The Best Place to Camp in Each of the 50 States
Numerous studies have found benefits to spending time in the outdoors: better concentration, elevated mood, even faster healing and improved sleep patterns.
But camping isn’t just a prescription for dealing with urban angst and anxiety. It’s also a joy in its own right—an excuse to go to bed early, stare at the stars and get your hands dirty eating gooey s’mores roasted over an open flame.
If you’re looking for a reason to dust off your headlamp or fire up the RV, every single state in the U.S. boasts remarkable landscapes where you can bunk for the night.
From remote beaches accessible only by boat to rugged canyons best explored by canoe, these are the best places to camp in every single state.
Alabama — Outpost at Gulf State Park
Glamping meets the backcountry at Gulf State Park’s three walk-in Outpost sites, where canvas tents set on the sand look pulled from a wanderlust Pinterest board. Each comes with four beds, an outdoor sink, port-a-potty, fire pit and, perhaps most importantly, peace and privacy.
Alaska — Bartlett Cove Campground, Glacier Bay National Park
In a state full of natural riches, Glacier Bay is a marvel, home to lofty peaks, humpback whales, 700 miles of coastline, and blue-tinged glaciers that calve directly into the sea. Set within temperate rainforest along Bartlett Cove, the park’s only campground is gorgeously green (if a bit damp) and an easy jumping off point for paddling trips or boat tours.
Arizona — Havasupai Campground, Havasupai Reservation
Getting to Havasupai is a challenge. Permits are snatched up almost instantly, and even if you snag one it’s 10-mile trek from the rim to reach this rustic campground hugging Havasu Creek. Make the journey, however, and you’re rewarded with a series of gushing waterfalls and natural pools all an astonishing shade of robin’s egg blue.
Arkansas — Buffalo National River
America’s first national river travels 135 miles through the Ozark Mountains, chugging over rapids, forming peaceful pools and passing rocky bluffs topped by emerald forest. Plan a float trip and absorb the scenery at a leisurely pace, pausing for hikes to visit Lost Valley’s caverns or the 200-foot Hemmed-in Hollow falls.
California — Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Californians are spoiled for choice when it comes to jaw-dropping campsites, yet landing one of the two spots inside this state park is considered the pinnacle of achievement for coastal campers. At Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, take the aptly named Waterfall Overlook Trail to its logical end, where you’ll have a front-row seat to McWay Falls, an 80-foot cascade that pours from a granite cliff into the teal Pacific surf below.
Colorado — Piñon Flats Campground, Great Sand Dunes National Park
Mountains of sand may not be the first thing that comes to mind in Colorado, but the nation’s largest dunes soar over 700 feet into the sky at this popular park. Eighty-eight sites in two separate loops accommodate tents or RVs, but your best bet is grabbing a free backcountry permit and finding your own corner of the 30-mile dune field for an otherworldly night under the stars.
Connecticut — White Memorial Conservation Center
Dedicated to environmental education, hit pause and appreciate the wilderness around you at this non-profit wildlife refuge. Explore 40 miles of trails, paddle on one of the property’s 10 ponds, navigate the orienteering course and duck into the onsite museum, or ditch the great outdoors for antiquing in nearby Woodbury or a tasting at a local vineyard.
Delaware — Cape Henlopen State Park
Soft dunes. Ocean breezes. Lighthouse views and one of Delaware’s best beaches steps from your tent. Park a towel and soak up the sun at Cape Henlopen, or head into historic Lewes for barbecue from Savannah’s Deli and cones of fresh Hopkins Farm ice cream.
Florida — Cayo Costa State Park
This barrier island is a true escape, a car-less outpost accessible only by boat with more than nine miles of pristine beach. Spend your days kayaking along the coast, biking inland trails, or scanning for manatees and dolphins, then wave the day trippers goodbye and crash in one of 30 primitive campsites where the rhythm of the surf will lull you to sleep.
Georgia — Cloudland State Park
Straddling a thousand-foot gulch on the western flank of Lookout Mountain, this lofty park offers panoramic views worthy of its mystical name. But the real attraction is below, where a steep trail descends into the canyon past a pair of dramatic waterfalls and murky caves awaiting willing adventurers. Back on the rim, take your pick from a buffet of camping options, including 40-foot sites with electric hookups, secluded walk-in spots, charming yurts, and well-outfitted cabins.
Hawaii — Malaekahana Beach Campground
Fall asleep to the sound of the ocean on Oahu’s north shore at this campground paradise, where your tent or cabin occupies prime beachfront real estate to rival any resort. Rent kayaks, paddle boards and bikes onsite, or sign up for a surf class to practice catching waves. When you’ve worked up an appetite, a food truck serves satisfying plates like kalua pork omelets and fish tacos.
