Camping’s Greatest Hits
American campers are some of the luckiest because we live in a country that boasts some of the most varied and beautiful landscapes on the planet. Our state and national parks and forests offer some of the best outdoor adventures around from awesome sightseeing and rugged hikes to useful amenities and interesting historical locations. We’ve compiled a small sampling of some of the best parks in several regions of the U.S.
West Joshua Tree National Park, California
Desert camping doesn’t top most campers’ lists, but Joshua Tree National Park might change their minds. The park is located at the intersection of the low-lying Colorado Desert and the slightly higher and cooler Mojave Desert. The vegetation and climate of the two areas is markedly different. There are many trails to hike and 10 mountain peaks higher than 5,000 feet. The park is a favorite rock-climbing destination, and it’s popularity as a vacation spot for nearby Los Angeles locals has exploded in recent years. The park offers nine established campgrounds and backcountry camping is allowed. The park is open year round. Northwest Olympic National Park, Washington
Proof that the U.S. offers amazing variation, campers can travel from the low-lying deserts of the West to the cool rainforests of Olympic National Park in just two or three days of driving. Olympic NP hosts three different ecosystems. In the Quinault Rain Forest area, visitors can view the largest Sitka spruce tree in the world and travel a 30-mile road through the rain forest. Ruby Beach offers views of mountains, glaciers and rain forests from the shore, and visitors can watch whales right from the beach at La Push during migration season. The park hosts 16 campgrounds and backcountry camping is allowed. The park is open year round. Mountain Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho
A portion of the Rocky Mountains rather confusingly called The Smoky Mountains makes up a part of this little-known region. The steep, majestic mountains, pristine lakes and beautiful, wildflower-bedecked vistas will remind you of alpine views in Europe. There are dozens of campgrounds in the area and the region is open year round. Midwest Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota Each season in Voyageurs offers different activities. Boating, swimming and other
water activities dominate summer and spring; fall is best for hiking and winter is perfect for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing. This unique park is mostly water, but if you don’t own a boat, you can take advantage of guided boat tours. Hikes are accessible by car or boat. There are 220 campsites in the park, and it’s open year round. South Everglades National Park, Florida
A wildlife spotter’s dream, Everglades NP is home to many rare species such as manatees, alligators, dolphins and the endangered Florida panther. Hiking, biking, canoeing and kayaking are the preferred activities in this Southern park, but guided tours of the many mangrove forests and freshwater marshes are also offered. There are two campgrounds, and several backcountry campsites, which are somewhat difficult to access. The park is open year round. Northeast Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont
Hiking is king is Green Mountain National Forest. Vermont’s Long Trail is partially located in the forest and is an enticing lure to hikers from around the region. The 270-mile trail is the oldest long-distance trail in the U.S. and follows the ridge of the Green Mountains through Vermont from Massachusetts to the Canadian border. There are five campgrounds, and backcountry camping is allowed. The forest is open year round.