Editor's Note: Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration before departure.
There's something magical about setting up camp in a national park, surrounded by impressive mountains, wooded forests, or rocky desert landscapes. National park camping allows visitors to fully immerse themselves in the natural beauty of our country's most stunning destinations, from the Pacific coastline of Olympic National Park in Washington to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in Acadia National Park. Plus, with options for RV hookups, traditional campgrounds, and backcountry camping, there's something for every level of comfort and experience in national parks across the country.
Whether you're crossing the country in an RV on an extended road trip or simply looking for a peaceful place to get away for a long weekend, there's a campsite for you. We've rounded up the best campsites in some of the most popular national parks, but first, there are a few things to know before camping in a national park.
National Park Camping Tips
In order to have the best camping trip possible, you'll want to plan ahead. Some campgrounds take reservations, while others operate on a first-come, first-served basis, filling up early in the day. Right now, planning is especially important as some campgrounds have changed their policies, reducing capacity or limiting reservations to encourage proper social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Always beware of park warnings to stay prepared for any harsh weather or hazardous conditions, research park requirements, and check for facility updates so you know what amenities will be available when you arrive. Respect wildlife, safely manage campfires, and follow the seven Leave No Trace principles, too.
Best National Park Campgrounds
1. Elkmont Campground, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Crossing North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited national park in the United States, but once you visit, you'll see why. Waterfalls, forests, and beautiful mountain views make this a must-visit for any avid hiker. The park has 10 frontcountry campgrounds (as well as options for backcountry camping), and Elkmont is a popular tent and RV campground located near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It has 200 drive-up sites and nine wheelchair-accessible options (you can make reservations online).
2. Mather Campground, Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is truly one of the most incredible parks in the United States. With stunning vistas, a variety of hiking trails, and unforgettable rock formations, this is a park everyone should visit in their lifetime. Mather Campground is located on the South Rim in the Grand Canyon Village, which has lodges, a visitor center, and more, and it usually accepts reservations up to six months out.
3. Moraine Park Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is the fourth most-visited national park in the United States. Visitors flock to the park to hike among its breathtaking mountains and see its wildflowers in the spring. Moraine Park Campground is one of five campgrounds here, and it offers beautiful views of the park and mountains with 244 reservable campsites. The campground is currently limiting capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic.
4. Watchman Campground, Zion National Park
Zion National Park is known for its beautiful canyon and red rock formations which make it Utah's most popular national park. Watchman is one of three campgrounds in the park, and it has 190 regular sites, seven wheelchair-accessible sites, and six group sites. It's located near the park's south entrance, plus it's close to the main visitor center and to the Zion Canyon Shuttle, which takes guests to scenic parts of the park. You can make reservations for this campground online.
5. Tuolumne Meadows Campground, Yosemite National Park
Stunning waterfalls, deep valleys, diverse wildlife, and the iconic cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome draw visitors to Yosemite National Park every year. There are 13 campgrounds in Yosemite National Park, and one of the most popular is Tuolumne Meadows, which has 304 sites (including several wheelchair-accessible options). This campground will open for the season in July, and it will be operating at a reduced capacity, so make reservations online before you go.
6. Mammoth Campground, Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is known for hot springs, geysers, and of course, Old Faithful. This park is packed with incredible natural beauty, so why not pitch a tent and stay for a few days? There are 12 campgrounds in Yellowstone National Park — and Mammoth Campground is the only one open year-round. Located near the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces, this campground provides chances to spot wildlife like bison or elk.
7. Blackwoods Campground, Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park calls itself the "Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast," and with miles of picturesque roads and hiking trails, it's easy to see why. Blackwoods Campground is reservable, with a range of sites for small and large tents and RVs. There's also an Island Explorer shuttle that can transport campers to other nearby destinations.
8. Signal Mountain Campground, Grand Teton National Park
Beautiful lakes and mountains make Grand Teton National Park a hiker's paradise. There are seven campgrounds in this park, including Signal Mountain Campground, which offers 81 sites with great views of Mount Moran (plus, some sites are close to Jackson Lake). Make advance reservations online before your trip.
9. Hoh Campground, Olympic National Park
Washington's Olympic National Park spans coastline, mountains, and rain forests, providing different experiences depending on what part of the park you visit. There are a number of campsites to choose from, too. Hoh Campground, complete with 78 campsites, is located in a rain forest, surrounded by trees. This campground just started offering advance reservations for June 1 through Sept. 15 of this year.
10. Fish Creek Campground, Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is known for Going-to-the-Sun Road as well as having 700 miles of hiking trails through mountains and valleys carved by glaciers. There are 13 drive-in campgrounds at Glacier National Park; Fish Creek Campground offers 178 campsites in the western part of the park. Plus, 70 species of mammals live in the area, and some sites even have views of Lake McDonald. Fish Creek Campground opens on May 28, and you can make reservations online.
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