Category: National Parks

Guide to Camping in Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which encompasses over 1.5 million acres of beaches, mountains, canyons, and forests, is truly an oasis like no other. The western entrance is located just…

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which encompasses over 1.5 million acres of beaches, mountains, canyons, and forests, is truly an oasis like no other. The western entrance is located just minutes from the Las Vegas metropolitan area, but the vast open spaces and natural wonders make it feel worlds away. The National Recreation Area includes Lake Mead and its 750+ miles of shoreline, Lake Mohave to the south, and the Colorado River stretching all the way east to the edge of Grand Canyon National Park.

So what’s the best way to escape the daily grind and fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Lake Mead National Recreation Area? Spending a night (or many nights) under the stars in your tent or RV! Camping allows you to make the most of your visit to Lake Mead National Recreation Area. And with over 900 campsites within the park boundaries and even more in the surrounding area, there’s a perfect site for every style of camper.

In this guide we’ll break down all of your options, from the 14 developed campgrounds and backcountry camping areas in the park, to campgrounds and free camping in the nearby area.

Lake Mead with bluffs in the background under a blue sky.

Lake Mead Recreation Area Campgrounds

The first step in planning your perfect camping trip in Lake Mead National Recreation Area is to understand a bit about the geography of the park. Lake Mead and Lake Mohave straddle the border between Nevada and Arizona along the Colorado River.

The most popular way to access the recreation area is from the Las Vegas metro area, which is near the northwest edge of the park. The campgrounds in this part of Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Las Vegas Bay and Boulder Beach) tend to be the busiest, but also the most convenient to access.

Lake Mohave is located in the southern portion of Lake Mead NRA, and can be accessed from Bullhead, AZ. Those wishing to camp along Lake Mohave can choose from two different campgrounds and numerous backcountry sites.

The Overton Arm area encompasses the northern section of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It’s bordered by Valley of Fire State Park. It takes a bit effort to get to this part of the park, meaning the campgrounds tend to be less crowded. The Overton Arm area has camping for RVs and tents at Echo Bay, and there are plenty of backcountry options as well.

Finally, the eastern side of Lake Mead NRA feels quite remote and is a good option for those seeking peace and quiet. There’s a developed campground suitable for tents and smaller RVs, as well as many backcountry options.

Check out the map below to get a general sense of where the developed campgrounds in Lake Mead National Recreation Area are located.

Reservations & Permits

Advance reservations can be made for all of the RV parks in Lake Mead National Recreation Area. For the NPS-operated campsites that are first-come, first served, plan to arrive early, as they fill up quickly on weekends, holidays, and other peak times. Most campgrounds require that you pay in cash upon arrival. This table provides reservation information for every campground in Lake Mead NRA:

CampgroundReservations Possible?How to Reserve
Boulder Beach CampgroundOnly for group sites. First-come, first-served for all other sites.Recreation.gov
Lake Mead RV Village (Boulder Beach)Yes.Visit Lake Mead Mohave Adventures or call (702) 293-2540
Las Vegas Bay CampgroundNo. First-come, first-served for all sites.n/a
Callville Bay CampgroundYes.Recreation.gov
Callville Bay RV ParkYes (Only 5 sites available).Call Callville Bay Full-Service Marina: (702) 565-8958
Echo Bay CampgroundNo. First-come, first-served for all sites.n/a
Echo Bay RV VillageYes.Visit Lake Mead Mohave Adventures or call (702) 394-4000
Temple Bar CampgroundNo. First-come, first-served for all sites.n/a
Temple Bar Marina RV ParkYes.Call Temple Bar Resort Marina: (928) 767-3211
Cottonwood Cove CampgroundNo. First-come, first-served for all sites.n/a
Cottonwood Cove Resort RV ParkYes.Visit Cottonwood Cove Resort Marina or call (855) 918-5253
Katherine Landing Campground and RV ParkOnly for full-hookup RV sites. All other sites are first-come, first-served.Visit Katherine Landing or call (928) 754-3245
Willow Beach Campground and RV ParkYes.Visit Willow Beach or call (928) 767-4747

Permits are NOT required for camping in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, including for backcountry camping. However, you will need to pay an entrance fee ($25 for vehicles, $15 for walkers/bikers) and a nightly fee if you plan to camp at any of the campgrounds.

Sunset over Cottonwood Cove, Lake Mead
Sunset views from Cottonwood Cove. Photo courtesy of NPS.

What to Bring

Preparing for your Lake Mead camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Lake Mead NRA:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This classic piece of gear is perfect for cooking up deluxe campsite dinners.
  • Portable water container – These portable water containers are a lifesaver, especially as some camping areas do not have water available.
  • Cooler – Keeping food and drinks cool is essential when camping, particularly in the hot temps that are common at Lake Mead. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Shade Structure – The sun can be intense in Lake Mead NRA and not all of the campsites have reliable shade. A pop-up canopy like this one is easy to pack and can be moved around to maximize shade at any time of day.
  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area Map – Essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • Books – This book provides a fascinating look at Lake Mead’s history, and this is a good guidebook of the area.
  • Cash: Be prepared to pay in cash for your campsite, as many of the fee stations do not accept credit/debit cards.

If you plan on backpacking in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, be sure to check out this great packing list.

Swimmers on Boulder Beach at Lake Mead
It’s a good idea to bring a shade structure for your campsite and it can also be handy for the beach! Photo courtesy of NPS.

When to Camp in Lake Mead National Recreation Area

All of the campgrounds in Lake Mead National Recreation Area are open year-round. However, the desert climate makes it so that camping is quite difficult in the summer months (July-September) when temperatures routinely climb above 100 degrees. Also, keep in mind that some popular hiking trails are closed in the summertime.

Spring (April-June) and fall (October-December) are the best months to camp in Lake Mead NRA. Expect warm, sunny days and cool nights with very little rain. Springtime brings out beautiful wildflowers, as well. These are also the most popular seasons for camping at Lake Mead, so plan to arrive early and/or make reservations, if possible.

Winter (January-March) can be a wonderful time to camp in Lake Mead NRA. There are typically fewer crowds than in the peak seasons, and the cooler weather is great for hiking and biking. Nighttime lows can dip into the 30’s, so campers should make sure to pack warm clothing and a good sleeping bag.

Yellow Las Vegas Bearpoppies blooming at Lake Mead
Springtime brings an array of colorful wildflowers to Lake Mead NRA. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Developed Campgrounds on Lake Mead

There are nine unique developed campgrounds and RV Parks along the shore of Lake Mead . These campgrounds vary in their size and proximity to different areas of the park. Details for all nine campgrounds are below.

Boulder Beach Campground

Number of Sites: 148 sites
Fee: $20/night
RVs: Yes. No hookups
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Open all year

A campsite at the Boulder Beach Campground in Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Most of the sites at Boulder Beach have great views and some shade. Photo courtesy of NPS/Andrew Cattoir

The Boulder Beach campground is arranged into one large camping area flanked by four additional loops on one side. The campground has lots of lush vegetation, which provides shade and privacy for many sites. Nearly all sites have great views of Lake Mead and/or the River Mountains.

The campground is located near the mile-long Boulder Beach, a popular spot for swimming, boating, and fishing. There are several easy, family-friendly trails in the area, and the Hoover Dam is just a short drive away.

Every site at the Boulder Beach campground has a picnic table and firepit. Most sites can accommodate large RVs and there is a dump station, although there are no hookups. WIFI, bathrooms, and drinking water are available at the campground, but there are no showers.

There are five group sites at the Boulder Beach Campground. Each site accommodates 12-30 people and costs $80/night. Only tent camping is permitted at the group sites. You must reserve group sites in advance. Reservations can be made at recreation.gov

Boulder Beach Campground Map
Map of the Boulder Beach Campground, courtesy of NPS.

Lake Mead RV Village

Number of Sites: 115 sites
Fee: $45-60/night
RVs: Yes (no tents).
Reservations: Call (702) 293-2540
Season: Open all year

RV campers looking for full hookup accommodation in the Boulder Beach area will love Lake Mead RV Village. This friendly RV park is easy to get to, but it has a quiet and peaceful feel. It is situated near Boulder Beach and all of its great activities.

All sites offer full hookups, including cable and WIFI. There are back-in and pull-through sites available. Lakeside sites are more expensive, but many campers report that the views are worth the premium rate. Pets are welcome.

Amenities include restrooms, showers, outdoor games, laundry, propane for purchase, and a convenience store.

An RV Parked at Lake Mead RV Village, Boulder Beach
Lake Mead RV Village. Photo courtesy of NPS/Andrew Cattoir.

Las Vegas Bay Campground

Number of Sites: 84 sites
Fee: 
$20/night
RVs:
Yes. No hookups
Reservations: 
First-come, first-served
Season: 
Open all year

A tent under a large tree at the Las Vegas Bay Campground in Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Shade and views from a campsite at the Las Vegas Bay Campground. Photo courtesy of NPS/Andrew Cattoir.

The best part about this campground is its close proximity to the shops, restaurants, amenities, and attractions in Las Vegas. It is located about 40 minutes from The Strip and just 15 minutes from the city of Henderson, which also offers great activities and nightlife. Despite the fact that it’s so close to the city, the Las Vegas Bay Campground feels quiet and close to nature.

The campground does not provide lake access, and it’s about a 20-minute drive to a boat launch, marinas, and other waterfront activities. Closer to Las Vegas Bay, you’ll find great birdwatching and hiking along the 3.9 mile Bluffs Trail. The Las Vegas Bay picnic area has covered picnic tables, potable water, restrooms, and grills. Nearly every site at the Las Vegas Bay campground is well-shaded, and the lush vegetation at the campground gives it the tranquil feel of an oasis.

Each of the campsites at the Las Vegas Bay campground have a picnic table, grill/fire pit, parking space, tent pad, and access to WIFI. There are restrooms (no showers), potable water, and a dump station on site. Most sites can accommodate large RVs, but there are no hookups.

Map of the Las Vegas Bay Campground, Lake Mead Camping
Map of the Las Vegas Bay Campground, courtesy of NPS.

Callville Bay Campground

Number of Sites: 52 sites
Fee: 
$20/night
RVs:
Yes. No hookups
Reservations: 
Can be made HERE
Season: 
Open all year

A picnic table and fire pit at a site at the Callville Bay Campground, Lake Mead
The Callville Bay Campground. Photo courtesy of NPS/Andrew Cattoir.

This campground is perfectly situated for boating and water sport enthusiasts. It is walking distance from the marina, where you can rent a variety of watercraft or launch your own. The Callville Bay Campground is also walking distance from the Fountain Sight Lounge restaurant and nearby snack bar. Additionally, the Callville Summit hiking trail is easily accessed from the campground, and it is highly recommended for its panoramic views of the Lake Mead area.

The NPS-run Callville Bay Campground accommodates tents and RVs, but there are no hookups. RV campers looking for full hookups should consider staying at the nearby Callville Bay RV Park. Campers seeking greater solitude can find great backcountry spots and private coves near the Callville Bay area.

The 52 sites at the Callville Bay Campground are arranged in one large loop. Each site has a parking area, level tent space, picnic table, and firepit. There is WIFI and cell service available. The campground has restrooms, potable water, and a free dump station. Campers can use the pay showers and laundry facilities at the nearby Callville Bay RV Park.

Reservations can be made up to six months in advance. CLICK HERE to reserve your campsite.

Map of the Callville Bay Campground
Map of the Callville Bay Campground, courtesy of NPS.

Callville Bay RV Park

Number of Sites: 5 sites
Fee: $20/night
RVs: Yes (no tents).
Reservations: Call (702) 565-8958
Season: Open all year

This is a very small RV park with just five sites. It is located on the lake next to the Callville Bay Marina, where you can rent watercraft or launch your own. The marina area also has a restaurant and a small shop.

Each site is large enough for big rigs and provides full hookups, WIFI, a picnic table, and a grill. There are showers and laundry facilities on site. Campers can use the dump station and water refill station at the nearby Callville Bay Campground.

Open sites at the Callville Bay RV Park, Lake Mead.
The Callville Bay RV Park has five sites with full hookups. Photo courtesy of NPS/Andrew Cattoir.

Echo Bay Campground

Number of Sites: 37 sites (more in the overflow area)
Fee: 
$20/night
RVs:
Yes. No hookups
Reservations: 
First-come, first-served
Season: 
Open all year

A campsite overlooking Echo Bay, Lake Mead National Recreation Area camping
Great views from a campsite at Echo Bay. Photo courtesy of NPS/Andrew Cattoir.

Located on the shores of the northern Overton Arm of Lake Mead, the Echo Bay Campground is a great option for those wanting to venture further from civilization and enjoy the peace and solitude of this remote location. The campground is especially perfect for fishing, either from one of the great coves in the area or via the Echo Bay boat launch. Hikers will also enjoy exploring the Redstone Trail or the historic ghost town of St.Thomas.

The campground is divided between a lower and upper loop. The lower loop contains all 37 of the official campsites, open year round. The upper loop is used as overflow during busy periods, and remains closed in quieter seasons.

Each site has a parking space, picnic table, and grill/fire pit. There are flush toilets, sinks, and drinking water taps available throughout the campground (no showers). A fish cleaning station is located on site. The main office sells snacks and fuel. Cell service is unreliable at Echo Bay and there is no WIFI.

