Are you planning a road trip to visit some of America’s national treasures? You’ll need to plan ahead to stay in a campground within the National Park’s boundaries. These highly sought-after campgrounds can sell out in minutes during each booking window.
They’re not just desirable because of their proximity to the National Parks. These campgrounds offer beautiful scenery and easy access to trailheads. Let’s look at seven of the best National Park campgrounds in America!
Can You Camp Anywhere in a National Park?
When you visit a National Park, you often have to plan far in advance to ensure you get reservations for camping. You cannot show up and park anywhere for the night. Reservations fill up quickly and only become available a particular time before arrival.
If you want to try dispersed camping, there are designated areas where this is allowed. Sometimes you’ll need a permit, so it’s best to plan and make sure you know what’s required.
Do You Need Reservations to Camp in a National Park Campground?
In the past, many National Park campgrounds were first-come, first-served. However, since the explosion of camping in the last couple of years, most campgrounds have moved to reservation-only. You can often make reservations on Recreation.gov six months before arrival.
Some locations like Yellowstone National Park have numerous campgrounds. Five of their campgrounds take reservations through Yellowstone National Park Lodges, and seven of their campgrounds go through Recreation.gov.
You would need a permit for backcountry camping. You are encouraged to make reservations but are not required.
Check out the list of top RV campgrounds in Yellowstone.
The 7 Best National Park Campgrounds
Sometimes it’s best to stay outside of a National Park and drive in for a day or two of exploration. There are some campgrounds located within the boundaries of the National Park system that you want to make reservations for as soon as you know you’re visiting.
These campgrounds are close to coveted sites of the parks, which makes them highly desirable. Some provide amenities for RVers who don’t want to boondock, while others only offer a potable water spigot on-site.
1. Elkmont Campground
(Great Smoky Mountains National Park)
Address: 434 Elkmont Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
GPS Coordinates: N 35° 39′ 29.9999 W 83° 34′ 55.9999
About the Campground: You must make reservations through Recreation.gov for all campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Elkmont Campground is the busiest of them all.
It’s only open seasonally from April to November. There are no hookups, but potable water spigots are on-site. You can use generators only during daylight hours.
The nearest dump station is six miles away at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The rate is $25-27 per night.
What You’ll Love: Elkmont Campground is popular for a reason. The summer months fill up quickly because of the beautiful scenery, the lush forest, and the serenity of Little River and Jakes Creek that runs through the campground.
You can also begin the Little River Trail, Jakes Creek Trail, and Elkmont Nature Trail. Only eight miles from Gatlinburg, TN, Elkmont Campground is perfect for campers to explore the great outdoors while also enjoying the tourist attractions in the area.
2. Mather Campground
(Grand Canyon National Park)
Address: 1 Mather Campground Rd, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023
GPS Coordinates: N 36.04972 W 112.12047
About the Campground: With over 320 campsites, Mather Campground is a popular destination for RVers visiting the Grand Canyon National Park. During peak season, from March to November, you need to make reservations on Recreation.gov.
There are no hookups, but there is a dump station on-site, as well as flush toilets and drinking water. Because of its location, there is no cell service or internet connectivity. This campground is open year-round, and the nightly fee for a family site is $18.
What You’ll Love: Most RV spaces are pull-through. Each site has a campfire ring with a cooking grate, a picnic table, and parking for two vehicles. Laundry facilities are also on-site.
The Village (Blue) Route bus stop is at the campground entrance for easy access to and from the Grand Canyon rim. Nearby Market Plaza has a grocery store, restaurants, and a post office.
3. Hoh Campground
(Olympic National Park)
Address: 18113 Upper Hoh Rd, Forks WA 98331
GPS Coordinates: N 47° 51′ 30.0690 W 123° 56′ 7.9444
About the Campground: During peak season, reservations are available at Recreation.gov. Off-peak visits are first-come, first-serve.
The lush green canopy of the Hoh Rainforest provides ample shade and tranquility. There are 72 campsites here and no hookups.
Currently, the dump station and fill station are closed indefinitely. The nearest stations are at Bogachiel State Park, which is 23 miles away.
The Hoh Campground cannot accommodate large RVs.
