National Parks Camping 101

Wonderful camping experiences can be had in America’s national parks. National parks are popular camping destinations because campers know they are guaranteed to have plenty of things to do—and the spectacular scenery is unparalleled.

Another reason why camping in the national parks is so popular is the affordability. You can treat your entire clan to a vacation without breaking the bank. While camping fees vary by a national park’s popularity and location, everyone in your party can generally stay a week at a campsite for less than what you would pay for one night at a resort.

A tip for planning camping trips in the national parks is to do your research early. Many of the larger campgrounds in the national parks require reservations—especially during their peak seasons. Be sure to call ahead and get your spot reserved. Keep in mind that there are many campgrounds in the national parks that don’t take reservations. These campgrounds are rationed out each morning, so it’s best to arrive early to ensure you get a spot. If your arrival at a national park won’t be until afternoon or evening, you should plan to camp outside of the national park until the following morning.

Most of the campgrounds in the national parks will have restrooms, picnic tables, grills, and sanitary dump stations, but most won’t have showers or electrical/water hookups. There are some privately owned concessionaires that are allowed to operate more modern campgrounds in the national parks. These campgrounds will have more elaborate facilities, but don’t assume the park you’re visiting will have these campgrounds available. If they do, don’t assume they’ll have an empty spot waiting for you unless you’ve reserved one. To be prepared for any scenario in the national parks, arrive with all the basics you’ll need to camp primitively.

A really nice thing about camping in the national parks is you can take advantage of the many programs and activities sponsored by the National Park Service. Most of these programs and activities are free of charge. If a fee is charged, it’s usually small. Rangers often offer tours, nature walks, hikes, seminars and more for campers and day-visitors. Research the area you are visiting and get a listing of the programs and activities you can take advantage of because it’s an affordable, fun way to learn about the national park you’re visiting.

Each national park will have its own set of rules and regulations for campers. Before heading out to camp in a national park, make sure you know its specific rules and regulations. These rules involve more than just campground hours and checkout times. These rules contain pertinent information such as how you can keep your family safe from wildlife and what to do in the event of an emergency.

Camping in the national parks is truly an adventure. With a little pre-planning, preparation, and rule observations, it can be the trip of a lifetime.