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Camping ‘Calm-Cations’ Are All the Rage

Discover calm vacation spots to commune with nature, save money and stay close to home

spinner image A couple wades through a beautiful red slot canyon in Utah
A “calm-cation” is a trip that’s focused on nature, closer to home and affordable. Here, a couple tries out the vacation trend on a hike in Utah.
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If the thought of a fast-paced vacation in a bustling city makes your head spin, it might be time to recharge with a “calm-cation” instead.

Campspot, an online booking resource for campgrounds across the country, popularized the term in a 2024 report, describing a trend that’s focused on nature, closer to home and more affordable than far-flung options.

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Science backs up the idea of nature as a soothing balm. One study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that 20 minutes connecting with nature can lower stress hormone levels. Another study of nearly 20,000 people, including older adults and people with chronic health problems, found that at least two hours a week in nature benefits physical health and well-being.

Spending the night in the great outdoors may also help you feel good. Ninety-three percent of customers surveyed for the Campspot trend report said they felt more relaxed or mentally refreshed after camping. Why? Fresh air, affordability, access to water, dark skies and a quiet atmosphere all helped campers feel more at ease. 

Some campgrounds today offer resortlike amenities, from pickleball courts, swimming pools and shuffleboard tables to hot tubs, laundry facilities and on-site general stores. “If you haven’t been camping in a while, that surprises a lot of people. [Some are] on par with hotels but with significant cost savings in comparison,” says Carolin Fuller, director of public relations and partnerships for Campspot.

She adds that RV campgrounds hold particular appeal among travelers who are retired. “Many have spent their lives working and building up a bucket list of places they want to see and experience,” she says, noting that some buy an RV that allows them to see a wide variety of places, visit family and create community.

Tessa McCrackin, chief marketing officer of Northgate Resorts, a company that operates campgrounds and RV parks across the U.S., agrees. “There’s this piece of being outdoors that’s inherently relaxing, kind of [a] more old-fashioned experience and simpler in some ways,” she says.

But rather than folks pitching their own tents or trekking into the backcountry, campground operators are seeing an increase in multigenerational groups who want to book cabins, according to McCrackin. “It’s still a lot different than staying at a hotel,” she says, adding that “there’s more of a community vibe, and it’s much more accessible.” 

Need some suggestions for calm-cation camping destinations? Here are a few spots to consider for peaceful getaways near the water in the great outdoors.

spinner image Little Squam Lake at sunrise in fall
Travelers can find relaxing views at sunrise at Little Squam Lake in Ashland, New Hampshire.
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Ashland, New Hampshire

The gateway to the state’s Lakes Region hugs the southern edge of White Mountain National Forest and offers easy access to Squam Lake, the setting of the movie On Golden Pond, and the Pemigewasset River. Try Ames Brook Campground, where guests mellow out by fishing in a brook or tossing horseshoes. Also consider the nearby Branch Brook Campground in Campton or Loon Lake Campground in Croydon.

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spinner image Scarborough Marsh Rainbow
The Scarborough Marsh, seen here, is the largest contiguous salt marsh system in Maine.
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Scarborough, Maine

Wildlife watchers should put Scarborough, Maine, on their list. Home to the state’s largest contiguous saltwater marsh system, it draws an array of birds and other critters, including moose, otter and deer. If you’re looking for an adults-only campground, put Wild Duck Campground & RV Park on your list, then rent a canoe from the nearby Audubon Center and explore from the water. Or try quiet Stony Brook Campground or the Storrs Pond Recreation Area in nearby Hanover.

spinner image The breathtakingly beautiful scenery of Zion National Park in southern Utah.
Connecting with nature is easy at Zion National Park in Utah. Here, a person walks through a canyon in the park.
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Kanab, Utah

The city is within driving distance of Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, the Grand Canyon’s North Rim and Vermillion Cliffs National Monument — all great places to ponder the vast landscape. Lake Powell is also nearby for renting kayaks and trying other water activities. See the starry night skies and surrounding cliffs on the Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation, the world’s first International Dark Sky Nation, and stay at Kaibab Paiute RV Park & Campground. Or soak in the serenity in a meditation area at Dark Sky RV Campground.

spinner image a person walking along a boardwalk in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin.
Visitors can enjoy views of Lake Michigan from a boardwalk in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin.
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Ellison Bay, Wisconsin

If you dream of water, head to the town of Ellison Bay on a peninsula surrounded by Lake Michigan. You’ll find tall trees, funky art galleries and 19 county parks. Hy-Land Court RV Park has operated near the shores of Sister Bay Beach since 1966. Or consider Beantown Campground or Baileys Woods Campground in nearby Baileys Harbor, which offers heavily wooded, well-spaced sites.

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