The Best Hiking and Camping Destinations in America
Discover a wild and wildly beautiful camping destination that feels like it was created just for you. Campers here will be able to enjoy long summer days filled with hiking and water sports.
The pristine natural setting of this stunning park makes it the perfect place to escape from busy city life. Enjoy incredible vistas, peaceful forests and breathtaking mountain trails.
Yosemite National Park
Since its inception as the nation’s first national park, Yosemite has attracted millions of hikers, campers, and visitors looking to lose themselves among its spectacular cliffs, age-old sequoia trees, and waterfalls. Located in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes Mother Nature has to offer and more than 250 hiking trails that travel through its natural wonders.
Yosemite’s big-name attractions, like Half Dome and El Capitan, draw crowds year round, but hikers should aim to visit during spring or fall when the weather is mild and trails are less busy. If you do plan on visiting in the summer, arrive early and camp at one of the many campgrounds within the park or opt to stay at Yosemite Village and take a shuttle to explore the rest of the park to avoid the crowds in the valley.
For those who prefer to sleep indoors, there are hotels and cabins in the Yosemite Village and the nearby towns of Mariposa and Tuolumne. The best way to truly enjoy Yosemite is by camping in the park, though. You’ll appreciate waking up on-location, being close to trails and attractions, and having a short commute back to your tent or hotel at night.
Hiking trails in Yosemite range from beginner to advanced, and can be anywhere from one-mile round trips to multi-day backcountry adventures. A highlight is the Mist Trail, which takes you through a waterfall that offers the chance to feel the spray on your face and inhale the fresh air.
Another must-visit is the vista made famous in an Ansel Adams photograph at Tunnel View. From this overlook, you can see iconic views of the valley, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall. Those who are adventurous enough can take the Pohono Trail to climb higher for even more impressive photos.
Yosemite’s neighboring national forests are also worth exploring for those who want to skip the crowds and see a different side of the park. Glacier Park and Tioga Road are popular routes that allow you to hike and camp with fewer people while enjoying the beauty of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Shenandoah National Park
Located in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah National Park is a hiking and camping destination with a little something extra. Shenandoah is one of America’s most popular parks with a highly-rated guided tour that features countless scenic overlooks and hiking trails. It is also home to a wide variety of wildlife and plant species.
The park’s most famous trail is the Appalachian Trail, and it can be found throughout Shenandoah National Park. The trail offers a range of hiking experiences, from easy to challenging. One of the best hikes in Shenandoah National Park is Black Rock Summit, which offers sweeping views of the valley below. The hike is fairly steep but well worth the effort. Another great hike in Shenandoah is Abbott Lake Trail, which leads to a beautiful lake and offers amazing views of three mountain peaks. The trail is relatively easy and is perfect for families.
Shenandoah National Park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including bears and white-tailed deer. One of the best places to see wildlife in Shenandoah National Park
is Big Meadows, which is a wide open field that is a haven for animals. The park is also known for its stunning fall foliage, which is typically in full swing between mid-September and late October.
There are countless activities and attractions to enjoy in Shenandoah National Park, but there is also much to learn about the park’s history. One of the best ways to learn about Shenandoah National Park’s history is to visit the Harry F. Byrd, Sr. Visitor Center, which is located at mile 51 on Skyline Drive. The visitor center has numerous exhibits and films that tell the story of Shenandoah National Park’s rich past.
If you’re looking for a more luxurious outdoor experience, Shenandoah National Park has two traditional national park lodges and a historic cabin resort. The park is also home to several campgrounds, including the Big Meadows Campground, which is the largest in the South District.
The park is accessible from multiple entrances, but the Shenandoah National Park’s Rockfish Gap and Swift Run Gap Entrance Stations are the most convenient for travelers. For the most immersive Shenandoah National Park experience, it is recommended to stay for a minimum of two days. This will allow you to explore a significant portion of Skyline Drive and catch both sunrises and sunsets.
White Mountains National Forest
Located in New Hampshire’s north-central region, White Mountains National Forest is a mountain range that’s home to the highest peak in all of New England. The area is well known for fall foliage, winter skiing, and a plethora of outdoor activities for hiking and camping in the woods.
The White Mountains offer a wide variety of hiking trails and unique attractions, making them a top vacation destination in any season. From scenic gorges to serene wilderness trails, there’s something for everyone here. One of the most popular activities in the White Mountains is exploring the natural chasms and waterfalls found throughout the region, including Flume Gorge, the Lower Ammonoosuc River Falls Trail, and Artist’s Bluff Lookout Trail.
For those who prefer to hike with a guide, there are also many hut-to-hut backpacking trips available for experienced hikers. The Presidential Traverse, for example, is an epic trek that takes hikers from one summit to the next (all named after US presidents) while providing food and lodging at a series of mountain huts along the way.
Aside from gorges and waterfalls, the White Mountains are dotted with unique attractions that are a must-see for visitors. For example, the White Mountain Cog Railway is a historic railroad that dates back to the 1860s and offers scenic rides up the slopes of Mount Washington, which is the highest peak in all of New England.
Those looking for a more laid-back vacation can enjoy the miles of scenic drives that wind through the mountains, like the Kancamagus Highway. And, there are plenty of townships and communities in the area that offer places to stay, eat, shop, and play. For example, Lincoln (+ North Woodstock just across the highway) is a favorite stop for those looking to explore the western side of the White Mountains and has tons of dining and lodging options to choose from, including a one-bedroom caboose that you can book for your trip!
Whether you want to hike the most challenging trails in America or enjoy the scenery from the comfort of your rental car, there’s no doubt that the White Mountains National Forest has something for everyone. So, pack your bags and prepare to experience one of the most beautiful, unspoiled landscapes in all of America!
Angel Island may be the lesser known sister to Alcatraz, but it’s just as rich in history. This state park is a nature lovers paradise, with sweeping views of San Francisco and Marin County, but also has plenty to do for day trippers. Explore the US Immigration Station, once known as “Ellis Island of the West,” and take in the views on a variety of hiking trails.
For a more interactive experience, sign up for a tour of the Immigration Station or Fort McDowell. These tours last about 1 hour and are a great way to learn more about the history of the island.
The island was once a military base, and there are still several ruins to explore. Some of the more notable ones include the Officer’s Quarters #10 and the Bakehouse at Camp Reynolds, as well as the Observation Post at Fort McDowell. Visiting these buildings is a very moving experience, and it’s important to keep in mind what the experience was like for many of those who entered the United States through these doors.
Hiking is a popular activity on the island, and there are trails for all skill levels. If you’re looking for a more difficult hike, try the Sunset Trail to the summit of Mount Caroline Livermore. This trail can be a little difficult to navigate due to overgrowth, but you’ll be rewarded with stunning views.
If you’re planning to stay on the island, there are a couple of hotels near the ferry terminal. The Lodge at Tiburon and the Waters Edge Hotel are both within walking distance of the ferry, and both offer resort style luxury accommodations with incredible views.
As a bonus, the hotels are dog friendly! If you’re camping on the island, there are nine sites to choose from. Be sure to reserve your spot ahead of time, as spots fill up fast. The campground is also a great place to spread out a picnic, as there are many protected coves with beaches and views of the city grid and bridges below. It’s also a wonderful place to relax after a day of hiking and exploring.