From the towering peaks of the Rockies to the sweeping vistas of the smoky mountains, the United States plays host to some of the world's most spectacular campsites. This comprehensive guide will take you through the 10 Best Campgrounds in the mountains across the US and equip you with a necessary packing list for your mountain getaway. Plus, we'll share valuable tips to ensure your mountain camping trip is nothing less than extraordinary. Whether you're a seasoned mountain warrior or a camping novice eager for a high-altitude experience, our breakdown holds the keys to an unforgettable adventure amongst nature's finest. Strap in, prepare your gear, and let's go camping!
The 10 Best Campgrounds in the Mountains (US)
1. Glacier National Park, Montana
Experience the breathtaking views of Glacier National Park in Montana with 13 developed campgrounds and over 1,000 sites. Take the opportunity to explore over 700 miles of scenic trails through forests, meadows, and mountains. Some campgrounds manage on a first-come, first-served basis, while others require advanced reservations.
2. Big Bend National Park, Texas
Located along the Rio Grande in Texas, Big Bend National Park is a perfect destination for rafting, canoeing, and kayaking enthusiasts. The park offers diverse hiking and backpacking trails across desert, mountain, and river landscapes. There are three developed campgrounds — Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, and Cottonwood — an RV camping area and numerous backcountry camping opportunities. Advanced reservations and backcountry permits are necessary.
3. Sandy Pines Campground - Kennebunkport, Maine
Offering picturesque scenery in coastal southern Maine from May to October, Sandy Pines Campground is one of the top camping destinations in the US. This cozy campground is just a mile from Goose Rocks Beach and offers a heated saltwater pool, kayaking, paddle boarding, and a game tent for family activities. The on-site general store even has a dedicated section for s'mores!
4. The Ridge Outdoor Resort - Sevierville, Tennessee
The Ridge Outdoor Resort is a prime location near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and multiple prominent attractions. This luxurious RV resort features premium amenities such as concrete pads, complimentary Wi-Fi and cable, a zero-entry pool, a golf simulator, and a catch-and-release pond. Signature RV sites are also equipped with a grill, outdoor fireplace and TV, and private hot tubs.
5. Rushmore Shadows Resort - Rapid City, South Dakota
Rushmore Shadows Resort is the perfect base for exploring South Dakota's renowned landmarks and attractions like Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and Deadwood. The resort provides full-hookup RV sites, a pool, mini-golf, horseshoe pits, a playground, a camp store with morning coffee service, and a dump station.
6. Trail's End Campground - Superior National Forest, Minnesota
Embrace the vast wilderness of northern Minnesota at Trail's End Campground, one of the best campgrounds in the USA. Experience solitude in one million acres of untouched nature, with stunning views of the Northern Lights. Seagull and Saganaga Lakes give direct access to the famed Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
7. Doughton Park Campground, North Carolina
Situated near the North Carolina-Virginia border, Doughton Park Campground is part of the 7,000-acre Doughton Park. The park boasts over 30 miles of exceptional hiking trails, including the scenic Bluff Mountain Trail and the waterfall-rich Basin Creek Trail. The campground offers 24 reservable sites and nearly 100 first-come, first-served sites for both RVs and as best tent camping in NC mountains.
8. Emerald Beach RV Park - Navarre, Florida
Emerald Beach RV Park, situated along Florida's famous Emerald Coast, is a paradise for beach lovers. Known for its stunning emerald green waters and pristine white sands, the private beach welcomes campers with spectacular views of Santa Rosa Sound. Amenities include a fishing pier, on-site kayak rentals, and a dog park.
9. Odetah Camping Resort - Bozrah, Connecticut
Hidden in Western Connecticut's Mystic Country, Odetah Camping Resort is considered one of the state's top campgrounds. The resort boasts its own lake and beach, on-site movie theater, and a resort-style pool with lively DJ parties during the summer. The nearby coast is less than 30 minutes away, and famous casinos Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are within a 15-minute drive.
