Top 10 Best Camping Places in America

After a day spent wandering wooded paths, admiring breathtaking views, and dipping your toes into a crystal clear creek, you huddle around a campfire to look up at the glowing stars, crack a beer, and enjoy a some s’mores—ahh, peace and quiet. Then you zip up into your tent for a few (mosquito-free) hours and wake to the faint hint of early morning sunlight and the sweet sound of birds chirping in the distance. This is what camping is all about.

In honor of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday, we rounded up the best places to camp in the country. You’ll learn the coolest features of each natural wonderland, how much it costs, and the best time of year to visit. So what are you waiting for? Find your park, then grab your tent, bear-proof cooler, and a few friends for a great escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The Northeast

1. Acadia National Park, Maine

Why It’s Cool: Maine is known as the Pine Tree State for a reason: It’s covered in 17 million acres of forest. Plus it has 6,000 lakes and ponds and 32,000 miles of rivers and streams—basically a camper’s paradise. Located on Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park is the ideal destination for nature lovers of all skill levels. Looking for a unique experience? Hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain (the highest point along the East Coast) during dawn and be the first person in the U.S. to see the sun rise that morning.Where to Camp: The park has three campgrounds: Blackwoods (closer to the island’s town center, Bar Harbor), Seawall (a more rustic, less touristy environment), and Schoodic Woods (surrounded by water on the Schoodic Peninsula). While visitors can enjoy hiking throughout the entire park, camping is allowed only in these designated areas (backcountry enthusiasts, take note). When It’s Open: Blackwoods campground is open year-round (permit required December to March). Seawall is open from late May through September. Schoodic is open from late May until Columbus Day. Cost: Blackwoods costs $30 per site per night from May to October, $15 in April and November, and is free December to March. Seawall and Schoodic will set you back $22 for a walk-in site, plus $8 to $18 for drive-up tent, camper, and motor home sites. For more information, visit the park’s website.

2. White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for a more rustic experience in the Northeast, the White Mountains are your best bet. The hiking’s pretty rugged in this section of the Appalachians but totally worth it if you’re up for the challenge. The sights here are particularly stunning in the fall when the foliage turns shades of red, orange, and yellow.Where to Camp: While the forest does have 24 drive-in campgrounds (with a combined 800 campsites—wowza!), the eight walk-in state park campgrounds in the northern part of the state are where it’s at. Developed campsites require reservations. Backcountry tent camping is also allowed (except in noted no-camping areas). And there are log lean-tos scattered throughout the forest (a small fee may apply).When It’s Open: Forest accessible year-round. Visitor center hours vary.Cost: Daily passes to the park are available for $3; seven-day passes for $5. Campsites vary from $18 to $24 per night, while backcountry tent camping is free. Parking at a trailhead may require a permit; check signage at your chosen lot. For more information, visit the park’s website.

3. Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont

Why It’s Cool: Vermont’s Long Trail is one of the Green Mountain National Forest’s biggest draws, so try finding a camping spot close by to hike a portion of it during your stay. Aside from being stunning, the 270-plus miler is the oldest long-distance trail in the U.S.! It follows the ridge of the Green Mountains through Vermont from the Massachusetts border to Canada.Where to Camp: The forest offers five developed campgrounds. There are no electrical hookups or dump stations, so arrive prepared. Campground accessibility varies by season, and some require a reservation. Dispersed or backcountry camping is allowed anywhere in the park unless specifically posted.When It’s Open: Year-round. Visitor center and campground accessibility vary by season, but at least one campground is always open.Cost: This is the best part. There are no entrance fees, and most campsites are free too. The Green Mountain Club maintains about 70 campsites along the Long Trail, all with a water source and privy (which require a small fee in summer and fall). For more information, visit the park’s website.

The Mid-Atlantic

4. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Why It’s Cool: D.C.-area readers, get packing: A stunning getaway is just 75 miles away. The park contains more than 500 miles of trails, some leading to magnificent viewpoints or waterfalls, and others through miles of quiet, peaceful wilderness. The eight-mile hike to Old Rag Mountain is the toughest route in the park (and also one of the most popular) but rewards hikers with spectacular views from its peak.Where to Camp: The park’s four campgrounds are open in spring, summer, and fall. Reservations at any site are recommended, but some first-come-first-serve spots may be available. Backcountry camping requires a free permit.When It’s Open: Year-round. Portions of road are closed during bad weather and at night during deer-hunting season (mid-November through early January). Visitor services are typically open only March to November.Cost: Entrance fee is $20 per vehicle and valid for seven days. For more information, visit the park’s website.

5. Minnewaska State Park Preserve, New York

Why It’s Cool: Located just 94 miles north of New York City, the Minnewaska State Park Preserve is the perfect escape for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers. The park sits on the dramatic Shawangunk Ridge, which rises more than 2,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by rugged, rocky terrain. Featuring 35 miles of carriage roads and 50 miles of footpaths on which to bike, walk, hike, or simply enjoy, it’s home to natural rock formations, several waterfalls, three crystal clear lakes, densely wooded forests, sheer cliffs, and ledges opening onto breathtakingly beautiful views. Seriously, every inch of this place is ‘grammable. Plus you can try horseback riding or technical rock climbing (if you’re experienced). The activities are endless. Where to Camp: Check out Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway for a minimalist (though high-quality) camping experience. The tent-only campground includes a pavilion and cooking area, bathhouse, restroom facilities, and trails. There are 24 drive-in spots (one vehicle per site) and 26 walk-in spots. All sites accommodate up to two tents (and four people) per pad, so reservations are a good idea. When It’s Open: Camping is open mid-May through mid-November, weather permitting.Cost: Nonmembers pay $38; Mohonk Preserve members pay $24. For more information, visit the park’s website.

6. Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Pennsylvania

Why It’s Cool: Located in south-central Pennsylvania, the scenic park sits at the northern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains in an area known as South Mountain (confusing, we know). The Appalachian Trail, perhaps the most famous foot trail in the world, runs through the forest, which is home to the trail’s halfway point. While only 2,000 people attempt to hike the entire 2,186-mile trail each year (about a quarter actually finish), between 2 and 3 million people hike or walk a portion of it. Whether you cover two miles or 20, it’s still cool to say you’ve done it! Have some time after the hike? Check out the Appalachian Trail Museum, located near the midpoint of the AT.Where to Camp: The forest has a mix of 70 tent and trailer sites (mostly rustic) available from late March to mid-December. Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance. Backpacking and overnight hikes are not permitted. Electric and water hookups are available for a fee at specific sites.When It’s Open: Year-round. Campgrounds are open April to December. Cost: No entrance fee. Backpacking and river camping range from $4 to $5 per night, while basic campsites start at $15 per night. For more information, visit the park’s website.

7. Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland

Why It’s Cool: If you love beaches and camping, this is the spot for you. Assateague is a barrier island off the coast of Maryland and Virginia that’s covered in sandy beaches, salt marshes, forests, and coastal bays. There’s even a community of wild horses (how exotic!). Enjoy relaxing on the 37 miles of beach or hiking by day, and then plant your tent near the crashing waves for a night under the stars.Where to Camp: Camping is allowed only on the Maryland side of the island, but due to impact from winter storms, some of the campsite locations have changed for 2016. Check out the latest map here. From November 16­ through March 14, the sites are first come, first served. Two campsites are also open for horse camping during this time for a fee of $50 per night. From March 15 through November 15, reservations are required (they can be made up to six months in advance) and cost $30 per night. Backcountry camping is allowed ($10, seven-day permit required), but it’s only accessible by backpacking or water.When It’s Open: Year-round. Visitor center and ranger station hours vary from season to season.Cost: Vehicle entrance fee is $20 and is valid for seven days. Campsite fee is $30 per night depending on season and location. For more information, visit the park’s website.

The West

8. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Why It’s Cool: It’s a tough climate to trek through, but the scenery is absolutely beautiful. Tall- and short-grass prairies lie between a variety of rock formations. And be on the lookout for fossils: The Badlands have one of the most complete fossil accumulations in North America, providing a glimpse into the area’s ancient ecosystems. The park is also ideal for stargazing and even hosts an astronomy festival in early August.Where to Camp: There are two campgrounds in the park: Cedar Pass has some amenities (running water, electricity, etc.), whereas Sage Creek is primitive (bison often wander through!) and doesn’t have water on-site. Permits are not required for backcountry camping, but you do need to register before heading out.When It’s Open: Park and campgrounds are open year-round.Cost: There’s a $15 per vehicle entrance fee, which is valid for seven days. Annual and national passes also available. Campsites at Cedar Pass are $13 per night per site and $30 per night per site with electrical hookups. Sage Creek campsites are free. For more information, visit the park’s website.

9. Denali National Park, Alaska

Why It’s Cool: Six million acres of open land? Check. Unbelievable wildlife? Check. Trails to please even the most experienced of hikers? Check. It doesn’t get cooler than Denali—literally. The central draw to the park (especially for mountaineers) is Denali itself, known as Mount McKinley, North America’s tallest peak. Still, the park offers hikes for pros and beginners alike: Most trails start near the visitor center and are considered easy to moderate in difficulty. A few trails start deeper in the park, beyond the first three miles of the access road. Be sure to do your research before embarking on any backcountry camping trip here—this park is not for the inexperienced.Where to Camp: The park has six established campgrounds with a combined 291 sites and also allows backcountry camping with a free permit. Riley Creek is the only campground reachable by car (and requires a minimum three-night stay to reduce traffic). The other two sites are reachable only by bus. One campground is also open year-round, and no fees are charged in winter.When It’s Open: It depends on the weather. Parts of the park are open year-round, but generally, the park opens to private vehicles starting in mid-April. Summer bus service begins May 20 and operates through two weeks after Labor Day. Fall and winter may bring some road closures, but there’s still plenty to do in the park, from skiing to dog mushing.Cost: There’s a $10 entrance fee per person, which is valid for seven days. Annual and national passes are also available and accepted. For more information, visit the park’s website.

10. Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Why It’s Cool: Glacier Bay National Park is mostly water: The bay itself serves as the passageway to the inner section of the park, which is (awesomely enough) a glacier. After spending the night under the stars, try cruising the bay on a tour, charter, or private boat. There are no marked trails in the park, so backpacking is pretty strenuous. Rafting one of the park’s two rivers is a great alternative that allows campers to easily tow supplies, but make sure you’re with someone who knows what they’re doing. Park rangers also lead a variety of tours and talks daily during the summer.Where to Camp: The park has only one campground in Bartlett Cove, which has outhouses, a warming shelter, and safe food storage. Permits are free but required for campgrounds and backcountry May 1 to September 30.When It’s Open: Year-round, but accessibility and services are very limited in winter. The visitor center is open late May to early September.Cost: No entrance or camping fees for private visitors. Reservations are required for boating, camping, rafting, and other visitor services. For more information, visit the park’s website.