13 Best National Parks for Camping and Hiking
We’re so lucky to have such a wide range of stunning national parks over here in the USA that allows us to explore all the great outdoors, hike through some genuinely iconic landscapes, camp beneath the stars and breathe in everything that nature has to offer.
With such an array of scenery, ecosystems, flora, and fauna and so much adventure to be had, you’re sure to find a great national park to enjoy on your next experience into the outdoors right here in the US.
There’s only one problem – how do you even start to narrow down your choices from the fifty-eight national parks on offer here and pick the best camping and hiking destination for your needs?
Luckily, we’ve done most of the hard work for you and put together a comprehensive review of 13 best national parks for camping and hiking in the USA.
All of these have been recommended by outdoors enthusiasts and locals, making this a great go-to list that is useful, comprehensive, and straightforward.
Keep reading to find out which ones made our list!
1. Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is the ideal place to hang out in your van, go hiking, pitch your tent, and explore or head out for some adventure.
Located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains, it boasts epic glaciers, stunning waterfalls, deep valleys, luscious meadows, miles of wilderness and ancient giant sequoia trees which have been around for thousands of years and tower down over your head.
Around 1,200 square miles in size, you’ll also find thirteen busy campgrounds where you can lay your weary head after a hard night of climbing or hiking. They all offer a great blend of comfort and the whole idea of getting back to basics. Book ahead if you want to come here as it can get busy.
What is the best place to camp in Yosemite National Park? Find out HERE.
2. Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Canyonlands makes number two on our list because of both the stunning scenery and epic location.
The Colorado River slices through this desert landscape, leaving a first and breathtaking location that’s great for all kinds of adventure, including hiking, climbing, and camping. With hundreds of miles of trails such as ‘Island in the Sky’ and ‘The Needles,’ you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore the outdoors as much as you desire. If you’re keen to explore more, the Arches National Park is also just 30 minutes away so that you can make the most of your camping and climbing trip.
What is the best place to camp in Canyonlands National Park? Find out HERE.
3. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon is the must-see US National Park for exploring the great outdoors, and it doesn’t disappoint!
Full of many affordable camping pitches and with excellent access for sunset and sunrise hikes, this is the National Park you have to visit if you want to fill your Instagram feed with epic color, scale, and beauty. Be aware that temperatures here can vary wildly, depending on your elevation and the season, so do make sure you pack correctly for the conditions.
When it comes to camping, you have several options at the Grand Canyon. Either choose to stay at one of the four more developed campsites (where vehicles are allowed) or get yourself a permit and head into the backcountry and camp at the other campsites and locations throughout the park. Amazing.
You should know that the South Rim is open all year, but the North Rim is closed for the winter, so plan your trip accordingly.
What is the best place to camp in Grand Canyon National Park? Find out HERE.
4. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho
Volcanic, breathtaking and stunning, Yellowstone National Park is your perfect national park if you want to be wowed by nature at its most raw.
Mainly one massive supervolcano, the natural park boasts three calderas, and seemingly endless bubbling geysers, including the Old Faithful geyser (watch this) and hot springs to delight and amaze.
You’ll also see grizzly bears, black bears, grey wolves, bison, eagles, swans, and much more besides. It’s an extraordinary place, indeed.
We highly recommend that you camp at the Canyon Campground as it’s large, it’s ideally located, and it offers excellent facilities for both RVs and tents.
What is the best place to camp in Yellowstone National Park? Find out HERE.
5. Glacier National Park, Montana
Boasting an alpine landscape sprinkled with gorgeous lakes, rugged mountains, forests, meadows, and endless miles of trails, Glacier National Park will be perfect for you if you adore solitude, adventures, and getting off the beaten track.
You’ll find 13 different campgrounds here which offer over 1000 sites and a range of facilities, plus a variety of lodges which can cater to your every need. Booking is recommended.
Spread over more than a million acres, come here to spend your days exploring, hiking, camping and soaking up the wilderness right here. There are so many hiking trails to explore here, including the beautiful Highline Loop, the Swiftcurrent Pass, and the very great Ptarmigan Tunnel, which takes you 240 feet through a historic tunnel built back in the 1930s.
What is the best place to camp in Glacier National Park? Find out HERE.
6. Arches National Park, Utah
As the name suggests, the Arches National Park boasts a landscape of over 2000 natural stone arches that range in size, shape, texture, and color and will leave you gobsmacked.
You’ll love coming here if you want to gaze at the stars, breath in the sunsets, explore on horseback, or explore the fantastic climbing routes the park offers. This national park is also a place where you can find a fantastic range of trails which are short in length and suitable for beginners, right through to the longer and more challenging (and very Insta-worthy!).
Check out the Devil’s Garden Campground to lay your eyes upon what can only be the best campground vie in the world! Again, booking is recommended.
What is the best place to camp in Arches National Park? Find out HERE.
7. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee–North Carolina
Whatever kind of camping experience you’re after, you’ll find it at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Offering a wide variety of camping experiences with someone for everyone and a fantastic place for hiking, it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site which joins the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains and forms part of the Appalachian Trail.
