Ken Burns, the PBS documentarian, says that our national parks are America’s best idea, and we tend to agree with him.
While there are plenty of beautiful places to explore outside of the official National Park System, they’re certainly a great place to get started, particularly if you can swing a campsite (or backcountry road) to call your own, putting you right in the mix and dodging the entry lines.
To that end, we’ve compiled a list of every single unit in the NPS that provides camping suitable for at least a van, and often an RV. That means the actual national parks themselves, as well as national monument, lakeshores, seashores, rivers…if it’s run by the national park system, it’s in this article.
Well, except for national recreation areas. Why not? These are almost always focused around a reservoir, which requires a dam. In our opinion, they’re the exact opposite of a national park–they’re man’s attempt to tame nature and exploit it for his own profit, rather than preserve it for generations to come.
Also, we’re only including official campgrounds. Many of the national parks not on this list may have private RV parks, or even state parks, national forest camping or BLM land nearby. We recommend checking Campendium.com to see what’s available.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dive in!
Note: Use the filters above to sort out your favorite types of campgrounds, whether you want good cell service or none, need space for an RV, electric hookups or just want to make a reservations.
National Parks of Alabama with Camping
For the Natchez Trace, see Mississippi.
Aside from housing a few miles of the Natchez Trace, Alabama comes up short as far as national park camping suitable for vans and RVs go. As you can see right off the bat, not every state in the US has official national park camping, but we list those that don’t near the end of this article.
That doesn’t mean Alabama doesn’t offer anything in the way of camping, though. Check out Alabama’s State Parks.
National Parks of Alaska with Camping
Let’s be honest, nearly every ounce of Alaska is a national park. The state rivals nirvana when it comes to nature seekers after complete solitude, the trials of the nature world and wide, wide open spaces. While few of the 24 national park units in the state offer camping, should you seek the raw and gorgeous, there’s no need to go registering at a ranger station. Alaska has it all in abundance.
Denali National Park & Preserve
When I was six, my uncle drove me up what was then still Mt. McKinley. I recall looking out the window of my seat in shotgun thinking, “Well, this is it. Nice place to die I guess.” Denali is, frankly, the epitome of what our national parks are about: big, pristine and to be feared. If you make it up there in your van (or RV), let us know. We’d love to tag along.
Riley Creek Campground
Savage River Campground
Teklanika River Campground
Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve
While there are no designated campgrounds, the park and preserve do permit dispersed “backcountry” camping, which may be accessible by van or RV. Contact the park directly for more information.
National Parks of Arizona with Camping
Your grandma came here to get away from her arthritis. You might be more interested in the plethora of canyons, mountains and absurdly unique landscapes the state has to offer. Few places offer the ability to toss a snowball in the morning and still lounge around comfortably in your skivvies later that evening like Arizona. Skip Phoenix and head for the state’s assortment of cacti forests and million year old geological formations.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Chiricahua National Monument
Bonita Canyon Campground
Grand Canyon National Park
Desert View Campground
Fire Point Campground
North Rim Campground
Point Sublime Campground
Trailer Village Campground
Navajo National Monument
Canyon View Campground
Sunset View Campground
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Twin Peaks Campground
National Parks of Arkansas with Camping
A wild and scenic river is calling, and whether you want to raft like a champion bullrider or laze riverside with your campfire and a six pack, Arkansas isn’t looking to come up short on amenities. Particularly for you vandwelling types, a slice of peace and quiet is available in a manner often reserved only for the backpacking types.
Buffalo National River
Steel Creek Campground
Kyles Landing Campground
Tyler Bend Campground
Spring Creek Campground
Buffalo Point Campground
National Parks of California with Camping
C’mon, it’s California. From the dryest, lowest point in North America to the tallest trees in the world, the Golden State has it all. Seriously. The oldest living organisms on earth exist here. The tallest, and biggest, too. (They’re trees, FYI.)
From the Mojave Desert to Lassen Volcanic National Park, the Redwoods to Devils Postpile, you don’t need to be a long-haired surfer or some free climbing wildman to enjoy everything this massive, diverse state has to offer…though if you are, damn, more power to you!
Castle Mountains National Monument
Hole in the Wall Campground
Mid Hills Campground
Death Valley National Park
Furnace Creek Campground
Texas Springs Campground
Stovepipe Wells Campground
Mesquite Spring Campground
Mahogany Flat Campground
Devils Postpile National Monument
Devils Postpile Campground
Joshua Tree National Park
Black Rock Canyon Campground
Hidden Valley Campground
Indian Cove Campground
Jumbo Rocks Campground
White Tank Campground
Kings Canyon National Park
Crystal Springs Campground
Sheep Creek Campground
Lava Beds National Monument
Indian Well Campground
Mojave National Preserve
Mid Hills Campground
Pinnacles National Park
Redwood National & State Parks
There are no official “national park” campgrounds in Redwood National & State Parks. All of the campgrounds are state parks. Since the national and state parks operate largely as an entity in solidarity, we’ll list the state park campgrounds here.
