Written by: Timothy Fitzgerald
12/03/2010 5:15 PM
Going on a camping trip is an enjoyable experience. But planning a camping trip can be challenging - where do you go? What are you going to do? With so many campgrounds located throughout the U.S. the options are limitless, but also overwhelming. So what's a camper to do? One fantastic option is to camp where you play. And there's no better place to do this than to camp at a national park, where there's plenty to see and do. Whether you are a photographer or hiker, mountain biker or rock climber, campgrounds in state and national parks put you in the heart of the action. We've picked ten fantastic campground options, just for you. Enjoy!
Furnace Creek Campground - Death Valley National Park, California
Located 196 feet below sea level, Furnace Creek Campground is in the center of Death Valley National Park. Highlights include great views of surrounding mountains, and incredible star watching opportunities. Campground visitors enjoy exploring the surrounding salt flats, sand dunes, marble lined canyons, wildflowers and wildlife. Furnace Creek Campground is the only National Park Service (NPS) campground in Death Valley that takes advance reservations on the Internet or by telephone.
Tip: Fill your gas tank before heading into the park as fuel is VERY expensive. Also, be sure to get a shaded spot during warmer months.
Mather Campground - Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Located along the Grand Canyon's popular South Rim, Mather Campground is conveniently situated half of a mile from the Grand Canyon and is a great base point for exploring the canyon. Activities abound at the Grand Canyon and include whitewater rafting along the Colorado River, plenty of hiking, jeep rides and catching magnificent sunsets and sunrises. The campground is located close to the free bus service, making getting around easy and painless.
Tip: Bring a roll or two of quarters with you as the showers at Mather Campground require 8 quarters.
Note: Mather Campground has no hookups, and has a 30 foot trailer or RV maximum capacity.
Coast Camp Campground - Point Reyes National Seashore, California
For the beach lover, Coast Camp Campground is ideal; the campground is 200 short yards from the beach and some sites have ocean views. The campground sits within the picturesque Point Reyes National Seashore. There are a host of hiking trails within Point Reyes National Seashore, as well as sightseeing opportunities, ranger-led programs, laying out on the beach, horse riding, mountain biking, and whale watching.
Note: Coast Camp Campground is only accessible by hiking on trails, so you must be physically able to carry your own supplies to the campground. A backpack is recommended.
There are other stunning campgrounds located within the Point Reyes National Seashore as well.
Watchman Campground - Zion National Park, Utah
Located near the south entrance to Zion National Park, Watchman Campground is a perfect home base when visiting Zion. The campground's popularity isn't without merit. The campground is within walking distance to the park's main visitor center and the shuttle system (shuttles run April to October). Visitors to Zion enjoy a host of activities including hiking, backcountry camping, birdwatching, paved bicycling trails, horseback riding, Ranger-led activities such as Ride with a Ranger shuttle tours, guided hikes, daytime talks, and evening programs and more.
Open: Year round
Balsam Mountain Campground - Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Balsam Mountain Campground, located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, sits at an elevation of 5,310 feet. The campground is most popular in the summer as temperatures are generally 10-15 degrees cooler here than they are at lower-level campgrounds, which can exceed 100 degrees in the summer months. The surrounding area offers plenty of opportunities to hike, whitewater raft, swim and fish.
Tip: In the summer campground temperatures are often in the 80's at Balsam Mountain, but they drop to the 60's at night, so be sure to pack warm clothes.
Bowman Lake Campground - Glacier National Park, Montana
Situated in the North Fork area of Glacier National Park, the area surrounding Bowman Lake Campground is stunning. Mountains surround the lake, with their image reflecting off of the water. The campground is located close to the lake, allowing campers easy access to outdoor recreational opportunities, such as canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.
Tip: Be sure to pack bug repellent - mosquitoes at Bowman Lake are brutal.
Note: The drive to Bowman Lake Campground is on a very slow, dusty, bumpy dirt road. The road is tight, so turning around in an RV may be problematic.
Wawona Campground - Yosemite National Park, California
Campers love Wawona Campground for its peaceful setting and its riverfront camping sites. Wading in the river is a favorite activity for many who visit this campground. It's a great base to explore Yosemite National Park with it's many stunning trails, waterfalls and spectacular views. You can catch a free shuttle bus from Wawona, which is approximately 2 miles from the campground.
Tip: For RVers with big rigs, it is more convenient to stay in "A Loop" than the other sections of the campground.
Tip: Be sure to use the bear proof locker to store food and any of your scented items, like shampoo.
Open: All Year
Blackwoods Campground - Acadia National Park, Maine
Blackwoods Campground is located on Mount Desert Island, which is the largest island off the coast of Maine. President Obama and the First Family chose Mount Desert Island as a weekend vacation getaway in 2007. All sites are within a 10 minute walk to the ocean - thus recreation is easy to come by at Blackwoods Campground. Outdoor activities abound and include bicycling, bird watching, boating, climbing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, swimming, and scenic drives.
Note: Weather can change rapidly here; a sunny day can deteriorate into a rainy day in a short time. So be sure to bring rain gear. Also, always close your tent and RV windows when you're away from your site. No one likes coming back to a wet tent or RV!
Grant Village Campground - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Grant Village Campground is conveniently located close to the West Thumb Geyser Basin. The campground, which is situated at an elevation of approximately 7,800 feet, sits on the shore of Yellowstone Lake. Grant Village, which offers restaurants, gas stations, a post office, and a general store is located one mile from the campground. Activities available include watching geysers erupt, bicycling, boating, horseback riding, hiking, back country hiking and camping.
Wilderness Road Campground - Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Virginia
Wilderness Road Campground has 160 sites in what the National Park Service refers to as "a beautiful wooded setting". The Wilderness Road State Park has over 200 acres for picnicking, hiking, and living history programs depicting life on Virginia's 1775 frontier. Hiking trails are available, as are bicycle trails.
Note: Be sure to use bear proof containers, as bears are very active in this area.
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