The United States is home to some of the most beautiful nature trails and wildlife preserves in the world. We have access to amazing deserts like the Mojave and sprawling subtropical wilderness like the Everglades. Over 30% of American land is dedicated to preserving wildlife; this is why there are roughly over 15,000 campsites and RV parks throughout the country. Living in the US and not taking full advantage of this privilege would be a missed opportunity.
If you’re having trouble deciding where to travel, then don’t worry. Making time to get out of the city is possibly the most difficult part of camping — just as time-consuming as choosing a place to camp. While some of the best adventures begin without a destination, you can use this guide to help you find a way to get lost.
Popular ways to camp in the US
Some folks pack just the essentials into a small bag and rough it out, while others prefer to relish the comforts of home while glamping. Whatever camping style you choose, the mental and physical health benefits are similar. Breathtaking scenery and precious moments with friends and family lets us momentarily forget about our day jobs or dealing with bustling traffic jams. Some of the ways to enjoy the sights nature has to offer include:
- Tent camping
- RV camping
- Bicycle touring
Camping offers a wide variety of styles to suit every taste, with many options to choose from. You can hang up a hammock and cover it with a tarp or find an overlanding RV to tow across rough trails. If you’re in a tent, you can keep warm with proper insulation; otherwise, protection from the elements can come in the form of a heated trailer. Thankfully, most national parks and campgrounds in the United States can accommodate nearly any form of camping.
Why camping in the United States is an American tradition
Wilderness was considered a waste of resources during the industrial revolution. Unadulterated forests and remote, quiet mountains weren’t appreciated by the general public until the late 19th century. The change in this paradigm is owed to poets and philosophers, like Henry David Thoreau, who aided in romanticizing the natural landscapes of the United States.
In addition to this, the Wilderness Act of 1964 and the creation of the National Park Foundation in 1967 ensured that future generations can fully enjoy the calm provided by nature. We envision forests and desert mesas as a means to escape and recover – places to visit and return from with a new outlook on life. Even driving through the countryside or biking through a woodland trail can be an idyllic escape.
Campgrounds up north
It’s no secret that camping in the North is best done in the late spring, early summer, or early fall. Camping in the winter takes a brave soul, and the mosquitos might pick you up and carry you away in July and August. However, the northern states in the US have some of the best areas for camping, despite the relatively small window of ideal conditions.
The northern United States is comprised of the Rocky Mountain states like Utah and Wyoming, and Midwestern states like Wisconsin and Illinois. Deciduous forests, grasslands, glacial-carved valleys, and lake resorts are all accommodations offered by Midwestern geography. Meanwhile, northwestern states sport giant mountain ranges and layered belts of multi-colored rock formations.
You can head to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for astounding hiking scenery and visitations to the Great Lakes, one of the most precious natural resources in the US. The Dakotas are also home to picturesque rock formations and prairies like those found in Badlands National Park. A few considerations for areas to go camping in the Midwest include:
- Western Wisconsin and Eastern Minnesota – camping spots like Devil’s Lake and Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Campgrounds fully showcase the artistry practiced by the glaciers that carved the countryside years ago. In this area, aptly called the land of lakes, most campgrounds have a beach or at least a diving spot.
- Northern Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan – dunes are a staple of the eastern half of lake Michigan. The rolling hills of the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and Indiana Sand Dunes are a popular draw for RV and tent campers.
- Dakota down to Missouri – Mark Twain National Forest in Ozark Highlands is for everyone, even if you’re not into literature. Also, the Cheyenne River that runs through North and South Dakota harbors prime canoeing, boating, and even scuba diving spots.
Rocky Mountain States
Besides the most famous mountain range in the United States, the “spine of the continent” houses the Big Horn mountains, Yellowstone, and the Black Hills. Tall pine trees, conifers, sweeping valleys, and vast plains are characteristics of this region. Just check your gear and RV before heading out to prepare for possibly tight turns on mountain roads. Here are some brief facts about camping in this area:
- Colorado and Wyoming – when you go camping in this section of the Rocky Mountain states, you’ll be treated to gorgeous alpine lakes and plenty of rock-climbing opportunities. The Grand Tetons in Wyoming and the mile-high campsites around Denver might take your breath away for more than one reason. Colorado in the fall is enveloped in golden and orange hues with cool breezes throughout the evenings, perfect for glamping or RVing.
- From Utah up to Montana – in the middle of this region lies the Sawtooth National Forest and the Smoky Mountains in Idaho. Summers are hot and temperatures can drop during nightfall, so pack and plan accordingly. The Salt Flats, Zion national park, and the town of Cisco are a few noteworthy travel destinations in this area.