RVs are welcome at the Echo Bay campground, although not all sites can accommodate large rigs. There are no hookups, but there is a free dump station on site.

Map of the Echo Bay Campground, Lake Mead
Map of Echo Bay Campground, courtesy of NPS.

Echo Bay RV Village

Number of Sites: 58 sites
Fee: $30/night
RVs: Yes (no tents).
Reservations: Call (702) 394-4000
Season: Open all year

The Echo Bay RV Village offers spacious full hookup back-in sites to accommodate RVs of all types and sizes. It is organized into two loops, with sites on the outer loop priced a bit higher than those on the inner loop. With room for boat parking and a nearby launch, it is especially convenient for those looking to spend time on the water. In addition to nearby fishing opportunities, the location of the Echo Bay RV Village provides easy access to hiking trails and picnic areas.

Amenities include water, sewer, and electric hookups, restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities. There is WIFI available on site, although it is a bit spotty. A gas station and small convenience store are located at the main office, and there’s a fish cleaning station nearby.

Vehicles parked at the Echo Bay RV Village at Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
The Echo Bay RV Village. Photo courtesy of NPS/Andrew Cattoir.

Temple Bar Campground

Number of Sites: 71 sites
Fee: 
$20/night
RVs:
Yes. No hookups
Reservations: 
First-come, first-served
Season: 
Open all year

Campsites at the Temple Bar Campground in Lake Mead National Recreation Area
Campsites at the Temple Bar campground. Photo courtesy of NPS/Andrew Cattoir.

Located on the eastern side of Lake Mead, the Temple Bar area is a quiet oasis for hikers, boaters, and anglers. Its remote setting means that it has wide open views and excellent stargazing. The NPS-run Temple Bar Campground provides basic accommodation for tent campers and RVs (no hookups). While it is not situated directly on the lake, it is located near the Temple Bar Marina, which offers boat rentals and launching. The marina also has a restaurant, bar, and convenience shop

The Temple Bar campground is arranged in one large loop, with four roads cutting through the middle. Plentiful trees provide shade and privacy between sites. Each site has a picnic table and grill. Restrooms, sinks, and drinking water taps are located at the campground and there is a dump station on site for RVs. Cell service is unreliable at the Temple Bar campground and there is no WIFI.

In addition to the NPS campground, there are options for RV and backcountry camping in the Temple Bar area.

Temple Bar Campground Map
Map of the Temple Bar Campground, courtesy of NPS.

Temple Bar RV Park

Number of Sites: 10 sites
Fee: $30-35/night
RVs: Yes (no tents).
Reservations: Call (928) 767-3211
Season: Open all year

In addition to their lakeside cabins and motel, the Temple Bar Resort Marina also offers a small RV park with 10 full hookup sites. Sites can be rented on a nightly or monthly basis. The RV park is close to a boat launch, restaurant, trails, and many great coves that can be explored by land or water.

Amenities include full hookups, picnic tables, restrooms, coin-operated showers, laundry and WIFI.

An RV parked at Temple Bar RV Park, Lake Mead
RV sites at Temple Bar RV Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Andrew Cattoir.

Developed Campgrounds on Lake Mohave

There are four developed campgrounds and RV parks on Lake Mohave. Each unique camping option provides access to great recreational activities, such as hiking, boating, fishing, and scuba diving. Keep reading to learn which campground is right for you.

Cottonwood Cove Campground

Number of Sites: 45 sites
Fee: 
$20/night
RVs:
Yes. No hookups
Reservations: 
First-come, first-served
Season: 
Open all year

Campsites at the Cottonwood Cove Campground, Lake Mohave.
Sites at the Cottonwood Cove Campground (upper loop). Photo courtesy of NPS/Andrew Cattoir.

Beach enthusiasts will love this waterside campground! It is walking distance to a sandy swimming beach and a marina where you can rent a boat or launch your own. The surrounding area is perfect for leisurely strolls along the beaches and coves, or mellow hikes like the Desert Discovery Trail. There’s a café, fuel station, and shop near the campground.

The 45 sites are arranged into two loops, an upper and a lower. The lower loop is easier to access and it is closer to the beach, but it can get pretty noisy and crowded. The sites are quite narrow, and RVs may find this especially challenging. Some sites are shaded by trees, but not all.

Each campsite has a picnic table, fire pit, and parking area. The campground has flush toilets, sinks, drinking water, a fish cleaning station, and a picnic area. RVs are welcome, although spots are narrow and there are no hookups. RVs looking for more amenities should check out the Cottonwood Cove RV Park next door.

Map of Cottonwood Cove Campground, Lake Mohave
Map of Cottonwood Cove Campground, courtesy of NPS.

Cottonwood Cove RV Park

Number of Sites: 72 sites
Fee: 
$41-5$0/night
RVs:
Yes.
Reservations: 
Can be made HERE or by calling (855) 918-5253
Season: 
Open all year

This spacious RV Park is perfectly positioned for enjoying Lake Mohave to the fullest. Located close to the marina, a swimming beach, a café, and a convenience store, there is no shortage of activities and amenities in the area. Views of the lake and the surrounding mountains are gorgeous.

Each of the 72 RV sites at the campground includes a picnic table, grill, and full hookups. Restrooms, showers, and laundry are available on site. Bring a shade structure, as there’s not much shade at the campground.

Cottonwood Cove RV Park Lake Mohave Camping
Cottonwood Cove RV Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Andrew Cattoir.

Katherine Landing Campground & RV Park

Number of Sites: 157 Tent/RV sites, 25 RV-only sites
Fee: 
$20/night (basic site), $40/night (RV w/hookups)
RVs:
Yes.
Reservations: 
Can be made HERE
Season: 
Open all year

A campsite at Katherine Landing, Lake Mohave
A basic tent/RV site at the Katherine Landing Campground. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Katherine Landing is a lovely destination for RV and tent campers alike. The area is home to a marina, swimming beaches, boat rentals, and plenty of great fishing spots. There are good hiking trails nearby, including the Lake View Trail and the Fisherman’s Trail. Both the tent and RV sites are within walking distance of the marina, swim beach, restaurant, and convenience store.

Amenities at all sites include a picnic table, parking space, and access to restroom, shower, and laundry facilities. Basic campground sites have grills and and are suitable for tents or RVs, but they do not have hookups. These sites have lots of nice vegetation, which provides shade and privacy. The RV sites have full hookups, but offer less shade from trees and shrubs. WIFI and cell phone service are available at the campground.

RV sites at the Katherine Landing RV Park, Lake Mohave
Full hookup sites at the Katherine Landing RV Park. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Willow Beach Campground & RV Park

Number of Sites: 9 Tent sites, 28 RV sites
Fee: 
$35/night (tent site), $60/night (RV w/hookups)
RVs:
Yes.
Reservations: 
Can be made HERE
Season: 
Open all year

The Willow Beach Campground and RV Park enjoys a unique location along the Black Canyon Water Trail and has river, mountain, and desert views throughout. This is a great place to take a paddle tour of some of Lake Mohave’s best sites, or to explore on your own by renting a boat or kayak from the marina. There’s also a nice fishing pier close to the campground. The dramatic Arizona Hot Spring Trail is just a short drive away.

The campground has 28 RV sites with full hookups. There are also 9 tent-only sites, but it is important to note that the tent sites cannot be accessed by vehicle. You’ll need to walk a short distance to reach your campsite.

All sites have a picnic table, fire ring, and access to restroom, shower, and laundry facilities. The RV sites offer water, sewer, and electric hookups. WIFI is available at the campground.

An overhead view of the Willow Beach RV Park and Campground on Lake Mohave
An overhead view of the Willow Beach RV Park and Campground. The walk-in tent sites are in the foreground. Photo courtesy of NPS/Andrew Cattoir.

Backcountry & Dispersed Camping in Lake Mead National Recreation Area

There are endless options for backpacking and dispersed car camping in Lake Mead National Recreation Area for those looking to get off the grid. Whether you want to hike to a secluded spot, overnight with your boat in a private cove, or camp with your vehicle along a quiet backcountry road, you’ll have tons of great places to explore along the shores of Lake Mead and Lake Mohave.

Dispersed camping Echo Bay Lake Mead
Dispersed camping in a cove near Echo Bay. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Dispersed Car Camping

The most popular way style of backcountry camping in Lake Mead NRA is dispersed car camping. There are numerous backroads that give you access to off-the-beaten track campsites. There is no fee or permit required for dispersed vehicle camping, but it is important to choose a campsite in an area where camping is permitted.

Additionally, the following guidelines must be followed when car camping in the backcountry:

  • You may only stay at a backcountry campsite for 15 days at a time, and you can camp in Lake Mead NRA for up to 90 days every year.
  • Adhere to seasonal fire bans.
  • Pack out all waste (including human and pet waste).
  • Pets are generally permitted, but pay attention to area signage.
  • Check the weather in advance and prepare for extreme conditions, especially in the summer heat.
  • Vehicles must stay on designated roads. Off-roading is not permitted anywhere in Lake Mead NRA.

The following maps show where dispersed car camping is allowed in Lake Mead NRA.

Hoover Dam Area

The Hoover Dam Area encompasses much of the western side of Lake Mead and extends down to the boundary with Lake Mohave. This is a popular and easy to access area for dispersed car camping.

Lake Mead dispersed camping Hoover Dam area map
(Click to enlarge)

This map shows all of the roads where you can camp for free in the backcountry. Recommended dispersed camping areas in the Hoover Dam area include Crawdad Cove (Road #90) and Government Wash (Road #87).

Lake Mohave Area

The Lake Mohave Area encompasses the entire shoreline of Lake Mohave and reaches down to the southern tip of Lake Mead NRA near Bullhead City, NV. Some of the best backcountry camping in this area can be found in the many secluded coves along the shore of Lake Mohave. Several coves are accessible by dirt road, and backcountry toilets are available at Nine Mile Cove and Cottonwood Cove East.

Map of Lake Mohave dispersed camping areas.
(Click to enlarge)

This map shows all of the roads where you can camp for free in the backcountry. Recommended dispersed camping areas in the Lake Mohave area include 6 Mile Cove (Road #31 is a good option for 2WD vehicles) and Nellis Cove (Road #24). Keep in mind that camping is NOT allowed at Telephone Cove, Placer Cove, Cabinside Point, and Princess Cove.

Overton Arm Area

The Overton Arm area encompasses the northern branch of Lake Mohave and is bordered on the west by Valley of Fire State Park. Some parts of the Overton Arm area are quite remote, so make sure you prepare accordingly. Remember to bring plenty of drinking water, as refill points are scarce.

Map of dispersed camping areas in Overton Arm area, Lake Mead
(Click to enlarge)

This map shows all of the roads where you can camp for free in the Overton Arm area backcountry. The most highly recommended dispersed car camping location in this area is Stewart’s Point (Road #103 and Road #108). This is the only camping spot remaining on Overton Arm that provides lake access, due to low water levels.

Temple Bar Area

The Temple Bar area encompasses the eastern section of Lake Mead, and it is bordered on its eastern edge by Grand Canyon National Park.

Map of dispersed camping areas in Temple Bar area of Lake Mead
(Click to enlarge)

This map shows all of the roads where you can camp for free in the backcountry. The most highly recommended dispersed car camping locations in the Temple Bar Area are Bonelli Bay (Road #69) and Pearce Ferry. Keep in mind that many of the roads in this area, particularly north of the lake, are very rugged and should not be attempted without a good 4WD vehicle.

A cove in the Temple Bar area of Lake Mead NRA
A cove in the Temple Bar area. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Backpacking in Lake Mead NRA

If you prefer to travel by foot, there are limitless hike-in backcountry options in Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Although there are no official multi-day hiking routes in Lake Mead NRA, you can start your backpacking adventure on one of the park’s great day hikes. From the trail, you can find a secluded cove or scenic canyon and pitch your tent.

Arizona Hot Springs is one of the most popular backpacking destinations in Lake Mead NRA, but keep in mind the hot springs are closed in the summer months.

Backcountry camping is generally permitted anywhere in the park, provided you adhere to the guidelines below.

  • NO camping within 1/2 mile of a road (unless car camping on approved roads).
  • You must camp at least 100 feet away from springs and watering holes
  • If you are camping within 1/4 mile of the shoreline or hot springs, you must use a bag or container to pack out all solid human waste (and TP!)
  • Pay attention to seasonal fire restrictions

Make sure to take the proper precautions to stay safe in the backcountry. In addition to the appropriate backpacking gear, bring plenty of water (1 gallon per person, per day), sun protection, a topographic map, and a GPS device.

Arizona Hot Springs Backpacking Lake Mead
The Arizona Hot Springs Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Before we dive in, there are a few important regulations to note:

  • Camping is allowed for up to 90 days out of every consecutive 12 months.
  • You cannot camp for more than 30 days in any developed campground.
  • You cannot stay in any backcountry site for more than 15 days at a time.
  • No more than eight people per campsite.
  • Always store your food so that it cannot be accessed by wildlife.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

Detailed information on fires, pets, wildlife, and more can be found in the sections below.

Fires

Outside of seasonal fire restrictions (which are typically May-September), fires are permitted at campgrounds and in the backcountry at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Below we’ve outline the most important considerations for fires in both the developed campgrounds and in the backcountry.

