The Most Scenic Campsite in Every State
Here's how you can get away, marvel at the wonder of nature, sleep under the stars, and keep your distance from other travelers all at the same time.
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Spend the night in the great outdoors
In the age of coronavirus, people are seeking ways to get out of the house and enjoy their vacation while still maintaining social distancing. Naturally, camping is more popular than ever. Luckily, the United States is home to some of the most scenic campgrounds in the world, where visitors are treated to views of mountains, deserts, canyons, waterfalls, lakes, and more. We’ve rounded up the best campgrounds in every state to make planning easier. If you’re new to camping, however, be sure to make sure you’re familiar with the 13 mistakes most first-time campers make.
Alabama: Joe Wheeler State Park
Joe Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, Alabama takes the prize for the most scenic campground in Alabama. Located on the shores of Wheeler Lake, the Tennessee River runs through this outdoor paradise (it creates the lake). Gorgeous views of limestone bluffs rise from the lakeshore, ancient oak trees, and sandy beaches await you. The park offers over 2,500 acres of land to explore—activities include gorgeous trails for hiking and mountain biking, swimming, an 18 hole golf course, fishing, tennis courts, a disc golf course, and a marina for boaters. Pitch your own tent or reserve one of their cottages and cabins. Area attractions include Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum House and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville which also happens to feature one of the best virtual space exhibits in the world.
Alaska: Chugach State Park
The Chugach State Park in Anchorage contains 495,000 acres of gorgeous, unspoiled wilderness. Bordered by three chains of mountains and the Prince William Sound, you’ll enjoy jaw-dropping views from every direction. Campers can explore lakes, ice fields, glaciers, and forests while bald eagles circle overhead. Activities include hiking, fishing, biking, wildlife watching, kayaking, or visiting downtown Anchorage, which is just seven miles from the edge of the park. There are four different campgrounds, each boasting incredible views. Rental cabins are also available if you book far enough in advance. Still unconvinced? Here are 16 photos that prove Alaska is a winter wonderland.
Arizona: Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Spanning over 1.5 million acres of rugged red canyons, valleys, two enormous blue lakes, and purple mountains, there are few sights as stunning as the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona along the Nevada state line (the park includes both states within its borders). Visitors come face to face with Joshua trees, wander through awe-inspiring slot canyons, fish, hike, swim, and boat to their heart’s content. The park features 16 different campgrounds with established campsites, or, if you prefer something more primitive, backcountry camping, shoreline camping, and horseback camping are permitted. Don’t like to rough it? Check out these 27 glamping adventures.
Arkansas: Lake Quahchita State Park
Lake Quahchita State Park in the town of Mountain Pine boasts the largest lake in Arkansas. It’s also arguably the most beautiful with 40,000 acres of deep, clear, blue water surrounded by trees of the Ouachita National Forest that provide welcome shade in the heat of summer and turn brilliant shades of red and gold in the fall. There are almost 100 campsites, some of which are located on the shores of the lake. There are also four primitive cabins for rent. Activities in the park include hiking, fishing, boating, hot springs, and scuba diving.
California: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Full of breathtaking trails and vistas of waterfalls, rock formations, and ocean beaches, including a sandy cove so pristine humans are not allowed to set foot there less they spoil its beauty, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur is basically a dream. Most of the hikes are short, but some are steep and rocky enough to be challenging. The park offers two walk-in campsites. Be sure to plan ahead as they generally book up six months in advance. Popular activities include hiking, whale watching, scuba diving, and exploring points of historical interest such as the McKay Waterfall House and the Pelton Wheel that supplied area residents with power in the 1930s. Discover 20 of the best hikes in America, including the best times to go.
Colorado: The Amphitheater Campground
Nestled in the mountains, The Amphitheater Campground is high enough to look down on the stunning natural stone amphitheater that towers above the town of Ouray. A mixture of oak and fir trees guarantees beauty and serenity year-round. Each campsite has a fire ring and a picnic table—there are only 35 spots available so be sure to reserve well in advance. The most popular activities are hiking, mountain biking, nature watching, and exploring the town of Ouray, which has a quaint, European vibe that could feel like your canceled vacation abroad.