Idaho — Point Campground
This petite campground in the Sawtooth National Forest is a cliché in the best possible way: sites framed by towering pines, a pristine lake reflecting the mountains, and hundreds of miles of trails just beyond your sleeping bag. Pull on your hiking boots, fish for your dinner, or just plant yourself in a camp chair with a good book. As long as there are s’mores, you’re doing it right.
Illinois — Starved Rock State Park Campground
Less than two hours from Chicago is a landscape of sandstone canyons and waterfalls utterly at odds with the Illinois prairie. Come in the spring when the cascades are at their most dramatic, or hit the park in winter for eagle watching and icefalls. The campground offers electric hookups, and when you’re sick of the great outdoors, the historic lodge built by the Civilian Conversation Corps serves a mean Sunday brunch.
Indiana — Brown County State Park
Adrenalin junkies fly down 30 miles of mountain bike singletrack, often ranked the best in the state. Families hike through wooded hills, then whoop it up at the lodge’s indoor waterpark. Photographers climb a 90-foot fire tower for epic views, and campers of every stripe find a site to fit their needs among Brown County’s 400-plus posts.
Iowa — Maquoketa Caves State Park
Check your claustrophobia at the entrance to this unusual park, where visitors strap on headlamps and unleash their inner Indiana Jones to venture into a series of underground enclosures that range from cavernous hollows to tight, crawl-your-way-in tunnels. When daylight beckons, there are spring wildflowers, natural bridges and a petite wooded campground with modern facilities.
Kansas — Wilson State Park
Lakeside sites along a 9,000-acre reservoir mean campers at this central Kansas state park wake to lovely water views and days spent navigating the shoreline in kayaks or kicking up dust on the 25-mile bike trail.
Kentucky — Daniel Boone National Forest
Encompassing 700,000 acres spread across 21 counties, choosing where to camp inside the forest named for frontier folk hero Daniel Boone is a challenge. Climbers should head for Red River Gorge’s Koomer Ridge Campground, where they’ll have access to sandstone cliffs (not to mention hybrid pizzeria and gear shop Miguel’s). More into waterfalls? Time your trip to Cumberland Falls Campground around a full moon, when the 125-foot wide sheet of water creates a rare lunar rainbow known as a moonbow.
Louisiana — Lake Bistineau State Park
For a true Southern experience, Lake Bistineau beckons. Stands of tupelo trees and bald cypress laden with Spanish moss provide a classic view from air-conditioned cabins or improved campsites. Venture deeper into the park by foot, or explore by boat and cast a line into the clear waters.
Maine — Flood’s Cove
Load up on goodies in Portland on the way to Friendship, Maine, where a local family offers secluded camping on Ames Island in Muscongas Bay. Rent a kayak or BYO, then keep an eye out for puffins and harbor seals en route to this rugged speck just off the coast where amenities are scarce but views are plentiful.
Maryland — Assateague State Park
Pitch a tent or pull your RV into one of more than 300 sites just above the dunes on this barrier island. Never mind the two miles of Atlantic-facing beach; the real attraction is the island’s famed wild ponies, which make frequent appearances to pose for photos and take naps along the sand.
Massachusetts — Boston Harbor Islands
In one direction, the Boston city skyline, glittering and proud. In the other, the Atlantic Ocean, stretching out to the horizon. Campers are caught between worlds on four ferry-serviced islands in Boston Harbor where visitors come to hike (Peddock’s Island), explore crumbling settlements (Bumpkin Island), hang on the beach (Lovell’s Island) and generally get away from it all (Grape Island). While summer days bring crowds, as soon as the sun sets, you’ll practically have the place to yourself.
Michigan — Chapel Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Tracing the coast of Lake Superior for more than 40 miles, this Upper Peninsula landscape of sandstone cliffs and turquoise waters looks more like New Zealand than the Midwest. Hike the three miles to this rustic campground, passing waterfalls and an inland lake on the way to an idyllic crescent of golden sand.
Minnesota — Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Stretching nearly 150 miles along the Canadian border inside the Superior National Forest, this glacier-carved water world is comprised of thousands of lakes and streams that make up more than 1,200 miles of canoe routes. Paddle past waterfalls, rocky islands and the occasional moose out for a swim, then bed down at one of more than 2,000 designated campsites where the million-acre wilderness becomes your beautiful backyard.