Elk Prairie Campground
Gold Bluffs Beach Campground
Jedediah Smith Campground
Mill Creek Campground
Sequoia National Park
Dorst Creek Campground
Buckeye Flat Campground
South Fork Campground
Atwell Mill Campground
Cold Springs Campground
Yosemite National Park
Bridalveil Creek Campground
Crane Flat Campground
Hodgdon Meadow Campground
Porcupine Flat Campground
Tamarack Flat Campground
Tuolumne Meadows Campground
White Wolf Campground
Yosemite Creek Campground
National Parks of Colorado with Camping
Why was Colorado the first state to legalize weed? Because it’s full of hippies sitting on their asses all day? Doubtful. This state is the perfect blend of America, from rural sensibility to liberal persuasion, small town gusto to deep forest silence. Whether you’re looking for mountains wearing a snowy hat or sand dunes for miles, to toss your line into a slow spot in the river or carve out a fresh puree of powder, Colorado is every good thing you may have heard and two or three state’s worth of more.
Colorado National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument
Echo Park Campground
Gates of Lodore Campground
Green River Campground
Split Mountain Campground
Great Sand Dunes National Park
Piñon Flats Campground
Hovenweep National Monument
Mesa Verde National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Glacier Basin Campground
Moraine Park Campground
Timber Creek Campground
National Parks of District of Columbia with Camping
For Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, see Maryland.
If you came to D.C. looking for the natural world, well, we’re sorry to say you’re about two baker’s dozens worth of presidents away from that. Sorry. 🙁
National Parks of Florida with Camping
We’ve found Florida to be a mixed bag of blenders. The state parks are crazy beautiful, and usually impossible to get into during anything resembling the desirable seasion. We tackle our favorite places to stay in the Sunshine State elsewhere, but should luck be on your side, or you’re willing to make a reservation, the state has some gorgeous national parks.
Bear Island Campground
Burns Lake Campground
Gator Head Campground
Mitchell Landing Campground
Monument Lake Campground
Pink Jeep Campground
Everglades National Park
Long Pine Key Campground
National Parks of Hawaii with Camping
So, you managed to get your van or RV out here, eh? How’d you do that? Nevermind, it’s not pertinent. The good news? A good deal of camping–in the national parks of Hawai’i and otherwise–is free!
Haleakalā National Park
Hosmer Grove Campground
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
National Parks of Idaho with Camping
Idaho is like Alaska–wild, less visited, and full of natural wonders–but you don’t have to take a dirt road for hundreds of miles to get there. Just look at the creative names of its national parks. Even if you can’t score a spot in one of the following, the entire state is practically a free for all when it comes to getting lost in the good stuff.
City of Rocks National Reserve
City of Rocks Campground
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Lava Flow Campground
National Parks of Kentucky with Camping
Home to the biggest known cave in the world, and the original passage to what was considered by Colonial America as “Out West”, Kentucky has more to offer than the stereotypes we build up in our minds. Bluegrass is the best color anyway, right?
Cumberland Gap National Historic Park
Wilderness Road Campground
Mammoth Cave National Park
Houchin Ferry Campground
Mammoth Cave Campground
National Parks of Maine with Camping
For those of you obsessed with the west but trapped east of the Mississip’, Maine is like that great sunset roadtrip, but without the endless freeway miles spent wondering when the Great Plains will end. While Acadia is the state’s only national park unit with official NPS camping, we doubt you’ll be disappointed once you start exploring the islands.
Acadia National Park
Schoodic Woods Campground
National Parks of Maryland with Camping
From feral horses roaming an island seashore to a little campground just outside of our nation’s capitol, Maryland has more to offer than just some initial equal to a popular green soda drink. While you’re in the vicinity, be sure to look up the sixteen or so national historic sites, shrines and parks dating back to the beginnings of these United States of America.
Assateague Island National Seashore
Owens Creek Campground
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Fifteen Mile Creek Campground
McCoys Ferry Campground
Spring Gap Campground
Greenbelt Park Campground
Two additional campgrounds provide tent camping only, and while the parking lots for these facilities are nearby, sleeping in vehicles is strictly prohibited.
National Parks of Michigan with Camping
We have only one thing to say about Michigan: it rocks. From national seashores to the birthplace of the vehicles that started this whole full-time RVing and vanlife movement, the state is more than maybe anyone thinks when the idea of “Michigan” comes to mind. Not to mention, it’s a helluva way to escape the doldrum that is Interstate 80/90 through the Midwest.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Hurricane River Campground
Little Beaver Campground
Rhody Creek Campground
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
D.H. Day Campground
Platte River Campground
National Parks of Mississippi with Camping
The Natchez Trace originates here, scooting you from one of the country’s most unique cultures all the way to the home of country music. Have a go.
