Best National Park Camping Sites in America

Embrace nature, and sleep under the stars in one of the country's great national parks. Whether you're looking for beach, backcountry, RV, forest or isolated camping spots, we've got something for everyone!

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Rock-Climbing: Yosemite National Park

Rock-Climbing: Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a climber's paradise with craggy outposts, sustained crack climbs and multiday dome excursions. Since 1969, the Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service has been training newbies and accompanying seasoned climbers on trips in the park's many climbing areas. Full-day classes are available from April through October in Curry Village or Tuolumne Meadows, while specialized programs like Girls on Granite cater to women looking to scramble and scale up the rocks. 960 1280
Snorkeling: Virgin Islands National Park

Snorkeling: Virgin Islands National Park

You'll want flippers, a mask and snorkel to explore the best trail in St. John because it's actually underwater. The snorkeling trail at Trunk Bay is a 225-yard swim lined with signs describing the fish, coral and plants that live in the warm turquoise waters. After exploring the sea, relax on the crescent-shaped beach and appreciate the scenery at one of the country's most idyllic national parks. 960 1280

By User: (WT-shared) Queensland at wts wikivoyage [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Orienteering: Prince William Forest Park

Orienteering: Prince William Forest Park

Set off on a modern-day treasure hunt at Prince William Forest Park. Leave the GPS system at home for an orienteering adventure using just a map and compass to follow clues around one of the park's 30 courses. You can choose to set your own pace, whether it's a slowpoke family stroll while the kids master the compass or a competitive jaunt to race to the final clue. 960 1280

Philip Lee Harvey/Getty Images  

Hiking: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Hiking: Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Hikers can set off on a great adventure on foot any time of year in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With more than 800 miles of trails, there are plenty of options including scenic strolls through fields of wildflowers and strenuous climbs to the top of the park's glorious waterfalls. A popular day-hike is a strenuous 8-mile trip to Charles Bunion along the Appalachian Trail. The 3-mile trip to Baskins Creek Falls follows an accessible trail with footbridge crossings to a 25-foot waterfall while the 8-mile roundtrip to Ramsay Cascades is a moderately strenuous trek through old-growth forest. 960 1280

Joel Carillet/Getty Images  

Horseback-Riding: Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Horseback-Riding: Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Experience the wild badlands on a horseback ride through Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The former president galloped through these vast prairies himself in the late 19th century. The park's trail system is open to horses, and some visitors choose to ride in on their own steed. For the rest of us, Peaceful Valley Ranch organizes day-trips all summer long for riders over 7 years old. 960 1280
Rafting: Grand Canyon National Park

Rafting: Grand Canyon National Park

While more than 5 million visitors head to the Grand Canyon every year, many make the mistake of simply peering out over the Rim before climbing back in the car. To truly experience the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, set off on a white-water-rafting adventure on the Colorado River. Float down smooth water on half- or full-day trips, or check out a longer excursion and spend 3 to 18 days riding the rapids in the shadows of the canyon's towering red walls. 960 1280

Draper White/Getty Images  

Spelunking: Mammoth Cave National Park

Spelunking: Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park is the world's longest known cave system with spacious chambers and twisted labyrinths beneath Kentucky's Green River Valley. Serious spelunkers can descend 300 feet down 670 stairs and narrow passageways and tunnels to explore the underground rooms and hills on the Grand Avenue Tour. It takes over 4 hours to traverse this 4-mile-long stretch of the cave system. Lantern tours of the caves' passageways at Violet City give guests an idea of what it was like for the early cave explorers in the 1800s. 960 1280

pura vida/Getty Images  

Paddling: Glacier Bay National Park

Paddling: Glacier Bay National Park

Many visitors take in Glacier Bay's snow-capped mountains and towering glaciers from the deck of a cruise ship. For a more intimate tour of the park, glide through the waters in a low-lying kayak.
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Sam Camp/Getty Images  

