The raw beauty of nature inspires us. It captivates us. It draws us in for more. People have been drawn to nature ever since we found a way out by creating civilizations. There’s something about being immersed in the natural that rejuvenates the soul.
If you’re like me, then you’ve caught the fever to camp as much as you can. And if you’re also like me, you want to find new campsites in new places to enjoy the awe and wonder that abounds, especially in the United States!
The United States is full of wild lands to explore and camp on. The biggest challenge is finding the right spot to go camping on! To help inspire your planning for your next big camping adventure, here are 10 of the most scenic places to camp in the USA. Let’s get started!
Big Sur, CA
Located just outside of the Bay Area, Big Sur is one of the most sought-after campsites in the United States. When you see pictures of it, you’ll understand why! Giant Sequoia trees tower over a lush, green landscape. The trees sprout up along a rugged hill side that gives way to a dramatic cliff drop down into the Pacific Ocean. The transition point of the sea to the land is one of the most dramatic in the entire USA and must be experienced by everyone who loves camping.
Cleveland National Forest, CA
After you’ve enjoyed your time in Big Sur, it’s time to travel south towards the US-Mexico border for Cleveland National Forest. Located just an hour east of San Diego, Cleveland National Forest is home to several campsites that will give you access to scenic trails like the Big Laguna Loop and the Pacific Crest Trail. One of the best places to stop and take in the views is at the Desert Overlook along the Sunrise Highway. From the observation deck, you’ll see just how high up you really are as sweeping views of Anza Borrego State Park will make your jaw drop. There really isn’t much that can beat watching the sun rise over the desert from atop the observation deck as you eat your breakfast!
Piney Lake, CO
Once you’re done in CA, it’s time to make your way into the Centennial State of Colorado. Colorado is well known for its beautiful mountain ranges and excellent camping opportunities. One of the best spots for a scenic camping trip is located just outside of Vail at Piney Lake. Piney Lake sits at the base of the Gore Range, which gives some of the best views of 12,000 and 13,000 foot peaks. Wildlife viewing opportunities are almost endless here as mule deer, red tail fox, black bear, and moose frequent the area. The area around Piney Lake can get a bit crowded in the summer, but if you take road 700 west out of the area, you’ll be able to find some solitude and new views of the Sawatch Mountain Range to the southwest.
Ocala National Forest, FL
The east coast of the US is full of amazing camping opportunities. One of the most unique can be found in the Ocala National Forest. After flying into Orlando, you’ll be surprised with how quickly you can go from the city to the wilderness here! There are tons of beautiful lakes to enjoy activities like swimming, fishing, water skiing, and kayaking. And if water sports aren’t your thing, there are plenty of opportunities to go hiking as there are several miles worth of hiking trails all throughout the area.
Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, ID
A true hidden gem in the Gem State is Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Two major river systems run through here, giving you plenty of opportunities to enjoy activities like white water rafting, jet boating, and fly fishing. The Snake and Salmon Rivers flow through the bottom of Hells Canyon, while the towering peaks of the 7 Devils Range look down from above. This actually makes Hells Canyon deeper than the Grand Canyon! If river activities aren’t what you’re after, there are tons of areas to go hiking and off-roading.
Lake Coeur d’Alene, ID
If deep canyons and rushing rivers aren’t what you’re looking for, head north to visit one of the largest lakes in Idaho, Lake Coeur d’Alene. Surrounded by vast forests of pine trees, Lake Coeur d’Alene is a paradise for boaters. Whether you’re interested in fishing for giant lake trout or pulling your friends and family as fast as you can behind the boat in a tube, there’s something that you’re going to love about camping here. The lake is beautiful and perfectly frames the city of Coeur d’Alene on its northern shore. Its convenient location makes it easy to go from the wilderness to the city in case you want to get a bite to eat at one of the many fantastic restaurants that makes northern Idaho a great place to visit.
Red Lodge, MT
One of the most historic places on our list is Red Lodge Montana. During the early 1800s, when the US was still adding on territories to its land mass, Lewis and Clark were charged with exploring one of the largest land purchases in history: the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. They passed through the area along the Yellowstone River, which runs just north of Red Lodge. As they did, they commented on the amazing views and abundant wildlife in their journals. Once they returned and shared their findings, people began to make their way west to experience the beauty of Red Lodge for themselves and boy were they not disappointed!
Custer State Park, SD
The Black Hills of South Dakota have long been an area of great beauty and wonder. One of the most unique features of Custer State Park is that it is home to some of the only wild buffalo herds in the US. Sightings of buffalo are pretty common, as they like to hang out along the sides of the roads that go through the park to lick the salt from the roads. In the winter, you may even be lucky enough to experience a “South Dakota car wash” with buffalo licking the salt off the side of your vehicle! Once you’re done viewing the buffalo, take a drive on the Needles Highway to experience some of the most unique rock formations in the Black Hills. You’ll drive through some of the narrowest tunnels carved out of rock that you’ve likely ever seen!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
A must visit campsite in Tennessee is Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Great Smokies are iconic in the United States because their rugged rolling peaks are shrouded in a mysterious fog that begs people to come hike through the many trails that snake their way through the park. The vistas that await you at the top of these trails are second to none in the southern US!
Hoh Rainforest, WA
Whether you believe in Big Foot or not, once you’ve visited the Hoh Rainforest, you’ll be convinced that it could definitely be home to one! Hoh Rainforest is one of the most beautiful areas to camp in. All year long there are beautifully lush forests that make you feel like you’ve gone to another planet. Waterfalls abound on the many hiking trails that meander their way through the park. Plus, the weather is usually pretty mild, making year-round camping a possibility. One of the coolest things to see is when the forests are covered in a small layer of snow. The blanket of white snow covering the lush green foliage can only be described as magical!
Wherever you decide to go camping, be sure to go prepared for the conditions you’re going to encounter. Check the weather report at least a week in advance of when you’re planning to visit your campsite and be sure that you’ve got plenty of layers and waterproofing materials.
Check through your gear and make sure that you’ve got everything that you’ll need to have an excellent adventure. A pro tip here is to keep all of your camping gear organized in plastic totes. By doing this, everything you’ll need will be in a secure and organized place so that you’ll know exactly where to find each item you need while out camping.
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