Fires at Developed Campgrounds

  • Fires must be less than 3 feet in diameter.
  • Fires are only permitted in designated grills, fire rings, or portable fireplaces.
  • Do not cut wood from nearby trees or bushes for fires.
  • Completely extinguish all fires with water. Do not cover with sand.

Fires in the Backcountry

  • Fires must be less than 3 feet in diameter.
  • Fires must be above ground. Clear all rock rings, charcoal, and ash before you leave.
  • Do not cut wood from nearby trees or bushes for fires.
  • Do not make a fire within 10 feet of the nearest beach logs or vegetation (100 feet when fire restrictions are in place).
  • Completely extinguish all fires with water. Do not cover with sand.
Silhouettes of people around a campfire on the beach at Lake Mead
Backcountry campers enjoying a fire on the beach.

Pets

Pets are generally welcome in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, including on all hiking trails, and in developed areas and campgrounds. You can also bring your pet on beaches and into the backcountry, unless otherwise stated (check area signage or ask a ranger).

If you bring your furry friend along on your Lake Mead camping trip, please remember these regulations:

  • Pets must be on a leash at all times.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended in your vehicle.
  • Always properly dispose of pet waste.

Where to Get Supplies

Many areas in Lake Mead NRA provide easy access to food, water, and fuel. In addition to the park’s many restaurants, fuel stations and convenience stores are located at all of the major marinas, including Callville Bay, Las Vegas Bay, Boulder Beach, Willow Beach, Temple Bar, and Echo Bay.

Outside of the park, there are plenty of services available regardless of which direction you’re traveling from.

On the west side of Lake Mead NRA, you can find tons of restaurants, lodging, entertainment, and shopping in either Henderson, NV or Boulder City, NV.

Bullhead City, AZ is the closest town on the southern edge of the park, just south of the Davis Dam. Here you’ll find lodging, grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants.

To the north of Lake Mead NRA, the closest place to resupply is Overton, NV. The town has options for dining, lodging, groceries, fuel, and outdoor retailers.

Hikers on the Railroad Trail Lake Mead
The Historic Railroad Trail is one of many great pet-friendly hikes in Lake Mead NRA. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Camping Near Lake Mead National Recreation Area

With so many great camping options within Lake Mead National Recreation Area, you may never feel the need to venture beyond its boundaries in search of a campsite. However, if the campgrounds are full or you want to be closer to town, there are plenty of great campsites just outside Lake Mead NRA.

Check out your best options for RV camping and tent camping, and free dispersed camping near Lake Mead National Recreation Area below:

Kayakers enjoying the Black Canyon Water Trail, Lake Mead.
Kayakers enjoying the Black Canyon Water Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Campgrounds Near Lake Mead NRA

Those camping in an RV or tent will have plenty of options just outside of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The best option for you will depend on which side of the park you’re planning to explore. We’ve provided RV and car campgrounds near the west, south, and north sides of Lake Mead NRA. Pay attention to the details provided for each campground, as some do not allow tents.

Campgrounds on the West Side of Lake Mead NRA

Las Vegas KOA Journey at Sam’s Town

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $30-60/night
Capacity: None stated.
Type: RV, full hookups available. NO TENTS.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Not only does this RV park offer all of the great amenities you’d expect from a KOA, but its location makes it the perfect basecamp for exploring both Las Vegas and Lake Mead. It is just steps from Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino, where you can enjoy the hotel’s facilities or catch a shuttle to the Las Vegas Strip. It’s also just 30 minutes from the Lake Mead Visitor Center.

Amenities include WIFI, a pool, and a dog park.

Canyon Trail RV Park

Number of sites: 145
Fee: $48/night (RV sites), $20/night (tent sites)
Capacity: 2 people (extra fee for additional people)
Type: RV, full hookups available. Tents.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Located just ten minutes from the Lake Mead Visitor Center, this friendly RV park is a quiet and convenient option for those looking to enjoy the surrounding area. It is also situated close to the shops, restaurants, and services in Boulder City. The campground welcomes everyone from tent campers to big rigs and the facilities are clean and well-kept.

Amenities include showers, laundry, a pool, and free WIFI.

Campgrounds on the South Side of Lake Mead NRA

Davis Camp

Number of sites: 170
Fee: $40/night (RV sites), $20/night (tent or dry RV sites)
Capacity: 4 people (extra fee for additional people)
Type: RV, full hookups available. Tents.
Reservations: Recommended for RVs. Tent sites are first-come, first-served. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

This Mohave Country Parks Campground enjoys a lovely setting along the banks of the Colorado River. It’s just a ten-minute drive from gas stations and restaurants in the small town of Laughlin, NV, and it is also about ten minutes from the Katherine Landing Marina on Lake Mohave. Many campsites are right on the beach, making it easy to cool off with a dip in the river! The area can get very crowded in the summer, so get there early to score a first-come, first-served tent site.

Amenities include restrooms, showers, picnic areas, laundry, a dump station, a fishing pier, and a boat launch. Cell phone reception is typically strong in the area.

There are full and partial hookup sites available for RVs. Click here to view a map of the campground.

Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort RV Park

Number of sites: 740
Fee: $28/night
Capacity: Not stated.
Type: RV, full hookups. NO TENTS.
Reservations: Recommended. Call 1-800-227-3849 or Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

This massive RV park is attached to Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort and Casino. This means that RV campers get access to the many amenities at the hotel, including the pool, fitness center, and business center. Additionally, there’s a shuttle that will take you to nearby casinos. The location gives you easy proximity to Lake Mohave, as the Katherine Landing Marina is less than 10 minutes away.

Amenities at the RV park include restrooms, showers, laundry, propane sales, and a dump station. Click here to view a map of the RV park.

Campgrounds on the North Side of Lake Mead NRA

Valley of Fire State Park

Number of sites: 72
Fee: $20/night (NV residents) or $25/night (non-NV residents) +$15 park entrance fee
Capacity: Not stated.
Type: RV with hookups, tent.
Reservations: First-come, first-served.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

This is a great option for campers looking to enjoy both Valley of Fire State Park and Lake Mead NRA. There are campgrounds in the park. They are close to one another and both can be accessed just off Highway 169 and about 30 minutes from Lake Mead NRA. Valley of Fire is a very popular destination and the campgrounds fill up quickly, so get there early to snag a site.

Each campsite has a shaded picnic table and grill. There are showers, restrooms, water taps, and a dump station on site. Click here to view a map of the park.

A rock formation at Valley of Fire State Park
Valley of Fire State Park.

Free Dispersed Camping Near Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Muddy Mountains Wilderness

This BLM land is adjacent to Lake Mead NRA on its northwest side. Because it is a designated wilderness area, you’ll need to hike at least half a mile from the road in order to camp. One exception to this rule is along the Bitter Springs Backcountry Byway, a rugged unpaved road that runs through the foothills of the Muddy Mountains. Adventure seekers and nature lovers will appreciate the pristine beauty, lack of crowds, and dramatic rock formations that characterize this landscape. Come prepared with plenty of water, and don’t attempt it in the summer heat. Make sure to check out the renowned Bowl of Fire while you’re there.

Mohave Trails National Monument

Located close to the southwestern edge of Lake Mohave, this large BLM monument offers plenty of dispersed desert camping. Balancing Rock is a is a good place to camp if you plan on visiting Lake Mead NRA, as you can get from your campsite to the Katherine Landing Marina in less than an hour. Keep in mind that many of the roads are rugged and sandy and should only be attempted with a 4WD vehicle.

Christmas Tree Pass, Spirit Mountain Wilderness

Christmas Tree Road runs through the Newberry Mountains on the Spirit Mountain Wilderness BLM land, just west of Lake Mohave. There are a handful of good campsites near the top of the pass, although they are only suited for tent campers or small RVs. It is located about 45 minutes from the Katherine Landing Marina on Lake Mohave, and the road is typically passable for all vehicle types. The views are spectacular and the atmosphere is peaceful.

Snowbird Mesa-Poverty Flats

This is a convenient and scenic option near the town of Overton on the northern edge of Lake Mead NRA. The large area can accommodate plenty of campers without feeling too cramped. From the camping area, you can reach Stewart’s Point (Lake Mead) in less than twenty minutes and Valley of Fire State Park in less than 10 minutes. The gravel access road is typically passable for all vehicle types and there is decent cell reception. RV campers can use the free dump station at the Echo Bay Campground.

Footsteps in the sand along the Fisherman's Trail in Lake Mead NRA

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

We hope we’ve provided all of the information you need to plan your Lake Mead National Recreation Area camping trip, and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions and be sure to tell us about your trip!

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Complete Guide to Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park, located in north-central Colorado, is a truly stunning National Park. Comprised of alpine meadows, 14,000 foot peaks, and meandering streams, RMNP is truly a one-of-a-kind place…

Rocky Mountain National Park, located in north-central Colorado, is a truly stunning National Park. Comprised of alpine meadows, 14,000 foot peaks, and meandering streams, RMNP is truly a one-of-a-kind place to visit. Planning a Rocky Mountain National Park camping trip is the perfect way to experience this environment first-hand.

There is just nothing like spending a night out under the stars in your tent or RV to truly gain an appreciation of this spectacular place.

Rocky Mountain National Park and surrounding areas have more than enough camping options to suit your needs. From the five developed campgrounds in the park, a plethora of backcountry campsites, to tons of nearby RV and car camping spots, and even free dispersed camping, you’re sure to find the perfect campsite.

Keep reading to get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park camping

 

In this Rocky Mountain National Park Camping Guide

 

Rocky Mountain National Park Campgrounds

The first step in planning your perfect camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park is to understand a bit about the geography of the park. RMNP sits in the northern Front Range and is generally divided in half by the continental divide.

On the east side of the park, the main hub of activity is the town of Estes Park, while on the west side you’ll find Grand Lake. Connecting the east and west side of the park is Trail Ridge Road, a spectacular drive that is a highlight for many visitors RMNP trip.

Generally speaking, the east side of Rocky Mountain is more frequently visited, as it is much closer to Denver and the rest of the Front Range.

You’ll find good camping options on both sides of the park, and we’ve generally broken down your options geographically so that you have a good sense of what is available depending on which part of the park you want to explore.

Check out the map below to get a general sense of where the developed campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park are located.

Map of camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

Map of campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

In addition to the overview map shown above we’ve also created an interactive map with all of the campgrounds included in this guide displayed.

Campgrounds with a green tent icon are the developed campgrounds within the park, the blue camper trailer icon represents RV campgrounds near the park, and finally the red tent icon represents car camping options near RMNP.

Enjoy!

 

Reservations & Permits

Of the five developed campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park, three are reservable in advance while the other two are first-come, first-served. Aspenglen, Glacier Basin, and Moraine Park Campgrounds are all reservable in advance, while Longs Peak and Timber Creek Campgrounds are both available on a first-come, first-served basis.

To make a reservation at any of the three reservable campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park visit Recreation.gov, below.

Make a camping reservation in Rocky Mountain National Park here.

Camping in RMNP is very popular during the summer peak season, so we highly recommend making a reservation well in advance if at all possible. If  you’re hoping to land one of the first-come, first-served campgrounds during peak season be sure to arrive early as they are very difficult to snag!

Bridge over a creek in RMNP

 

For those interested in exploring the vast backcountry wilderness in Rocky Mountain National Park on a backcountry camping trip you’ll need to secure a wilderness permit and reservation for the specific campsite you plan to stay at.

This is true for the traditional backcountry campsites, those interested in Technical Climbing Bivouacing, or Technical Orienteering Cross-country camping.

To secure a wilderness permit in Rocky Mountain National Park you’ll need to apply through the park’s lottery system, which generally opens on March 1st for the upcoming season. If you have a specific date or campsite you’d like to secure you’ll need to try and reserve as soon as possible!

Get a wilderness camping permit in Rocky Mountain National Park here.

Tent at a backcountry campsite in Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

What to Bring Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

Preparing for your Rocky Mountain National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in RMNP:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect cooking up campsite dinners.
  • Portable water container – These portable water containers are a lifesaver.
  • Cooler – A good cooler makes any camping trip better. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • RMNP Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. We like this hiking guide.

When to Camp in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Moraine Park Campground is the only campground in Rocky Mountain National Park this is open year round. However, most visitors will prefer the warmer temperatures and easier access to the park during the peak summer camping season.

Peak camping season in Rocky Mountain National generally begins around late-May and lasts through the beautiful fall weather towards the end of September. On either end of these times you’ll need to be prepared for snow and cold temperatures.

The winter months bring cold temperatures, snow, and generally inhospitable conditions to RMNP. Those who are hardy enough to brave winter camping in Rocky Mountain will need to stay at either Moraine Park or for the even braver, plan a winter wilderness camping trip.

Find more information on the weather conditions you can expect to encounter in Rocky Mountain National Park here. 

Bear Lake in the winter

Winter in RMNP brings frigid temperatures and snow, but camping is still possible!

 

Developed Campgrounds in RMNP

There are five unique developed campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park. These campgrounds vary in size and proximity to different areas of the park and are sure to provide plenty of options for your perfect camping trip in RMNP. Details for all five campgrounds are below.

