Born to be wild: A brief guide to the best camping spots in the U.S.

Everyone has heard of Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon national parks. The iconic regions are breathtaking benchmarks of the American west, protected and established alongside the inception of the National Park Service in 1916. However, there are plenty of other phenomenal camping areas scattered throughout the United States that are perfectly apt for taking to the trails and pitching a tent if you want to skirt less popular destinations or are merely in search of something different. Whether you’d prefer to walk among the tallest old-growth trees in the world, survey a pod of Orcas from your vantage point along the shore, or climb 150-meter dome of pink granite amid the rolling skies, there’s no better time than Memorial Day and the upcoming summer season to enjoy the great outdoors. That said, the Manual has kindly put together a list of some of our favorite places to camp, from California to New York.  As John Muir once said, “thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.” And I don’t think we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Channel Islands National Park, California

The aforementioned Yosemite receives most of the hype (and rightly so). However, California is a laudable treasure trove of camping spots, with Channel Islands National Park ranking among the best. Nearly 20 boat-in campsites scatter the nine regions located around the leeside shore of the island, providing a truly secluded experience nestled 22 miles southwest of Los Angeles. Moreover, the island offers a bevy of pristine beach — notably Brisas del Mar and Bahia Azul — both of which provide gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean and access to fishing, kayaking, and snorkeling.

Catalina Islands

Other alternatives: Redwood National and State Parks, Sierra National Forest

Big Bend National Park, Texas

American author Edward Abbey always heralded the desert for its beauty and expansiveness. Encompassing more than 800,00 acres in southwestern tip of Texas, Big Bend National Park is a prime of example of what the writer was talking about, a rugged landscape peppered with limestone pinnacles, desert oases, and roaring rivers. More than 150 hiking trails line the mountain and weather-beaten desert, providing grounds for phenomenal horseback riding and backpacking — if you don’t find yourself mercilessly gazing at the robust selection of birds and the star-laden sky.

Big Bend National Park

Other alternatives: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Padre Island National Seashore

Olympic National Park, Washington

A vast region of varied beauty regardless of the season, Olympic National Park is a mecca for camping in the Pacific Northwest. More than 40,000 people flock to the old-growth rainforests and glaciated mountain vistas of the region’s wilderness annually, taking in the tidepools and wildflower-adorned meadows along the way. The park touts more than 900 different campsites and hundreds of hiking trails throughout its interior, with remarkable fishing punctuating the region’s three distinct biospheres. However, ensure to always check the weather given the region is prone to rain.

Olympic National Park

Other alternatives: San Juan Islands, Mt. Rainier National Park

Adirondack Forest Preserve, New York

The Adirondacks are a classic staple of upstate New York. Consisting of more than 6-million acres — 2.7 million of which remains state-owned land — the region tempts campers with a bevy of high peaks, an amazing assortment of biodiversity, and thousands of snow-fed lakes. You can fish for trout along the girth of cascading streams or watch for migratory, boreal birds as they flock home to the park. The preserve also provides some of the best whitewater rafting on the East Coast during the summer, and a vast network of waterfall-strewn hiking trails regardless of the season.


Other alternatives: Catskills Forest Preserve, Allegany State Park

Mohican State Park, Ohio

Mohican State park may only cover just over 1,000 acres, but the adjacent forest offers more than 5,000. The region is uniquely beautiful, dappled with hemlock groves and cut with the Mohican River, the latter of which provides opportunities for canoeing and renowned bass fishing. Formerly the hunting grounds for the Delaware Indians, you can also hunt in the abutting forest with a valid license, or simply traverse one of the six hiking and mountain biking trails for spectacular views of the area’s surrounding waterfalls or the scenic wooden bridge crossing the Clear Fork Gorge.

Mohican State Park

Other alternatives: Burr Oak State Park, Malabar Farms State Park

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