Camping has become enormously popular as we emerge from COVID and is enabling hikers and families to venture out into the safety and distance of the great outdoors. There are tens of thousands of campsites across America, some, however, offer campers much more, including spectacular vistas, like these incredibly scenic campgrounds.
Zion National Park is a quintessential example of the majestic beauty of America’s Southwest, and Watchman Campground sits just within its south entrance. Campers have easy access to the park shuttle, located just a 2-minute walk away, for touring the park’s highlights. Towering sandstone formations are found throughout the campground, while the Virgin River, perfect for cooling off on a hot summer’s day, is just steps away. Sites also have a direct view of Watchman Peak, providing a spectacular backdrop to wake up to in the morning.
Joshua Tree National Park is just two hours east of L.A., but it feels like worlds away. Stepping onto the landscape, you may feel as if you’ve entered a scene from a sci-fi movie, with the bizarrely shaped trees and huge boulders that soar hundreds of feet into the sky. The park may be in the desert, but it offers a lot more than that, including 10 mountain peaks higher than 5,000 feet as well as being an internationally renowned rock-climbing destination. It’s also one of the best places on the planet for star gazing, with incredibly dark, light-pollution-free skies. It’s hard to go wrong with any of its campgrounds, but at White Tank Campground, you’ll typically find fewer campers.
Glacier Bay National Park is made up of mostly water, with the bay serving as a passageway to the park’s inner section. There is only one campground in the park, and that’s Bartlett Cove, a walk-in only campground with a warming shelter and outhouses. If you’re up for roughing it, it’s worth it for the views. Each site, tucked among moss-covered trees, offers a view of the whale-filled cove, and is within walking distance of the dock, where you can join glacier- or wildlife-viewing boat tours. After spending the night under the brilliant starry skies, cruising the bay is a great way to spend the day.
Located near Big Sur along California’s central coast, known as one of the most awe-inspiring regions on earth, Kirk Creek Campground offers the chance to unzip your tent in the morning and watch a glorious sunrise over the glistening waters of the Pacific. Perched just above the ocean, it doesn’t get much better than this. Campers will not only enjoy the amazing panoramic views, but access to a picturesque cove and rocky beach known for jade discoveries and easy access to an abundance of trails that lead to majestic Redwoods, cascading falls, lush meadows and streams. Kirk Creek is just one of the many campgrounds in Big Sur, but it’s definitely among the most picturesque in the nation.
White River Campground, set at the base of Mount Rainier in Washington, has some of the most beautiful views in the park. It’s also the closest campground to Sunrise Point, famous for its breathtaking location for watching the sun dip below the horizon. Save your trip here for late July or early August as the snow melts out a bit later here due to its 4,232-foot elevation. This is an ideal time anyway as brilliant wildflowers carpet sub-alpine meadows at sunrise. Campsites directly on the river are the most spacious and enjoy the incredible view of 14,411-foot Mount Rainier towering overhead.
Want to experience California’s stunning giant redwoods? There may be no better place than Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in Northern California. The park hosts a fabulous campground where you can take in the amazing natural beauty of the stately coastal redwoods as well as enjoy solitude with plenty of space between you and the next camper. You’ll have a chance to glimpse lots of wildlife too, with everything from deer and coyote to black bear, mountain lions, bobcats and river otter found here. The park is bisected by the last major free flowing river in the state, the Smith River, which is just a short walk from all sites.
Salmon River Campground is aptly named for its beautiful location on the Salmon River in Sawtooth National Forest just miles from the town of Stanley. With the jagged Sawtooth Mountains looming overhead, this campground is an outdoor adventure lover’s paradise. This stretch of the river is popular for fly fishing, and campers can also enjoy rafting, mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding. You’ll have direct access to the river from the riverside loop sites, with more shade and privacy available on the upper loop. Wildlife in the area include deer, elk, bear and even wolves, though you’re unlikely to see one.
Grand Canyon National Park is all about grand vistas, and at this campground, you’ll enjoy some of the best of the best. You’ll also have direct access to the Bright Angel Point trail, with even more impressive views down Bright Angel Canyon. Site No. 14 is particularly nice. Set at the far end of the campground facing the canyon, it’s fringed with ponderosa pines and aspens as well as providing fantastic sunset views and plenty of privacy. Sites can be reserved up to six months in advanced – the early bird definitely gets the worm here.
Kalaloch Campground offers the chance to enjoy picturesque, wild beaches on Washington State’s rugged coast, as well as the lush, scenic trails through the Hoh, Quinault and Queets Rain Forests. The campground provides direct beach access, ideal for beachcombers with lots of shells and unique pieces of driftwood strewn about. Bird watching is also popular, with bald eagles and many other coastal birds nesting and feeding in the area. Large nesting colonies of puffins are often seen along rocky outposts, sea otters float along the surface of the ocean, whales and dolphins occasionally emerge offshore and tide pools brim with all sorts of marine life, including hermit crabs, sea stars and sea urchins.
With the deep red colored sandstone found throughout the park, it’s easy to tell where it gets its name from. Arch Rock Campground, a small, primitive campground with 29 campsites offers the same dramatic views in an area that’s quieter and less exposed than the park’s other campground. Sites are set between the unique sandstone rock formations that were artfully eroded over time by the elements. Other highlights in the park include 3,000-year-old petroglyphs, petrified wood and scenic hiking trails.