Camping is an incredible experience, especially when you go with friends and family. Getting back to the great outdoors, soaking in the power and vastness of America's wilderness reinvigorates the spirit and energizes you with inspiration, a new outlook, and respect for nature. Check out these top seven national park camping sites and consider a camping trip this summer!
Yosemite National Park - California
The great park of Yosemite, in Northern California, has a grand total of 13 designated campgrounds, several of which accept RV and trailer hookups overnight. Seven of these sites are first come first serve while the rest accept reservations which may be prudent during the busy summer months. For great views of the mountains, waterfall, and rocky formations, stay at the Upper, Lower, and/or North Pines campgrounds. Backcountry camping is also allowed with a permit and may be necessary if you decide to hike the longer trails at the park.
Head up to the northeast for a camping vacation in the rocky wilderness of Maine's Atlantic shores. There are two designated campgrounds, Blackwoods and Seawall, which get you within walking distance of the ocean and under the brilliant dappled beauty of the forest canopy. Blackwoods is open year round and is close to the hopping town of Bar Harbor while Seawall is less touristy, less crowded, but only open from late May through September. Backcountry camping is not permitted at Acadia but you might not mind as you spend the day exploring the forested hills and low mountains, rocky shores, and wildlife which roam freely.
Under the broad Montana sky you'll find the incredibly enormous Glacier National Park, home to 13 developed campgrounds and over 1,000 campsites. At any of the campgrounds you'll be able to wake up to pristine mountain vistas, cooling snow capped peaks, deep blue lakes, and forests of pine. The Rising Sun Campground sits at the Canadian border while Sprague Creek lies on the shores of Lake McDonald where you'll also find lodges, a general store, and restaurants for those of you who prefer not to eat solely by a camp stove. Backcountry camping enthusiasts are allowed to wander forth into the wilderness with an approved permit, to camp at designated sites so be sure to pick up a map at the Visitor Center.
Set within the stunning Shenandoah Valley, cradled by the Blue Ridge Mountains, this beautiful national park is only 75 miles south of Washington, D.C. Shenandoah is perfect for first time campers, families, and young campers with little experience. There are four developed campgrounds, all of which are close to the park's main attractions including the tallest park waterfall and Big Flat Mountain. Along the scenic 105 mile Skyline Drive, which makes for a wonderful activity, is studded with places to eat, scenic overlooks, and trailheads. There is no backcountry camping at Shenandoah National Park.
16 easily accessible campgrounds welcome you into the majestic Olympic National Park. There are so many varying ecosystems in Olympic that you can choose to wake up in the rainforest, near the beach with the waves at your feet, or in the mountains. A backpacking permit lets you go as you please in the deep wilderness, though the park does have guidelines and maps available for the adventurous but cautious type. The park operated campsites do not have water or electrical hookups, for those you must go to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort or the Log Cabin Resort, both of which also have rooms and cabins for rent.
Zion National Park - Utah
In southwest Utah, among the red-rock spires, canyons, and deep forests is the incomparable Zion National Park. Nature and ecotour enthusiasts flock to Zion during the summer months to enjoy hiking the mountains, wading through the water at the bottom of the canyons, and enjoying the brilliant sunsets and starry nights. The three established campgrounds are always full during the busy summer months though backcountry camping is allowed with a permit.
Finally we come to the most popular national park in the country, Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains. Among the scenic overlooks, incredibly rich forests, and rolling hills you'll find roughly 70 preserved prehistoric landmarks, Appalachian historical buildings, and so much more. There are ten campgrounds, all of which are equipped with running water and toilets but if you want to get truly back to nature, grab yourself a backcountry camping permit and pitch a tent at one of the designated sites. The nearby city of Pigeon Forge makes for easy access to Dollywood theme park and other amazing sites.