We loved The Valley of Fire State Park and campground so much, we felt it deserved National Park status. The campgrounds are nestled in amazing red rocks that my children could have boulders endlessly. The sandstone grit allows a good grip — making scaling possible even for the balance impaired.
The trails, scenic drive, petroglyphs, and visitor’s center are all exceptional. So many different rock landscapes to admire.
We especially appreciated the number of petroglyphs on the Mouse’s Tank Trail. Hiking is not advisable over 90 degrees. It was 100 when we went in early October. Take a LOT of water and a sun hat!
Site 60 landed us right on the Heritage Trail. A private footpath over the dunes directly behind our campsite led to the gorgeous beach and a clear view of the night sky. A brief stroll takes you to historic Glen Harbor. A quick drive or bike ride will land you at the Dunes trail or Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. 2.5 miles by car or bike on the Heritage Trail leads to all the conveniences of Glen Arbor. Mid-October brought a crisp chill and some rain, but with warm sleeping bags and extra blankets, we were tent cozy. There was more than our two night stay allowed time to explore. We’ll be back!
We were able to score a last minute site here on an early October weekend. You must make reservations at recreation.gov. They do not accept walk-ins. The trees were a magnificent display of color. Considerable tree cover (no stargazing from the campsite. Very nice bathrooms. Quiet.
Site 60 gave us direct beach access (short path over the dunes). The Heritage bike/hike trail (22 mi.) runs right through the campground. 17 nearby trails greet you along with the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. A few miles away, little town of Glen Arbor has a smattering of shops, restaurants, and a market and gas station. There’s so much to explore here, don’t expect to do it in one day. Now go search for Petoskey Stones!
About an hour north of Chicago, this made for a great stop on our way to Mackinac Island. This would be a fine destination in itself. In early October the trees are awash with color and the weather was still a reasonable chill. Bathrooms were clean. Campground was quiet. Sites were not private, but are backed by beautiful trees. Several minute stroll landed us on the shore. But do beware the mosquitoes!
7 darling sites all on the river. 22 ft. max length. 1 pull thru at the end, all the rest are back in. Toilet. No other amenities.
We got stuck without available camping options on our trip to Crater Lake (part of a month long wandering road trip). It was late and we needed a stop. We spent the night here at the south side road turn off. The are no signs posted about camping or overnight restrictions at this turn off, which is slightly east of the BLM marker. There is a small turn off on the north side of the road and a sizable turn off overlooking the river on the south side. These are immediately following metal guide rails to the east of the BLM markers.
There are two additional sites at the BLM marker on the east side of 138, directly off the HWY. the one to the west had a navigable dirt/gravel drive as of August 2020. There is enough space at the bottom to turn a 25 ft. car with small trailer.
The second (east site) is considerably more rugged and not advisable for anything that’s not a raised 4WD vehicle. There is no turn around room at the bottom. A little foot bridge connects the two sites. A bit of tree line offers privacy from the road, but you are right beside it and will hear the traffic.Both sites have stream access. There were multiple fire rings — the wisest ones are on the river bank. The area is beautiful.
Directly across the HWY to the north is another BLM road — we hiked about 1/4 mile in — it was navigable dirt/gravel on a grade not conducive to camping of any kind. Not sure how far in the road goes or what potentials may exist beyond that point. There were no camping restrictions posted, but no apparent sites. There were no fire signs. There’s a turn off road to the left that makes a steep rocky/dirt ascent to the power lines.
The lovely part of this land is on the south side along the river.
Lastly, there is one more turn off on the north side that could accommodate an RV. It is between the BLM marker, along the metal guide rail section, before you reach the other two turn offs. There was a pile of downed trees stacked to the rear. There were no restrictions posted.
This lush campground is carpeted with ferns and dripping with moss. It feels like stepping back to prehistoric times. Serene and breathtaking. En route to Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
The young woman who checked us in was super helpful, offering maps of the area and suggestions. We scored a walk-in tent site ($22.) on Monday in the middle of August without a reservation. We actually camped on the parking lot in our rooftop tent, which was just fine and avoided the additional hookup fees of the alternative RV sites. The walk in sites are situated in a phenomenal little grove and felt partially private. RV sites are generously sized and full of trees. There are a considerable number of both pull in and pull through options. Bathrooms were clean, but there were quite a few spiders. Note that there is no swimming or boating in the lake, due to water levels dropping over 30 ft. Lots of kids enjoyed riding bikes around the campground loops. There are fish cleaning stations and firewood for sale ($5.) Pay showers. Recycling station.
Walk the surrounding trails. The lake, wetlands, and forest are lovely.
This was a convenient stop on the journey between Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens.
This is one of my favorite beach campgrounds. There are trails for biking and hiking and great views and beaches. Nearby markets and cafes are convenient and a short drive into Santa Barbara offers more fun options. Beaches offer okay swimming, but better exploring of little caves and coves.
This large campground neighboring the ski lifts offers phenomenal views, but be forewarned that it can be incredibly windy — especially for those edge sites with the most worthy views.
A friend told me to check out Leavenworth. It was cute, but every bit the touristy type of thing I’m not a fan of. The real jewel of the area are these Wenatchee National Forest campgrounds. This one is right on the river. I think I paid $22. for a walk-in tent site (but we camped in the parking lot in our rooftop tent). The best walk in tent site is right on the river. Very relaxing. Beautifully wooded sites. Beware of bear activity.