What You’ll Love: The Hoh Campground is popular because of its location. You’re camping in the middle of a rainforest. The beautiful surroundings of Olympic National Park beckon visitors year after year.
The trailhead is easily accessible by the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center. Hiking, birding, and wildlife viewing are popular activities. There are also numerous interpretive programs and environmental education programs.
4. Watchman Campground
(Zion National Park)
GPS Coordinates: N 37° 11′ 55.0000 W 112° 59′ 11.0000
About the Campground: Watchman Campground is next to the Zion Park Visitor Center. All sites provide a campfire ring and picnic table for guests. You must make reservations year-round, and you can reserve spots six months in advance on Recreation.gov.
You cannot use your generators. There is a dump station on-site but no showers or laundry facilities.
What You’ll Love: For RVers not wanting to boondock, there are 95 electric sites at Watchman Campground. They are $30 per night, but only a handful provide 50 amp service.
With the proximity to the South Entrance, you can easily access the shuttle system and the town of Springdale. Hikers can also access Watchman Trail, the Archeology Trail, and the Pa’rus Trail from the campground.
5. Upper Pines Campground
(Yosemite National Park)
Address: 9024 Southside Drive, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389
GPS Coordinates: 37.7362° N, 119.5638° W
About the Campground: Located about 4,000ft above sea level, Upper Pines Campground is in the Yosemite Valley. There are no hookups, but a dump station is on-site. This year-round campground doesn’t offer showers but does have flush toilets.
You can only bring RVs less than 35ft in length. Individual sites are $36 per night, and double sites are $60 per night.
You can make reservations on Recreation.gov in blocks of one month at a time, up to five months in advance, on the 15th of each month at 7 am Pacific time. During peak season, they sell out within minutes.
What You’ll Love: All campsites have a fire ring, picnic table, and a food locker. This is quite important to protect your food from Yosemite bears.
The Yosemite forest provides ample shade and a serene atmosphere for RVers who want to camp in the security of a campground and want the natural, remote feel. Hiking, biking, rock climbing, fishing, and photography are popular activities. The free shuttle stops at the campground entrance, and trailheads are easily accessible.
6. Mammoth Campground
(Yellowstone National Park)
Address: N Entrance Rd, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
GPS Coordinates: N 44 58.4166 W 110.41.59392
About the Campground: Mammoth Campground operates on a six-month rolling basis for reservations during peak season. In the off-season winter months, it’s first-come, first-served. It’s the only campground open year-round in Yellowstone National Park, and it fills up quickly.
All sites are non-electric. You can use generators, but only during daytime hours. Water spigots and flush toilets are on-site. The nightly fee is $25.
What You’ll Love: The hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing opportunities are endless. You might even see elk or bison strolling through the campground during your stay.
Nestled in juniper and Douglas fir trees, Mammoth Campground provides much-needed shade in the hot summer months. It’s only five miles south of Gardiner, Montana, and Yellowstone’s North Entrance.
7. Signal Mountain Campground
(Grand Teton National Park)
Address: 1 Inner Park Rd, Moran, WY 83013
About the Campground: You can make your reservations on Recreation.gov six months in advance. The views of Mount Moran and the northern Teton range make this campground a popular destination.
However, you can only camp in RVs under 30ft in length. There are 25 sites with electric hookups. The nightly rate for those sites is $68, while the rate for standard sites is $45.
It is only open seasonally and fills up quickly, so make sure you get your reservations in long before you plan on visiting.
What You’ll Love: Signal Mountain Campground is in the center of Grand Teton National Park. Guests can easily access Jackson Lake and enjoy outdoor recreation there. The hiking trails offer stunning views of the Jackson Hole valley and plenty of opportunities to view wildlife. =
If you need to connect, WiFi is available at the Signal Mountain Lodge General Store. There are other amenities at the lodge, including gift shops, restaurants, and a general store.
Make Plans to Visit and Camp in a National Park
Staying in a National Park campground means spending even more time exploring America’s beauty. You don’t have to drive in from 30 minutes away or waste time dealing with traffic and congestion.
Just make sure you plan. You probably won’t get reservations at the last minute. Don’t plan to get full hookups either. The perks to staying in these locations are the stunning views and central areas, not the amenities.
Which National Park campground will you visit first?
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