Connecticut: Blackrock State Park
Watertown’s Blackrock State Park was named for the dark graphite mined by European settlers in the 1600s, prior to that, archaeological evidence suggests the Mohegan, Paugusset, and Tunxis tribes used the local stone to make tools and arrowheads. It’s a gorgeous park with serene views of streams, Black Rock Pond, rolling hills, and steep, wooded bluffs. There are 439 acres to explore with spots for traditional camping or rustic cabin rentals. Popular activities are hiking, fishing, field sports, kayaking, and swimming. There are also several more state parks in the area to explore. These are the best state parks in every state.
Delaware: Trap Pond State Park
The incredibly scenic Trap Pond State Park in Laurel is home to the northernmost grove of bald cypress trees in the nation. One of the streams that run into the pond has been dedicated as a wilderness canoe trail—the bald cypress trees have learned to survive underwater and paddling past them is a unique experience. Be sure to keep your eye open for turtles, snakes, and blue herons. You can bring your own tent, RV, or camp in a cabin or yurt. Land-based activities include horse trails, hiking, and bird watching. There are also volleyball courts, a disc golf course, athletic fields, and playgrounds. Speaking of RVing, find out the best RV park in every state.
Florida: Fort De Soto County Park
If pitching your tent on a beach of snow-white sand sounds like your idea of heaven, Fort De Soto County Park in St. Petersburg is for you. The park is spread out over five keys, or islands, and each offers stunning views. Loggerhead sea turtle nest here between April and September and the park is home to over 300 documented species of birds. There are large stretches of paved trails for wheelchair users or for bikers or rollerbladers. Be sure to visit the historic Fort De Soto, which was built in 1898 to defend the United States from threats from Cuba. There are over 238 camping sites, two large swimming areas, and two fishing piers. If you prefer something off the radar, these are the best Florida beaches locals want to keep a secret.
Georgia: Skidaway Island State Park
If you drive along Georgia’s pristine coast towards the city of Savannah, you’ll find Skidaway Island State Park—a park so scenic you’ll want to get up at dawn to make sure you don’t miss a moment of the view. Trails meander through forest and salt marshes and there’s an observation tower to take in the stunning views from above. There are 87 campsites and three air-conditioned rental cabins you’ll want to reserve well in advance. The park features outdoor fitness areas complete with equipment, playgrounds, and volleyball courts. Nearby attractions include Fort McAllister and the lovely city of Savannah. These are 15 other vacations you need to book far in advance.
Hawaii: Koke’e State Park
Koke’e State Park on Hawaii’s Big Island is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, so bring your own tent and commune with nature. The park boasts seven major hiking trails, each one with glorious vistas. Perched above the lush Kalalau Valley, you can expect incredible views of the ocean, waterfalls, bluffs, and tropical vegetation wherever you look. Pick plums while in season, fish for trout, hunt wild pig on your visit, or just enjoy the views of wildlife from the park’s incredible trail system. While you’re in paradise, be sure to check out the best beaches in Hawaii to visit in your lifetime.
Idaho: Salmon River Campground
Who knew there were unbelievable stretches of white sandy beaches in Idaho? At the Salmon River Campground, you’ll find a mere 30 campsites spread across two sections. Fishing, hiking, rafting, swimming, and kayaking are popular here. There are also several natural hot springs in the area as well as the tiny town of Stanley, which only has 65 residents but caters to visitors with a handful of restaurants and outdoor supply stores. Find out the best beach in every state.
Illinois: Starved Rock State Park
It’s easy to imagine Illinois in ancient times when you visit Starved Rock State Park in Utica. This incredible area features 18 different canyons, 13 miles of trails, waterfalls, and spectacular sandstone rock formations formed a staggering 425 million years ago. Overhangs perched above the Illinois River offer fantastic vistas. There are plenty of man-made overlooks too to make sure you don’t miss the park’s most gorgeous views. Fishing, hiking, canoeing, cross country skiing in winter, and watching the large population of bald eagles are popular pursuits. The park features campsites or the Starved Rock Lodge for less adventurous types. There’s also a nearby indoor waterpark for family fun and several museums and restaurants.
