The Campground Lowdown
Choose the right campsite for your needs.
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Navigating the sheer amount of campgrounds out there can be a daunting task, one that can make those new to camping want to throw in the towel. Where do I stay? How much does it cost? Do I need a reservation? Do they have a bathroom? Below you’ll find a breakdown at some of the more popular campground options.
You’ve probably seen the signs advertising Campgrounds of America while driving down any major highway in the United States, they’re almost as ubiquitous as signs for fast food or gas stations in some parts of the country. These are privately run campgrounds that make it easy for anyone to get into camping. They have many more amenities than public campgrounds. Beyond bathrooms you’ll usually find hot showers, supply stores, playgrounds and swimming pools.The downside is that you’ll undoubtedly be surrounded by RVs.
Reservations required? No for a tent, but it never hurts to call ahead if you’re in an RV.
Cost - $30-$45
A new service has popped up over the past few years known as Hipcamp, a service where landowners can offer up parts of their land to campers. All you have to do is check out their profile online and book through a few simple clicks. Think Airbnb but for the outdoors. It may be pricey but you’ll enjoy the solitude and the fact that it’s not overrun with other campers.
Reservations required? Yes
Cost - Varies by landowner, but this is definitely as or more expensive than KOA campgrounds.
State parks are a great introduction to camping as they offer just the right amount of amenities while still giving you the feeling of roughing it. Chances are there is a state park within a few hours drive from your home which makes them perfect for a quick weekend getaway. While they can become crowded, I have never been in a traffic jam to get into a state run park…the same cannot be said for some national parks.
Reservations required? Most parks will have both a mix of reservable and first-come-first- served sites.
Cost - Varies by state but usually $10-$20
The granddaddy of all camping experiences is sleeping under the stars close to some of the most iconic sights in the world. Almost every national park offers tent camping, and a large majority of those also offer space and hookups for RVs. Be sure to book ahead if you can. More than any other kind of camping campsites, national park campsites go very quickly, especially during the summer months. If you are feeling adventurous see if your chosen park offers back-country camping. You’ll have to get a permit, but the reward is sleeping in a place away from the crowds that flock to most national parks.
Reservations required? Most parks will have both a mix of reservable and first-come-first- served site. That being said with the spike in popularity over the recent years, a reservation is highly advised.
Cost - $20-$30
For those of you who really want to get away from it all national forests are for you. If you want to stay off the grid for a few days find yourself a dirt road in a national forest and drive down it, camping where you please along the way. Chances are you won’t see another soul your whole time out there. One thing to note is that you’ll need to be completely self-sufficient, since there are no stores, no gas, no cell phone reception and no bathrooms.
Reservations required? No
Cost - Free