Saturday. Every campground near North Cascades is full. Including this one. But the host is phenomenal and when we explain that we’re fully contained and only need a place to park, he accommodates us for the overnight parking fee ($12.) $16. if you want bathroom access incl. showers - $1./4 min) and WiFi. This guy is great.
This campground has the vibe of a fun neighborhood block party. At 10 p.m., the noise tapered off. Sunday morning, there was live music and a church service by a group staying there.
Daylight revealed all the charms of this beauty tucked along the river. The sites along the water are particularly special.
We stopped for a night on our way from Glacier National Park to North Cascades National Park. We had wanted to stop earlier, but did not feel safe in areas preceding this location by an hour or so. We caught sight of a number of RVs and a tent here and decided to give it a go.
This is nothing fancy. A gravel parking lot by a little lake. But it’s free and there’s a toilet and shorty after this point begins a scenic byway en route to North Cascades NP, so we didn’t want to miss that in the dark.
This is not technically listed on the map as a camping spot, but we did not experience any monitoring and there are no signs forbidding it.
We pulled in after sundown — so grateful to find a safe spot close to the Hwy (en route to our next national park). There was no entry signage beyond the boat launch. The Dyrt map and other reviewer’s directions were accurate. There seemed to be two large lots (one grass, one gravel) that were camping permissible. We were in the second gravel lot. There appeared to be 5 total groups of campers spread over two spacious lots with plenty room for more. There are fewer options for tent campers. One is a little clearing and fire ring under the trees at the rear of the gravel lot (see pic). The gravel lot proved to be a very uncomfortable slant for our rooftop tent.
Toilet. Pretty little lake (but nothing you’d want to swim in. Pretty murky and gas polluted water by the boat launch). 3 night limit. Not a place you target for a vacation, but a lovely free spot along the way.
This is a rest area right off the 2 on the south side of the road. It saved us at 12:30 midnight after a day in Glacier National Park that was intended to be an overnight in one of the park campgrounds. All the campgrounds were closed due to COVID. We caught some shut eye in the car until dawn. There were at least 6 other vehicles — from cars to vans to RVs. It’s not a vacation destination — it’s a bail out when the vacation takes a sharp detour, but the river IS right across the highway and it’s lovely and accessible.
We lucked out with walk in tent site T1 — the only one right on the lake. We arrived in desperation — every campground was full, but the host had a cancellation on one night. She was amazing — she drove us to the site to make sure it would work, because we have a rooftop tent, which meant we had to camp at the parking spot (fine with us). We still walked in to enjoy the picnic table and beach at our site — the perfect viewing place for the perseid meteor shower.
The best free campsite EVER. All the campgrounds in the Tetons and Yellowstone were full and we found the gem to top them all. Site #12 was totally private, nestled in the woods, with Snake River at the end of the driveway. No amenities, but an easy drive to Buffalo Ranch Cafe, where the food was a tasty splurge and we felt like we could afford the luxury, given our free campsite. Things to know:
Most sites are large and can accommodate more than one — so expect visitors. Especially site #1 and the couple others that sit right off the main road or right on the river.
A drive in will reward you with greater odds of privacy but also greater risks of vehicle damage. I scratched the hell out of my new car. There are horrific potholes. We bottomed out and feared worse damage multiple times. It’s a dodgy dirt road that can change radically with inclement weather.
The road is narrow and can only accommodate 1 vehicle. If you encounter another, good luck. If you’re towing a short wheel base trailer (like us) and backing up is impossible, hail Mary!
The mosquitoes are terrible and worse closer to the water.
The ranger WILL check in daily and send anyone claiming an unmarked spot packing.
The sites along the road that attract the most people can be a little noisy.
Despite the challenges, we FAR preferred the beauty, quiet, and privacy of this site to any other option in the parks. We biked and rafted and had a blast. We encountered horses meandering through and a gorgeous fox. If the roads were maintained, they could easily call these group sites and charge over $100./night.
This campground/RV park saved us when all of Sequoia was either full or closed due to COVID. The host was nice and helpful. It’s accurately described in other reviews — basically providing a dirt parking lot and toilet/shower facilities. No privacy, but still much more than most RV shared landing pads. We were in the tent section at the site closest to the water. There were trees on one side. We LOVED the little dammed up swimming hole in the river. We did not love that several huge trailers were parked in the other site flanking the water entrance. They didn’t belong in the tent area and they ran generators through most of the day. Seemed like long-term or permanent residents. Oh well, we came for Sequoia National Park. It was a real bummer to lose so much time just driving in and out of the park (as opposed to camping in the center of it), but we were grateful to find this one and only available option in July with no reservation.
We landed here on the drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon. Surprised that this little campground has full dump station facilities, and nicely sized, lightly wooded, partially private sites. An assortment to accommodate every type from R.V.s to trailer to tents. Pull through site #33 gave us a perfect easy maneuvering for our little cargo trailer and a view of the red rocks through the trees. A phenomenal bike trail runs right past the campground and all the way to Bryce Canyon. Just down the street from the Visitor’s Center and close to trailheads, a helluva bargain at $20./night. Camp host was lovely.