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There’s something truly special about camping in a tent and braving the elements of nature in the great outdoors. Tent camping is the epitome of “roughing it” and leaving technology behind to live in the wild, if even just for a weekend. The most scenic campgrounds in the United States cater to tent camping with services towards adventurous travelers who crave a more rugged experience. For example, you might appreciate level campsites that don’t flood, a picnic table, a fire ring, a bathhouse with clean showers, and perhaps a big sink with warm water to wash your dishes. These are the most epic places to go tent camping in the U.S.
To experience some of the last true wilderness areas in America with amazing hikes and views, head to the campgrounds at Olympic National Park. For easy access to a rugged and remote coastline, camp at Ozette Campground. Sol Duc is a great tent campground that’s close to lots of hikes and even hot springs. For the best views of Lake Crescent head to Fairholme Campground, which is open April to October and is clean and quiet.
No true American camping experience would be complete without a stay in Yosemite National Park. People have enjoyed camping traditions in Yosemite for generations, and these are some of the most coveted sites you’ll find anywhere. There are popular campgrounds here, some of which can be booked on a reservation system. The other campgrounds are on a first-come-first-served basis and typically fill up by noon between the busy months of April through September. Hodgdon Meadow, Crane Flat, Wawona, and half of Tuolumne Meadows require reservations year-round. Showers are only available in Yosemite Valley at Half Dome Village and Housekeeping Camp.
With iconic lighthouses, rugged cliffs and a mysterious vibe, Acadia National Park is a wonderful place to pitch a tent. There are campgrounds inside the national park and around a dozen private campgrounds on the outskirts of the park from which to choose. Blackwoods Campground has over 300 sites and is along Route 3, just five miles south of Bar Harbor. Primitive campsites are free between December and March. There’s also the Seawall Campground on Route 10A and Schoodic Woods Campground three miles southeast of Winter Harbor inside the park. For the most remote experience, set up at Duck Harbor Campground on Isle au Haut.
The White Mountains have a little bit of everything for campers – tent sites, RV sites, and backcountry opportunities. For developed campgrounds, reservations require a seven-day minimum stay. Otherwise, availability is first-come-first-served. There are campgrounds in the Androscoggin Ranger District, in the Pemigewasset Ranger District, and in the Saco Ranger District. If you want to pitch a tent in the backcountry, you’ll need to set up at least ¼ mile of roads, shelters, and trailheads. If you really want to rough it, you can camp here in the winter at Barnes Field in Gorham or Hancock in Lincoln.
Zion National Park is an ideal place for canyoneering and hiking adventures and setting up a tent after days of climbing, and wading through streams. There are campgrounds inside Zion National Park, while Watchman Campground is just ¼ mile from the south entrance and open year-round. The South Campground is 0.5 miles from that entrance and available as first-come-first-served between February and November. Camping at Lava Point Campground is free, however, there are only pit toilets for these primitive campsites and no water. You can also pack your tent on your back and head into the backcountry. There are nine campsites along the West Rim Trail.
Assateague Island National Seashore area is part of both Maryland and Virginia, but camping is only available in the Maryland district of the island. This island is famous for the wild horses that roam free and join campers on their adventure. You can make reservations between March and November to camp here, and these sites book up very quickly. The Oceanside Drive-In and Oceanside Walk-In sites are great for tents. There are also Bayside Drive-In sites, a horse camp with two campsites, and group camping here. All facilities have chemical toilets, cold showers, and safe drinking water.
Many people think of Disney World and crowded beaches when they consider traveling to Florida, but there’s a wilder side to this state just waiting to be explored. There are two developed campgrounds at Gulf Islands National Seashore, and one of them is in Florida. Fort Pickens Campground is near Pensacola and has 200 sites. The other campsite that’s part of this national seashore is the Davis Bayou Campground in Mississippi. There are sites here that offer water, fire rings, restrooms, and picnic tables. This is just one of many gorgeous campsites in Florida.
Crater Lake has been inspiring artists, photographers, and sightseers for hundreds of years. It’s known as the deepest lake in the U.S. and one of the most pristine on the planet. There are two campgrounds in this national park in the forests south of the lake, but they’re only open in summer. Mazama Campground is seven miles from the Rim Village near Highway 62 and offers tent sites. But for a smaller tents-only environment, you can stay at Lost Creek Campground, which has 16 sites. You must pick up a backcountry permit from the office if you want to camp anywhere else in the park, but due to the snowy winters here, the most comfortable times to backcountry camp are only between mid-July through September.
Also in the Pacific Northwest, Mount Rainier is an ideal place to tent camp. There are four campgrounds here, including three that accept both tents and RVs. Cougar Rock Campground is at the southwest section of the park, Ohanapecosh at the southeast section, and White River in the northeast section. In the northwest, you can find a tents-only primitive campground at Mowich Lake. There are 10 sites here open from early July to early October; however, there is no potable water there and fires are prohibited.
Situated between Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan with miles of beaches, this is a beautiful state park with both rustic and modern sites. Pines, Cedar, and Beechwood are the modern campgrounds. For a more remote, tents-only experience, grab your backpack and head to the 10 sites at the Jack Pine Hike-In Campground.
It might sound a bit crazy to camp around volcanoes, but you can definitely do it in Hawaii! There are two campgrounds at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, Nāmakanipaio and Kulanaokuaiki. The first of these is operated by a lodging company and has drive-in sites, but the latter is free and available on a first-come-first-served basis. Nāmakanipaio is 31.5 miles south of Hilo on Highway 11, and Kulanaokuaiki’s nine campsites are five miles down from Hillina Pali Road. In your tent, expect nighttime temperatures to range from high 40s to high 60s.
There’s much more to Texas than just big cities, cattle ranches, and cowboy hats. Palo Duro Canyon State Park just goes to show that not all the amazing scenery in this country is part of national parks. For tents, there are 25 basic tent-only campsites in the Cactus or Fortress Cliff areas. There are also hike-in primitive camp areas available on a first-come-first-served basis but check with the park about weather conditions before setting up camp.