Natchez Trace Parkway
Rocky Springs Campground
Jeff Busby Campground
Meriwether Lewis Campground
National Parks of Missouri with Camping
The Ozark Scenic Riverways’ campgrounds are easily one of the most overlooked natural areas back east, and very well may prove to be a vandweller’s dream.
Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Alley Spring Campground
Big Spring Campground
Powder Mill Campground (Owl’s Bend)
Round Spring Campground
Two Rivers Campground
National Parks of Montana with Camping
When you see a fellow in a cowboy hat in Montana, you can believe he’s not some country star or hipster trying to look the part. This is Big Sky Country and home to a slice of Yellowstone, a place where people don’t hope wolves will return to their natural habitat, they shoot them. Despite that (depending on your viewpoint), it’s home to what we think is the absolutely quintessential national park, Glacier itself. Go to the sun, and judge for yourself.
Glacier National Park
Bowman Lake Campground
Cut Bank Campground
Fish Creek Campground
Kintla Lake Campground
Logging Creek Campground
Many Glacier Campground
Rising Sun Campground
Sprague Creek Campground
St. Mary Campground
Two Medicine Campground
National Parks of Nevada with Camping
This is an endlessly empty state. No wonder they keep dead aliens here. From US-50, the “Loneliest Road”, to a national park that tends to be so shrouded in mystery even the clouds don’t know how to leave, Nevada is our pick for closest thing to Mars you’ll ever drive to on Earth.
Great Basin National Park
Baker Creek Campground
Grey Cliffs Campground
Lower Lehman Campground
Snake Creek Road
Strawberry Creek Campground
Upper Legman Campground
Wheeler Peak Campground
National Parks of New Mexico with Camping
Some folks look at New Mexico as a drive-thru, another obstacle in the way to the warm weather of Arizona’s winters. We know better. With one of the best deals on state parks around, tons of national forestland and some of the hippy dippiest towns in the nation, NM is just waiting for those with a lean nearly knocked over toward the mystic.
Bandelier National Monument
Juniper Family Campground
Chaco Culture National Historic Park
El Malpais National Monument
While there is no official campground, El Malpais does permit dispersed, primitive camping throughout the park, which requires a high clearance vehicle to access.
El Morro National Monument
El Morro National Monument Campground
National Parks of North Carolina with Camping
A state so nice, they had to divide it, North Carolina is home to everything from Moonshine to craft beers, the first flight of mankind along the shores of the Atlantic and the most visited national park in these United States. For our money, we say start in Asheville, NC and take the Blue Ridge Parkway all the slow way to the Smokies. Don’t be surprised if the mileage and the hours don’t add up though, besides the winding road, the number of pull outs with layered purple mountains majesty are innumerable.
The Blue Ridge Parkway
Otter Creek Campground (Virginia)
Peaks of Otter Campground (Virginia)
Rocky Knob Campground (Virginia)
Doughton Park Campground
Julian Price Campground
Linville Falls Campground
Crabtree Falls Campground
Mount Pisgah Campground
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Oregon Inlet Campground
Cape Point Campground
Cape Lookout National Seashore
Primitive Beach Camping
National Parks of North Dakota with Camping
To far north for most folks to venture, and just far enough south of Canada to keep the summers tolerable, this is another one of those gems that–should you dedicate a summer’s month or two towards–will never leave you disappointed.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
National Parks of Oregon with Camping
Without giving away the entire plot line, when it comes to “which is the best state in the USA?” the answer is, hands down, Oregon. Go and find out for yourself why exactly that is.
Crater Lake National Park
Lost Creek Campground
Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve
Cave Creek Campground
National Parks of South Dakota with Camping
A national forest of national park proportions, history ranging from gunslinging sheriffs to tragic native displacement, this state has enough to offer to fill a lifetime. Aside from the simple pleasures of grandiose mountain lakes and scenic drives to break the glasses right off your nose, we’d highly recommend you find yourself a slice of the native population–the true natives–and have a long, slow talk about what had to happen for South Dakota to become a state.
Start with the question, “What’s ‘Dakota’ mean anyway?”
Badlands National Park
Cedar Pass Campground
Sage Creek Campground
Wind Cave National Park
Elk Mountain Campground
National Parks of Tennessee with Camping
The Great Smoky Mountains end here, and country music cracked open its egg here as well. Float.
