Top Ten National Park Campgrounds


Let's face it: there are as many styles of camping as there are campers. The major dividing lines tend around two issues: isolation and convenience.

When it comes to selecting the best campground is almost like selecting the best house—for a campground is a home away from home. Some like it as primitive as possible, and if there is an bumpty-bump dirt road to get there, so much the better. At the other extreme are those who want a place to land their RV, a nice wide road to get it there, and don't mind a sociable atmosphere around the campground. One person's heaven is another persons absolutely-miserable-bloody hell.

Mediating all this requires the tact of diplomat. But ultimately, I think people need to grow up around these issues. I've selected national parks that have either a diversity of campgrounds, or campgrounds that have a diversity of experiences. And bear in mind that this is all front-country stuff: wilderness exploration is a whole 'nuther ballgame.

When I think of camping, I think of a quiet place to string a hammock, with ready access to some trails, and a water body for the wildlife. A swimming hole is nice. Secret to camping is to let go. Good tent, warm sleeping bag, and a sense that you can get away if you so want.

This is not the experience you'll have in most national parks. Most national parks campgrounds are set up as dormitories for the people who want to see the sights of the national park. Not surprisingly, the big ticket parks—Yellowstone, Yosemite, Shenandoah—tend to have the most crowded campgrounds.

But all is not lost. We've chosen ten locales that offer distinctive camping, either because of the scenery, the isolation, or the amenities. And they're still campgrounds in some of the most glorious places on earth. The fact that they may not have shuffleboard—or that you have to drive somewhere else to take a shower—is a minor price to pay to have some of the most glorious nature in the world near at hand.


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