The Best Places to Camp (Without Really Roughing It)
Medium levels of crunchiness here.
Finding a place to camp can be tricky. You don't want to stay too close to civilization and wind up wedged between RVs in some depressing patch of dirt on the side of a highway. But you also don't want to disappear into the woods and subsist on beetles and Clif bars looking like Leo in The Revenant if he were somehow also wearing zip-off pants.
That's why we rounded up nine campsites that hit the sweet spot: they're accessible by car (or ferry or helicopter) and at most a short hike. But they're still right in the thick of it—next to the hikes, climbs, swims, and soaks that make the great outdoors worth it in the first place.
The Best Beach Campsite, East Coast Edition
Sea Camp, on Georgia’s Cumberland Island, is just on the other side of a row of massive dunes from what’s likely the best-preserved beach on the Eastern seaboard. It’s the sort of place you’re more likely to see a pack of wild horses than any other vacationers. That’s because the almost-totally undeveloped island has no direct link to the mainland—the only way to get there is via boat. Lucky for you, the Cumberland Queen II leaves twice daily from St. Mary's and docks a few hundred yards from the campsite.
The Best Beach Campsite, West Coast Edition
There are many great places to camp in Big Sur, three hours or so down the coast on Highway 1 from San Francisco, but Andrew Molera State Park’s Trail Camp is the spot that let you pitch your tent closest to the Pacific. The campsites are set in a wide grassy meadow (read: a nice soft sleeping surface) and they’re just a short walk from the parking area. From there, the beach is just a short walk away—it features a nice surf break when conditions are right, and there are miles of trails along the park’s seaside bluffs if you would rather stay dry. Overindulged at the campfire whiskey pass-around? If you'd rather not mess with cooking the next morning, the huevos con chorizo down the road at Deetjen’s should do the trick.
Andrew Molera State Park Trail Camp, CA is first-come, first-serve, and is guaranteed to be full by Friday afternoon on peak weekends, so plan to arrive early or during the off-season. (Also, as of early May 2017, it's currently closed because of flooding. It should be back open any day now.)
The Most Luxurious Campsite on the Continent
Dunton Hot Springs Colorado's most luxurious hot springs resort got into the “glamping” game a few years ago. And sure, that’s a somewhat cringe-y term. But look: at the Dunton River Camp, the tents are more than six hundred square feet big and equipped with king-sized beds, WiFi, and bathrooms with a six-foot soaking tub. The West Fork of the Dolores River, which is full of brown and rainbow trout, runs straight through camp for fly-fishing. Each “tent” comes with a pair of mountain bikes for exploring the property’s network of trails. This is is the rare operation that’s glamorous enough that the portmanteau just makes sense.
You can make reservations on the Dunton River Camp website.
The Best Campsite for Both Slackers AndOverachievers
From the mossy riverside Sol Duc campground in Washington’s Olympic National Park, you’ve got options: if you're trying to impress someone, the High Divide Loop hike is a full-day classic through mossy rainforest, past alpine lakes and waterfalls. For something a little more relaxed, the Sol Duc Hot Springs resort is right next door, where the mineral pools naturally steaming hot. (There’s even a bar.) The campsite itself is not small: there are more than eighty tent sites, along with some RV hookups. But heavy Pacific Northwest vegetation means each site is pretty private. The tent sites are car-accessible and first-come, first-serve, and they aren’t as hard to snag as some of the spots on this list.