Aspenglen Campground

Number of Sites: 52 sites (13 tent only, 5 walk to)
Fee: $30/night
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 30′. No hookups
Reservations: Required. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open seasonally during summer only.
More Information

Aspenglen Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Aspenglen Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Aspenglen Campgrounds is located in the northern section of Rocky Mountain National Park, just past the Fall River entrance on Highway 34. This section of the park gets fewer visitors compared with the Beaver Meadows entrance, and is a great place to stay before exploring Deer Mountain, Lawn Lake, or Old Fall River Road.

Aspenglen features 52 campsites, with 13 tent-only sites and five walk-in campsites. The campground is set in a beautiful location with giant ponderosa pines and douglas fir trees providing shade in the summer. Two of the campsites are also ADA accessible.

Close encounters with the park’s famous elk herds are also very common in this section of the park!

The Aspenglen Campground is open seasonally during the summer months and reservations through Recreation.gov are required. Campsites are equipped with food storage lockers, metal fire grates, and easy access to restrooms and potable water.

Click here to make a reservation at the Aspenglen Campground

Old Fall River Road in RMNP

The Aspenglen Campground is the perfect place to stay before exploring Old Fall River Road. Photo credit NPS.

 

Glacier Basin Campground

Number of Sites: 150 sites (73 tent only, 13 group sites)
Fee: $30/night, group sites more.
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 35′. No hookups
Reservations: Required. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open seasonally during summer only.
More Information

Glacier Basin Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Glacier Basin Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Glacier Basin Campground is centrally located in one of the most popular areas of Rocky Mountain National Park. Situated just off the main road that leads to the Bear Lake trailhead and Sprague Lake this is the perfect place to camp for those looking to take in Rocky Mountain National Park’s quintessential spots.

Take a leisurely stroll around Sprague Lake or hike all the way to Dream Lake from the Bear Lake Trailhead to make the most of camping at Glacier Basin!

Glacier Basin is a large campground with 150 total campsites, 73 of which are tent-only and 13 that can accommodate larger groups. RVs and trailers up to 35′ can be accommodated at Glacier Basin and there are four ADA accessible campsites.

The campground is open seasonally during the summer months and is one of the most competitive in the park to secure a reservation at. You’ll want to get on Recreation.gov as soon as possible to try and snag a campsite here.

All of the campsites are equipped with food storage lockers, fire grates, and access to potable water. There is also an RV dump station available.

Click here to make a reservation at the Glacier Basin Campground

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

A hike to Dream Lake is an excellent day out in Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

Moraine Park Campground

Number of Sites: 244 sites (101 tent only, 49 walk to)
Fee: $30/night in summer, $20/night in winter
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 40′. No hookups
Reservations: Required. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round.
More Information

Moraine Park Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Moraine Park Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Moraine Park Campground is the largest and most centrally located in Rocky Mountain National Park. Situated in a beautiful valley with stunning views, the campground is a short drive from the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station. Those camping here will be close to the Cub Lake Trailhead as well as a short-drive from many of the other popular destinations in RMNP.

This is a huge campground sporting a total of 244 individual campsites, of which 101 are tent-only and 49 are walk to sites. In addition, Moraine Park features three ADA accessible campsites. RVs are welcome at the Moraine Park Campground, but you’ll be limited to a total length of 40′.

Moraine Park is the only campground in RMNP that is open year round, although anyone interested in winter camping should expect reduced services. As one of the most popular campgrounds in the park, advance reservations are essential here.

All of the campsites are equipped with food storage lockers, fire grates, and access to potable water, and a stunningly beautiful amphitheater. There is also an RV dump station available.

Click here to make a reservation at the Moraine Park Campground

Moraine Park Campground Amphitheater

The amphitheater at Moraine Park Campground is truly stunning. Photo credit NPS.

 

Longs Peak Campground

Number of Sites: 26 tent only sites
Fee: $30/night
RVs: Not allowed.
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Open seasonally during summer only.
More Information

Longs Peak Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Longs Peak Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

Located south of the main park entrances, the Longs Peak Campground is the perfect spot for those looking for a quieter camping experience. This campground is situated just off Highway 7 between Estes Park and Allenspark and makes for an excellent camping spot to explore Chasm Lake, Estes Cone, and for the well-prepared, Longs Peak.

This small campground features 26 tent-only campsites tucked away in dense pine forest. Longs Peak Campground is located at an elevation of nearly 9,500′ so you’ll want to come prepared for some high-altitude camping. RVs are not allowed at the campground and unfortunately there are no ADA accessible sites.

The Longs Peak Campground is open seasonally during the summer, and all sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. During busy summer weekends be sure to arrive as early as you can, as the campground is often completely full.

All of the campsites here are equipped with food storage lockers, fire grates, and access to potable water.

Chasm Lake hike from Longs Peak Campground

The hike to Chasm Lake is a RMNP classic.

 

Timber Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 98 sites (30 tent only)
Fee: $30/night
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 30′. No hookups
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Open seasonally during summer only.
More Information

Timber Creek Campground, Rocky Mountain National Park

Timber Creek Campground. Photo credit NPS.

The Timber Creek Campground is the lone developed campground located on Rocky Mountain National Park’s west side. The campground is situated just off Highway 34 at the base of Trail Ridge Road. The Timber Lake trail leaves just up the road from the campground and you’re also likely to encounter more wildlife in this section of the park.

Timber Creek has 98 campsites, 30 of which are tent-only. RVs up to 30′ are allowed here and there are four ADA accessible campsites. The campground does not offer much shade due to many of the trees having to be removed as a result of the pine beetle, so be sure to bring a small shade canopy.

The campground is open seasonally during the summer months and all 98 campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a bit less demand on the campsites since this is a less-crowded section of the park, but we still recommend arriving as early as you can to secure your site.

All of the campsites here are equipped with food storage lockers, fire grates, and access to potable water. There is also an RV dump station which is open seasonally.

 

Backcountry camping in Rocky Mountain National Park

For those looking to get off the beaten path in Rocky Mountain National Park a backcountry camping trip is the perfect opportunity. The expansive park has tons of options for backpacking from traditional, designated backcountry campsites to bivouac sites for climbers, and even off-trail orienteering backpacking. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

Visit the Rocky Mountain National Park website here for more details on wilderness camping.

Backcountry Camping at Designated Campsites in RMNP

The most popular and the best fit for most people who want to explore the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park is to camp at one of the over 120 designated wilderness campsites in the park. These campsites are located in every section of RMNP, as shown on the National Park Service map below:

Map of backcountry campsites in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Map of backcountry campsites in RMNP. Map courtesy of NPS. Click to enlarge.

 

In addition, there is a helpful list of all the backcountry sites in Rocky Mountain National Park at the link here.

Once you’ve decided on a campsite or campsites you’d like to stay at, you’ll need to secure a backcountry wilderness permit for the specific night and campsite you plan to stay at. Permits cost $30 per trip and we highly recommend reserving in advance.

The National Park Service opens the wilderness permit reservation system for Rocky Mountain National Park in late-February or early-March at the website below:

Get more information on Backcountry Wilderness Permits in RMNP here.

Backcountry campsites can accommodate up to seven people per campsite and you are limited to a maximum of 3 consecutive nights at any one campsite.

Note that a carry-in bear canister is required for all backcountry camping below treeline between April and October in RMNP. We like this bear canister from Backpacker’s Cache as it can fit several days worth of food. Alternatively, you can also rent bear canisters from REI stores and locally in Estes Park or Grand Lake.

If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration or an idea for a trip, be sure to check out our Guide to Lake Verna/East Inlet post.

East Inlet, Rocky Mountain National Park

 

Winter Wilderness Camping

For the brave and experienced it is possible to plan a winter backcountry camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park. Campers will need to be prepared with a winter tent, proper footwear, and a good sense of how to keep warm in this harsh environment.

There are a different set of regulations for wilderness camping in the winter, but you’ll still need to obtain a backcountry permit before setting out. It is best to contact the NPS directly for help planning you winter camping trip in RMNP.

Find more information on Winter Wilderness Camping in Rocky Mountain National Park here.

Technical Orienteering in Rocky Mountain National Park

For those interested in a true wilderness experience in Rocky Mountain National Park and trained in backcountry travel, a technical orienteering trip might be just what you are after. The NPS divides Rocky Mountain into several backcountry zones where you can camp and explore off-trail in some of the most rugged and remote terrain in the park.

This type of trip is only for experienced backpackers who have off-trail hiking and orienteering experience.

Find more information on Technical Orienteering in Rocky Mountain National Park here.

Technical Climbing Bivouac in RMNP

The final backcountry camping experience that is possible in RMNP is for climbers needing to bivouac prior to/during a climb of one of the park’s many climbing routes. The NPS defines a bivouac (or bivvy for short) as an open air, temporary encampment. If you’re not sure what a climbing bivvy is, it is probably not for you!

If you are looking to bivouac before climbing in RMNP, you’ll need to get a technical climbing wilderness permit. These limit group sizes to four climbers and have limits on the number of permits issued for various zones throughout the park.

Find more information on Technical Climbing Bivouac Permits in RMNP here.

A tent in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rocky Mountain National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. Before we dive in, there are a few important regulations to note:

  • From May 1st – October 15th you can camp for a total of 7 nights in the park.
    • You can camp an additional 14 nights outside of these dates.
  • Only camp in designated sites.
  • No more than eight people per campsite.
  • Always store your food using the provided food storage locker, in your car, or in an animal proof container.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

Detailed information on fires, pets, wildlife, and more can be found in the sections below.

Campfires in Rocky Mountain National Park

Campfires are permitted at all five developed campgrounds in Rocky Mountain National Park, but they must be fully contained within the provided fire pit. Be sure to adhere to the following regulations:

  • Fully extinguish your fire before going to sleep or leaving your campsite.
  • Do not gather any wood from the park.
  • Purchase wood locally to avoid bringing invasive pests into the park.

Campfires are prohibited in the backcountry of Rock Mountain National Park.

Pets

Pets are allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park, but only in specific areas and under specific rules. Pets are not allowed in the backcountry, on any trail, tundra, or meadows within RMNP.

They are permitted in the developed campgrounds, parking lots, and on the main park roads.

We generally recommend against bringing you pet to Rocky Mountain National Park, but if you do please follow these regulations:

  • Pets must be on a leash at all times.
  • Pets are not allowed in park buildings, on trails, or in the backcountry.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended in your vehicle.
  • Always properly dispose of pet waste.

For a complete list of regulations related to pets check out the Rocky Mountain National Park website here.

Where to get supplies

Rocky Mountain National Park is well served on both the east and west side of the park. You’ll have no problem getting anything and everything you could possibly need for your camping trip in the two adjacent towns, outlined below:

  • Estes Park: Estes Park is a hub of activity on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. This lovely town is just a few short miles from multiple entrances to the park and has everything you might need to prepare for your trip. Restaurants, outdoor stores, gas station, and a grocery store are all easily accessed here.
  • Grand Lake: On the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Lake is your best bet for stocking up on supplies. This lakeside resort town has a grocery store, outdoor stores, gas stations, and anything else you might need before your camping trip in the park.

 

Camping near Rocky Mountain National Park

Given the popularity and scarcity of options, it is always possible (and even likely) that you won’t be able to find a campground within Rocky Mountain National Park. However, don’t give up as there are plentiful camping options just outside the National Park boundary!

Check out your best options for RV camping, car camping, and free dispersed camping near Rocky Mountain National Park below:

RV campgrounds near Rocky Mountain National Park

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Rocky Mountain National Park. The best option for you will depend on which side of the park you’re planning to explore, and we’ve provided RV campgrounds near on both the east and west side of RMNP below:

RV in Rocky Mountain National Park

 

RV Campgrounds on the East side of RMNP

The east side of Rocky Mountain National Park sees far more visitors than the quieter west side. As such, there are plenty of good options for your RV camping trip here. Read on to learn more.

Elk Meadow Lodge & RV Park

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $75/night for RVs $40-$46/night for tents
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Elk Meadow Lodge and RV Park is located just a short drive from the Beaver Meadows entrance to RMNP. This location will work great for most visitors, as you will be well positioned to access most of the top sights in the park. Elk Meadow is a large park and features full hookup RV sites, tent camping, teepee rentals, and cabin rentals.

The site features an outdoor swimming pool, laundry facilities, and entertainment at the site lodge.

 

Manor RV Park

Number of sites: 110 sites
Fee: Varies
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Manor RV Park is located just off Highway 36 past the town of Estes Park. You’ll be perfectly situated between Estes Park and RMNP and have access to tons of great amenities. These include free WiFi, a playground, laundry facilities, and free breakfast on Saturdays.

 

Estes Park KOA

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: Varies
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Estes Park KOA is located east of the town of Estes Park, just above Lake Estes. You won’t be as close to the park here as other options, but you will get the predictability of a KOA campsite. Amenities include cable tv, WiFi, and a dog park.

 

Spruce Lake RV Park

Number of sites: 123 sites
Fee: $73 – $79/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Spruce Lake RV Park is located on the banks of the Big Thompson River and makes for a tranquil place to spend the night before exploring Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll be well located for venturing into the park as well as for exploring downtown Estes Park and the plethora of amenities make this is a great option.