Indiana: Dunewood Campground
If you don’t think sandy beaches when you think Indiana, it’s time to think again. Indiana Dunes National Park in Porter stretches along 15 sandy miles of Lake Michigan bordered by a forest, so you’re treated to an entirely different view at every turn. There are 1,500 acres of sand dunes, wetlands, woods, and rivers and an endless array of activities like hiking, swimming, beachcombing, horseback riding, and exploring the five historic homes built for the 1933 World’s Fair. Dunewood Campground offers 67 campsites located in the forest, several of which are walk-in only. Reservations are recommended. If you’re a fan of parks, here are 10 practically secret national parks you’ll want to visit.
Iowa: Pikes Peak State Park
Pine Peak State Park offers sweeping views of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers and is also rich in history. A wooden boardwalk guides visitors towards the lovely Bridal Veil Falls in McGregor. On the way, you pass Bear Mound, an effigy made by Native Americans of the Woodland Culture between AD 800 and 1200. (The park has 63 such mounds.) You’ll also find more than 11.5 miles of trails that lead visitors through bluffs, gulleys, and natural limestone walls adorned by ancient fossils. The park’s campground is popular so its best to make reservations in advance, however about a portion of the sites are set aside on a first come first serve basis to accommodate last-minute plans. Here are 13 facts about Native Americans you didn’t learn in history class.
Kansas: Wilson State Park
Nestled in the midst of the Smoky Hills, Wilson State Park takes the top spot for the most scenic camping spot in Kansas. It’s home to the Wilson Reservoir, which is surrounded by jagged cliffs and stone formations. The park is a mecca for bikers, with a 25.5-mile-long bike trail. Fishing and hunting are also popular in dedicated areas of the park, while others have been set aside as bird and wildlife habitats. Swimming and kayaking are also popular pursuits. Campsites are available along with rustic rental cabins.
Kentucky: Mammoth Cave National Park
At first glance, Mammoth Cave National Park might seem like an ordinary park; but don’t be fooled, the park’s best features are underground. Mammoth Cave is the world’s largest cave system, with over 400 miles of underground caves, many of which are open to the public to safely explore. The campground has 111 rustic campsites. Cell service isn’t available so they’re a perfect place to unplug and unwind and there are also vintage cottages available for rent. The above-ground portion of the park features rivers, trails, and forests in which to hike, bike, kayak, and horseback ride.
Louisiana: Grand Isle State Park
Grand Isle State Park is located along the shores of the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico, which makes fishing, crabbing, beachcombing, swimming, birdwatching, and sunbathing all popular pursuits here. It’s well worth renting a kayak if you don’t have one because there’s a good chance you’ll spot unique sea life, like stingray and jellyfish while paddling in the water. Some of the park’s campsites are located right on the sand where visitors can listen to the sound of the water lapping against the shore as they fall asleep.
Maine: Acadia National Park
With 47,000 acres of rugged coastal beauty spread out over two islands and a peninsula, the highlights of Acadia National Park include vaulted viewpoints like Cadillac Mountain, the tallest peak on the Atlantic coast, and Thunder Hole, where natural stone walls combine with ocean waves to produce a sound akin to a thunderstorm. There are also ponds, streams, sandy beaches, and picturesque lighthouses to enjoy. The park is home to four campgrounds, some of which are open all year. Reservations are recommended well in advance. If you wish to explore the area outside the park, Bar Harbor, one of the most romantic small towns in America is nearby.
Maryland: Assateague State Park
There are few sights as incredible as the specter of wild horses galloping along the sand, and Assateague State Park is one of the few places in the country where you can experience their wonder. There are two miles of beach for swimming, kayaking, fishing, and beachcombing and marsh areas where deer and feral ponies make their home. It’s important to remember that these ponies are truly wild and petting or touching them is prohibited for your safety and theirs. The campground offers 342 campsites available between late April and the end of October. Find out five other places where you can still see wild horses in North America.
Massachusetts: Salisbury Beach State Reservation
Salisbury Beach State Reservation is nestled into the spot where the Merrimack River meets the Atlantic Ocean near the New Hampshire border. The park boasts almost four miles of shoreline frequented by seals and birds while the beach itself consists of stretches of boardwalks, dunes, and white sand. There are almost 500 campsites, laid out to resemble a small town, complete with street signs. Although the sites aren’t located right on the water, they’re a short walk from the beach. Activities include beachcombing, trails for hiking and biking, boating or exploring the nearby town of Salisbury.