Obed Wild & Scenic River
National Parks of Texas with Camping
There ain’t nothing freer than a Texan belt buckle stuck to the spur of a wild mustang as it runs into the sunset, leaving its poorly trained rider behind to die in the desert. And by that, we mean that Texans believe they’re okay to do as they please. Certainly no longer a part of Mexico, but not quite a full fledged member of the USA, this state is home to some of the wildest bunch of free thinkers–and not always the liberal type, thankfully–you’ll ever meet.
From the canyons of the border to big mountains and Gulf coast waves a-lapping, Texas swears its the biggest, the best, and sometimes it damn well lives up to that self-proclaimed reputation.
Big Bend National Park
Chisos Basin Campground
Rio Grande Village Campground
Rio Grande Village RV Campground
Backcountry Roadside Camping
Big Thicket National Preserve
There are no official, developed campgrounds in Big Thicket, but primitive camping is allowed in various places throughout the park. Call ahead to see if this would accommodate your particular RV, or if van access is available.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Dog Canyon Campground
Pine Springs Campground
Padre Island National Seashore
Bird Island Basin
National Parks of Utah with Camping
If we had a year to kill, a 4×4 vehicle with a decent heater and could only choose one state, Utah’s Mighty Five–and the plethora of monuments and BLM land between–would be our playground. While the state may have a reputation for some dodgy religion (aren’t they all?) and weak alcohol, you can believe it more than makes up for it when it comes to grandiose wide open spaces with some of the most surreal rock formations you’ll ever lay witness to, dear brother.
Note: For Dinosaur National Monument and Hovenweep National Monument, see Colorado.Hovenweep National Monument
Arches National Park
Devils Garden Campground
Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Squaw Flat (Needles) Campground
Willow Flat (Island in the Sky) Campground
Capitol Reef National Park
Cathedral Valley Campground
Cedar Mesa Campground
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Point Supreme Campground
Natural Bridges National Monument
Natural Bridges Campground
Zion National Park
Lava Point Campground
National Parks of Virginia with Camping
Something about Virginia’s national parks feel a bit like a consolation prize. Way to snag that participation trophy, oh…sorry…your dad’s the capitol of the nation? Still, who doesn’t want to careen along Skyline Drive at some point in their life, right?
Prince William Forest Park
Oak Ridge Campground
Prince William Forest RV Campground
Shenandoah National Park
Big Meadows Campground
Loft Mountain Campground
Mathews Arm Campground
National Parks of Washington with Camping
Let’s not beat around the bush here, the State of Washington is fabulous. Rainy, sure, but that’s a fool’s perspective. Washington has wildfire prone deserts, paradise cliff-laden beaches and glacial till spilling mountains all within a few hours’ drive of one another. Do this state, you won’t be disappointed. Maybe skip North Cascades, though, unless you’re ready to ditch your van/RV and get your hike on.
Mount Rainier National Park
Cougar Rock Campground
White River Campground
Olympic National Park
This campground is closed indefinitely due to flood damage.
Graves Creek Campground
Heart O’ the Hills Campground
North Fork Campground
Sol Duc Campground
South Beach Campground
National Parks of West Virginia with Camping
For Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, see Maryland.
Hands down, WV is our favorite state this side of the Mississippi. If you don’t believe us, or don’t know why, we won’t blame you…but, you can’t say we didn’t clue you in.
New River Gorge National River
Glade Creek Campground
Grandview Sandbar Campground
Stone Cliff Beach
War Ridge Campground (Backus Mountain)
National Parks of Wyoming with Camping
Say you prefer mountains to people. Maybe your idea of a weekend getaway is driving through buttes (they pronounce it like your backend here) and endless rocky empty landscapes. Yeah? Dig the idea of going to Yellowstone? Wyoming’s got that. We’d recommend heading south to the Tetons though.
Yeah, the Tetons. Pretty sure that ranks #1 in our book of “Best National Parks.”
Devils Tower National Monument
Belle Fourche River Campground
Grand Teton National Park
Colter Bay Village Campground
Gros Ventre Campground
Headwaters Lodge & RV Sites
Lizard Creek Campground
Signal Mountain Campground
Yellowstone National Park
Bridge Bay Campground
Fishing Bridge RV Park
Indian Creek Campground
Lewis Lake Campground
Pebble Creek Campground
Slough Creek Campground
Tower Fall Campground
States with No National Park Camping
As far as we can tell, the following states don’t have any national park units (aside from perhaps national recreation areas, see above) with camping. Are we wrong?
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Thanks to the folks who designed the icons used in this article, including the RV by Martin Lebreton, tents by Oksana Latysheva, the reservations ticket by Thengakola from the Noun Project, the seasons icon by Bakunetsu Kaito, the US map by Pumpkin Juice, ranger hat by Loren Klein, camping icon by Dolly Holmes and the electric plug icon by Bernar Novalyi. You guys rock!