RV Campgrounds on the West side of RMNP

The west side of Rocky Mountain National Park sees fewer visitors than the east side, and there are plenty of great options for RV camping. Read on to learn more:

Elk Creek Campground & RV Resort

Number of sites: 48 RV site + 10 tent sites
Fee: $42 – $62/night depending on the site
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Elk Creek Campground & RV Resort is located just across Highway 34 from the town of Grand Lake. This is a great location for exploring the East Inlet as well as the many shops and restaurants in Grand Lake. You’ll find both tent and RV sites at this well run campground.

Amenities include WiFi, a general store, playground, and the chance to encounter some of the local wildlife!

 

Winding River Resort

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $50 – $75/night depending on hookups
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Call 970-627-3215 to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Winding River Resort is set in a beautiful and secluded location north of the town of Grand Lake. Situated adjacent to the Colorado River this campground can accommodate RVs, tents, and also features cabins for rent. Those travelling with horses or hoping to do some riding in the park will find this an especially attractive option.

 

Car camping sites near Rocky Mountain National Park

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Rocky Mountain National Park you’ll have a lot of good options on both sides of the park.

In addition to the campgrounds listed below, car camping is permitted and recommend at all of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above.  Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near Rocky Mountain National Park.

Campsite near Rocky Mountain National Park

 

Car camping sites on the East side of RMNP

Estes Park Campground at East Portal

Number of sites: 66 sites
Fee: $45 – $55/night depending on the site
Capacity: 6 people per site
RVs: Small RVs and trailers less than 22′ permitted.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Estes Park Campground at East Portal is run by the Estes Valley Recreation and Park District. The campground is located in a pristine and secluded location at the end of Highway 66 on the east side of RMNP. The East Portal trailhead leaves from the campground and accesses popular hikes such as the Glacier Basin Loop.

The campground can accommodate small RVs and does offer a few sites with hookups, but you’ll find this is a much quieter campground than the typical RV resort. Highly recommended.

 

Estes Park Campground at Mary’s Lake

Number of sites: 128 sites
Fee: $45 – $65/night depending on the site
Capacity: 6 people per site
RVs: Small RVs and trailers less than 22′ permitted.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Also run by the Estes Valley Recreation and Park District, the Mary’s Lake Campground is a large site located adjacent to Mary’s Lake on the east side of Rocky Mountain. The campground is well located not too far from Estes Park, but also close to the park.

 

Hermit Park Open Space Campgrounds

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $30/night
Capacity: 6 people per site
RVs: Not recommended
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Hermit Park Open Space is owned by Larimer County and there are several great car camping options close to Rocky Mountain National Park. The campgrounds are located south of Estes Park along Highway 36. There are three excellent campgrounds to choose from here: Hermit’s Hollow, Bobcat, and Kruger Campgrounds. All of the campgrounds can be reserved in advance and offer basic amenities.

 

Olive Ridge Campground

Number of sites: 56 sites
Fee: $23/night
Capacity: 8 people per site
RVs: Allowed, but no hookups.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Olive Ridge Campground is a US Forest Service run campground located on Highway 7 just north of the town of Allenspark. The campground is near both the Wild Basin and Longs Peak trailheads in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Sites at Olive Ridge typically fill on summer weekends, so advance reservations are a must. Keep in mind that there is no water source at the campground so you’ll need to bring all that you need.

 

Meeker Park Overflow Campground

Number of sites: 29 sites
Fee: $23/night
Capacity: Not stated
RVs: Not recommended due to difficult roads
Reservations: All site first-come, first-served
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Meeker Park Overflow Campground has 29 first-come, first-served campsites that serve as overflow camping for the Olive Ridge Campground. Campsites feature picnic tables and fire rings and many have a food storage locker. The campground is located just north of Olive Ridge on Highway 7.

Similar to the Olive Ridge Campground, there is no water at the Meeker Park Overflow Campground.

 

Peaceful Valley Campground

Number of sites: 17 sites
Fee: $23/night
Capacity: 8 people per site
RVs: Allowed, but no hookups.
Reservations: 9 campsite can be reserved, 8 are first-come, first-served. Click here to reserve. 
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Peaceful Valley Campground is located south of Rocky Mountain National Park along the famous Peak to Peak Highway. A very popular campground in the summer, be sure and try to reserve your campsite ahead of time. If you can’t, there are always 8 sites that are held on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

Camp Dick Campground

Number of sites: 41 sites
Fee: $23/night
Capacity: 8 people per site
RVs: Allowed, but no hookups.
Reservations: Recommended, but some sites available first-come, first-served. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Located just up the road from the Peaceful Valley Campground, Camp Dick has 41 campsites situated along Middle Saint Vrain Road. Campsites are available for reservation and first-come, first-served here making this a good option if other campgrounds are full.

You’ll be a bit further from RMNP here, but still situated in a beautiful area.

 

Car camping sites on the West side of RMNP

Green Ridge Campground

Number of sites: 79 sites
Fee: $23/night
Capacity: 8 people per site
RVs: Allowed, but no hookups.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Green Ridge Campground is located south of Grand Lake, beautifully situated on the shores of Shadow Mountain Lake. This large site can accommodate both tents and RVs and all campsites feature picnic tables and fire rings. From the campground you’re only a short, 15-minute drive to the East Inlet trailhead.

 

Sunset Point Campground

Number of sites: 25 sites
Fee: $26/night
Capacity: 8 people per site
RVs: Allowed, but no hookups.
Reservations: All sites first-come, first-served.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Sunset Point Campground is located on the south end of Lake Granby, approximately 30 minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll find 25 first-come, first-served campsites here that can accommodate both tents and RVs. The campground is typically full on summer weekends, so be sure to arrive as early as you can to get a site.

 

Free dispersed camping near Rocky Mountain National Park

Your final option for camping near Rocky Mountain National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite on adjacent US Forest Service land located on both the east and west sides of the national park. This land is overseen by the USFS which manages hundreds of thousands of acres of public land throughout the country and generally allows for ‘dispersed camping’ on it. You can find more information on dispersed camping here.

 

Dispersed campsite near Rocky Mountain National Park

 

If you have any questions about the dispersed camping options outlined below be sure to reach out to the USFS/BLM offices that oversee the specific areas, shown below:

  • US Forest Service Office (east side sites): 303-541-2500 or 970-295-6700
  • US Forest Service Office (west side sites): 970-887-4100

Coyote Hill Road

Your first option for free dispersed camping near RMNP is along Coyote Hill Road, located just outside of Estes Park. Also known as Forest Service Road 119 it is recommend to come with a high clearance 4×4 to reach the campsites.

Parachute Hill/Johnny Park Road

Parachute Hill Road and Johnny Park Road are both good options for free dispersed camping on the east side of Rocky Mountain National Park. To access the camping area you’ll take Highway 7, which runs between Estes Park and Allenspark to Boulder County Road 82. From here, head east towards the Johnny Park Trail before turning off on FS Road 329.

Pole Hill Road

The Pole Hill Road dispersed camping area is accessed from Highway 36 just south of Estes Park. Look for the Pole Hill Road intersection just before Highway 36 begins its descent into Estes Park. 4WD is a must here and also be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles as there have been many complaints from surrounding land owners.

Stillwater Pass Dispersed Camping

The lone option for free dispersed camping on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park is up Stillwater Pass/County Road 4. There are tons of campsites along the road, but be aware that it can get a bit crowded given this is a well known camping area.

 

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

We hope you’ve found all of the information on Rocky Mountain National Park camping in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!

 

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Guide to Camping in Mesa Verde National Park

Even in a state brimming with incredible sites and scenery, Mesa Verde National Park stands out as one of Colorado’s best places to visit. Located in the southwest corner of…

Even in a state brimming with incredible sites and scenery, Mesa Verde National Park stands out as one of Colorado’s best places to visit. Located in the southwest corner of the state, Mesa Verde hosts a collection of diverse ecosystems, from semiarid desert environments to high elevation pine forests.

Of course, the most compelling reason to visit this beautiful national park is to see the centuries-old ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings. The Pueblo people of the four-corners region built rich, thriving, and complex communities, and the cliff dwellings are just one lens into their incredible culture and society. Mesa Verde National Park is home to a jaw-dropping 600 cliff-dwellings, and nearly 5,000 archaeological sites!

A soft winter sunset in Mesa Verde National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Sandy Groves.

Nature lovers will agree that wild places like Mesa Verde National Park are best experienced on a camping trip. There’s no better way to cap off day in the outdoors than to spend a night under the stars. Since camping options are limited, it can be difficult to find good information on camping. That’s why we created this comprehensive guide so you can spend less time planning and more time in the great outdoors. Enjoy!

Mesa Verde is home to a rich collection of archaeological sites, including these petroglyphs seen along the Petroglyph Point Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Mesa Verde National Park Basics

When to Visit

The weather in Mesa Verde National Park is quite variable and it can change quickly. You can get warm, sunny days in January and snowstorms in May! While Mesa Verde is beautiful year-round, most campers will want to visit between April and October. These months typically have the best weather for camping and many campgrounds are only open during the summer season.

Check out this great webpage for more details on weather in Mesa Verde.

Pets

Pets are allowed at the Morefield Campground in Mesa Verde National Park, provided that they are kept on a leash. You can also walk your dog along any paved road in the park.

Pets are not allowed in any of the park buildings, at archaeological sites, and on most trails in Mesa Verde (although leashed pets are permitted on the Long House Loop and some other trails at Wetherill Mesa).

There are a few pet boarding options in the area near Mesa Verde National Park, including the kennel at the Morefield Campground. You can find more information about pet boarding here.

Fires

Fires are permitted in designated fire rings at the Morefield Campground. Fires are prohibited everywhere else in Mesa Verde National Park. If camping in the park, check with the Morefield warden upon arrival, as seasonal fire bans may be in place.

Wildlife

Nature lovers will appreciate the great diversity of wildlife in Mesa Verde National Park. The park is of particular significance for several unique bird species, including the threatened Mexican Owl.

Campers should keep in mind that bears are active in Mesa Verde National Park. It’s important to store food and other strong-smelling items (sunscreen, toothpaste, etc) in your vehicle, a bear locker, or other secure location.

What to Bring

Preparing for your Mesa Verde National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Mesa Verde National Park:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for whipping up al fresco dinners.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun in this part of Colorado can get intense! You may not be able to find a shady spot where you’re camping, so we recommend bringing a portable shade structure to create your own!
  • Portable water container – Save yourself the hassle of constant trips to the water tap and bring one of these.
  • Cooler – The hot summer temperatures make a good cooler an essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Background Reading: There’s nothing better than relaxing at your campsite with this great book about the history of Mesa Verde.
Bears are active in and near Mesa Verde National Park, so campers need to properly secure their food items. Photo courtesy of NPS/Joshua Petersen.

Camping Inside Mesa Verde National Park

When it comes to camping in Mesa Verde National Park, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that backcountry and dispersed camping are not permitted anywhere within the park. The good news? It’s still possible to enjoy camping in the lovely and convenient Morefield Campground, and those looking for more remote dispersed camping have a few good options nearby.

Morefield Campground

  • # of sites: 267
  • Type: Tent, RV, Group
  • Fees, per night: $35 (Standard tent or RV w/o hookups), $50 (RV w/hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Allowed in designated fire pits

The Morefield Campground is located about four miles past the main entrance to Mesa Verde National Park. This large campground is run by the concessionaire company, Aramark, and therefore offers amenities more commonly seen in deluxe private campgrounds than in your typical NPS facilities. Keep in mind the base fee only covers groups of two, and you’ll need to pay a fee for every additional person in your group, plus a park entrance fee.

Amenities

  • Flush toilets
  • Hot showers
  • Dump station
  • Kennel
  • Campground store and cafe
  • Trash and recycling
  • Bear lockers

Reservations

Reservations are strongly recommended for the 15 RV sites in the campground, as these fill quickly throughout the season. Advance bookings are typically not essential for the tent/dry RV sites, although it’s a good idea to reserve a spot for holiday weekends.

Morefield Campground is open with full services from early May through mid-October. Off-season camping (no services) is available for a few weeks before and after the campground’s official opening and closing dates. See the campground website for details.

Reservations can be made HERE

A bird's-eye view of the Morefield Campground in Mesa Verde National Park.
A bird’s-eye view of the Morefield Campground. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Campgrounds Near Mesa Verde National Park

Despite the limited options for camping within the boundaries of Mesa Verde National Park, there are plenty of good campgrounds in the surrounding area. All of the campgrounds covered in this section are within 30-minute’s drive of the park entrance. Those wanting to prioritize proximity can camp just down the road from the park entrance, while campers looking for more services will find those in the towns of Mancos and Cortez.

If you’re looking to check out any of the other Colorado National Parks or National Monuments, but sure to take a look at our other camping guides below:

Below we’ve shared our top picks and tips for the best campgrounds near Mesa Verde National Park:

Campgrounds near the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park

Ancient Cedars Mesa Verde RV Park

  • # of sites: 80+
  • Type: Tent, RV, Group, Cabins
  • Fees, per night: $30-$33 (Standard or deluxe tent), $38-$55 (RV w/hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Allowed in designated fire pits
  • Reservations: Recommended

This comfortable campground is conveniently located just across the road from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. The plentiful amenities make this a great option for RVs and tent campers alike. Reservations are recommended in the peak summer season. There is a $3.50 charge per person for groups larger than two.

