The 25 best campgrounds at America’s National Parks

By Shoshi Parks
March 05, 2019, 11:23:46 AM EST

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Even at America’s national parks, where the bar is raised for everything from hiking to views, disappointing campgrounds are more common than one might expect. So what makes a good campground? For some of us, it’s flushing-toilets and RV hookups, while others seek solitude no matter how primitive the facilities.

Whatever your preferences, all campers can agree on two things: a good campground should be spacious (no one wants to hear their neighbor snoring) and, of course, scenic.

Here are our 25 favorite campgrounds in America’s most spectacular national parks:

1. Slough Creek Campground
WHERE: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

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(PHOTO: Jacob W Frank/NPS)


Slough Creek, a popular Yellowstonefishing spot, is where you’ll find the park’s best campground. Slough Creek Campgroundis small—there are just 16 sites, only 14 of which are large enough to accommodate an RV—but it’s located in the heart of the Lamary Valley, one of the best places for viewing wildlife in the park. The most primitive of Yellowstone’s campgrounds and sites, the accommodations are distributed among the banks of the stream, meadowland, and forest. Space is available on a first-come first serve basis from May to October. When the sun goes down, listen closely—you may be able to hear Slough Creek’s wolf pack baying.

2. Fruita Campground
WHERE: Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

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(PHOTO: Edmund Lowe Photography/Shutterstock)


Capitol Reef National Parkis known for its cliffs and canyons of red rock, which makesFruita Campgroundsomething of an anomaly. Fed by the Fremont River, which rolls along the campground’s edge, Fruita is literally an oasis in the desert, surrounded by the cool, green shade of historic orchards. During the peak season, most of the 64-tent/RV sites and seven walk-in sites, complete with flushing toilets, running water, and fire pits or grills, can be reserved; during off-season they switch to a first-come first-serve system.

3. Wonder Lake Campground
WHERE:Denali National Park, Alaska

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(PHOTO: SINITAR/Shutterstock)


The shadow of Denali National Park’snamesake, the Denali peak (AKA Mount McKinley), looms over this lakeside campground. Wonder Lake Campgroundis wholly primitive; flush toilets and potable water are only available in the summer when the mosquitos are at their most fierce. The rest of the year, vault toilets and bear boxes are the only amenities available and fires are never allowed. But the views from Wonder Lake Campground are truly unbeatable, from the waterfowl that call the lake home and the moose that occasionally pass through, to North America’s highest peak—so close you feel you can almost reach out and touch it.

4. Piñon Flats Campground
WHERE:Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

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(PHOTO: Patrick Myers/NPS)


After a day sledding down the largest sand dunes in North America, Piñon Flats, a decidedly un-sandy campground protected by the shade of cottonwood and conifer, is where you want to be. The Great Sand Dunes National Park’sApril-October seasonal campground has 88 individual sites and 15 group sites, all of which are framed by views of the dunes and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance. All campsites require reservations and come complete with fire pits and picnic tables. Each loop of the campground has restrooms with flush toilets and potable water.

5. Lost Creek Campground
WHERE:Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

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(PHOTO: Checubus/Shutterstock)


To every Crater Lake National Park visitor’s disappointment, there are no campsites directly on the eponymous body of water. In fact, there are only two campgrounds within the park’s boundaries, the 212-site behemoth Mazama Campgroundfeaturing a restaurant and gas station, and the Lost Creek Campground. While Lost Creek is located in a forest south of the crater, it’s nonetheless pretty and serene, if somewhat more primitive than Mazama (mostly because every campsite compared to Mazama is primitive, despite the presence of flush toilets). Lost Creek Campground is open July through October for tents only on a first-come first-serve basis.

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