables.

The breathtaking highlight of the park are the falls themselves, which are one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River, at 200-feet wide. You can get close to the Upper and Lower Falls, where the water has an amber hue thanks to the natural chemicals leached out of the fallen cedar and spruce trees. You can get a great riverside view of the Lower Falls and camp right near the water. Fishing, skiing, canoeing, hunting, snowmobiling, and hiking are all in great supply at Tahquamenon.

Dunewood Campground, Indiana

When you think of sand dunes in America, you're likely thinking of the dunes of the high desert, or the oceanside dunes on the coast. But did you know that some of the best sand dunes in the country can be found in Ron Swanson's homeland of Indiana? Part of the state's small, but dramatic, 45 mile coastline along Lake Michigan, Dunewood Campground is settled at Indiana Dunes National Park, which offers an amazing 15 miles of sand dune-covered shoreline. 

The campground has over 60 campsites and plenty of modern amenities like flush toilets and showers. Located 1.5 miles from the shore and dunes, pines and oaks give way to the scrub brush, tall grass, sands, and stunning waters of Lake Michigan. If you love swimming or beach lounging, this is the place for you. It's a classic location for anyone looking for a relaxing weekend along the coast. Only, instead of saltwater, it's freshwater.

The campsites are available for tent and RV camping. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance and the season runs from the end of March to the beginning of November.  It's an easy access campground, with an entrance just off Route 12 in northwestern Indiana.

Monument Valley, Arizona

If it's desert camping you're after, head on down to the Monument Valley of Arizona. Red sand stretches out across the horizon and sandstone bluffs emerge from the ground and stretch high into the sky. Part of the Navajo Tribal Park, which is situated in northern Arizona just on the southern border of Utah, Monument Valley is sacred to the Navajo people and offers some breathtaking desert views and astounding nature. Any visit there is directly supporting Navajo land and culture.

Across the nearly 30,000 acres of scrub brush, sands, and amazing rock features, are numerous places to camp. Cottonwoods Campgrounds, Tsaile Lake Campground, and an RV park in Tuba City offer diverse landscapes and amenities with plenty of access to the surrounding valley. You certainly won't be at a loss for where to stay. Tsaile Lake is a particularly beautiful spot, with views of the lake and surrounding mountains. This is the most primitive camping area of the lot, so you'll need to bring your own water and firewood. 

Some of the most famous formations in Monument Valley include Organ Rock, De Chelly, and Moenkopi. Their red sandstone color stands out in the blaze of day, but is particularly magical in the evening or early morning. Any one of the several camping areas of Monument Valley will put you within sight of these majestic places.

Grand Isle State Park, Louisiana

If you're a fishing enthusiast, listen up! Every year The Tarpon Rodeo brings thousands of sporting anglers to Grand Isle State Park along Louisiana's stunning Gulf Coast. An island that separates the Gulf of Mexico and the bayou of southern Louisiana, Grand Isle holds a sizable population with plenty of restaurants, shops, and hotels. The state park is located on the far eastern tip of the island. 

The camping area has several areas to park RV's, place tents, and even has one special "glamping" tent you can rent out should you feel so inclined. The rates vary between campsites owing to water and electrical hookups for the RVs. Regardless of campsite, you have access to some amazing outdoor activities. Birding, fishing, crabbing, boating, and swimming are all a stone's throw away from wherever you plan on camping.

Grand Isle is open year-round, though you will need to be extra careful during hurricane season. There are special evacuation rules and routes that campers need to follow. There is a toll bridge that everyone needs to pay to get across and it is the only way to access the Isle.

Assateague State Park, Maryland

Assateague State Park in Maryland is quite special. This park is a coastal sanctuary for ocean-loving campers — and wild horses. A special breed of horse that are extremely friendly and more than willing to approach cars and campsites, the horses of the island are the expansion of an original herd that was introduced to the area in 1968. The original herd of 28 horses has today grown into several hundred horses, all of whom wander the island.

Part of Maryland's National Seashore, Assateague Island offers camping in the bay, on the ocean, and even in the horse area. The fees range depending on the area you choose to camp in, and offer multiple amenities. Some sites are first come first serve, while others can only be taken up by reservation.

The ocean is never far away from any campsite, so you can easily go swimming, comb the beach, or just relax in the sand. If you've got a boat or kayak, you can also paddle around the island and set up camp at a number of backwoods camp sites that are only accessible by boat or foot. It's an amazing location with an equine feature that is truly unique to the area.

Letchworth State Park, New York

The Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York is an area that, as the name implies, is typified by a series of lakes shaped very much like fingers. It's filled with restaurants, wineries, hotels, and apple orchards, and is also a haven for excellent outdoor activities like cross country skiing, biking, hiking, swimming, paddling, and even golfing. It's one of the more upscale areas of this part of New York, but that does not mean that it isn't a breathtaking natural area in its own right.

Letchworth State Park is one such area. Known as the "Grand Canyon of the East", the Genesee River winds through a stunningly dramatic gorge that flows over several waterfalls, some of which are over 600 feet tall. With over 66 miles of hiking trails and abundant campgrounds, the park also offers several amenities and activities such as hot air balloon rides, whitewater rafting, a nature center, museum, and guided walks.

It's hard to imagine a more beautiful place to set up your campsite. As an added bonus, it is not too far from New York City, or the upstate cities of Rochester and Syracuse. It's a great place to visit for anyone looking for the meeting point of culture and breathtaking nature.

White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire

Just a few hours north of Boston is the wide expanse of New Hampshire's White Mountains. Arguably the most tourist trafficked area of the state, the nearby towns of Conway, Woodstock, and Lincoln offer expansive views of the Presidential Range, as well as several shopping and dining opportunities. With countless places to camp and explore, there is something for every level of outdoorsman in this iconic New England forest.

One of the most unique places to camp in the White Mountains is Huttopia Campground. This is glamping at its finest. You can rent a "hut" on Iona Lake and be host to a full range of outdoor activities such as fishing, canoeing, snow shoeing, and hiking. The place also comes equipped with a heated pool, pre-made meals, and playgrounds for children. It's a 50 acre campground and has over 100 hut sites to choose from.

There are several other places to camp or rent cabins in the White Mountains. All are within easy drives to some of the most wonderful scenic locations and trips in all of New Hampshire. Some such wonderful locations include Mount Washington and the Cog Railway, the Kancamagus Scenic Byway, Lost River Gorge, and Loon Mountain.

Lily Bay State Park, Maine

Completing our trip from west to east is a campground on the shore of Maine's largest lake. Nestled deep in the Maine Highlands, Moosehead Lake is nothing short of an inland ocean. 40 miles long and 22 miles wide at its widest point, Moosehead is one of Maine's great natural attractions. Lily Bay State Park in Beaver Cove on the eastern side of the lake is an excellent place to go camping if you really want to get out into the woods and waters traversed by the likes of Henry David Thoreau.

Lily Bay includes plenty of campsites, trails, boating, fishing, hiking, and so much more. A short drive north takes you to Mount Kineo, which is an 800-foot granite cliff jutting out of the middle of the lake. It's an accessible climb which gives you a tremendous look out over the north and south carries of the lake, and northwards towards the expanse of Maine's Great North Woods and the iconic Mt. Katahdin.

Lily Bay State Park has several amenities including hot showers, toilets, fireplaces, water spigots, boat launches, and cross country ski trails for those who prefer wintertime camping. It's a breathtaking place that is more than perfect for finishing out a little tour of these amazing places to camp across the United States.

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