If you love camping and are looking for the perfect campground, you might not have to travel outside your own state—or you could opt for a long road trip. Perhaps you have been wanting to visit one of the many beautiful national parks and your dream vacation is to camp under the stars. The National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS) offers more than 45,000 facilities at over 1,700 locations that you can reserve, but make sure you do so well in advance. Whether you wish to visit Alaska’s Tongass National Forest or Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, it is easy to reserve your camping trip through the NRRS or a number of other reservation services. If you want to camp at Yellowstone from June to September, you’ll need to make reservations 6 to 12 months in advance. Other campsites do not require as long in advance reservations, but it is always a good idea to book at least a few months ahead of time.
Tips for a Successful Camping Trip
One of the keys to success is customizing a camping trip that fits the needs of everyone in your family. If you are empty-nesters, chances are you will choose a completely different type of campground than a family of five with young children.
Planning ahead not only means booking a site well in advance, but also putting together everything you need so you won’t find yourself unprepared. What you bring depends to a large degree on the length of your trip, number and age of people in your camping group, and the campground setting.
Ready-made freeze-dried and dehydrated meals or snacks are a great option, especially if you are backpacking. Outdoor survival kits are perfect for hunters and campers alike and include water purification tablets, emergency candles, waterproof matches, an emergency sleeping bag, duct tape, a shovel, a first aid kit, and more. If you are taking a road trip, it is a good idea to purchase an auto survival kit which comes with a first aid kit, an emergency blanket, jumper cables, a towrope, and a hand-crank flashlight. If you are camping during summer anywhere near water—must-haves include bug repellent, citronella candles, and mosquito nets!
A Few Top U.S. Camping Spots
Fort Yargo State Park: This is one of 13 Georgia state parks that participate in the First-Time Camper Program in the Peach Tree State. The program enables families to sleep under the stars in a tent before investing in camping equipment. Family-friendly perks include Camping 101, park staff who help you set up the campsite, swimming or kayaking in the lake, disc golf, ranger-led nature hikes, and 3-day Junior Ranger camps.
Cherrystone Camping Family Resort: Nestled on 300 acres of Chesapeake Bay waterfront, this beautiful campground has something for everyone! The site accommodates RVs and tents, or you can stay in a cottage, cabin, or rental trailer. Kid-friendly activities include swimming, crafting, a game arcade, horseshoes, and the nearby Splash Park. Other activities include shopping at the local farm stand, canoeing, and going on sunset cruises to see dolphins.
Lake George Escape: Located in the beautiful Adirondacks, hiking, fishing, kayaking and tubing along the Schroon River await families who choose this campground. The site boasts log cabins, a bonfire pit great for roasting s’mores, and a full-time activities staff that is dedicated to planning a lot of fun events for kids.
For Adults and Adventurous Explorers
Sahale Glacier Camp, Washington: This is a rugged and stunningly gorgeous area to hike or backpack, but only for adventurers. There is no camping at Cascade Pass because the National Park Service is trying to restore its fragile vegetation. However, close by is Sahale Glacier, which offers fields of flowers, peaks of ice, marmots, and some of the most spectacular alpine landscape vistas anywhere in the world!
North Rim Campground, Grand Canyon: A short bucket list has to include the Grand Canyon! Truly breathtaking, this campground accommodates RVs and tents and is a memorable experience you’ll talk about for years to come. This place fills up quickly, however rest assured, you can make reservations up to 6 months in advance.
Jumbo Rocks Campground, Joshua Tree National Park: A little more than a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles, this campground only has 124 first-come, first-served sites, so you need to book early. Located on the western border of the park, a short hike will take you close to the top of Skull Rock, one of the coolest rocks in the park. There are picnic tables, fire rings, and pit toilets, but no portable water sources, so it is important to bring adequate supplies.