There’s a whole continent out there. Where do you plan to sleep tonight?
When that continent is North America, the tenting possibilities are almost unlimited. We’re not talking about parking lots filled with RVs the size of football stadiums. The idea here is you, your loved ones and a tent in the middle of glorious nature. With this in mind, here is travel information on five of the finest camping locales in the U.S.
1. Sierra Nevada, California
Why the Sierras, not the Rockies? California’s mountain climate off Route 395, while still cold in winter, is kinder and more predictable throughout the rest of the year. Tents and the people who pitch them hate wind, which is a constant in Wyoming, Colorado, and Montana. Summers here are less buggy and more sunny. Also, in Sierra towns like Marklieville, if the campstove gets old it’s not hard to find a nearby restaurant serving something other than chicken-fried steak.
2. Southern Utah
Between I-70 and the Arizona border lies red rock country, an area so awe-inspiring you won’t care where you sleep. Fortunately, along State Highway 12 there are plenty of well-maintained state and county campgrounds. Avoid the big national parks: they are expensive and noisy. Instead, seek out aspen-shaded Boulder or Thousand Lake Mountain, or Calf Creek where the bounding stream creates complex shadows on pink canyon walls.
3. Adirondack Mountains, New York State
In the northeast U.S., there are few wilder places than these forested, ferny hills a day’s drive from the big city. Take I-87 to Glens Falls and head northwest to U.S. 28. Cool and crisp even in summer, the Adirondacks are a quick fix to the disease of urban life. It’s easy to imagine Iroquois warriors sidling between trees, outwitting sweaty redcoats on their way to Fort Ticonderoga.
4. Florida’s Nature Coast
No glitz, no glamour: can this be Florida? The answer is an emphatic yes. Between Tampa and the Panhandle, off U.S. 19, stretches an arc of tawny coast with more manatees than South Beach has fashion victims. State parks are your go-to facilities around here, and once ensconced in the saw grass and palmetto there’s almost nothing to do but watch egrets, herons, pelicans and the occasional alligator live their lives in blissful ignorance of highways and guns. This is a good place to cultivate your drawl, drink sweet iced tea, and wonder where the stress went.
5. Coastal Southern California
At state parks from Santa Barbara south to San Diego, it’s still possible to camp with a head-on ocean view, only steps from the sand. Be warned, however, that these spots right on the Pacific Coast Highway are very popular, so choose a weekday in the spring or fall and arrive early. Later, you’ll feel like the star of your own vacation brochure as you uncork a local bottle with the sunset at your back. This is tent camping in paradise.