Michigan: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Located on the shores of Lake Superior, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is 42 miles long and only five miles wide. The landscape is stunning with sandstone cliffs that nature has shaped into formations resembling bridges and castles, plus sand dunes, waterfalls, interior lakes, and forests. There are over 100 miles of hiking trails taking you from the beaches to the tops of rocky cliffs. There are 14 different background camping spots in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, each with multiple sites. They are walk-in sites only and only hammocks and tents are permitted.
Minnesota: Voyageurs State Park
Minnesota’s Voyageurs State Park claim to fame is that it’s the only state park without a road; instead of pavement, it’s a labyrinth of interconnected waterways perfect for boating, kayaking, or canoeing. The coastline is unspoiled and wolves, bears, and moose roam the shores while bald eagles lay claim to the sky. The stars are especially brilliant there due to the fact that the skies aren’t polluted by artificial light sources and people come from all over the world to gape at the brilliant colors of the night sky. There are over 120 campsites and almost 80 houseboat sites available and over 50 miles of hiking trails, some of which are only accessible from the water. When you are looking to drive, you can’t do better than these 15 best national parks for road trips.
Mississippi: Buccaneer State Park
Waveland’s Buccaneer State Park took a beating from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but it’s since been restored in all of its natural glory. Moss hangs from the limbs of large oak trees that line salty marshlands and sandy beaches beckon you to walk along the Gulf of Mexico. The Park has historical roots: it was the base of operations for Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans and he returned to build a home there and Jean Lafitte built his “Pirate House” nearby. There are almost 300 campsites and plenty of activities for families including a waterpark and a disc golf course. Find out how hurricanes get their names.
Missouri: Lake of the Ozarks
There are few places more scenic than the Lake of the Ozarks in the Show-Me-State and there’s no better way to explore than at the Lake of the Ozarks State Park. The location combines the unspoiled natural beauty of the lake with forests and walking trails. Boating and fishing are first-rate activities, as are biking, swimming, and horseback riding. Reservations for camping can be made up to a year in advance in four different areas and there are larger sites available for groups and families. There are also outpost cabins and oversized yurts for rent. Neither the yurts nor cabins feature running water.
Montana: Glacier National Park
A trip to Glacier National Park is a bucket list trip for any national park fan—the park offers more than 700 hundred miles of trails with lush forests, mountains, meadows, and incredible sparkling lakes to enjoy while you’re there. Camping is available in several different areas of the park, depending on availability, Be diligent about food storage so you don’t attract the wolves, bears, or other hungry furry creatures who call the park home. The park does a great job keeping the roads plowed when it snows, but if you’re visiting in winter it’s wise to check in advance to make sure the area is accessible. These 40 stunning photos of national parks covered in snow will whet your appetite.
Nebraska: Fort Robinson State Park
A camping trip to Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford is the highlight of any trip through the heartland of Nebraska. There are more than 22,000 picturesque acres of lakes, Pine Ridge scenery, and meadows, but what really makes the park so spectacular are the herds of buffalo and longhorn cattle. The park was originally a fort and many of the original buildings remain. It’s an important place in American history because it’s the site where famed Sioux Chief Crazy Horse met his death. Activities include horse trails, hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing, and hunting. The campground offers a nice feature for horse lovers—horse barns to accommodate your equestrian friends overnight. Learn the untold story of Chief Crazy Horse and 11 other Native Americans.
Nevada: Cathedral Gorge State Park
Nevada 93 is a gorgeous desert drive and one of the best stops on your road trip is a camping trip to Cathedral Gorge State Park in Panaca. The park gets its name from the towering Cathedral-like rock formations that rise up from the desert landscape. Nature has carved out awe-inspiring slot canyons which seem to go on forever and make hiking here a unique pleasure. The campground offers 22 sites available only on a first come first serve basis, except in the case of large groups who can reserve in advance. Each site features a ramada for shade and protection from the hot Nevada sun.
New Hampshire: Hampton Beach State Park
Hopeful campers enter a lottery in order to be guaranteed a spot at Hampton Beach State Park. Once you visit, it’s easy to see why. This gorgeous park is situated in the stunning spot where the Hampton River meets the Atlantic Ocean and offers miles of sandy beaches to explore. Activities include hiking, beachcombing, swimming, and fishing, but the view is so beautiful you may just want to gaze at out at the ocean all day. If you love beaches, be sure to check out these beaches that are actually more beautiful in winter.
