10 Best Campgrounds in the Parks

January 6, 2018 by  
Filed under Pesona

There are few better traditions in the United States than taking to the road and pulling into a national park campground for a few nights of adventure. Of course, the parks can be crowded, so the best spots to pitch a tent are off the beaten trail, where they immerse you a bit deeper into the landscape and unique history that make these parks national treasures. Dig into our picks below and start planning your spring break and summer vacation now. —Doug Schnitzspahn

TUWEEP, NORTH RIM, GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, ARIZONA

The Campground: It’s no new revelation that the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is far more low-key than the South Rim with all of its development and crowds.

phicThe good news is, that dynamic won’t change that much because the North Rim is so remote: It’s a 212-mile drive to the visitors center from the South Rim (or a 24-mile, 10,500-vertical-foot hike).

Tuweep is even more remote than that. The nine-site campground requires drives of 61, 56, or 91 miles down dirt roads that require high-clearance vehicles and can be impassible in mud.

Plus, the Park Service makes clear that this campground has “no water, gas, food, lodging, or phone.” But if that kind of isolation is what you want, you’ll be in the right place.

What’s Out Your Door: The views from the campground itself are stunning enough, but drive out to the Toroweap Overlook, where the cliff edge drops 3,000 feet straight down to the Colorado River, and wander along the six-mile round-trip loop of the Tuckup Trail, which skirts the rim deep in the park’s backcountry.

Book It: Camping is by permit only (submit a permit request up to four months in advance), and campers must arrive before sunset.

PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHELE FALZONE, CORBIS IMAGES.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/lists/national-parks/best-campgrounds-parks/?utm_source=NatGeocom&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=adventure_20160324&utm_campaign=Content&utm_rd=591564587

 

PIÑON FLATS, GREAT SAND DUNES NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO

 

The Campground: Few campgrounds sit so squarely in the middle of a park’s main attractions. Piñon Flats commands impressive views of North America’s tallest sand dunes, towering up to 750 feet high on one side, and the snowcapped peaks of Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo range, with summits topping out above 14,000 feet, on the other.

Hit the campground at the right time in spring, and intermittent Medano Creek flows through right at your feet, carrying rushing snowmelt from the Sangres—and when it hits the sandy bottom near the campground, it rushes off in unpredictable directions, creating a labyrinth of rivulets that make for the best natural sandbox playground in the Rockies.

Just be ready for the surge flow, a phenomenon that occurs when creek water dammed by the sand breaks free and rushes forth in waves that can be up to a foot high.

What’s Out Your Door: It’s easy: Just wander from the campground into the 30-square-mile dune field. At roughly 750 feet above the valley floor (though the measurement varies as winds shift the sand), Star Dune is the tallest dune in North America and makes a good objective for hard-core hikers, but it can be just as much fun to simply wander and play. Or just bring some inner tubes and beach toys and play in Medano Creek.

Book It: Half (44) of the sites here are first come, first served. The other half can be reserved up to six months in advance of a visit during the summer season (May 4 through September 18). Group sites can also be reserved in advance for the summer season.

PHOTOGRAPH BY BRADEN GUNEM, GETTY IMAGES

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/lists/national-parks/best-campgrounds-parks/?utm_source=NatGeocom&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=adventure_20160324&utm_campaign=Content&utm_rd=591564587

 

WONDER LAKE, DENALI NATIONAL PARK, ALASKA

The Campground: Looking for a truly scenic spot to pitch a tent? The closest campground to the tallest peak in North America serves up a view right in the face of 20,310-foot Denali itself.

Even better, 28-site Wonder Lake campground allows only tents, so no humming generators will disturb you while you sip your morning coffee and enjoy that view. You may be disturbed by the buzz of mosquitoes, however; they can be insidious here.

But it’s worth the drive all the way to mile 85 on Denali Park Road simply to car camp in a site that is so deep in the wild.

What’s Out Your Door: Beyond gazing at the hulking profile of Denali itself, fish for trout and grayling in Wonder Lake. The Wonder Lake trail heads from the campground into the surrounding wetlands, an ideal place for bird-watching—just bring your mosquito netting.

Book It: You’ll want to make reservations, which open on December 1 on the calendar year prior to your visit, at third-party site ReserveDenali.com.

PHOTOGRAPH BY LYNN WEGENER, CORBIS IMAGES

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/lists/national-parks/best-campgrounds-parks/?utm_source=NatGeocom&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=adventure_20160324&utm_campaign=Content&utm_rd=591564587

 

FRUITA, CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK, UTAH

The Campground: Capitol Reef flies a bit under the radar when it comes to Utah’s cornucopia of stunning sandstone-and-slot-canyon national parks. But Fruita Campground, named for the still maintained fruit orchards here that were first planted by settlers in the late 19th century, is a true oasis in this red-rock desert.

Visit in spring to see the stunning contrast between the sandstone cliffs and cherry blossoms. Come when the fruit on the 3,000 trees is ripe and you can pick and eat it as you please within the orchards along the banks of the Fremont River.

What’s Out Your Door: The Waterpocket Fold and sandstone cliffs offer up a natural playground of hikes, rambles, and slot-canyons exploration. Climbing 1,672 feet, the nine-mile round-trip Rim Overlook and Navajo Knobs Trail looks out on the oasis of Fruita as well as the formations of the Waterpocket Fold, and it wanders into the unique white towers of Navajo Knobs. For a tight slot-canyon experience, head to the east side of the Waterpocket Fold and Burro Wash.

Book It: The park may be lesser known than many of Utah’s other gems, but it is quite popular, and the 64 tent sites and seven walk-in tent sites here fill up fast. You cannot make any reservations ahead of time.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JTB PHOTO, GETTY IMAGES

 

SEAWALL, ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE

The Campground: While many U.S. national parks protect vast, wild landscapes, very few include people and culture inside that sweep. Acadia preserves the forests and rocky beaches of northern Maine, and those natural treasures include the history and culture of the towns on its borders too.

Located on the other side of Mount Desert Island from the popular tourist town of Bar Harbor, the wooded Seawall campground is close to both the dramatic breakers of the Atlantic and the quiet town of Southwest Harbor, where yacht-builders still craft their boats.

What’s Out Your Door: The eponymous Seawall, a natural rock wall that keeps the ocean at bay, is just a short walk away, and it’s the best place on the island to view the sunrise while you sip a coffee you made in camp.

Or head to the nearby Wonderland Trail, a 1.4-mile loop that scans the ocean. If you are looking to head inland, make for the 1.2-mile Beech Mountain Trail, which skirts cliffs and looks down on Echo Lake before it summits at the fire tower on top of 839-foot Beech Mountain.

Here, you’ll have an incredible view of the entire island and a wide stretch of the Atlantic. Road bikers will also appreciate the campground as a base for tours around the park.

Book It: Make reservations for the 214 sites here at Recreation.gov. The campground closes in early September for renovations.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN GREIM, GETTY IMAGES

 

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