15 Jaw-Dropping Camping Experiences in America
SLEEPING IN THESE STUNNING DESTINATIONS IS THE STUFF OF DREAMS.
Whether you enjoy getting out into the backcountry as far away from civilization as possible or you prefer glamping in a luxurious tent, spending a night (or two, or three) is a perfect pastime to help you slow down and enjoy the great outdoors. It's a chance to see the stars at night, to go fishing or hiking, and to destress from life—something we could all use right now. From sleeping in a treehouse in Big Sur to camping next to a little-known geyser in Yellowstone, these are the most incredible places to go camping in America. And for more cool outdoor experiences, check out 50 Beautiful, Obscure Places in the U.S. You Should Visit This Summer.
Under Canvas Zion, Utah
Under Canvas Zion
Ever wondered what it would be like to sleep next to the geologic wonders of Zion National Park in a safari tent? If not, we bet you are now. Under Canvas Zion offers a luxury glamping experience just a stone's throw away from one of the most popular national parks in the country. That means you can wake up to the smell of a wood-fired stove in your tent before grabbing freshly brewed coffee and hiking just a short three miles to the Left Fork trailhead inside Zion's borders. And if you want to ditch the tourists and keep a safe distance, here's How to Avoid the Crowds at America's Most-Visited National Parks.
Oz Farm, California
Walking Eagle Photography
Oz Farm is a special organic, off-the-grid farm and retreat in a gorgeous nook of the Northern California coast. The farm hosts seven rustic cabins, redwood campsites, and geodesic domes that offer access to more than 230 acres of meadows, forests, rivers, and coastline. We couldn't think of a better place to retreat to for some much-needed R&R.
Winchester Mountain Lookout, Washington
One of the coolest camping experiences you can have in America is undoubtedly spending the night in a fire lookout in the Pacific Northwest. These stilted, rustic structures were built in the early 1900s to help forest service workers watch out for wildfires. Today, they are cozy ridgetop abodes that you can hike to and catch the best sunset you've ever seen. And the Winchester Mountain Lookout, specifically, has some of the most stunning, far-reaching views of the dramatic folds of the Cascade Mountains in Washington.
Pro tip: Camping here is on a first-come, first-served basis, and is limited to 12 people—wilderness regulations apply. If the lookout is full when you arrive, there are excellent tent camping spots up along the ridge next to the lookout that are no consolation, but a prize all their own. Check the Washington Trails Association for current trail reports.
Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado
Edoardo Rossi / Dunton Destinations
This is the glamping tent to end all glamping tents. Christy's Tent at the Dunton Hot Springs resort is an all-season tent built with cotton canvas and reclaimed materials—some of which date all the way back to the 1830s. This gorgeous space boasts its own gas stove, an oversized en-suite bath, and a spacious shower (with views). Even better? You can spend a day among some of the most prominent peaks in Colorado before soaking your bones in the natural hot springs that inspired this glitzy ghost town's name. And for more glorious landscapes, check out these 23 Hidden Natural Wonders in the U.S.
Collective Governors Island, New York
A perfect retreat from the concrete jungle, Collective Governors Island is delightfully tucked away on an island in the heart of the New York harbor. Here, you have the opportunity to sleep in a perfectly-appointed canvas tent overlooking the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. A stay at Collective Governors Island isn't "roughing it"—it's a soothing, lavish escape for stressed-out city slickers, who come to enjoy a taste of the outdoors, complete with al fresco movie nights, bonfires with s'mores, yoga sessions, and gourmet breakfast in bed.
Treebones Resort, California
If you've ever visited Big Sur, chances are it still beckons memories of a windswept California coastline. But the area is notoriously hard to camp in, making sleeping in nature more difficult than you might assume. Treebones Resort changes all of that by offering glamping experiences in luxury tents, yurts, treehouses, and even a twig hut, a gorgeous mess of twisted branches that makes for an abode that is just as much art as it is shelter.
Oljato-Monument Valley, Arizona
Think of the most gorgeous southwestern landscapes that you could imagine. Chances are, what your mind's eye has conjured looks a bit like the collection of massive sandstone buttes that stand iconically on Navajo Nation land. And the view doesn't get any better than it is at the View Campground. The tents at this site are perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sun-drenched red rock formations. The View hotel and campground will reopen on Sept. 1, 2020.