New Jersey: High Point State Park
High Point State Park lives up to its name by rising up over 1800 feet above sea level in a part of New Jersey known as the Skylands. Its vaulted location allows it to offer amazing, panoramic views of farmland, forests, hills, and valleys in three different states. The park features lakes, trails, and swimming holes in addition to winter activities like cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. The campground offers 50 tent sites and additional sites dedicated to large groups. There are also two rustic furnished rental cabins available. Here are 15 more cozy cabins for a last-minute getaway.
New Mexico: Cimarron Canyon State Park
If you are planning on road tripping through New Mexico north, be sure to build time to camp at Cimarron Canyon State Park in Eagle Nest. The Cimarron River flows through rugged stone canyons, providing an awe-inspiring backdrop to your visit. The water is clear and a popular spot for anglers. Wildlife including bear, elk, deer, and wild turkey abound since the park is part of the more than 33,000 acres of the Colin Nesbitt Wildlife area. The park also features hiking and horse trails. There are four different campgrounds in the park with over 90 individual sites to choose from.
New York: Taughannock Falls State Park
Set in the lovely Finger Lake region, Taughannock Falls State Park offers jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery and diverse activities year-around. Visitors hike through an ancient gorge to reach a stunning 215-foot waterfall. There are trails to view the falls from both above and below to soak in different perspectives of this natural wonder. The park is a popular spot for cross country skiing, ice skating over ponds, and snowshoeing in winter. Campsites and rental cabins are available overlooking the picturesque Cayuga Lake, which is a popular spot for swimming and boating. Find out the most gorgeous waterfall in your state.
North Carolina: Carolina Beach State Park
Carolina Beach State Park is located on North Carolina’s Pleasure Island on the Cape Fear River and it definitely lives up to its name. The campground is serene and shaded by trees and there are miles of hiking trails, most of which are flat and easy to walk—and of course, soft, sandy beaches to explore. The carnivorous plant Venus Flytrap is one of the many things you can expect to find growing in the wild here. There are 79 campsites plus two set aside for large groups. There are also four rental cabins complete with heat and air conditioning.
North Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands of North Dakota was named for the president who came to the area to hunt bison in 1883. Today bison roam the park and catching sight of their herds is an unforgettable experience. You might also spot feral horses, elk, deer, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and more. The park itself is comprised of three areas of badlands. Breathtaking rock formations rise out of golden plains and Painted Canyon reaches across the landscape as far as you can see. It’s a stellar place for hiking or even just to take a scenic drive. The park has two scenic campgrounds including reservation-only group sites. The rest are available on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Ohio: Salt Fork State Park
Salt Fork State Park is the largest state park in Ohio with almost 20,000 beautiful acres to play in and explore. Expect rolling hills covered by verdant forests, punctuated by meadows, valleys, lakes, and meandering brooks. Waterfalls and sandstone bluffs add grandeur and distinction to the landscape. Golf, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and swimming are among the park’s most popular activities. The park has 212 regular campsites in addition to dedicated sites for larger groups and campers who have horses. There are also rental cottages and a traditional lodge available.
Oklahoma: Beavers Bend State Park
Beavers Bend State Park is located in the mountains of southern Oklahoma where the Mountain Fork River meets Broken Bow Lake. Lush forests surround the banks of the crystal blue lake, offering beauty and shade. The park’s streams are stocked with trout year-around—a big draw for anglers. Other activities include an 18 hole golf course, nature trails, tennis and volleyball courts, boating, floating, and horseback riding. The park offers almost 400 traditional campsites spread out over eight different areas of the park in addition to rental cabins and a large lodge. Not up for traveling?
Oregon: Crater Lake National Park
Often considered one of the most breathtaking places in the country, Oregon’s Crater Lake was formed by a collapsed volcano more than 7,700 years ago. In the center of the lake’s turquoise blue, sparkling, clear water, Wizard’s Island rises up to interrupt the blue with fir trees covered with velvet green. The entire lake is rimmed with the stone remains of the ancient Mount Mazama. The park is stunning year-round—the landscape is lush and green in warmer months and covered with snow in winter. There are gorgeous trails for hiking as well as roads for scenic drives. There are over 200 campsites in two areas and most can be reserved in advance. Discover 14 other of the most crystal clear lakes in the world.
