One may fantasize about visiting Yosemite’s geysers or the Grand Canyon’s immensity, however, odds are you have a few hidden gems right in your backyard. State parks like Goblin Valley in Utah compete with neighboring Arches National Park (or Canyonlands for that matter), while Baxter State Park in Maine is arguably as wild as Acadia National Park (Baxter doesn’t even have flowing water!). Furthermore, state parks are less busy and less expensive, which is good news for overnight visitors.
There’s a state park campground for everyone, whether you want a well-developed RV site with all the bells and whistles or a woodland tent place far from any road or development. To assist — after all, there are over 10,000 state parks — we’ve compiled a list of some of the top campsites in state parks noted for their appeal and splendor. Take a time to review the accompanying state park camping tips before we get started.
Best State Parks for Camping in the U.S.
Although state parks may not experience the same volume of visitors as national parks, you should still prepare early to ensure a camping place. Each state has its reservation system, which can be accessed via the internet, via phone, or in person. And because certain places, such as Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park, are first-come, first-served, you won’t want to arrive too late in the day.
Make sure to study what facilities are offered before packing up and heading off – some state park campgrounds are incredibly rustic, requiring you to provide your water and trash, while others have complete RV connections, hot showers, and stores.
Finally, be respectful of any wildlife you come across and maintain your campfire carefully.
1. Goblin Valley Campground, Goblin Valley State Park, Utah
Goblin Valley State Park is one of the most visually stunning places in the state. The Mars-like terrain is littered with an increasing number of new rocks, and if you’ve ever fantasized about hiking through a slot canyon (like Antelope Canyon), you’ll be pleased with what Goblin Valley has to offer. Relax to one of the park’s 25 campsites after a day of exploration (including 14 RV spaces and a group site). Take note that there are no electrical outlets.
2. City of Rocks Campground, City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico
Imagine parking your RV or pitching your tent in the middle of a rock metropolis. At City of Rocks State Park, where gigantic, rounded volcanic rock formations (some as tall as 40 feet) erupt out of the Chihuahuan Desert, that’s the mood. You may either make your way through the network of roads and trails that cut through the rocks to find a place to stay for the night, or you can reserve a spot ahead of time (there are both reservation and non-reservation sites). You’ll get access to a toilet, bathrooms, and water in either case.
3. Southend Campground, Moran State Park, Washington
Moran State Park, located on the beautiful Orcas Island in the Puget Sound, is all about going out on the water. The activities are infinite, and the landscape is unsurpassed (don’t miss a trip up Mount Constitution for panoramic views of the San Juan archipelago). The greatest place to stay in Southend Campground, where every camper is located directly on the beach. You’ll have access to a toilet and facilities, but you can upgrade to one of the campground’s canvas tents with real mattresses if you want to go all out.
4. Bird Creek Campground, Chugach State Park, Alaska
Chugach State Park, which covers 495,204 acres, includes a little bit of everything, from the beachfront shoreline to glaciers and icefields. And you’ll want to see it all when you’re in Alaska’s great outdoors, hence why you should stay in Bird Creek Campground. Bird Creek is known for its in-camp whale watching, in addition to 24 campsites, toilets, water, and RV accessible (for vehicles up to 35 feet in length) (paired with glimpses of bald eagles and moose).
5. Hammonasset Beach Campground, Hammonasset Beach State Park, Connecticut
The largest public beach park in Connecticut, with miles of shoreline for swimming and sunbathing, walking trails, picnic spots, and a campground with 550 grassy campsites, provides everything you’d expect from a waterfront park. Just remember that camping is only available during the summer (usually Memorial Day through mid-October). The park also includes electric and water hookups if you’re going to the beach with your RV.
6. Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground, Minnewaska State Park Preserve, New York
The lovely Minnewaska State Park Preserve, about two hours north of New York City, is a massive chunk of land on the Shawangunk Mountain ridge with waterfalls, lakes, and 50 miles of hiking and bike paths. There are 24 drive-in sites, 26 walk-in sites, a cooking area, and a pavilion at this tent-only campground (no RV camping is available). Before you pack your belongings and drive north, keep in mind that the campsite is only open weather allowing from mid-May to mid-November.
7. Atlatl Rock Campground, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
There’s plenty to see and do in Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park, which includes red arches carved out of rock, petroglyphs, and slot canyons. When it’s time to rest your weary feet, the Atlatl Rock Campground is the place to be. The RV spots (with power and water) and showers are located near the Atlatl Rock petroglyphs. Just remember that all campgrounds (except for group sites) are first-come, first-served.