Getting back to nature has different meanings for different people. For some, a picnic in a park fulfills their desires. Others may prefer hiking a winding path through the woods where fewer footprints have been left behind. Then there are those whose idea of communing with mother nature involves pitching a tent, cooking over an open fire, and sleeping on the hard ground.
For the more adventurous who choose camping as their method of escaping the rigors of life for a while, it isn’t all that difficult to locate places to achieve their goals. Every state is littered with campgrounds. Some of them offer amenities such as hot showers, porcelain thrones, and full RV hookups, while others cater only to rough camping with no indoor plumbing and nowhere to charge a cell phone.
Here are some of the best-rated places in the U.S. to pitch a tent. Only you can decide which of these appeals best to your sense of adventure.
Acadia National Park – Maine
The great state of Maine has 17 million acres of forest, 6,000 lakes, and 32,000 miles of streams and rivers. If this isn’t enough nature for someone, they will never find what they’re looking for.
Located on Mount Desert Island is Acadia National Park. The park caters to hikers and campers of all skill levels. With 158 miles of hiking trails and seven peaks at over 1,000 feet, visitors can follow others down well-worn paths or they can blaze their own away from the maddening crowds.
There are 11 private campgrounds on Mount Desert Island equipped with RV hookups and designated areas for tent campers. In the park itself, there are three campgrounds for tents and RV’s, with Seawall Campground offering the most privacy for tent campers. Seawall Campground is more rustic and is the closest thing to wilderness camping a visitor can hope for. This will appeal to those wanting the tent camping experience without digging a hole for a restroom.
Between Dec-Mar the park opens up for more primitive camping when most tourists are staying south.
Shenandoah National Park – Virginia
It’s difficult to fathom how this magnificent park is only 75-miles from the District of Columbia. With 500-miles of trails leading to waterfalls and scenic overlooks, Shenandoah National Park is a backcountry tent campers paradise. The quiet serenity of the wilderness awaits those who desire to embrace it.
During the spring, summer, and fall, four campgrounds are open for RV’s and tent campers. Backcountry camping can be done with a free permit issued by the park. This is only done for safety reasons so the Rangers can make certain the number coming out is the same as went in.
The park is open year-round so those wishing to set up camp far away from civilization can do so even in the cold of winter if they are brave enough attempt it. Certain roads and trails may be blocked off due to snow or during hunting season when deer are plentiful.
Badlands National Park – South Dakota
The Badlands is known for its abundance of fossils spread out over fields of short and tall prairie grass and huge rock formations forming the oldest ecosystem in the U.S. It’s also one of the very best places for stargazing and hosts an annual astronomy festival every August.
There are two campgrounds in the park, one with running water and electricity, and the other so primitive it isn’t uncommon to have buffalo wander through. Backcountry camping is fully permissible without a permit but those wishing to do so need to register before heading out.
The park is open year-round so anytime you’re ready just grab your tent and go. Rough camping in the Badlands is an experience not to be missed.
Denali National Park – Alaska
Imagine 6-million acres of wilderness loaded with wildlife, lakes, rivers, streams, wildflowers, tall trees, valleys and mountains (Mount McKinley), all under the canopy of a star-filled sky. Imagine crawling from your tent as a huge ball of fire greets a new day full of chirping birds and moose foraging for food. This is tent camping on steroids. This is Denali National Park.
The park has six designated campgrounds with a total of 291 campsites. The only campground reachable by car is Riley Creek and it requires a minimum 3-night stay in efforts to keep traffic reduced. Only one of the campgrounds is open year round and for those who can tolerate the frigid temperatures, there is no fee during the winter months.
Prior to doing any backcountry tent camping, it’s recommended to do an in-depth study of the area, it’s trails, topography and etc. Wandering deep into the park is not for the inexperienced, but because the park run campsites are fairly primitive themselves, there is no need to do so unless someone just wants to.
Joshua Tree National Park – California
The 800,000-acre Joshua Tree National Park offers prime desert camping and so much more. With 10-mountain-peaks over 5,000 feet tall, rock climbers will be in their element. Between the low-lying Colorado Desert and the higher-level wetter Mojave Desert, the area hosts two completely different ecosystems.
Because of the favorable climate, the park is open year round. There are 9 established campgrounds for RVs and tents and backcountry tent camping is allowed by registering at one of the backcountry ranger stations.
Throughout the park, visitors will find short walks and nature trails, moderate hiking trails, and trails for only the better experienced. Because of the desert landscape, those venturing out on their own are advised to be fully aware of the supplies they will need to bring in order to assure a successful adventure.
Campgrounds with both RV and tent sites are spread all throughout America and they are the perfect settings for unwinding and taking life easy for a while. Many of our nation’s national parks also allow pitching tents in the backcountry so the possibilities are endless. The important thing is just taking the time to get back to nature, and there is no better way to accomplish this than by driving some tent stakes in the ground.