Sandboarding: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Sandboarding: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Who says you can't ski in the summer? Rocket down rolling sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. You'll need good equipment, such as downhill skis, a snowboard or a flat-bottomed plastic sled, to set off on a wild ride through the sand. The conditions aren't good after rain or when the weather is too dry as the sand may be too soft to pick up some speed. Sandboarding is permitted on any of the unvegetated dunes and is particularly good at the 300-foot slope near the Castle Creek Picnic Area. 960 1280

By Steven J. Weber [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons  

Wildlife Viewing: Yellowstone National Park

Wildlife Viewing: Yellowstone National Park

Enjoy a wild safari a bit closer to home at Yellowstone National Park, home to more than 60 types of mammals and 318 species of birds. Black bears and grizzlies make their home in forests while coyotes, gray wolves and bobcats frolic in the meadows. Bison, elk and moose roam the grasslands while bighorn sheep meander along the mountainside. Bald eagles soar overhead and trumpeter swans make their nests alongside the park's rivers. Bring a pair of binoculars and a camera, and join a ranger tour to learn more about these fascinating residents. 960 1280

Four million tourists flock to Yosemite National Park every year. Tenaya Canyon is the park's spookiest spot. In 1851, American soldiers fought with Native Americans. Chief Tenaya cursed the canyon after his son will killed in combat. Check out California's Olmstead Point, a rock cliff with a beautiful vantage point over the dangerous Tenaya Canyon and Half Dome. 960 1280

  

Bridalveil Falls, located in Wyoming's Yosemite National Park, is 1 of the only waterfalls that run all year. A Native American legend claims that whispers from the waterfall draw people in; so, they drop over the edge of the falls. 960 1280

  

Yellowstone National Park has 2.2 million steamy acres that include the well renowned Old Faithful geyser. 960 1280

  

Looking for adventure? Head to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Alamosa, CO. It's the largest natural sand dune in the US, with a surprising array of wilderness and wild animals. 960 1280

  

A UFO Watchtower, started by Judy Messoline, was built near The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, in Hooper, CO. Some psychics claim that the area has 2 large vortexes, portals to a parallel universe. 960 1280

  

Colorado's Great Sand Dunes, 10-to-100-thousands of years old, are said to be a hotbed of paranormal activity. 960 1280

  

This $10,000 UFO watchtower looks over the Great Sand Dunes National Park. There have been allegedly 54 UFO sightings since the watchtower was built in 2000. 960 1280

  

Government officials say military equipment testing may be the real explanation behind the unexplained UFO sightings seen near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. 960 1280

  

Bigfoot has been rumored to walk through the majestic Yosemite National Park, but Dr. Jeffery Meldrum says there's proof, including his casts of the mythical monster's footprints. 960 1280

  

Check out this collection of skulls, including a human, bear and Gigantopithecus, a scientifically recognized species, but not body has ever been found, like Bigfoot. 960 1280

  

Grand Canyon National Park is 1 of the 7 natural wonders of the world, drawing 5 million visitors a year. This photo, taken from Desert View Watchtower, is a great vantage point to watch the sun rise and set. Maverick Helicopter Tour Company provides tourists with a bird's-eye-view of the canyon for $125 to $250 per person. 960 1280

  

Some tourists, visiting Grand Canyon National Park, think ghosts of the 128 passengers killed in a multiple commercial flight crash in June 1956, still haunt the park. The unfortunate crash did spark the start of flight safety measures, including the formation of the FAA, a national radar system and the invention of the cockpit voice recorder. 960 1280

  

Several tourists claim to hear eerie whispers from the Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Find out whether the lake really gives up its dead. Stay at the Yellowstone Lake Hotel, the oldest building in the park, and the only hotel situated around the lake. 960 1280

  

