En español | Our family of five has spent the last 12 years exploring campgrounds across the country in a variety of RVs, cabin and glamping rentals, and, occasionally, a good old-fashioned tent. We have racked up hundreds of nights at campgrounds and have made incredible memories along the way. We love camping just about anywhere, but our favorite trips are always to campgrounds in and around our magnificent national parks. Wallace Stegner called these parks “America's best idea,” and we couldn't agree more.
Here are 10 top spots for camping in or around our favorite national parks, plus a few fantastic state parks, excerpted from our new book Where Should We Camp Next? A 50 State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and Other Unique Outdoor Accommodations. We include options for tent campers, RV owners and glampers in search of luxury.
- 1 of
PHOTO BY: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo
Bar Harbor/Oceanside KOA
Location: Bar Harbor, Maine (near Acadia National Park)
Camping options: Tent and RV sites, cabin rentals, Airstream rentals
Sunsets at this KOA campground are spectacular, and so are the views of Acadia National Park in the distance. Spend an afternoon exploring tide pools just steps from your site and then order a lobster dinner right at the campground. Save some room for the famous “pie guy” that drives around each night selling blueberry pies out of an old station wagon. Heat up a slice in foil over the campfire and serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Burn up those calories hiking in the park and taking in breathtaking views atop Gorham and Cadillac mountains with the majesty of the Atlantic Ocean sparkling below you.
- 2 of
PHOTO BY: Franck Fotos/Alamy Stock Photo
Location: Luray, Virginia (near Shenandoah National Park)
Camping options: Tent and RV sites, deluxe and camping cabins
If you're camping with kids or grandkids, it doesn't get much better than Jellystone Luray. Most of the campground has stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the water slides are a blast. Spend mornings hiking in Shenandoah National Park and afternoons relaxing back at the pool. Photo ops with Yogi Bear will charm younger campers, and laser tag and outdoor sports facilities will keep teenagers busy for hours. Spend your evenings relaxing under the stars and enjoying a crackling campfire or watching a movie together in the campgrounds delightful outdoor theater. Campground food options are better than average and mini golf is free.
- 3 of
PHOTO BY: Under Canvas
Under Canvas: Great Smoky Mountains
Location: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (near Great Smoky Mountains National Park)
Camping options: Glamping tents
The luxurious glamping tents at this Under Canvas location form a storybook village where guests can enjoy daily housekeeping and organic soaps after a long day hiking in America's most visited national park. Packages include an “adventure” with concierge service. Whether you choose fly fishing, ziplining or a jeep safari, they will send you on your way with a boxed lunch and have dinner waiting when you get back to your tent. The famous Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a short drive away. Park at the Trillium Gap Trailhead and hike out to Grotto Falls, where you can stand behind a cascading waterfall.
- 4 of
PHOTO BY: Tom Uhlman/Alamy Stock Photo
Indiana Dunes State Park Campground
Location: Chesterton, Indiana (near Indiana Dunes National Park)
Camping options: Tent and RV sites
Indiana Dunes National Park has its own campground but we prefer parking our RV or pitching our tents at Indiana Dunes State Park. The campground there has direct access to the beach, and electrical hookups at each site. A short and easy hike on Trail 4 leads you to the top of Mount Tom and then directly down to Lake Michigan. The campground is delightful and has a well-stocked camp store, a playground, paved roads and heated restrooms. Indiana Dunes National Park surrounds the state park and offers ample opportunities for hiking, swimming, birdwatching and ranger-led programs.
- 5 of
PHOTO BY: Cedar Pass
Cedar Pass Campground
Location: Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Camping options: Tent and RV sites, cabin rentals
Camping at Cedar Pass is a visually spectacular experience, particularly when a blood-red sunset colors the mountains that are just steps away. The location inside Badlands National Park is within walking distance of the visitor center and a short drive away from hikes like the challenging Notch Trail and the much easier Door Trail. The Lodge is a short walk away from the campground and has an excellent camp store and comfortable restaurant if you don't feel like grilling back at your site. The open air amphitheater is located between the campground and the lodge and we highly recommend that you attend a ranger talk or night sky program.