Pennsylvania: Ricketts Glen State Park
Benton’s Ricketts Glen State Park makes this list because it combines incredible scenery with enough diverse activities to satisfy nearly everyone. For starters, there are over 13,000 acres to explore, stretching out across three different counties. The crown jewel of the park is the Glen Natural Area, a 2,500-acre forest filled with wandering streams and majestic waterfalls. The park also includes lakes for swimming and water sports, trails, and is open for winter activities such as snowmobiling and cross country skiing. Hunting is allowed in dedicated areas in season. There are 120 camping sites, some of which are open year-round.
Rhode Island: Burlingame State Park and Campground
Burlingame State Park and Campground in Rhode Island sprinkles 700 campsites and 20 rental cabins over 3,100 wooded acres surrounding the scenic Watchaug Pond. There are gorgeous hiking trails, beaches for swimming, and more than 50 outdoor fireplaces to roast marshmallows for s’mores or simply stay warm after the sun begins to wane. Fishing and boating are also extremely popular here. The park is within a short drive to Charlestown so be sure to build in time to spend a day there. Enjoy a gorgeous oceanfront beach, the Frosty Drew Observatory and Science Center, and a variety of restaurants serving fantastic fresh seafood.
South Carolina: James Island County Park
The 643 acre James Island County Park in Charleston has something for everyone. There are idyllic tidal creeks for kayaking, four miles of paved trails, a seasonal water park, a 50-ft climbing wall, volleyball, and large open meadows. There are traditional campsites and rental cabins available. Perhaps the best part about the park, however, is the location right outside downtown Charleston, a city steeped in beauty and history. Stunning architecture, fantastic restaurants, and gorgeous restaurants await visitors so be sure to leave enough time to explore. Find hidden gems in every state.
South Dakota: Hartford Beach State Park
South Dakota is known for being home to incredible parks and each is scenic in its own way. Hartford Beach State Park is truly exceptional for its scenic views, array of activities, and history. Located in the glacial lake area of the state, in a section of River Warren dubbed Big Stone Lake, the park features sweeping views of the water, forests, and the impressive rock bluffs that tower above it all. Be sure to hike the Village View Trail which guides you to viewpoints in which to take in ancient Native American mounds. Other activities include volleyball, swimming, kayaking, snowshoeing, fishing, and more. There are 91 campsites and a number of rental cabins available.
Tennessee: Natchez Trace State Park
If you’re driving the Natchez Trace Parkway, be sure to allow time for an unforgettable camping trip at Natchez Trace State Park in Wildersville. This stunning park offers 48,000 acres of natural beauty and activity. There are numerous hiking trails traversing amid forests, meadows, lakes, and streams, for every skill level, including a 40 mile, overnight trail for the hardiest of adventurers. Swimming, boating, fishing, and horseback riding are also immensely popular. There are three traditional campgrounds in addition to backcountry camping options and rental cabins available. The park also offers a traditional lodge and campers are welcome in the restaurant.
Texas: Caprock Canyons State Park
A camping trip to Caprock Canyons State Park is an awe-inspiring experience. Over 10,000 acres are dedicated to bison herds, and these majestic creatures are able to roam free. There are also steep stone cliffs and natural tunnel formations that are home to bats. There are 90 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking but the park is just as well suited to a scenic drive. There is also a 120-acre lake for swimming and watersports. There are traditional campsites, primitive walk-in sites, and equestrian sites for horseback riders. These are more of the most scenic drives in America.
Utah: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
There are few experiences as awe-inspiring as taking in the natural wonder in a scenic road trip of Utah’s byways. Be sure to stop by Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which is over 1.25 million acres and home to the stunning Lake Powell, the second-largest man-made lake in the country and considered one of the best boating destinations in the world. Large orange-red cliffs and rock spires surround and rise up from the midst of the lake’s crystal clear waters. Navigating through them is an unforgettable experience. Be sure to visit Rainbow Bridge, one of the world’s largest natural stone bridges. There are four campgrounds managed by the park and several more which operate privately. Primitive camping is also available along the shoreline and backcountry camping is available with a permit. These are 14 more of the most colorful natural wonders on earth.