Amenities include free wifi, hot showers, laundry facilities, mini golf, dump station, dog park, playground, and swimming pool.

Mesa Verde RV Resort

  • # of sites: 57
  • Type: Tent, RV, Cabin
  • Fees, per night: $31 (standard tent), $39 (RV w/ partial hookups), $42-$49 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Allowed in designated fire pits
  • Reservations: Recommended

The Mesa Verde RV Resort is just minutes from the entrance of the park. This friendly campground can accommodate big rigs, tiny tents, and everyone in between! The convenient shop sells grocery items and snacks on site. There’s a $3.50 extra-person charge for groups of three or more. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 970-533-7421 or emailing info@mesaverdervresort.com.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, convenience store, pool, dog walking area, and playground.

Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center in front of a blue sky.
The Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center is just minutes from the campgrounds described above. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Campgrounds in Cortez, Colorado

Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA

  • # of sites: 115
  • Type: Tent, RV, Cabin
  • Fees, per night: $43 (standard tent w/electric), $42 (RV w/ partial hookups), $53-$70 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Allowed in designated fire pits
  • Reservations: Recommended

This excellent campground has all of the amenities you’d expect from a KOA, plus easy access to a large dog park, walking trails, and in-town services. It’s a fifteen-minute drive to the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. Campers love the quiet and scenic setting near Denny Lake.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, dishwashing station, wifi, convenience store, snack bar, pool, dog walking area, and playground.

La Mesa RV Park

  • # of sites: 38
  • Type: Tent, RV
  • Fees, per night: $25 (standard tent, 1 person), $44-$46 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Not permitted. Only gas grills are allowed in the park.
  • Reservations: Recommended

This family-friendly RV Park is a simple, no-frills option that offers a convenient location and reasonable prices. La Mesa RV Park is less than 10 miles from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park, and very close to shops and services in Cortez. Keep in mind there are extra-person charges for tent campers.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, and laundry.

Sundance RV Park

  • # of sites: 63
  • Type: RV only
  • Fees, per night: $48 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Not permitted.
  • Reservations: Recommended

While they do not accommodate tent campers, Sundance RV Park makes a great in-town option for the RV crowd. The park is conveniently located within walking distance to grocery stores and restaurants, and it’s just 10 miles from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. Keep in mind that there is a $4 per person, per day extra-person charge for all additional guests over age 16.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, convenience store, dog walking area, laundry, and vehicle wash.

A back SUV pulls an RV in front of a mountain near Mesa Verde National Park.
RV Campers will find plenty of great options in Cortez.

Campgrounds in Mancos, Colorado

Mancos State Park

  • # of sites: 32
  • Type: Tent, RV (no hookups), Yurt
  • Fees, per night: $22 (Tent and RV, June-September), $18 (Tent and RV, October-May) + $9/day park pass
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Permitted in designated areas (purchase local firewood and check ahead for seasonal bans)
  • Reservations: Required

This is one of the best camping options for those looking to get closer to nature, while still having easy access to Mesa Verde National Park. Camping options in Mancos State Park consist of the Main Campground with spaces that can accommodate most small and mid-size RVs or tents, as well as an auxiliary tent-only West Campground. Both camping areas are on the edge of the Jackson Gulch Reservoir, making for a scenic and tranquil place to spend the night. Keep in mind that reservations are required for all campers and can be made HERE or by calling 1-800-244-5613.

Amenities include vault toilets, drinking water (available at the Main Campground only), picnic tables, fire pits, and a dump station.

Riverwood RV Resort

  • # of sites: 68
  • Type: RV only
  • Fees, per night: $44 (RV w/full hookups)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Not allowed.
  • Reservations: Recommended

Guests love the friendly service and well-kept facilities at this convenient RV park. The Riverwood RV Resort is walking distance to the local coffee shop and just a 10-minute drive from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park. Unfortunately, they only accommodate RV’s, so tent campers will need to head to Mancos State Park if they want to camp in the area.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, dog walking area, laundry, and a lending library.

Echo Basin RV Park

  • # of sites: 65
  • Type: RV, Cabins
  • Fees, per night: $45-$55 (RV w/full hookups May-October)
  • Pets: Allowed
  • Fires: Not allowed.
  • Reservations: Recommended

This RV park is a bit further afield, but guests enjoy the peaceful, wooded setting that comes with the location. Echo Basin offers competitive rates and a variety of sites for RVs of all sizes. There are also cabins available for rent on the property. Unfortunately, they they do not accommodate tent campers; they’ll need to head to Mancos State Park if they want to stay in the area.

Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, and laundry.

Looking out at mountains and scrubland from Park Point in Mesa Verde National Park.
Camping in Mancos gives you quick and easy to some of Mesa Verde’s most beautiful viewpoints, like this one at Park Point. Photo courtesy of NPS/Jacob W. Frank.

Dispersed Camping Near Mesa Verde National Park

For those seeking a less developed and more affordable (ie; free) place to pitch a tent or park an RV, dispersed camping near Mesa Verde is a fantastic option. Keep in mind that it takes a little legwork to find a good dispersed camping spot, and you’ll need to bring your own water and of course, leave no trace. Your efforts will be rewarded with the kind of deep satisfaction that only comes from spending a night tucked in the trees and under the stars.

County Road 34 BLM Land

This is by far the closest dispersed camping option to Mesa Verde National Park. These thirteen dispersed camping spots can be reached by driving for a short ways along County Road 34, which is accessed from US 160 (East Mancos Road). While there are a few potential drawbacks about this area, such as crowds and trash, the fact that it’s less than 10 minutes from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park makes up for any downsides. It is important to note that County Road 34 is not paved and can get quite rutted. When dry, it’s typically passable for most vehicles and smaller RVs, but it becomes a muddy nightmare when wet.

San Juan National Forest

The San Juan National Forest is a huge and beautiful expanse of wilderness that sits just northeast of Mesa Verde National Park. Below, we’ve shared the best dispersed camping options for those wanting easy proximity to MVNP. Be sure to check the current fire restrictions before heading out.

Madden Peak Road

This is a favorite dispersed camping area for those visiting Mesa Verde National Park. It can be reached by driving a mile or two along a dirt road (Road 316), just off US 160 near Mancos (about 15 miles from the entrance of the park). The road is typically in pretty good shape, and the sections closer to the highway are definitely passable for RVs and larger rigs. There are about 15 spacious spots dotted along the closer stretch of road, although there are more options further back. Those seeking greater seclusion should continue uphill and camp further back along Road 316.

Road 561

There are plenty of dispersed camping areas in San Juan National National Forest that provide good proximity to MVNP, but this is one of the better options. It is located roughly twenty minutes from the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park, and the road is more accessible than most of the other dispersed camping areas nearby (brave souls with good 4WD can also check out Cherry Creek Road). There is a large open area on one side of the road, and then a few more secluded spots further up. Spots are marked with fire rings and many can accommodate RVs. The views of the surrounding mountains are lovely.

Road 566

This is another great option for both tents and RV’s in San Juan National Forest. Also known as Echo Basin Road, Road 566 is typically accessible for all vehicle types, although extreme caution should be used in wet or muddy conditions. It is located about 25 minutes from the park entrance. The spots along the lower portion of the road are located right beside the creek, while the areas further up offer splendid views and seasonal wildflowers.

Close up of the Mesa Verde National Park Cliff Dwellings

Conclusion

There’s no shortage of activities to enjoy in Mesa Verde National Park. You can explore the fabulous network of hiking trails, watch for a myriad of fascinating bird species, and, of course, wonder at the incredible Ancestral Pueblo cliff dwellings. Your next adventure is waiting, and it all starts with the perfect basecamp. Happy camping!

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The Best Hikes in Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park Weather Badlands is a land of extremes, and that certainly holds true when it comes to the weather. Temperatures can peak in the triple digits in the…

If you’ve never been to Badlands National Park before, you are in for an experience like no other. The 240,000 acres of protected land are home to some of the country’s most stunning rock formations, sweeping grassland prairies, and the kind of wide-open spaces that can really put everything in perspective. Additionally, Badlands National Park is home to more than 300 archeological sites dating back thousands of years, and more recent sites from the regions’ current inhabitants, the Arikara and the Oglala Lakota tribes. From fascinating fossils to dramatic rock spires to wildlife viewing, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in Badlands National Park.

One of the best ways to enjoy all that Badlands National Park has to offer by exploring it on your own two feet. There are many incredible hikes in Badlands, ranging from beginner and family-friendly to longer, more strenuous outings. We’re confident that there’s a trail for everyone in Badlands National Park, and that hiking it will be a highlight of your visit.

In this post, we’ll share the best trails and everything you need to know to have your best possible adventure hiking in Badlands National Park.

In This Post:

A hiker sits and enjoys the views in Badlands National Park
Hiking in Badlands National Park provides endless ways to enjoy the magnificent scenery. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Badlands National Park Basics

Before any trip to Badlands, it is a good idea to get familiar with some important information about the national park so you know what to expect when you visit. The next two sections will provide some essential background that you’ll need for planning your Badlands National Park hiking adventure.

Permits, Entrance Fees, and Opening Times

Permits are not required for any hikes in Badlands National Park, including overnight backpacking and off-trail hiking.

Entrance fees must be paid to access any part of the national park, including all of the hikes described in this post. There are a variety of passes available, depending on the length of your visit and your mode of entry. Details can be found on the NPS website.

Badlands National Park is open 24/7, although fee stations and visitor centers have limited hours. Opening times for the park’s visitor centers can be found here.

Additionally, some roads may be closed in wintery or other hazardous conditions. If traveling in the park during inclement weather, be sure to check current road conditions.

Entrance sign for Badlands National Park
One of the quieter entrances to Badlands National Park.

Badlands National Park Weather

Badlands is a land of extremes, and that certainly holds true when it comes to the weather. Temperatures can peak in the triple digits in the summer months and they can get down to -40 in the winter!

Be prepared for sudden and dramatic changes in the weather, as conditions can be variable and unpredictable. Dress in layers, pack sunscreen, and carry plenty of water. It’s always a good idea to check current conditions and talk to the ranger before setting out.

June is typically the rainiest month in Badlands National Park, while December and January are the driest. For monthly averages, including temperatures and precipitation, check out this webpage.

A stormy sky over rocks in Badlands National Park.
The weather can change quickly in Badlands National Park. Photo Courtesy of NPS/Shaina Niehans.

Hiking Trails in Badlands National Park

Trails in the Cedar Pass Area of Badlands National Park (North Unit)

The vast majority of hikers will spend their time in the NPS-operated North Unit of Badlands National Park, specifically in the Cedar Pass Area. This area has easy access from I-90 and includes the park headquarters, the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Most of the park’s best hikes are in the Cedar Pass Area, and the well-marked trail network has something for every ability level. Since many of these hikes are quite short and close together, you can easily knock out a few in one day. Keep reading to find the perfect hike in the Cedar Pass Area.

Map of Cedar Pass area
Detailed Map of the Cedar Pass section of Badlands National Park. NPS Map.

Door Trail

Distance: 0.75 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Door and Window Parking Area

This easy walk follows a boardwalk for the first 0.25 miles, making it a great option for wheelchairs, strollers, and anyone who enjoys less rugged surfaces. Despite its short distance, you’ll gain access to spectacular views through the Badlands Wall and to the unique badlands landscape beyond. This is a great place to watch the sunrise!

The Door Trail following a boardwalk that leads between two parts of the Badlands Wall.
The Door Trail. An easy boardwalk leads visitors through a natural “door” in the Badlands Wall. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Window Trail

Distance: 0.25 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Door and Window Parking Area

This family-friendly trail takes hikers to a spectacular natural window that has eroded into the Badlands Wall. The window provides a unique vantage point to view some of the Badlands’ most dramatic scenery, and it’s a photographer’s dream!

Views of rock formations from the Window Trail in Badlands National Park.
Views from the Window Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Notch Trail

Distance: 1.5 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous
Trailhead: Door and Window Parking Area

This hike begins as a mellow canyon walk, but ends with a dramatic flourish. After traversing within the canyon, hikers will climb a ladder out of its depths. The trail then follows an exposed ledge to reach “the Notch,” an incredible viewpoint overlooking the White River Valley. Keep in mind that this hike involves some very exposed and steep sections, and it is dangerous during periods of heavy rain.

The Notch Trail traverses an exposed ledge on the side of the canyon in Badlands National Park.
The Notch Trail traverses an exposed ledge on the side of the canyon. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Castle Trail

Distance: 10 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Trailhead: Door and Window Parking Area

Hikers looking for a longer outing will enjoy the Castle Trail. Not only does this 5-mile out-and-back trail boast great views of Badlands rock formations, but it ends at the Fossil Exhibit Trail, allowing hikers to explore the informative exhibits and replicas in that area. There are many options for customizing your hike on the Castle Trail. Those only wanting to hike one way can shuttle a vehicle to the Fossil Exhibit Trailhead. Additionally, there are options for making a loop by connecting with the Medicine Root Trail or the Saddle Pass Trail.

