10 Best American Cities for Camping

Living in one of these cities could put incredible campsites at your backdoor.

August 20, 2020
By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Vanessa Lentine

Photo By: Shutterstock

©Shutterstock

©Shutterstock

Photo By: Shutterstock

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Shutterstock

Photo By: Shutterstock

Photo By: Shutterstock

Photo By: Shutterstock

A New Era for Camping

For many Americans, the glow of a campfire surrounded by fresh air, a star-filled sky and a small circle of friends has never seemed more appealing.

But you don’t have to get far from civilization to snag a slice of the great outdoors. We sourced data from ApartmentGuide.com — balancing population density with campground proximity — to find the best American cities for camping. And a few on this list may surprise you.

10: San Francisco

San Francisco camping is synonymous with nearby Marin, where a quick trip over the Golden Gate Bridge will put you on the doorstep of numerous campgrounds with views of the skyline. Kirby Cove Campground (above) and Bicentennial Campground usually grab the spotlight here; but if you can snag a spot on Angel Island — in the middle of San Francisco Bay — you’ll be in select company with 360-degree views of one of America’s most beautiful urban landscapes.

Know before you go: The Angel Island Tiburon Ferry is running a reduced schedule due to COVID-19.

9: Vancouver, Washington

Just over the bridge from Portland, Oregon, is Vancouver, Washington, serving as a gateway to Mount St. Helens and Bigfoot country proper. This popular Portland suburb is actually one of the largest cities in Washington State, and while the surrounding Cascades are dripping with dreamy campsites, nearby sites like Battle Ground State Park, Sunset Falls Campground and Dougan Creek Campground give visitors to Vancouver plenty of local options with access to urban amenities.

Know before you go: Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, seen here, offers a series of walking trails that are wheelchair accessible.

8: Vista, California

The short stretch of sand surrounding Vista, California —just north of San Diego — harbor nearly a dozen formal campgrounds. Each offers its own unique slice of surf or forest, like South Carlsbad State Beach Campground seen above. As always, California scores high marks for campers thanks to almost always impeccable weather and an abundance of sites to choose from. Just be sure to book your slot early, as some state parks can have extensive waiting lists.

Know before you go: Day-use visitors to South Carlsbad Beach will need to walk over from the Batiquitos Lagoon parking area.

7: Odessa, Texas

West Texas is a wilderness haven and the city of Odessa serves as an oasis amidst the landscape of tumbleweeds and ranch lands. Tucked in between, you’ll find cottonwood-lined creeks like those at Balmorea State Park or Willow Draw Campground. It’s here that the Odessa area shines, offering plentiful watering holes to serve up a break from the southern heat and an escape from the asphalt jungles elsewhere in the state.

Know before you go: Odessa is more than five hours by car from either Austin or Dallas, if you're planning a side trip.

6: Sparks, Nevada

High up in the Sierra Mountains, the placid blue waters of Lake Tahoe empty into one place: the Truckee River. It's here in Sparks, Nevada — on the outskirts of Reno — that campers can get up-close with a new view of Tahoe's famous waters. Here, campers at sites like the Sparks Marina Park can take a ride on the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway, which hugs the Truckee as it meanders through the middle of town.

Know before you go: The Truckee terminates at Pyramid Lake, about an hour north of Sparks. It's a landscape as stark as Tahoe is lush.

5: Salinas, California

Craggy peaks and rolling, mountaintop views of Monterey Bay await campers who make their way to Fremont State Park near Salinas. Meanwhile, legendary Laguna Seca Raceway lies just a stone's throw away from the RV-friendly campsites at Laguna Seca Recreation Area. These sites, partnered with Hollister Hills State Recreation Area — where visitors can race dirt bikes, ATV's and 4x4s to their heart's content — and the winding coastal roads of U.S. 101 make Salinas a destination camping area for motorheads.

Know before you go: The area south of Salinas to San Luis Obispo is a honeycomb of parks with bountiful camping opportunities as well.

4: Billings, Montana

Rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking adventures await campers in the Montana hub of Billings. Summer months offer a reprieve from the state's famously harsh winters. Campgrounds like the Billings KOA provide hot showers and meal service, while lakeside tent sites like those at Cooney Reservoir State Park and Yellowstone River Campground are just a short drive from town.

Know before you go: Montana is grizzly country so bring bear canisters and know how to camp around these curious predators.

3: Hollywood, Florida

The Sunshine State is brimming with wildlife and campgrounds, and the surfside city of Hollywood scores high on the list for its proximity to campsites like Dr. Von D.Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park and Topeekeegee Yugnee Park, where guests can kayak with alligators and canoe through mangroves. Mountain bikers can get their gears going on the edge of the Everglades at Markham Park while some of the best disc golf around can be found at Easterlin Park.

Know before you go: South Florida camping weather is best between November and April, when nighttime temperatures dip into the 50s and 60s.

2: Mesa, Arizona

The Sonoran Desert is a playground for horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking and even kayaking. The Phoenix suburb of Mesa has abundant campgrounds offering access to each of these outdoor adventures. Usery Mountain Regional Park places campers near the iconic Wind Cave Trail and features an archery range as a bonus activity. Nearby McDowell Mountain Regional Park is a haven for RVs; and Tonto National Forest gives campers plenty of room to spread out and completely escape civilization.

Know before you go: Wear light-colored clothing to help ward off the area's yellowjackets.

1: Ventura, California

What does it take to score the top spot on ApartmentGuide.com's Best American Camping Cities list? The camper's oasis of Ventura is a gateway to the Santa Cruz Del Norte Backcountry, where remote campsites await coastal backpackers. Meanwhile, Channel Islands National Park, above, puts campers in a marine landscape above some of the best scuba diving in North America. And RV campers in Ventura will find themselves in a beachside paradise at Rincon Parkway, a 127-site campground on the Pacific Coast Highway with million-dollar sunset views, surfing and fishing.

Know before you go: The Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center is located on mainland California in the heart of Ventura.

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