10. Silver Falls State Park - Salem, Oregon
Hailed as "the crown jewel of the Oregon State Parks system" by Conde Nast Traveler, Silver Falls State Park is an hour east of Portland and brimming with waterfalls. The famed Trail of Ten Falls passes by 10 mesmerizing waterfalls, some of which can be walked behind. The campground offers RV full hookups, immaculate bathrooms with showers, a playground, and a dump station.
What Do You Need to Camp in the Mountains?
When planning a camping trip in the mountains, it is crucial to ensure that you have everything you need to make your adventure comfortable, enjoyable and safe. Here are some of the most essential items that you must pack:
- Appropriate Clothing: Mountains are known for their unpredictable weather conditions, ranging from scorching heat to sudden rain showers or even snowfalls. Therefore, you must pack adequate clothing, including sturdy boots, waterproof jackets, warm hats, and gloves.
- Navigation Tools: Mountains can be challenging to navigate, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area. You must pack a map and compass as the classic tools, but also consider GPS devices and smartphone apps that don't require cell phone reception to function.
- Proper Shelter: You'll need a tent and sleeping bag designed for mountain conditions, considering the cold nights, and frequent rain, or snow. You'd probably want something lightweight and easy to carry yet sturdy to withstand harsh winds and extreme temperatures.
- Backup Power: Electronic devices can come in handy, from smartphones to GPS, and portable communication gear. However, an essential part of responsible camping is carrying backup power sources like a solar generator or a portable power station.
- First Aid Kit: Accidents can happen anywhere, and even when taking all precautions, they can never be foreseen. A well-stocked first aid kit can help you take care of minor injuries or infections before more serious results.
- Sanitation: Leave No trace is the camper's philosophy, meaning that what you pack in, you have to pack out, and anything you leave behind should biodegrade fast enough so as not to disturb the ecosystem. Protective gloves, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and trash bags are a must.
- Knowledge: Before you set out to the mountains, you must inform yourself about the terrain, wildlife, and activities allowed or prohibited. Some parks have different rules regarding fire, food storage, animal-proof enclosures, and respecting quiet hours. Make sure you have the right permits, and know how to handle emergencies. Stay informed and, most importantly, minimize any impact on the natural environment you traverse.
Tips for Camping in the Mountains
1. Check the Weather Forecast
Knowing what kind of weather you'll be dealing with is essential before heading to the mountains. Check the forecast for your camping days and pack your equipment and clothing accordingly. The weather in the mountains can change uncertainly; hence, always be prepared for unexpected rains and drops in temperature.
2. Ascertain the Terrain
Unlike flatland camping, mountain terrains can be rocky and steep. Before you make the journey, it's worth researching the camping site and surrounding areas. Understand the type of trails, wildlife, vegetation, and any potential hazards in the area.
3. Pack the Right Gear
Equipment can (for sure) make or break your camping trip. Here are some essentials:
- A lightweight, durable, and waterproof tent.
- A sturdy pair of hiking boots for challenging terrains.
- A suitable and warm sleeping bag.
- Map and compass for navigation.
- Headlamp and extra batteries.
- First Aid Box.
4. Food and Water
Carry enough food and water for your trip. Dehydration can pose a significant risk, especially at high altitudes. Carry portable water filters or purification tablets as mountain streams may not always provide safe drinking water. For food, pack high-energy snacks like nuts and granola bars.
5. Leave No Trace
It's important to respect the mountain environment and leave it as pristine as you found it. Keep your camping site clean, don't litter, and avoid damaging any plants or wildlife.
In the end, experiencing the great outdoors atop the majestic mountains of the US awaits adventurers who are eager to explore the heights, unplug from daily routine, and create unforgettable memories. With the right gear, helpful tips, and unyielding spirit, the campgrounds on our list will leave you longing for more thrilling sojourns and returning to your mountaintop sanctuaries time and time again. Embrace the journey, breathe in the crisp mountain air, and delve into a world of excitement and wonder found only at nature's high altitudes. The peaks are calling – are you ready to answer?