As the summer starts, RV campers hit the road for the first camping trip of the season for many people and families. But, this year that holiday weekend and summer kickoff is met with expenses and gas prices making heads spin.
Therefore, many of them are exploring the camping spots close to home and using the gear they’ve got (tents, sleeping bags, or maybe a camper) for the most fun they’ve had in a long time.
But, there are thousands of campgrounds around the country, many of these in national and state parks and forests.
Privately run camps, such as those in the KOA system (“Kampgrounds of America”), charge some fees, and a number of public lands require permits of various kinds. But if you take a do-it-yourself approach to everything else, you can manage to pull off some adventure on a sensible budget, with a little planning.
Here are 10 best campgrounds in America according to Forbes.
1. Sterling Highway, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
The Kenai Peninsula’s Sterling Highway runs through a major chunk of Alaska’s gorgeous southern-coast scenery. There are numerous places to stop and camp along the Highway, from Sterling Junction to the very end at Homer Spit, whether you just want to pitch a tent or park an RV.
Along the way, you’ll have chances to spot moose, eagles and bears. And in the summer, you’re smack dab in the middle of the biggest salmon-fishing party in the world, when the wildlife extends to the numerous good-time taverns and road joints in various towns along the highway.
Chill out at Centennial Park in Soldotna, which is roughly halfway. Carry the salmon-fishing gear with you, and book ahead for some halibut fishing out of Homer.
2. Roan Mountain
In the East, some of the greatest Appalachian Trail scenes are available to those hikers who climb and camp on Roan Mountain, known for incredible views of rhododendron-covered hillsides and spruce groves.
Roan Mountain shelters a rich diversity of life, from spruce-fir forests to vast grassy balds.
Access is through Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee, or Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Moving south from Carver’s Gap to the Roan High Knob takes hikers through some of the thicker spruce on Roan.
Look for rhododendron gardens a short distance off the main trail on High Knob, along gravel paths. After some steep climbs, those who want to pitch a tent off the trail can do so, but be careful of sensitive areas.
3. San Gorgonio Wilderness Area
Those campers in the West who are willing to do a little hill climbing for the sake of a great eco-adventure should look to the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area in the San Bernardino National Forest.
The San Bernardino Mountains aren’t your typical desert range. For one, they are well watered and forested. They are also extremely high, rising like a fortress and walling in the eastern edge of the Los Angeles Basin. San Gorgonio is popular with back-packers and climbers seeking incredible views of the Mojave Desert and Los Angeles.
4. Cotter Trout Dock
Looking for some terrific Arkansas trout fishing? Looking for a whole lot of fun, a real getaway, and relaxation all at the same time? Cotter Trout Dock specializes in just those very things.
A cool destination around Lake of the Ozarks is the Cotter Trout Dock fishing camp on Smith Island, at the confluence of the White and Buffalo rivers.
You can treat yourself to a day (or several) of fishing, fun and relaxation.
5. Seawall Campground
In Maine you never run out of outdoors amusing stuff. Coming to this campground is always a great idea. Seawall Campground sits at the southern end of the island, so it often sees less of a crowd than the campsites near Bar Harbor.
Seawall Campground is right by the Harbor Trail, and you absolutely ought to stop at Lamoine State Park since you’re here. So much cool stuff in the vicinity of Seawall Campground, and it’s always fun to be here.
Near Seawall Campground you stumble on splendid places like Long Ledge; do take a hike on the Wonderland Trail.
6. Kirk Creek Campground
To pitch a tent in ocean breezes, your best bet for scenic coastal camping on the West Coast is Kirk Creek Campground in the northern section of California’s Los Padres National Forest.
It’s situated on a bluff 30 miles south of Big Sur, and trails from the campground lead down to the rocky beach.
The best way to discover the wonders of Big Sur is to stay awhile. An excellent way is provided by the Los Padres National Forest at Kirk Creek Campground. For campers, either in a tent or recreational vehicle, who want to experience both land and sea, Kirk Creek is the best campground on the Big Sur.
7. Brickhill Bluff, Cumberland Island National Seashore, Ga.
Feeling shipwrecked never felt so good on this Spanish-moss-strewn island where you can kayak, swim, fish, watch for dolphins, sea turtles, and wild horses, and then camp in one of three wilderness areas or two main campsites.
The mosquitoes can get thick in wet periods, so be prepared. The only way to get to the island is by ferry, which departs from the park visitor center in St. Marys, Ga., not far off Route 95 (exit 3, about half an hour south of Savannah).
8. Barren River Lake State Resort Park, Ky.
If you err on the side of a pretty loose definition of “camping,” Barren River Resort might be just the thing for you. Maybe “camping” means a cottage on a lake and a little tennis every afternoon. Or it means an improved site for a trailer camper and a couple rounds of golf.
You can do that here, plus fishing, boating, lake swimming, cave exploring, riding, and just about any organized outdoor group sport. The main lodge has 51 rooms for those whose relationship with nature involves an actual bed and bath.
9. Dispersed Sites, Colorado State Forest, Colo.
While there are four areas of developed campsites in the Colorado State Forest, the 60-odd first-come, first-serve “dispersed” sites scattered around the County Road 41 and the Bockman, Montgomery Pass and Ruby Jewel road areas provide some of the best seclusion and allow for spur-of-the-moment access to adventure.
Backcountry camping is allowed in many places in the forest, especially around a number of alpine lakes. Located northeast of Estes Park, this is the place to turn to for a whole host of wildlife—elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, black bear, moose, porcupines, eagles and bobcats. Take your fly rod for the trout and grayling.
10. Juniper Woods Campgrounds, Catskills, N.Y.
How free do you want to be in the outdoors? Juniper Woods lets you go all the way, with its clothing optional/nudist campground (50 campsites total, and filling up fast), right in the storied Catskills region of New York.
Natural beauty is abundant here from the wooded rolling hills to the open meadows perfect for sunning and relaxing. Set your mind and body free and wrap yourself in nature’s magnificence.
So shed that uptight ‘tude, get rid of the polo shirts and skinny jeans, and live like Adam and Eve before the apple incident. But don’t expect some kind of Bacchanalia—this is a mellow, family-oriented place that doesn’t put up with weirdos, shenanigans, or cell-phone cameras (you’ll get tossed out on your bare bottom if you try).
Campers enjoy barbeque’s, parties and karaoke nights. The first-time visitor day fee is waived for those who want to spend an afternoon getting to know the camp.
Check out these top Canadian camping destinations.