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The 44 Best Campsites in America, as Picked by Outdoor Writers

by Staff

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“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” could be the backpacker’s credo. Every time we hit the trail, we’re looking for enjoyment and purpose in the act of just going, moving for the sake of moving rather than arriving at any particular place. But every once in a while, backpacking will bring you somewhere that makes you want to stop, sit still, and just take it in for a while.

The best campsites in America are more than a place to sleep; they’re a chance to inhabit some of the natural world’s most beautiful places, from mountaintop lookouts to riverside oases to beaches where the sound of lapping waves soundtracks seemingly endless sunsets. Here, we’ve compiled 44 of our all-time favorite places to camp in the United States that we’ve written about over the years. You’ll need to hoof it to most of these sites—some of them quite a ways—but we’ve included a few rugged car-camping sites that make accessible basecamps for dayhiking as well. So forget saving up for that beach condo: For a few days, these could be your second home.

The national parks protect some of the most spectacular, well-loved terrain in the U.S., so it’s no surprise that they also include many of our top campsites of all time. You’ll find some well-known spots on this list—Sahale Glacier Camp in North Cascades National Park is a consensus favorite—but there are some still lesser-known gems here that you won’t face much competition for even today.

Highlight: Johnson Key Chickee, Everglades National Park. This over-the-water platform gives you a chance to pitch a tent on—literally—the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But you’ll need to pick up a paddle to get there.

As it turns out, there are too many fantastic hike-in campsites in the national parks to fit into one list. When we asked former Backpacker editor and current columnist Corey Buhay to pick the best campsites in America’s national parks, she picked completely different spots than we did in our first roundup. This list of top-tier outdoor destinations spans everything from the Pacific Northwest coast to the plains of North Dakota, meaning that wherever you live, you’re likely only a reasonable drive from one of these picks.

Highlight: Clouds Rest, Yosemite National Park. Ever wanted to wake up to vertiginous views of Yosemite’s legendary rock formations? This is your chance. Although it’s prohibited to set up camp on top of Clouds Rest, there are excellent sites about 2 miles away.

We love backpacking, but there are situations where we appreciate the convenience of a drive-up campsite, such as bringing young kids on adventures and hosting reunions with friends. No generator-laden RVs here: These 15 picks are anything but domesticated, due to their true wilderness feel and easy access to primo terrain for dayhiking. Bonus: Car camping is a great excuse to bring the cooler and go all-in on eating gourmet.

Highlight: Crazy Jug Point, Kaibab National Forest. The views of the Grand Canyon from the sites near this overlook are as breathtaking as the ones you’d enjoy in the park. The crowds? You won’t find them here.

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