Every year, the National Park Service dedicates seven days to celebrating our public lands because why the heck not? Over a week in April, every park offers free admission on one Saturday to encourage more people to get out and take in some good ol’ American beauty in addition to a number of events at parks across the country.
Fortunately, millions of people from all over the world have the opportunity to cherish our natural treasures every year. This unfortunately means campers can have a hard time scoring a campsite right within these beauties. A lot of campgrounds within the National Park System are first come, first serve, or booked months in advance. If you’re more of a spontaneous traveller, or just want a place to escape the park crowds, Hipcamp’s got you covered. Below is a compilation of some of our favorite campgrounds within 1.5 hours of our beloved National Parks!
Acadia National Park—a dramatic juxtaposition of mountains and oceans that is sure to make your jaw drop. Rugged sea cliffs, picturesque and historic towns, and majestic islands are all watched over by Cadillac Mountain and its commanding ranges.
Camp of the Pioneers is a 6-acre slice of heaven under a half an hour away from Acadia with three different camping options. If you’re feeling like a more rustic camping experiences, you can take the hike-in only Birch Gate Campsite.
Another close camping option is a stay at Basalm Way Campsite, which is incredible charming as you can see:
If all of Texas’s parks were royalty, then Big Bend would be the exquisite crown jewel. The crème de la crème of Lone Star State parks, Big Bend is known for its size, it’s vast diversity in elevation, its assorted biology, it’s important paleontology and archeology and over 1,000 miles of international boundary shared with Mexico along the Rio Grande. All this and Big Bend is still considered one of the most underrated, most remote and least visited parks in the lower 48 – lucky for you! Big Bend is particularly exciting for hikers and backpackers, who can choose between Chimneys Trail, Marufo Vega Trail, Outer Mountain Loop or any number of the endless other options. Oh and did we almost forget to mention that this is one of the best places in the United States for stargazing?
Just a stone’s throw away from the park, the campsites at Terlingua Las Ruinas are pretty much a no brainer. You can either bring your own tent (left) or glamp out in one of the two Sibley Tents(right) and be only fifteen minutes from the closest park entrance.
If you have an RV or are looking for a more rustic camping option, check out Jackass Flats, which is only 25 minutes away from a park entrance.
The Great Smokey Mountains National Park sings the songs of country music herself with her rambling streams, ancient mountains, and remnants of true Southern Appalachian mountain culture. The park holds some of the most diverse plant and animal life in the lower 48 and endless trails in which to explore it. You can spend your days climbing through waterfalls, fishing for trout, bicycling under fall foliage, exploring historical sites, picnicking, and cabrewing (the holy union of beer and canoeing).
The Meadow Campsites and Wooded Campsites at Serenity Knoll Farm are just under an hour and a half away from Great Smoky. Just 5 miles from historic downtown Jonesborough, Serenity Knoll intensively farms nearly an acre of land. Half the land – and 7 campsites – is in wooded cover overlooking a pond, which creates a natural habitat for many different species of birds and native plants.
America has a national spa? Who knew? It’s true, and you will find it at Hot Springs National Park. This place is not your average national park. The hot springs were discovered, and then a town grew up around it, making it a more urban experience than a wild one. Choose between a more public pool type of environment, or head for your own private bathtub of natural spring water, modeled after European spas of the 1900’s. Now that’s how relaxation is done!
To add a little wild to your trip, book a stay at Erwin Estates High Point, where you can stay on your own perch located on 250 acres in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains.
If you want an Into The Wild experience aka solitude and a chance to discover the pure ruggedness of the outdoors, Isle Royale is your place. Surrounded by Lake Superior and only accessible by ferry, the park has a huge amount of backcountry acreage and is one the least visited national parks. You’ll find rugged shorelines, towering forests, and a park with no roads that houses a wild and almost primal ecosystem pulsing with life; even moose and a very special pack of wolves call the island home. Kayakers, backpackers, anglers, hikers and those with an enthusiasm for discovery and preservation will have a hell of a time on this amazing archipelago.
If you want your own private yurt, just head west over Lake Superior to Tall Pines Yurt.
Channel Islands National Park is made up of five of the eight islands off of the southern California coast. These 5 are only a little while away from Los Angeles, and the small slice of old California makes for a unique day trip. You’ll be one of the very few people to see these Pacific wonders—this is probably the least visited national park.
To get to the Channel Islands, you take a ferry over from Ventura, which is about smack in the middle between Santa Barbara and Malibu, where there a tons of unique camping options. Some of our favorites in Malibu include the Yurt (left) and Tipi in the Malibu Mountains (right) at the Great Spirits Ranch and the Zuma Sanctuary Lotus Belle (below).
