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The best places across America to camp and photograph nature

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More from Outdoor Living Newsletter November Outdoor Living Newsletter

One of the best parts of America’s vastness is the variety of scenery it offers us. As summer greens transform to autumnal yellows, oranges, and reds, as leaves fall from autumn and into winter, and as winter returns to spring to begin the cycle anew, there are many photo opportunities to capture the splendor of the changing seasons.. Here are six of our favorite destinations in the U.S. to photograph any time of the year.

Los Padres National Forest, California

Los Padres National Forest spans almost two million acres and extends over 220 miles of Southern and Central California, and more than 1.7 million of those acres are public lands. Divided into two separate, unconnected areas, Los Padres encompasses the northern division in Monterey County and the southern division in Kern, Los Angeles, San Luis, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. In the northern region, the forest allows avid and lay photographers alike access to over 300 miles of hiking trails and 11 campgrounds, some of which accommodate RVs, as well as Central California’s famed Big Sur Coast. The southern region is significantly larger, lies adjacent to the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County, and is full of beautiful mountain panoramas and trees.

Find campgrounds in the northern section or the southern section.

Yellow, red, green fall foliage at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Beautiful colors of the Fall

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Colorado

Nestled in south-central Colorado, Great Sand Dunes boasts the tallest sand dunes in North America, some of which rise 750 feet, over almost 85,000 acres. Don’t, however, be fooled into thinking there are no trees in the national park, as this diverse habitat contains ancient forests of pine and spruce as well as aspen and cottonwood trees. Grasslands grant any photographer admission to breathtaking views from the valleys to the mountains. In short, Great Sand Dunes offers a plethora of setting in which to capture the perfect seasons in bloom, fall foliage, and winter wonderlands.

Find campgrounds and RV Parks near Mosca, Colorado.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Located amidst the Blue Ridge Mountain province that spans eight states of the Appalachian Mountain Range, Shenandoah invites visitors to explore its almost 200,000 acres of long, narrow land located between the Shenandoah River Valley on the west and the rolling hills of the Piedmont plateau region of Virginia to the east. The Skyline Drive is a popular drive for flora appreciation and landscape photography during any season, as it runs 105 miles along the ridge of the mountains through the entire park, and is especially beautiful for fall foliage. For a particularly spectacular view, try the Dark Hollow Falls Trail, a 1.4 mile hike off of the Skyline Drive that ends at a 70 foot waterfall, one of nine in the park.

Find campgrounds and RV Parks near Stonewall, Virginia.

Shawnee National Forest, Illinois

Comprised of over 250,000 acres of Southern Illinois land, Shawnee houses parts of the Ozark and Shawnee hills. In addition to the astounding topography, Cedar Lake is a prime location for fishing bass, bluegill, and catfish. Of particular interest to visiting photographers is the Garden of the Gods Wilderness, 3,318 acres of land with numerous hiking trails to guide the way to the perfect shot. The solidified lava of Hicks Dome, once believed to have been formed from magma rising out of the earth during a volcanic eruption, is now thought to be the result of an ancient comet or meteor impact, and is located in Hardin County, Illinois.

Find campgrounds and RV Parks near Stonefort, Illinois.

Housatonic Meadows State Park, Connecticut

Situated among 451 acres of rock-laden Housatonic River Valley and hulking hills of the Northwestern uplands, Housatonic Meadows offers 95 campsites and an authentic back-to-basics nature experience. Complete with rustic appeal, a two-mile stretch of the Housatonic River bestows the opportunity upon expert and novice fisherman to trot a line for bass or trout. The scenery will astound the inner-shutterbug, as the park is located amidst towering oaks, which are particularly beautiful during the world-famous New England autumnal foliage. Nearby Ellsworth Hill Orchard & Berry Farm offers more staggering views as well.

Find campgrounds and RV Parks near Sharon, Connecticut.

Beavers Bend State Park, Oklahoma

At first blush, Beavers Bend State Park in Broken Bow, Oklahoma may seem like a strange addition to this list, but the southeastern Oklahoma park offers campers amazing vistas of lush flora surrounding crystalline Broken Bow Lake, ideal for snapshots of nature. November through February, the park offers eagle watches, and trout fishing, fly-fishing clinics, guided horseback rides over scenic trails, and hayrides year round. The David Boren Trail consists of 16 miles of hiking trails, 4 of which can also be mountain biked, that follow wondrous ridge tops and creek bottoms through colossal stands of timber and into areas secluded enough to stimulate fantasies of pioneer days. Of all the parks on the list, this one just may be the hidden gem.

Find campgrounds and RV Parks near Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

Each of these parks offers something uniquely beautiful at different times of the year. Wherever you decide to go, don’t forget your camera, so you can share nature’s beauty with your family and friends. Do remember to check on availability before you set out on your panoramic journey.

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