Vermont: George D. Aiken Wilderness Area
The natural beauty of Vermont is on full display in the George D. Aiken Wilderness Area in Woodford Majestically situated on top of a 2,300-foot plateau, the heavily forested park surrounds the large, picturesque Adams Reservoir. It’s surrounded by forest and seeing the trees reflected in the water is worth a visit all by itself, especially in fall when the birch trees turn brilliant shades of red and gold while spruce trees stubbornly cling to their green. The ground can be marshy and soft, and best suited to activities like fishing and kayaking. Camping is available at Woodford State Park which shares a border with the wilderness area. The park offers over 100 camping sites including 20 lean-tos in addition to several rental cabins. Guests have access to scenic walking trails around the lake and a small beach. It’s resplendent in the fall—these are all the best road trips in the country for leaf-peeping.
Virginia: Shenandoah National Park
Virginia’s Skyline Drive is one of the loveliest roads in America and it’s less than 75 miles from Washington D.C. It takes you to Shenandoah National Park, a nature lover’s paradise filled with waterfalls, incredible sunsets, rolling hills, lush forests, and meadows blanketed by wildflowers. You’ll share this 200,000-acre paradise with bears, deer, countless varieties of birds, and other creatures as you explore the hiking trails. There are five campgrounds to choose from and backcountry camping is also available with a permit. Be sure to be cautious about food storage so as not to attract a hungry bear.
Washington: Olympic National Park
The Olympic National Park in Washington State offers so many gorgeous landscapes it almost seems to defy reality. The park is nearly a million acres ranging from the towering peaks of snow-capped mountains to rugged Pacific Ocean coastline to an old-growth rainforest. It is common to see herds of elk, bear, deer, mountain goats, cougars, and more. The park is the perfect place for a leisurely picnic or a weeks-long backpacking adventure. There are 14 different campgrounds with multiple sites to choose from. Most are first come first serve and backcountry camping requires a permit. Find out 12 things you shouldn’t do in recently reopened national parks.
West Virginia: Stonewall Resort State Park
Stonewall Resort State Park in Roanoke sits on 1,900 gorgeous acres of hiking trails, rolling hills, and picturesque forests. The crown jewel of the park is Stonewall Jackson Lake which offers 82 miles of shoreline to explore. Boating is popular here and kayaks are paddleboards are available for guests who want to soak up the view from the center of the lake. When you’re through, an 18 hole course golf course awaits you. Camping is available at the park’s Briar Point Campground. There are also lakeside cottage rentals available and a stunning Adirondack inspired lodge with a spa and two restaurants. Other area attractions include the rumored-to-be haunted Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and Stonewall Sporting Clays which offers heated stands for year-round sports shooting.
Wisconsin: Wyalusing State Park
Wyalusing State Park in Wisconsin’s stunning Driftless Area is one of the most scenic campgrounds in the United States. It offers 2,700 acres of spectacular scenery overlooking the places where the mighty Mississippi River and Wisconsin River converge. The park features a canoe trail, hiking trails, caves, bluffs, and most importantly, it is the site of numerous Native American burial mounds. There are 109 campsites and five additional campsites that can be reserved for larger groups. Wisconsin’s Driftless Area is famous for its farms and wine so be sure to build in some time for a fabulous meal outside the park and of course, don’t leave without tasting some world-famous Wisconsin Cheese. This is what your favorite cheese says about your personality.
Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park
Visitors travel from all over the planet to visit Yellowstone National Park for a reason. Whether you want to stay in the car and explore Yellowstone’s Grand Loop or pack up your gear for a once-in-a-lifetime outdoor adventure, a visit to this national treasure is an experience you’ll never forget. Highlights include Old Faithful Geyser, which has erupted more than a million times since the park was established in 1872, mammoth, brilliantly colored hot springs, waterfalls, hiking trails, fossils, river rafting, and seeing bears, wolves, moose, swans, bison, and wild horses. There are numerous campgrounds available—it all depends on your preferred view and amenities and backcountry camping is also available with a permit. If this is your dream, be sure to check out these 20 amazing wildlife photos from Yellowstone National Park.