The eastern trailhead of the Castle Trail in Badlands National Park with green grassland in the foreground and rock formations in the background.
The Castle Trail begins by winding through prairie grasslands on its eastern end. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Cliff Shelf Trail

Distance: 0.5 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Cliff Shelf Parking Area

Don’t be fooled by the short distance of this hike- it is quite a workout! The trail follows a series of boardwalks and stairs up along the Badlands Wall. The Cliff Shelf hike allows walkers to experience a rare oasis in the heart of the Badlands. The trail weaves through a Juniper forest and past a seasonal pond. This area is a great place to see wildlife, such as bighorn sheep.

The Cliff Shelf Trail passes through juniper trees in Badlands National Park.
The Cliff Shelf Trail is unique because it passes through juniper forests. Trees are a rare sight in the Badlands. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Saddle Pass Trail

Distance: 0.25 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Trailhead: Saddle Pass Trailhead

This is another hike that packs a lot of climbing into a short distance. The Saddle Pass Trail steeply winds its way up the Badlands Wall before reaching a viewpoint overlooking the White River Valley. It ends at a junction with the Castle and Medicine Root Trails, providing lots of options for extending your hike. Use caution coming down the Saddle Pass Trail, as some sections are very steep and loose.

A steep section of trail along the Saddle Pass Trail in Badlands National Park.
The Saddle Pass Trail is very steep the entire way! Photo courtesy of NPS.

Medicine Root Trail

Distance: 4 miles (does not inlcude the distance required to access the trail)
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Saddle Pass Trailhead

This lovely trail can only be accessed via one of the other trails in the Cedar Pass network. The most direct (and also most strenuous) way to reach the Medicine Root Trail is by climbing up the Saddle Pass Trail, although it can also be accessed by starting on either end of the Castle Trail. Once you’re on the Medicine Root Trail, the terrain is mostly flat, winding its way through prairie grasslands. A nice loop can be made by connecting with the Castle Trail. There are some gorgeous wide-open views of the surrounding rock formations.

The Medicine Root Trail extends through dry grasslands towards the horizon under a blue sky in Badlands National Park.
Wide open views on the Medicine Root Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS/Ed Welsh.

Fossil Exhibit Trail

Distance: 0.25 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Fossil Exhibit Parking Area

It is a bit of a stretch to call this a “hike,” as the trail follows a level boardwalk for its entirety. That being said, it is worth a visit to see the fascinating exhibits and replicas of the prehistoric creatures that once roamed the area. Additionally, the trail can be a nice starting point for accessing the Castle Trail and the rest of the Cedar Pass trail network.

A parking lot and a trailhead sign at the Fossil Exhibit Trail in Badlands National Park.
The trailhead for the informative and interactive Fossil Exhibit Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Popular Back Roads Hikes (dog-friendly)

Sheep Mountain Table Hike

Distance: 5 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Sheep Mountain Table Overlook

This hike offers a great way to explore this scenic area without having to navigate the very rugged road in your vehicle. Park at the Sheep Mountain Table Overlook and walk along the dirt road for about 2.5 miles. This is an easy, scenic walk that makes for a great pet-friendly option. It also provides a unique opportunity to explore the remote middle section of the Badlands, straddling the North and South Units of the park.

The dirt road stretches ahead towards Sheep Mountain Table in Badlands National Park.
Sheep Mountain Table makes for a great back roads hike. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Old Northeast Road

Distance: Varies
Difficulty:Easy
Trailhead: Parking area located 0.25 miles along the road after turning off Badlands Loop Road. 

This quiet gravel road is a great option for hiking with your four-legged friend or for anyone seeking a mellow excursion. Old Northeast road is easily accessed from the Badlands Loop Road and you can customize the length of your trip to fit your preferences. The road passes through active ranchland, so keep in mind that you may encounter cattle grazing nearby. Hikers will enjoy sweeping Badlands scenery and some fascinating rock formations.

Rock formations seen while hiking along Old Northeast Road in Badlands National Park.
There are plenty of interesting rock formations to see while hiking on Old Northeast Road. Photo courtesy of NPS/Cathy Bell.

Open Hiking (Unofficial Trails)

Badlands is an “open hike” National Park, meaning that hikers are permitted to venture practically anywhere into the backcountry, regardless of if they’re on one of the designated trails. Beyond the well-marked paths, there are quite a few unofficial “social trials” in Badlands National Park. These vary from being frequently-trafficked and relatively easy to follow to being vague tracks that require advanced navigation skills. Given that these trails can lead to remote areas with little or no waymarking, it is essential that you come prepared with a navigational device and some backcountry experience. It’s a good idea to download gpx data for the trails into your phone or other device and bring a paper map as a backup.

More information about Badlands National Parks Maps is provided in this post.

Here are our two favorite unofficial trails in Badlands National Park:

Deer Haven Trail

Distance: 6-7 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Trailhead: Conata Picnic Area

This out-and-back hike is popular with backpackers, but it also makes a great day trip. The trail begins at the Conata Picnic Area, which is easily accessed from the Badlands Loop Road and the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Hikers will follow a well worn social trail through quintessential Badlands scenery. Upon rounding a corner a couple of miles in, the grassy oasis of Deer Haven will come into view. This is a dramatic swath of green set amid endless miles of rocky, barren Badlands. The trail is generally easy to follow but becomes vague or nonexistent at points so it’s important to bring a map and GPS.

A trail sign next to the start of the Deer Haven Trail in Badlands National Park.
The beginning of the Deer Haven Trail is very well defined as it leads away from the Conata Picnic Area. Photo courtesy of NPS/Ed Welsh.

Sage Creek Loop

Distance: 23 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Very Strenuous
Trailhead: Conata Picnic Area

This adventurous hike should only be attempted by hardy, experienced walkers who are confident in their navigational abilities. Most hikers complete the Sage Creek Loop in three days, allowing for a challenging but manageable pace. In addition to the somewhat strenuous physical exertion required to complete the Sage Creek Loop, hikers must also contend with route-finding (which is very unclear in places) and volatile weather conditions. It is essential that you bring enough water, as there is none available along the trail. In the summer heat, that means carrying a gallon per person, per day. The payoff for all of your hard work? Solitude, dynamic and beautiful landscapes, and abundant wildlife viewings, such as bison and pronghorn.

A rocky butte beneath blue sky with green prairie in the foreground in the Sage Creek Wilderness area in Badlands National Park.
The colorful Sage Creek Wilderness Area. Photo courtesy of NPS/Larry McAfee.

Hiking in Badlands National Park: Need to Know

What to Bring

There are a ton of variables that need to be taken into account when packing for a hike in Badlands National Park. You’ll need to consider the weather conditions (and forecast), length of your hike, and availability of nearby services.

That being said, there are a few universal items that are essential for all Badlands hikers:

  • Water: 1 quart per person per hour is recommended. We like carrying water in a hydration bladder for better weight distribution and easy access.
  • Sturdy Boots: The Badlands are very rugged, and it’s important to have supportive footwear that is up to the task and protects your feet and ankles. The terrain can also get extremely muddy, so waterproof footwear is a good idea.
  • Layers & Sunscreen: The weather changes quickly in the Badlands. It’s important to dress in layers so you can quickly adapt to the elements. Additionally, the sun is strong in the Badlands, even in the winter, making it a good idea to pack sunscreen.
  • Backpack: Most hikers will need a comfortable backpack for their outing in Badlands National Park. This is especially important for hikes like the Notch Trail and Saddle Pass Trail, where hikers will need their hands free to climb ladders and navigate steep terrain.

If you plan on backpacking in Badlands National Park, this gear list is a great starting point.

Hikers walk in the snow on the Door Trail in Badlands National Park.
You can hike year-round in Badlands National Park, provided you pack the appropriate gear. Photo courtesy of NPS/Dudley Edmondson.

Safety

  • As with any hike, notify someone of where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
  • Be prepared with extra food, water, and layers.
  • Talk to the ranger and check the weather forecast before you set out.
  • Carry and map and GPS device with you.
  • Don’t approach wildlife.
  • Wear proper footwear to protect against rocks and cacti.
  • Watch for rattlesnakes.
A bison stands in green grasslands in Badlands National Park.
There are many incredible animals that call Badlands National Park home, but it’s important to view them from a safe distance. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Time

For safety and convenience, it’s important to be able to accurately estimate how long a given hike will take you. Everyone hikes at a different pace, and your pace can be greatly affected by the terrain, weather, your hiking companions, and navigational challenges. It’s a good idea to be generous in your time estimates so you can be properly prepared. Additionally, if you want to hike at sunrise or sunset, keep in mind that you’ll travel significantly slower in the dark.

Sunset over rock formations in Badlands National Park.
Hiking at sunrise or sunset can be very rewarding, but keep in mind that you’ll cover ground more slowly in low light conditions. Photo courtesy of NPS/Mackenzie Reed.

Navigation

Even some of the official hikes in Badlands National Park can be a little tricky to follow at times. The landscape lends itself to navigational challenges because trails can easily blend into the rocky, scrubby terrain, and the canyons and washes can feel like labyrinths. It’s a good idea to use your phone or another navigational device and carry a compass and a map.

This article provides more information about Badlands National Park maps.

An aerial view of rock formations in Badlands National Park.
Navigating in Badlands National Park can be very difficult so it’s important that hikers bring a map and/or GPS.

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking for a quick family-friendly walk or a multi-day backcountry adventure, Badlands National Park has plenty of great options. The dramatic scenery, varied landscapes, and unique wildlife can be enjoyed from any of the trails in the park and there’s no better way to experience the magic of the Badlands than to get out for a hike.

Got questions or experiences you want to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Happy Trails!

Rainbow over the Badlands Wall.
Have a great trip! Photo courtesy of NPS/Larry McAfee.

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Canyonlands National Park Camping: The Complete Guide

Canyonlands National Park is eastern Utah protects an array of stunning landscapes, geology, and history. The park features two beautiful rivers in the Colorado and Green River, which have left…

Canyonlands National Park is eastern Utah protects an array of stunning landscapes, geology, and history. The park features two beautiful rivers in the Colorado and Green River, which have left their mark on this landscape by creating the stunning canyons the park is known for. Exploring the four unique districts of the park (Island in the Sky, Needles, Maze, and the actual rivers) is an experience of a lifetime.

We think the best way to experience Canyonlands is to spend a few nights in your tent taking in the incredible stargazing and desert landscape that is best appreciated firsthand. Pitching your tent or parking your RV allows visitors to slow down and take in everything this beautiful park has to offer.

Canyonlands National Park and the surrounding areas have camping options to suit any style. From the national park’s two developed campground, to its expansive backcountry that can be explored on foot, bicycle, or 4WD vehicle, to a packrafting trip on the Colorado or Green Rivers, there are nearly infinite options for camping in Canyonlands.

In addition to the campgrounds within the national park you’ll also find great options for RV,  car camping, and tons of free dispersed camping just outside the Canyonlands National Park boundary.  Needless to say, you’ll be spoiled for options.

Keeping reading to get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip in Canyonlands National Park.

View of the Green River in Canyonlands National Park

 

In this Post

 

Canyonlands National Park Campgrounds

Canyonlands National Park occupies nearly 340,000 acres of Utah’s canyon country in the southeastern portion of the state. The park is split into its various districts by the Green and Colorado Rivers, which meet at a confluence in the center of the park. Of the three land districts (the fourth is the rivers themselves), Island in the Sky is the most visited and easiest to access. 

Visitors are likely to arrive at Canyonlands by first coming though Moab and either heading the the Island in the Sky District via Highway 313 to the north, via Highway 211 south of Moab to the Needles District, or from the remote dirt roads that lead to the Maze District from the west.

The park’s developed campgrounds are located in the Island in the Sky and Needles District, respectively, while there are no developed campgrounds in the Maze. Backcountry campsites are located throughout the park and accessed via a variety of primitive roads or hiking trails.

The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the developed campgrounds are located in Canyonlands National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area. 

Map of campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park.

Map of campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. Click to enlarge.

 

Both of the campgrounds in Canyonlands, with the exception of Loop B at the Needles Campground, are open year round making a trip any time of year possible.

Keep reading to learn more about reserving your campground and securing the proper permits to camp in Canyonlands National Park.

Reservations & Permits for Canyonlands Camping

Only the Needles Campground in Canyonlands accepts advance reservations for a campsite. These reservations are  for campsites located in Loop B of the campground and are available from March 15th – June 30th as well as during the months of September and October.

Additionally, the three group campsites in the Needles District are reservable in advance between mid-March and mid-November. Reservations for both individual and group sites in Canyonlands can be made up to six months in advance via Recreation.gov.

Click here to make a reservation for the Needles Campground via Recreation.gov

The Willow Flat Campground in the Island in the Sky District does not accept reservations, and all campsites here are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Needles District

The Needles District offers countless opportunities for backpacking in Canyonlands.

 

For those interested in exploring the vast backcountry wilderness in Canyonlands on a backcountry camping trip you’ll need to secure a backcountry permit and reservation for the specific campsite you plan to stay at.

These permits & reservations can be obtained via Recreation.gov and are required for any overnight stay in the Canyonlands backcountry. The permit reservation fee is $36, regardless of how many nights you plan on backpacking.

Click here to secure a backcountry camping permit for Canyonlands National Park

Finally, for anyone planning an overnight river trip on either the Green or Colorado (or both!) Rivers in Canyonlands are required to obtain an overnight river permit prior to their trip. Similar to backpacking permits, overnight river permits for Canyonlands are secured through Recreation.gov. Permits cost $20.