One of America’s most-visited national parks offers a vast diversity of animal life, and it’s a stunningly beautiful place. However, be aware that bears do tend to be very active in the area, so take exercise caution while you explore.
We recommend the Deep Creek Campground for its easy access to Deep Creek and excellent fishing and hiking opportunities.
What is the best place to camp in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Find out HERE.
8. Acadia National Park, Maine
Located right on the coast of Maine, Acadia is the national park that offers clean, fresh air, fabulous hiking, seven peaks, and a stunning view of the Atlantic coastline.
Here you can fish, hike, camp, kayak or canoe and soak up the landscapes. This park offers five campgrounds that are dotted across the park and provide a range of facilities that will suit your every outdoor need. We love the Mount Desert campground because it’s small, well-maintained, and right next to the ocean on Mount Desert Island. They also have hot showers and Wi-Fi!
You can also find some great trails here that you can hike, most of which are suitable for families. If you’re more of an adventurous type, you’ll also find several more challenging and exposed trails such as The Beehive Trail and The Precipice Trail.
What is the best place to camp in Acadia National Park? Find out HERE.
9. Zion National Park, Utah
At a massive 8,726 feet of elevation at its highest to 3,666 feet at its lowest, Zion National Park offers a fascinating variety of sandstone cliffs, pine trees, springs, and waterfalls, hanging gardens, plateaus and narrow sandstone canyons that ooze ancient history and the outdoors.
The trails are also epic! Ranging in length and difficulty, you’ll find something here for everyone, even those who love living life on the edge…literally!
As you’d expect from a popular national park like this, the campsites sell out quickly, so it’s worth reserving. There are also several private camping grounds nearby that might offer additional space.
What is the best place to camp in Zion National Park? Find out HERE.
10. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
The perfect place for any adventure junkie, the Rocky Mountain National Park, offers a wealth of landscapes to enjoy, including evergreen forests, mountain lakes and streams, wildflower meadows, and stunning mountains.
With over 350 miles of trails, it’s the perfect place to hike backpack, climb, mountaineer, ride horses, fish, mountain bike, kayak or go whitewater rafting, soak up the stars and let loose and enjoy yourself.
There are also many inexpensive campsites across the park, which vary in size, availability, and opening times. Bear in mind that none offer full RV hookups- you’ll have to head to the commercial RV parks and campgrounds located outside of the park to do that.
What is the best place to camp in Rocky Mountain National Park? Find out HERE.
11. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Fancy a night sleeping under the stars in the wilderness? Then check out one of the nine campgrounds within Joshua Tree National Park. Enigmatic and breathtaking, it’s one of the US National Parks that you absolutely must add to your bucket list.
You’ll enjoy the unique desert ecosystems, witness a fantastic variety of plants and animals, and allow yourself to get lost in this beautiful, wind-carved landscape.
Besides, who wouldn’t LOVE to explore this magical desert landscape which features everything from crazily-shaped cacti to huge boulders?
When it comes to camping facilities, choose wisely- water is only available in a handful of sites and facilities in some tend to be quite basic. Don’t forget about the first aid kit, as it helps you be prepared for unexpected. This park is so busy, and it’s also worth arranging your camping or hiking song for the shoulder seasons, between Feb-May.
What is the best place to camp in Joshua Tree National Park? Find out HERE.
12. Sequoia National Park, California
If you love trees and you adore history, you need to head to Sequoia National Park.
This national park boasts the oldest and most significant trees in the world. This dramatic landscape is rugged, deep, vast, and always breathtaking.
Come to camp or hike here, and you’ll gape at giants like the General Sherman Tree, explore like the Big Trees Trail, and Tokopah Falls Trail and soak up the natural wonder of the outdoors.
Depending on the elevation, the hiking trails and campgrounds vary widely in temperature and weather, so prepare carefully.
However, the campsites do offer pretty good facilities, which include markets, showers, laundry facilities, gift shops, picnic tables, and fire grills, but no RV hookups. Again, booking is recommended.
What is the best place to camp in Sequoia National Park? Find out HERE.
13. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Utterly different from anything else on this list, the Great Sand Dunes National Park offers the tallest dunes in North America plus an incredible array of lakes, forests, wetlands, grasslands, and more.
Perfect for hiking under the starry sky, sandboarding, and sand sledding, splashing in the creek and hiking trails and seemingly endless dunes, you’ll find something here to enjoy whatever the season.
The camping facilities here are also excellent, offering everything from RV hookups, showers, and restaurants to sites without flushing toilets or water, depending on how wild you want to go!
What is the best place to camp in Great Sand Dunes National Park? Find out HERE.
If you’re anything like us, just thinking about these incredible national parks for camping and hiking leaves you itching to strap on your backpack and get out there on the trails!
So, what’s stopping you?
Carefully read through our list and think carefully. Make your selection between glaciers, mountains, dunes, rock formations, ancient trees, coastal landscapes, tundra, wildflower meadows, evergreen trees, cacti, granite cliffs, and everything else the great outdoors has to offer.
Then get on out there!
[Remember, the space available on these camping grounds is limited, and conditions for both hiking and camping can vary depending on the time of year, so do your research before you travel.]