Mississippi — Davis Bayou Campground, Gulf Islands National Seashore
Come for the bayous, stay for the beach. Visitors spot armadillos and alligators as they explore a pair of bayous via nature trail or paddle trip, then hop a boat ride to uninhabited barrier islands where there’s sun, sand and little else. When you crave more civilization, Ocean Springs has numerous art galleries as well as killer pulled pork at the Shed.
Missouri — Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park
On the East Fork of the Black River, the shut-ins—an Ozark word for confined, rocky river—double as a natural waterpark, where summer finds kids shooting down small rapids and splashing in crystal clear pools. A full array of campsites, from walk-ins to electric hookups, means you’ll find a spot for your rig, no matter what you’re rocking.
Montana — Many Glacier Campground, Glacier National Park
This is the Glacier National Park you’ve imagined: thick forest, jagged peaks and mirror-like lakes that reflect the whole gorgeous scene. Even better, this high-elevation campground gives you a head start on some of the park’s best day hikes, so you can make it to and from milky-teal Grinnell Lake or Ptarmigan Falls with daylight to spare.
Nebraska — Fort Robinson State Park
Rocky buttes rise above a grassy plain at this historic park in northwest Nebraska, where guests spot herds of bison and longhorns as they explore via horse, foot, mountain bike, kayak, inner tube or jeep. Back at the lodge, the playhouse hosts eight performances a week during the summer season and an old-school rodeo is free to the public every Thursday.
Nevada — Arch Rock Campground, Valley of Fire State Park
Pitch your tent amid Aztec red sandstone formed by ancient dunes that date back to the dinosaurs. The campground’s namesake arch is one of the premier attractions, but you’ll also find petrified trees, narrow slot canyons and ancient petroglyphs, like the one at Valley of Fire’s second campground, which is better suited to RVs and trailers.
New Hampshire — Pawtuckaway State Park
Make a wooded campsite on Pawtuckaway Lake your basecamp for exploring more than 5,000 acres of oak and hemlock forest laced with hiking and mountain bike trails. Massive glacier-deposited boulders make this a top destination for bouldering, while wildlife watchers should bring their binoculars to spot beavers, deer and blue herons in the expansive marsh.
New Jersey — Worthington State Forest Campground, Delaware Water Gap
Inside the Delaware Water Gap’s 70,000 acres, you’ll discover a world of mellow waters, ancient lakes, swooping eagles and mountain vistas. Don’t miss the gap itself, a notch in the Kittany Ridge cut by persistent waters.
New Mexico — Gallo Campground at Chaco Canyon
By day, explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site that served as a cultural center for the Pueblo people more than 1,000 years ago. By night, turn your eyes skyward. A designated dark skies park, Chaco’s observatory is one mile from the campground and hosts guided telescope viewings a couple nights a week.
New York — Camp Orenda
Summer camp grows up at this intimate Adirondacks retreat where guests glamp in cozy canvas cabins and eat communal meals cooked in the outdoor kitchen. Borrow a kayak, canoe or mountain bike free of charge, or hit the trail to 250-foot OK Slip Falls or the Snowy Mountain fire tower for magnificent views of the surrounding hills.
North Dakota — Juniper Campground, Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Though not as dramatic as South Dakota’s Martian badlands, the rocky, river-carved formations of North Dakota’s badlands are still strange and spectacular. Base yourself in a cottonwood-shaded site along the Little Missouri River, and don’t be surprised when hulking bison amble past your tent or trailer.
North Carolina — Big Creek Campground, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
More than 11 million people visited the Great Smoky Mountains in 2016—nearly double the 5.9 million who hit the Grand Canyon—and it’s easy to see why: forested ridges draped in purple fog, more than 800 miles of hiking and the most biodiversity of any U.S. National Park. Escape the throngs at this tent-only campground, then hit Big Creek Trail to Mouse Creek Falls, a popular swimming hole and breathtaking spring wildflowers.
Ohio — Hocking Hills State Park
Expansive caves, narrow gorges, dramatic waterfalls that shower the earth below. Follow the trails inside this Ohio park from photo opp to photo opp, and when the stone stairs to reach the high-up rock house don’t feel daring enough, book a zip line tour and soar through the canopy.
Oklahoma — Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Once revered for their therapeutic properties, the mineral-rich, cold-water springs of Chickasaw still draw visitors to bathe in sculpted rock pools nestled under the trees. When you’re not soaking, hike past grazing bison or launch a boat on the Lake of the Arbuckles.
Oregon — Cape Blanco State Park
The westernmost point in the state, Cape Blanco juts out into the Pacific like a thumb, the 147-year-old lighthouse atop its cliffs warning ships away from the shore. That position also grants the park magnificent views of the Oregon Coast, especially when sunset dyes the landscape in rosy hues.