Trillium Lake Campground, Oregon
The Trillium Lake Campground has a postcard-perfect vista of Mt. Hood and its reflection in a forest-ringed lake. While the lake can get busy in the summer months with people fishing, paddling, and swimming, things quiet down for the limited number of campers once the sun sets. Reservations are required; check here for availability. And before you step foot in a national park, make sure you know the 15 Things You're Doing That Will Get You Kicked Out of a National Park.
Little Bald Knob, Virginia
Have a thing for the lush forests in the Shenandoah Valley? There's no better place for an iconic vista than on the summit of the 4,351-foot Little Bald Knob. This secluded spot is located on the highest point of the 26-mile Wild Oak Trail, far away from the chatter of civilization. Check out the Virginia Wilderness Committee for directions and camping details. And to learn more about America's national parks, check out the One Fascinating Fact About Each of America's National Parks.
Lake Ellen Wilson, Montana
The Lake Ellen Wilson campsite gives the best that Glacier National Park has to offer—from vistas of sheer cliffs and towering mountains to pebbled beaches and green forests surrounding. The reason this place is so special is because it's difficult to get to. After reserving your permit for the site, take the shuttle to the Gunsight Pass trailhead and hike 10 miles to Lake Ellen Wilson. After camping, you can choose to either return the way you came in, or hike 11 miles to Lake McDonald and catch a shuttle from there. Advance reservations are required.
Thunder River Falls, Arizona
Whit Richardson / Alamy
When you think about the Grand Canyon, the first thing that pops into your mind probably isn't a waterfall. But surprise, one of the most special experiences you could have in the Big Ditch is camping next to the 120-foot Thunder River Falls, which cascade from the canyon's limestone cliffs. And for more amazing cascades you can find in America, check out the 15 Waterfalls So Magical You Won't Believe They're in the U.S.
Pro tip: We suggest camping along the Upper Tapeats Creek, near a spur that leads you to the falls. Permits for camping are required.
Lamar Valley, Wyoming
If you've ever wanted to see the buffalo roam, wolves howl, and grizzly bears lumber across their native habitats, head to Yellowstone—and more specifically, the Lamar Valley. Spend a few days here and you might also catch glimpses of elk, coyote, fox, antelope, bald eagles, osprey, moose, and bighorn sheep. Plus, the designated backcountry campsites within the national park give you the chance to spend the night with your new four-legged friends.
Pro tip: Hike out and back on the Lamar River Trail and try to nab a spot near where the creeks (a.k.a. wildlife watering holes) enter the valley.
Johns Hopkins Inlet, Alaska
For those who fancy a good old fashioned excursion to the Last Frontier (a.k.a. the wilds of Alaska), we couldn't recommend Johns Hopkins Inlet more. To get here, you must paddle among harbor seals, sea otters, and the massive Lamplugh Glacier. The scenery is all-time before you even reach the camp on the rocky beach. But after setting up your tent, you'll find your new home surrounded by incredible 12,000-foot peaks and icebergs.
Pro tip: The best way to enjoy this camp is on a four- or five-day sea kayaking trip in Glacier Bay National Park's West Arm with Alaska Mountain Guides—making it a true backcountry trip. A camping permit is required, but the site is free.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland
Camping next to the sound of ocean waves and the hoof beats of wild horses is about as dreamy as it gets. And at Assateague Island National Seashore, that's the everyday soundtrack for visitors. Camping along the Atlantic beaches of Assateague gives you access to trails that wind through marshland, dunes, pine forests, and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge—which is home to the wild Chincoteague ponies, bald eagles, and seabirds.
Pro tip: Camping is only allowed on the Maryland side of the island. From November 16 through March 14, the sites are first come, first served, while reservations are required March 15 through November 15, costing $30 per night. Backcountry camping is allowed ($10, seven-day permit required), but these areas are only accessible by hiking or paddling in. And if you'd rather have the scenery to yourself, here's Where to Go to Escape the Crowds on Your Summer Vacation.
East Cape Sable Campgrounds, Florida
Imagine the relaxing soundtrack of whooshing palm fronds, tall grasses, and ocean waves. You can get this—plus seclusion and the chance to see wild manatees and dolphins—in Florida's Everglades National Park when you bunk down at the East Cape Sable Campgrounds. To get there, you must paddle 11 miles west from the Flamingo Marina and around the point on the cape's southwest-facing shore. (A permit is required.) And for more views you can find in your own backyard, check out the 15 Jaw-Dropping Natural Wonders You'll Only See in America.