Where can you find geological formations, other-worldly in their contortions, that rise like desert gods toward an empty sky? Joshua Tree National Park camping, where the earth’s rich history is hidden within the dusty, red rock. Sudden pools, silent and still, appear and disappear along the landscape, while the twisted branches of Joshua trees trace a slow dance against the skyline. Joshua Tree National Park is a place of legend and mystery, where pioneers, wandering through dust and sand, saw prophets in the trees; where constellations, ancient and never-ending, explode across the night sky.
Like with so many campgrounds within the NPS, campgrounds in Joshua Tree fill up quite quickly, so make sure to look into our favorite Hipcamps near Joshua Tree. Here’s a little preview below:
If you’re looking for a spot with a big group spot away from the crowds, Camp Nylen Group Camping can accommodate up to 20 campers, and the Sky Camp has probably the best damn outdoor shower we’ve ever seen.
With the iconic Mount Rainier reigning 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier National Park is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world. The active volcano, also the most glaciated peak in the lower 48 states, hoards much of the attention, but the park is also flush with wildflower meadow and ancient forests whose mystery rivals what really goes on at Area 51. In addition to being an active volcano, Mount Rainier spawns six major rivers. The land surrounding the ice-covered volcano includes subalpine meadows with seasonal wildflowers, while the lower slopes are covered in ancient forest.
Just an hour outside of the park, you can stay on a private Christmas tree farm… Yep, you heard us right. Take a look at the The Arboretum.
Diversity is the hallmark of the nearly million acres at Olympic National Park. The park protects a vast wilderness, thousands of years of human history, and several distinctly different ecosystems, including glacier-capped mountains, old-growth temperate rain forests, and over 70 miles of wild coastline. Camping with a hot tub? Can’t say no to that. The East Meadow is only an hour away from the park.
Iconic, wild and hugely famous, Yellowstone National Park is one of the last standing natural ecosystems in the world and the first ever National Park. If 300 hydrothermal geysers aren’t enough to get you here, how about some megafauna including some the largest herd of bison in America and an extremely elusive, beautiful, and very special pack of wolves. Backcountry trips and day hikes will take you through wild grasslands, and lodgepole forest with killer mountain views and canyons will rock your world. Horse trails are plentiful, or take a llama packing trip for an overnight adventure; seriously how cool is that?
Golden Skyfall is a stunning 170 sustainable acre farm located 15 miles from Bozeman, MT and 45 miles to Yellowstone Park with world class bird and wildlife watching and 5 huge mountain ranges can be seen from this working farm with hiking and bike trails throughout.
To put Yosemite National Park into words is quite the challenge, (this video does a pretty job of putting it into moving images though). There is no better place in California that envelops the strength of granite, the power of glaciers, and the tranquility of the High Sierra than Yosemite. Perhaps most famous for the granite rock formation Half Dome, Yosemite is almost equally well-known for its plethora of spectacular waterfalls (measuring up to almost 2,500-feet!). Yosemite is a place that must be visited within a lifetime and with 1,200 square miles to explore, there truly is a unique experience to be had for everyone.
All your alpine dreams come true when you visit Denali National Park and Preserve. Mountaineers swoon over the chance to bag Mt. McKinley (known as Denali by many), the tallest peak in North America, but there is much more to Denali National Park than the famous mountain. We’re talkin six million acres of wilderness with one little road slicing through it, the famous Denali Park Road.
For an epic tent view of Denali, campout at the Cantwel Denali View Camp, which is only 45 minutes away from the park headquarters. You can also cozy up about another half hour away at the Riverside Salmon Cabin for some extra comfort.
Spanning over 33,000 acres of land with over half designated as wilderness areas, Haleakalā National Park is located on Maui, an island so beautiful that you may want to take a permanent pau hana (the Hawaiian phrase for leisure time after work). The park is divided into two sections: the summit area and the coastal Kipahulu area. Heading to the Aloha State? Northshore Maui Space is an affordable alternative to hotels while being even closer to nature, an hour away from the park, on beachfront property.
Located on the big island, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is where you go to say mahalo to Mother Nature for 70 million years of volcanism and what it has bestowed on Planet Earth. The park holds two active volcanoes, Kīlauea (one of the world’s most active) and Mauna Loa, (the world’s premier subaerial volcano). The park was created to preserve the natural settings of Kīlauea and Mauna Loa and serve as a refuge for native plants and animals.
Just under two hours out of the park is the Waipi’o Hostel Camp is located in Kukuihaele less than a mile from majestic Waipiʻo Valley.
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