- 6 of
PHOTO BY: Alamy Stock Photo
Location: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Camping options: RV and tent sites
If you are a tent camper, or own a small RV, and want the best that Yellowstone has to offer (and can handle camping without amenities) then Madison Campground may be a great choice for you. The campground is situated near the Madison River under a canopy of fragrant Lodgepole Pine Trees. It is also located near some of the most popular destinations in Yellowstone, including Old Faithful. Most spots are spacious and offer a bit of privacy, but many sites are not level — so if you have an RV be prepared with leveling blocks.
- 7 of
PHOTO BY: Ershov_Maks/Getty Images
Location: Olympic National Park, Washington
Camping options: Tent and RV sites
For those adventurous souls who want to experience the rugged glory of coastal Olympic National Park, and are willing to camp without water hookups or shower facilities, there is no better place than Kalaloch Campground. Only a handful of sites have ocean views, but all of them have easy access to the beach just below the bluff upon which the campground sits. Plan on spending hours exploring tide pools and looking for crabs and sea urchins. But make sure you keep your eyes peeled because dolphins and whales make more than occasional appearances. Swimming is allowed but please take caution.
- 8 of
PHOTO BY: Gary Crabbe/Enlightened Images/Alamy Stock Photo
Jedediah Smith Campground
Location: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California
Camping options: Tent and RV sites, cabins
Camping among old growth redwood trees is peaceful and restorative to the soul. Plan on spending the day relaxing along the Smith River (just steps from the campground) and diving into its crystal clear waters for a swim if you get hot. Evening ranger programs provide an excellent introduction to the mystical qualities of the redwood trees and the history of the region and shouldn't be missed. The best hike in this state park starts right across the river from the campground. The Hiouchi Trail takes you deep into the heart of Stout Grove — an incredible spot for viewing the redwood trees, many of which are over 1,000 years old.
- 9 of
PHOTO BY: AutoCamp
Location: Midpines, California (near Yosemite National Park)
Camping options: Airstream Suites, luxury tents, classic cabins, studio suites
Ever dreamed of owning an Airstream? AutoCamp's Yosemite property can give you a taste of that dream at a fraction of the price. Their custom Airstream rentals will make you swoon and so will their mid-century modern clubhouse and lounge areas where food, wine and beer are served for hungry and thirsty hikers returning from the park. Everything here feels delicately carved into the landscape, including the private patios and outdoor fireplaces at each site. Luxurious glamping tents and cabin suites are also available. Yosemite National Park is about 40 minutes away and a shuttle is available if you don't want to drive in and search for parking.
- 10 of
PHOTO BY: BoaVida RV Parks and Resorts
Zion River Resort
Location: Virgin, Utah (near Zion National Park)
Camping styles: Tent and RV sites, cabins and two-bedroom suites
The Virgin River runs alongside the side of this delightful campground and you can hear it from many sites — though views can be limited due to a protective berm. But mountain views encircle the campground and the sight of red rock and blue skies are abundant. The heated pool and hot tub are excellent for a relaxing post-hike dip, and the communal camp kitchen with charcoal grills is a great place to stretch your legs and meet your neighbors. They also offer a 14-person shuttle bus that will drop you off and pick you up directly in front of the entrance to Zion.
Join today and get instant access to discounts, programs, services, and the information you need to benefit every area of your life.
Excerpted from Where Should We Camp Next? A 50 State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and Other Unique Outdoor Accommodations by Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi. Published by Sourcebooks.
AARP Travel Center Powered by Expedia: Car Rental
Members save on car rentals and morelearn moreSee more Car Rentals offers >
Members save up to 30% off base rates & morelearn moreSee more Car Rentals offers >
Hotels & Resorts
Country Inn & Suites® by Radisson
Members save 10% off the best available ratelearn moreSee more Hotels & Resorts offers >
Gas & Auto Services
Valvoline Instant Oil Change
Members save 15% on drive-thru, stay-in-your-car oil changeslearn moreSee more Gas & Auto Services offers >