Pennsylvania — Cherry Springs State Park
Set atop a mountain surrounded by forest in northern Pennsylvania, this park is in the middle of nowhere and that’s entirely the point. Those features serve to block artificial light, so overnight campers can spend the wee hours stargazing on the Astronomy Observation Field, where the Milky Way unfolds overhead in all its glory.
Rhode Island — East Beach, Charlestown
Among the dunes on a three-mile barrier beach, this spot is the ultimate rarity: an undeveloped beachfront campground open exclusively to RVs. Four-wheel-drive RVs, that is. Twenty sites set on the sand offer sun, sea and little else, though that’s more than enough when the setting is this lovely.
South Carolina — Edisto River Treehouses
Start your river canoe adventure 13 miles upstream from a trio of off-the-grid treehouses equipped with propane grills, tiki torches and outhouses. Hang in the hammock, cook up s’mores under the moonlight, then prepare for your 10-mile paddle out through the private wildlife refuge.
South Dakota — Blue Bell Campground, Custer State Park
Spot pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, elk, burros and bison inside this scenic state park, where the herd numbers about 1,300 and the annual roundup draws crowds. Book a guided trail ride or bison safari, then be back at Blue Bell in time for a chuck-wagon cookout or dinner in the onsite restaurant.
Tennessee — Elkmont Campground, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This tent- and RV-friendly campground 25 minutes from Gatlinburg is the busiest inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and for good reason. Wooded sites fill up with visitors who spend their days on nearby trails or tubing down the Little River, which runs right through camp. Plan well in advance to snag a spot during the annual firefly event when thousands of the glowing bugs mysteriously flash in unison.
Texas — Chisos Basin Campground, Big Bend National Park
This 800,000-acre park includes such diverse landscapes as the Chisos Mountains, Chihuahua Desert and Rio Grande River. Start your day with a hike on Lost Mine Trail, then cross the river into Boquillas, Mexico for tacos and beers before sleeping under the stars at this high-altitude campground encircled by rocky cliffs.
Utah — Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park
Molded over millions of years, this natural sculpture garden in Moab is a gallery of geological masterpieces that seem to defy the laws of gravity. Scattered among rock formations and juniper bushes, the park’s 50 campsites offer shade, privacy and prime views of snow-capped mountains and the glittering night sky.
Vermon — Smuggler’s Notch State Park Campground
In Vermont’s forested Green Mountains, Smuggler’s Notch once served as an illegal trade route, an escape for fugitive slaves and a bootlegging thoroughfare during Prohibition. Today, it’s a woodsy playground, where visitors hike rugged trails or brewery hop in nearby Stowe before bunking in wooden lean-tos with stone fireplaces built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Virginia — Big Meadow Campground, Shenandoah National Park
Stay in the heart of Shenandoah National Park at this popular campground, where black bears and deer make regular appearances, three waterfalls are within easy reach and hikers can tackle a section of the Appalachian Trail. Just steps from your tent or RV, the Big Meadows Lodge offers ranger-led twilight hikes, astronomy programs and a full-service restaurant and bar.
Washington — Second Beach, Olympic National Park
Considered the crown jewel of the park’s west coast, campers pitch their tents right on the sand of this Pacific Northwest beach. Make a driftwood bonfire, photograph sunset over the sea stacks and try to absorb this enchanting spot with your entire being.
West Virginia — Thorny Mountain Fire Tower, Seneca State Forest
Built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1935, this 53-foot-tall steel tower is now home to one of West Virginia’s most unique accommodations: a 14-by-14-foot cabin in the sky serving 360-degree views of the Seneca State Forest.
Wisconsin — Apostle Islands National Seashore
Hop a water taxi or paddle a kayak among these 21 islands in Lake Superior, where erosion has turned red sandstone cliffs into undulating sea caves. Most of the islands feature primitive campsites, so grab your dry bags and keep an eye towards the heavens. When conditions are right, you might catch the aurora borealis.
Wyoming — Jenny Lake Campground, Grand Teton National Park
Serrated peaks provide a dramatic backdrop to a lake-dotted valley where bison, elk and moose meander. Make camp among the trees at tent-only Jenny Lake, then hike through glacier-carved Cascade Canyon or hop a raft down the Snake River. If you’re feeling fancy, the restaurant at the nearby lodge serves a five-course dinner that’s not to be missed. Reservations (and showers) required.
The Grand Tetons will also be in the path of the total solar eclipse this August.