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Budding naturalists feel right at home at Rocky Mountain National Park where the kids can join in on short, family-friendly hikes around the park. Bring along a magnifying glass to explore the plants, leaves and bugs during a stroll around Bear Lake. 960 1280
Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Pack binoculars to get a close-up of Albert’s squirrels scurrying around the ponderosa pine forests or bighorn sheep spending a summer day at Sheep Lakes. Kids can scramble up rocks along the trail to Gem Lake or search the water under the bridge for beavers along the Beaver Boardwalk. 960 1280

By Frank Schulenburg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns

Young adventurers travel deep underground to explore one of the many caves at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Children must be 4 or older to participate in a basic cave tour of the Big Room. Brave souls over 12 can shimmy and crawl through a maze of narrow entryways and tunnels at Spider Cave. 960 1280
Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns

Check out the resident wildlife outside of the cave during the Bat Flight program, a free summertime special when nearly 400,000 Brazilian free-tail bats fly from Carlsbad Cavern at sunset to search for an insect-filled dinner. 960 1280
Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park caters to 8- to 12-year-olds with daily Junior Ranger programs throughout the park. Rangers keep kids busy with stories, artwork, kid-friendly hikes and scavenger hunts to uncover secrets around the park. 960 1280
Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

The whole gang can enjoy family-friendly activities including the fire and ice cruise around Colter Bay to learn about the park’s ecology, including the glaciers and towering mountains. 960 1280

By Acroterion (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park has laid down the law on the many ways that kids should enjoy themselves in the park, summarized in the Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights. Take note of this decree, and plan for family fun in every corner of the park. Pack the bikes and helmets for a ride along the carriage road system -- flat scenic paths that are made for a 2-wheeler (training wheels optional) or the chubby tires of a jogging stroller. 960 1280

By heipei from Deutschland (Acadia National Park, ME) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Head to the shore to enjoy a cool ocean breeze and search for marine life in the shallow tide pools. Set sail on a ranger-narrated cruise including the Dive-In Theater Cruise from May through October where real-time video technology allows passengers to watch scuba divers search the ocean floor for marine life that is then brought onboard for impromptu touch-tank experiences. 960 1280

By Erin McDaniel Erinmcd (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

America’s first national park welcomes visitors to check out the hot springs, steaming geysers and extraordinary wildlife, including grizzlies, bison and elk. With the park spread out over a sprawling 2.2 million acres, it’s impossible to experience all the fun at once. 960 1280

Michael H Spivak/Moment/Getty Images  

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

As a family, decide on the highlights to experience, like the legendary geyser Old Faithful and the wildlife-viewing at Lamar Valley. Families with children over 8 can enjoy a 2-hour horseback ride to the cookout while families with little ones can ride into the sunset aboard a horse-drawn covered wagon. 960 1280

Adam Long Sculpture / iStock / Thinkstock  

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Don’t worry if you’re more of a beach person than a woodsy type: There’s a national park experience waiting for your family at the national seashore at Cape Hatteras. This protected seashore is made up of narrow barrier islands along the beloved Outer Banks. Celebrate the past with a climb up a lighthouse or an evening of pirate tales with a park ranger. 960 1280

By Madhatter987 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons  

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

There are miles of beaches for swimming, shelling, kite-flying or just chilling out and reading a book. Cruise the beach on foot or in an off-road vehicle that allows cars to leave behind the paved roads and drive the sandy shores. 960 1280
Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

Biscayne welcomes families with the free Family Fun Fest program, a celebration of the park’s wonders with stories, superheroes and cool park activities. The festivities take place on the second Saturday of each month from December to April. But don’t fret if you miss the fest as there are still plenty of opportunities for family-bonding in the park. 960 1280
Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park

Look for some of the park’s cool creatures, including manatees, sea turtles and fish galore, during a snorkeling adventure or kid-friendly ride on a glass-bottom boat. 960 1280

By John Brooks, National Park Service photographer (http://www.nps.gov/bisc/images/20060905140916.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons  

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