5 Cities for the Most In-tents Campers
There’s something deeply satisfying about camping. People go camping for spiritual experiences, a way to commune with nature or to just get away from it all, but for me, camping just feels human. The human race spent tens of thousands of years living in nature with only a cave or mud hut separating us from the elements and yet look at us now – comfortable, safe, cozy, well-fed, healthy. It makes me (and others, I suspect) feel… restless.
If you’re like me and you begin to feel an itch to pitch a tent every few months, you might want to seek out somewhere that makes it easy. Here are just five cities that will help satisfy your need for campfires, sleeping bags and s’mores.
No town in Southern Utah is better situated for campers than St. George. Nestled in the southwest corner of the state, St. George is warm year-round and therefore a frequent destination for snowbirds. In fact, from 2000-2006, St. George was the fastest growing metro area in the country, due to its temperate climate and outdoor offerings. Its temperate climate makes it easier to camp throughout the year.
Surrounded on all sides by desert and wilderness, it’s no surprise that St. George grants quick access to some of the best camping in the West including: Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Red Cliffs National Conservation Area. In fact, St. George has five national parks in the immediate vicinity, all with world-class sights and camping. Many of these feature rock formations, biking, climbing and hiking found nowhere else on earth. Oh and Lake Mead, Vegas and the Grand Canyon are all less than two hours away.
Central to New Hampshire’s Seacoast Region, the small city of Portsmouth is a dream for fans of New England-style camping. Portsmouth is a regular summer tourist destination, featuring great outdoor attractions up and down the coast including: fishing, hiking, rock climbing and of course, camping. If you’re a fan of car or RV camping, Seacoast has an abundance of RV sites along with traditional campgrounds.
But Portsmouth has much to offer beyond its coastal camping. White Mountain National Forest is located just two hours away and features every kind of camping from developed campgrounds, to cabins and backcountry. There, people can enjoy all sorts of wildlife like bald eagles and moose. White Mountain also offers hundreds of miles of hiking including a 100-mile segment of the Appalachian Trail.
While this tiny city of just 8,000 people may not be a top destination for many campers, it may be the best place in the state to pitch a tent. Its central location in Vermont means you can get just about anywhere in the state within two hours.
The city is just a short drive to a number of great forests and outdoor recreation areas. Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forests offer backcountry camping throughout the preserve along with RV, cabin and campground camping. Montpelier locals can enjoy remote hiking and even gold panning in nearby Coolidge State Park. You can easily make the quick trip over the border to New Hampshire to White Mountain National Forest.
For the more granola campers, Montpelier is a godsend – the city is the only state capital without a McDonald’s or Burger King within the city limits and held out against Wal-Mart until 1996. Montpelier also has a ban on roadside billboards, so you can enjoy the scenery unimpeded as you head out on your trip.
Buffeted up against the San Bernardino National Forest, Angeles National Forest and just north of Mt. San Jacinto State Park, San Bernardino offers a slew of options for camping aficionados. As a popular camping destination for millions in Southern California, San Bernardino National Forest offers an abundance of RV, car and backcountry camping.
Just an hour and a half east of San Bernardino sits Joshua Tree National Park, which is renowned for its beauty spawning from two distinct deserts. Joshua Tree features nine designated campgrounds, backcountry camping, and some of the most incredible ecological features found anywhere in the western U.S. For campers who want access to nature without sacrificing city comforts, San Bernardino is the place.
Unimpressed? Looking for something a little more…hardcore? Then maybe it’s time to head north until there’s not much north left. As the largest state in the union and bigger than most countries, it’s no surprise that Alaska’s wilderness is ripe for camping. Furthermore, Alaska is home to 54 million of the 84 million acres set aside by the national parks system, spread across 17 different parks.
Due to the sheer size of the state, Anchorage residents definitely don’t enjoy easy access to the entire state’s offerings, but nearby camping is plentiful. Chugach State Park is located almost entirely within the city municipality and at nearly half a million acres, it makes for a pretty decent city park. Chugach offers Anchorage residents quick access to just about every outdoor activity including: snowmobiling, fishing, horseback riding and even world famous surfing.
If you want to get even wilder, Denali National Park is home to the tallest peak in the country (formerly Mt. McKinley, now simply Denali) and boasts abundant camping in its over six million acres of unrelenting wilderness.
NPS Photo / Adrienne Lindholm