In 2013 we crossed the country, staying at more than three dozen campgrounds along the way. Below is list of our favorites. These are, of course, subjective to our tastes and preferences. We prefer scenery and proximity to cool stuff above all. We enjoy the luxuries of a full service campground from time to time, and when stationary for extended periods, but we are happy to rough it a little for a great trail or view. We also appreciate a good value, expensive campsites really have to be something special to impress us.
Campgrounds with excellent scenery from the site:
This New Mexico Park is enchanting. It has sweeping vistas of the “wild west” and is surrounded by an ancient lava flow. The park has a nice hiking trail through the flow so visitors can get a closer look at the unique fauna. Camping here is a memorable experience. New Mexico parks have nice amenities, well maintained and inexpensive, less than $20. Each site has water and electric, concrete pad and a shade pavilion with picnic table.
This is a special place in Big Sur, as it is the only campground that is oceanside with magnificent views. This is a Forest Service campground and is relatively inexpensive, at $22 per night, for California. It is dry camping, but what it lacks in amenities it more than makes up for in scenery and vibe. We met some true adventure lovers and interesting people at this park. Only a few sites can be reserved so getting there in the early afternoon is wise.
This well equipped and scenic state park is a great stop after visiting Bryce Canyon National Park. This place is still packed with gorgeous southern Utah scenery, bizarre rock formations, and is positively luxurious for the area: water and electric at each site, shade trees, concrete slabs, picnic tables and hot showers. $25
This is one of the most dramatic boon-docking spots in the country. In fact, it is regularly used as a backdrop for Hollywood, most recently Iron Man and Transformers. It is a garden of massive potato shaped boulders that are fun to climb and camp behind in seclusion. Perhaps even more impressive is the Sierra Mountains jetting up in the near field background, with Mt.Whitney (tallest mountain in the continental U.S.) and its craggy top overhead. This area is easy to find if travelling CA 395, just head west at the southern end of the town of Lone Pine. FREE
Joshua Tree National Park offers a beautiful desert landscape and is home to it name sake the Joshua Tree, in addition it has a very cool campground. Jumbo Rocks campground has great niches among boulders to make for a cozy picturesque home; in fact the camp is my favorite thing about the park. Nearby are trails to some of the more well known features, and easy climbing opportunities.
Campgrounds with excellent locations near something special:
Yosemite National Park
We camped here in May during peak waterfall season and finding a camp spot was a challenge. We had to split our stay between two sites to make it work, we preferred Upper Pines. Yosemite in May is enough to wow and amaze. If you are doing Yosemite right, in my mind, you are not going to be at your campsite for most of the time.
This is a very nice National Seashore campground. From the town of Pensacola Beach it is approximately 8 miles down a narrow peninsula of clean, white sand that is met with calm, clear water. The park has nice hiking/biking trails and a historic fort to explore. The first smaller loop is more intimate and closer to the beach, which is our preference. Overall, the park is well maintained, has partial hookups and is a good value at $24
This campground in Luckenbach Texas, is actually not very nice, but kitschy. The park has roosters running around, is dusty with gravel spots, overlooks a cow pasture and is overgrown with folk art. The highlight of this park is actually its neighbor: the incomparable Luckenbach, TX. Here in a town that looks more like a movie set of clapboard houses and rusted out relics, is a mecca for some of the finest and grittiest country music you’ll ever hear, all taking place in the corner of the bar behind the general store. During the day is when the tourists come, but by staying over night you’ll get to experience the real vibe of this place, it feels like a dream but really exists and it is cool.
This RV park is the best location for visiting Sedona, at the bottom of the hill. The park is very pretty with a canopy of large cottonwood trees next to a quick flowing stream. It is a fairly easy walk, although uphill, to town in one direction, and a great hiking trail in the other. This is a full hook up park with WiFi and cable. All of this comes at a price, $50+, but it is great place to splurge to take in the positive energy of this awesome place.
This California State Park is located at the south end of the town of Pismo Beach which has a charming laid back feel, while it is tourist oriented it is on a small scale and comfortable. The beach is a short hop over a dune, and offers miles of fine sand in either direction. To the south of the campground is a dune filled recreation area. The sites are fairly roomy, level asphalt pads, okay shower facilities (coin op). $35
This is a beautiful county park and is easily the best campground for sightseeing in Charleston and the surrounding area. This is a family campground and there is plenty to do at the park its self; kayaking, climbing wall, multi-use trails, water park, disc golf, fishing etc. The campground has full hook-ups and fast WiFi, and there is a shuttle that will take you downtown or to Folly Beach. We volunteered here for a few months and enjoyed it. $44/night.