- Nevada – this state has more than 20 state parks and some of the cheapest camping accommodations in the US. We highly recommend Valley of Fire State Park, 45 minutes from Las Vegas. If you’re looking for a colorful trip, Death Valley in early April can sometimes be a wildflower menagerie if the conditions are right.
Camping in the south
Winter and spring are ideal times to go camping in the South. Most Texans wait until October before making the yearly pilgrimage to Big Bend National Park. Closer to the east coast, backpackers usually wait until January or February to enjoy the cool nights in areas around Florida.
The Appalachian Trail, birthplace of America’s folk music and whiskey, has rolling hills and misty mountains with secluded retreats. Further south you’ll find the Everglades, marshes, and beaches with sunrises to spare. Let’s look at a few camping opportunities in America’s south:
- Camping near the southern Mississippi River – you’ll see large outcroppings of sandstone, sandy banks teaming with catfish, and green, sloping mountains. Fishing enthusiasts and boaters will love camping on the small islands in the Mississippi, which usually allows for tent camping.
- Florida up to Virginia – southeastern beach camping in a popup camper or RV is an escapist’s dream — just remember to bring your tow strap in case your RV gets stuck in the sand. Pack up for the east coast if you want long beach walks, breathtaking sunsets, seashell hunting, and hiking and biking trails.
It’s easy to find a desert adventure in the American Southwest. We recommend packing plenty of layers to prepare for temperature drops when the sun hides away for the night. If you want pleasant weather and fewer mosquitos at your campsites, head towards the desert plateaus but remember to bring lots of water:
- Texas and Oklahoma – birdwatching in Texas is a colorful experience — the Corpus Christi area holds saltwater lagoons and coastal grasslands, harboring hundreds of species of birds. Hiking and biking trails around spectacular rivers, lakes, and waterfalls are also easy to come by in this region.
- Arizona and New Mexico – from Albuquerque to Flagstaff, historic Route 66 campsites inhabit this portion of the quintessential American West. No matter what type of camping you choose, you can find fossil-covered mesas, colorful deserts, and Navaho architecture and art.
Coastal and northeastern camping
United States coastlines are known for the Redwood Forests in the West and the Pine Barrel Forests in the East. As for the northeast, a must-mention mountain landmark are the Adirondacks, a nearly 200-mile-wide range. In the next section, we’ll cover camping suggestions for Mexico all the way up to Alaska along the west coast, and Maine down to Maryland on the east coast.
States along the pacific coast include California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. Some of these places have the highest amounts of biodiversity in the US. There are deserts, massive forests, and mountain ranges to be discovered on the west coast when you go camping. Below we’ll look at the features of campsites in the north and south of the Pacific coast:
- Washington and Alaska – crystal-colored lakes nestled within foggy vales and transcending peaks make Seattle a majestic destination. North Cascades and Lake Serene are just two campsites with possibilities for many recreational activities and awe-inspiring sights. Further up north, Alaskan campgrounds seem nearly fictional in the summer. Temperatures rest between 60 to 80 degrees during the day and you can see all types of marine life and mountains over purple flower-covered fields.
- Oregon and California – Oregon camping can get crowded in the summer months, so planning to camp in the Spring helps to avoid the rush. As for California, saving a buck is easy with so many free campsites — one of the most famous being Joshua Tree in San Bernardino County. There’s also plenty of camping near the larger cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Mid-Atlantic and Atlantic Coast
We’ll end this guide with the scenery of America’s first states, the land that stretches from Maine down to Virginia. Besides foraging seafood and kayaking, you can hike through some of America’s treasured forests. For experienced hikers, we suggest exploring the trails near Mount Haystack. Some other prime locations for the north Atlantic states include:
- Maine to Maryland – although Vermont isn’t home to any national parks, the forests in the state have some of the most relaxing camping sites. Like Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts have placid oceanic campsites with plenty of rafting or salmon fishing.
- Lake Erie and Lake Ontario – to the east of Vermont we have the State of New York with the Adirondacks and camping near Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The Keystone State, Pennsylvania just below New York has campgrounds and RV sites that will immerse you in the pristine scenery.
Want a unique way to explore the States?
TAXA provides mobile habitats for seasoned and seasonal campers alike. Mantis, Cricket, TigerMoth, and Woolly Bear all have overlanding options that won’t slow you down when traversing rough terrain. Pop-up tents, fold-out kitchens, and functional suspension are all features of our trailer campers that any outdoor explorer is sure to appreciate. We’ll help you get to your happy place or discover a new one — contact our habitat specialists today!