Click here to secure an overnight river permit for Canyonlands National Park

River trip in Canyonlands.

Those planning an overnight river camping trip in Canyonlands will need to secure a permit in advance.

 

What to bring on your Canyonlands National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Canyonlands National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Canyonlands:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect cooking up campsite dinners.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun in Utah can be extremely strong. While there are shade structures at some of the campsites it’s always good to be able to create your own. We recommend bringing a portable shade structure like this one.
  • Portable water container – These portable water containers are a life saver.
  • Cooler – The hot temperatures here make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Canyonlands National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • Canyonlands Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Canyonlands. We like this guide to Utah’s National Parks from Fodor’s.

When to Camp in Canyonlands

Both of the campgrounds in Canyonlands are open year round, providing the opportunity for a camping trip anytime of year. However, most visitors will find that peak season in Canyonlands, generally the spring and fall, makes for the best time to plan a camping trip here.

Peak camping season in Canyonlands generally begins around mid-March and lasts through the end of April or mid-May when temperatures start to really heat up. Camping season then picks up again in the fall once the summer temperatures become more moderate in September and October.

The winter months bring cold temperatures to Canyonlands, making camping only appealing to the hardcore winter campers out there. Although large snow falls are not common, you should still be prepared!

The summer months of June, July, and August bring high temperatures consistently reaching over 100 degrees. While you can still camp during these months, you’ll need to be prepared with plenty of water and you will be limited in what you can do in the park

Find more information on the weather conditions you can expect to encounter in Canyonlands National Park here. 

Developed Campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park

There are two developed campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park as well as three group campsites. Each campground provides access to a different district of the park and provides easy access to many of the best things to do in Canyonlands.

Keep reading to learn more about your options.

Willow Flat Campground – Island in the Sky District

Number of Sites: 12 sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 28′. No hookups
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Open year round.
More Information

Willow Flat Campground in Island in the Sky Canyonlands National Park

The Willow Flat Campground. Photo credit NPS/Chris Wonderly.

 

The Willow Flat Campground is located in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. This popular campground provides easy access to the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, Green River overlook, and Mesa Arch Trail.

Willow Flat contains just 12 campsites that can accommodate tent campers as well as small RVs and trailers. The official length limit for RVs or trailers at Willow Flat is 28′.  The campground is organized in a single large loop with individual campsites located on both sides of the road.  Campsites feature nice shade structures, picnic tables, and fire rings.

There is no potable water available at the Willow Flat Campground, so be sure to plan accordingly. The closest place to get water is at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center which has an outdoor drinking water tap available from Spring – Fall.

All of the campsites at Willow Flat are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you’re hoping to secure a campsite here during either the spring or fall, be sure to arrive early as it is almost always completely full.

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park

Explore the Mesa Arch trail from your campground at Willow Flat.

 

The Needles Campground – Needles District

Number of Sites: 26 individual sites
Fee: $20/night
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 28′.
Reservations: 12 sites reservable between March 15th – June 30th & September 1st – October 31st. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round.
More Information

The Needles Campground, Canyonlands National Park

The Needles Campground. Photo credit NPS/Sheena Harper.

 

Located in the Needles District, the aptly named Needles Campground is the largest in Canyonlands National Park. The Needles Campground is the perfect place to spend the night before exploring some of the highlights of the Needles District including Elephant Canyon, the Puebloan “Roadside Ruins”, and the short Pothole Point hike.

The campground contains 26 individual campsites organized into two loops. The campsites in Loop B feel a bit more secluded from the road than those in Loop A. There is potable water available seasonally at the campground and each of the campsites features a fire ring and picnic table.

Reservations are available for 12 of the campsites located in Loop B of the Needles Campground during peak season, from March 15th – June 30th and September 1st – October 31st. All of the campsites located in Loop A are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Click here to reserve your campsite at the Needles Campground

The campground can accommodate both tents and RVs, although five of the sites are tent-only. RVs are required to be less than 28′ at the Needles Campground.

Sandstone rocks in the Needles District

 

Needles Group Campsites – Needles District

Number of Sites: 3 group campsites (Squaw Flat Group, Wooden Shoe Group & Split Top Group)
Fee: $70 – $225/night depending on the number of people.
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 25′.
Reservations: Required. Available on a six month rolling basis here. 
Season: March 15th – November 15th.
More Information

In addition to the individual campsites at the Needles Campground described above, there are also three group-campsites located in the Needles District of Canyonlands. These campsites are spread out along the main park road and can accommodate groups of between 11 – 50 campers depending on the site.

The three group campsites are reservable up to six months in advance for stays from March 15th – November 15th. The three group sites are closed outside of this time frame. Get more information or make a reservation below:

 

Backcountry camping in Canyonlands National Park

The Canyonlands backcountry presents nearly endless opportunity for an adventurous camping trip. Possibilities exist for backpacking, bikepacking, 4WD camping, and even riverside camping along one of the two rivers in the park. Each option has its own set of regulations and camping opportunities, which we’ve outlined below.

Be sure to check out the helpful videos on the Canyonlands backcountry here to help plan your trip. 

Regardless of how you plan to explore the Canyonlands backcountry you’ll need to secure an overnight permit. Advance reservations are not required for overnight permits, but they are recommended. This is especially so for trips along White Rim road during the spring and fall. Get more information on backcountry permits in Canyonlands National Park below:

Get more information on overnight permits for Canyonlands here.

Canyonlands backcountry camping

 

Backpacking in Canyonlands National Park

Backpacking in Canyonlands National Park is regulated differently depending on the section of the park you plan to explore, as outlined below.

Needles District backpacking
For those planning a trip in the Needles District you’ll need to secure a permit and reservation to stay at specific backcountry campsites. This is the most popular section of the park to backpack in, and permits are highly competitive during peak season.

Find more information on exploring the Needles District backcountry here.

Island in the Sky District backpacking
Island in the Sky backpacking is not faint of heart. This is serious canyon country and backpackers will need to be prepared for loose slopes, lack of trails, and little water availability. For those up to the challenge you’re overnight permit will specify a general backcountry zone where you are allowed to camp.

The lone exception to this is the Syncline Trail, which requires backpackers to stay at a designated campsite.

Find more information on exploring the Island in the Sky District backcountry here.

The Maze District backpacking
The least visited and most difficult district to backpack in Canyonlands is the Maze. Here you won’t find many trails and will likely need some technical rock climbing or canyoneering experience to navigate the difficult terrain. Backpackers will then be able to camp in designated zones.

For all backcountry campers in Canyonlands it is important to minimize your impact. These means practicing Leave No Trace principles and avoiding walking on or camping on the park’s unique biological soil.

Canyonlands National Park camping

 

Riverside camping in Canyonlands National Park

A float trip along either the Green or Colorado Rivers is a popular way to explore Canyonlands National Park. There are options for mellow floats along the flat water sections of the river or more adventurous trips through Cataract Canyon’s whitewater.

Whatever your preference, if you plan to camp along the river you’ll need an overnight backcountry permit. These can be obtained from the backcountry reservation office located in Moab, or from any of the visitor centers in the park.

Find more information on overnight River permits in Canyonlands National Park here.

 

4WD/Bicycle camping in Canyonlands National Park

The final way to explore the Canyonlands backcountry is to do so in your 4WD vehicle or on a mountain bike.  The park contains hundreds of miles of rugged dirt roads that provide access to some of the more remote sections of Canyonlands.

As with backpacking, you’ll need to obtain an overnight backcountry permit if you’re planning to camp while either mountain biking or exploring in your vehicle. Some of the most popular trips include:

Permits for White Rim Road can be difficult to obtain, so be sure to apply early if you hope to camp along the route during the peak fall or spring season. Also, be sure you have a plan for water as it is not available at any of the campsites along the route.

A bikepacker on White Rim Road

 

Canyonlands National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Canyonlands National Park. Before we dive in, there are a few important regulations to note:

  • Only camp in designated sites.
  • No more than ten people per campsite at the park’s two developed campgrounds.
  • Always store your food in your car, or in an animal proof container.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

Detailed information on fires, pets, wildlife, and more can be found in the sections below.

Campfires in Canyonlands

Campfires are permitted at the two developed campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park. This includes the group campsites located in the Needles District.  The fire must be contained within the provided fire pit/grate or grill and should never be left unattended.

It is also important to ensure that any wood you bring into the park is properly sourced, as firewood can introduce invasive pests that can cause irreparable damage.

In addition, campfires are permitted along the two rivers in the national park, but be sure to minimize the size to help reduce environmental impacts.

As always, do not gather any wood from the national park!

Campfires are not allowed in the backcountry of Canyonlands, so if you’re planning a backpacking trip be sure to bring a camp stove.

Campfire in grate.

 

Wildlife

The wildlife than calls Canyonlands National Park home can be difficult to spot. These desert creatures have adapted to living in a harsh environment where water is scare and temperature extremes make surviving difficult.

However,  desert adaptations of many of these animals are truly incredible and it is important to limit your impact on their fragile ecosystem. Most animal life is active during the night, although you’re likely to encounter lizards, plenty of birds, a possibly a few mammals during the day.

Campers should be especially aware of the following in Canyonlands:

  • Pack rats: This is mammal you are most likely to encounter on a camping trip in Canyonlands. Be sure to securely store all food, especially in the backcountry to limit your impact and keep these critters from eating your breakfast!
  • Snakes: Canyonlands is home to a wide variety of desert snake species. Snakes are most active at night, but be sure to always be scanning the trail for them. Although rare, the midget-faded rattlesnake is quite venomous and inhabits much of Canyonlands National Park.
  • Lizards: A hallmark of Canyonlands and the surrounding wilderness, you’re sure to see countless lizards during your trip to Canyonlands. These are harmless, but can cause quite a surprise if you’re not looking out for them.

Learn more about the wildlife in Canyonlands here.

Pets

Pets are allowed in Canyonlands National Park, but only in specific areas and under specific rules, as outlined below.

Pets are permitted in both of the developed campgrounds, on paved scenic drives, and in any parking lots in the park.

We generally recommend against bringing you pet to Canyonlands, but if you do please follow these regulations:

  • Pets must be on a leash at all times.
  • Pets are allowed within campgrounds, on park roads, and in parking lots.
  • Pets are not allowed in park buildings, on trails, or in the backcountry.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended in your vehicle. Temperatures can get extremely hot in Canyonlands.
  • Always properly dispose of pet waste.

For a complete list of regulations related to pets check out the Canyonlands National Park website here.

Where to get supplies

Canyonlands National Park sits in a very remote section of Utah’s canyon country. As a result, there are few services available in or immediately adjacent to the park. This makes it very important to stock up on any camping supplies you need before venturing into the park.

Check out your best bet for supplies below:

  • Moab, Utah: The adventure capital for many of Utah’s national parks, Moab is located a short drive north of oc Canyonlands National Park. Here you’ll find any services you could possibly need before a camping trip including gas stations, grocery stores, several excellent outdoor stores, as well as medical services for any needs you may have.

Find a complete list of services on the Discover Moab website here. 

 

Car driving towards Moab, Utah.

Moab is just a short drive from Canyonlands National Park.

 

Camping near Canyonlands National Park

A Canyonlands National Park camping trip is an experience not to be missed. However, given the popularity of the national park and the relatively limited camping options it is always possible that you’ll arrive to find no campsites available.

If this happens, all is not lost as there are plenty of good campgrounds just outside the national park boundary. From RV campgrounds with full hookups to great car camping and free dispersed camping on adjacent BLM land the you’re sure to find something that suits your needs.

If you’re looking to check out any of the other Utah National Parks, but sure to take a look at our other camping guides below:

RV campgrounds near Canyonlands

RV camping near canyonlands National park

 

Kayenta Campground (Dead Horse State Park)

Number of sites: 22 sites
Fee: $50/night during peak season
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, electric hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Kayenta Campground in Dead Horse State Park is located just north of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands. While not a full fledged RV campground with tons of amenities, you will have access to electric hookups as well as a dump station here. For those looking for a more rustic RV camping experience near Canyonlands, look no further.

Archview RV Resort & Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $58 – $77/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Archview RV Resort and Campground is located just north of Moab, UT along State Highway 191. From here, your just a 30 minutes drive from the Island in the Sky Visitor Center. Archview has all the trappings of a full service RV resort including a pool, splash pad, playground, picnic shelters, and more.

Archview gets great reviews for its location, which is perfect if you’re hoping to visit any of the other national parks in the area.

 

Needles Outpost Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $22/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Needles Outpost Campground is located about as close to Canyonlands National Park as you can get. Immediately adjacent to the Needles District and only a short drive to the Needles Visitor Center, this is the perfect place to stay if you want to be close to the park.

The campground is unique in that it is completely off the grid, so no RV hookups here. However, they do have gas, propane, and a small general store. Guests rave about the friendly hosts and tranquil setting. Highly recommended.

 

Car camping sites near Canyonlands

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Canyonlands National Park you’ll have a few good options to choose from.

In addition to the campgrounds listed below, car camping is permitted and recommend at all of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above.  Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near Canyonlands National Park.

Camping near Canyonlands National Park

 

Dead Horse State Park

Number of Sites: Kayenta Campground (21 sites) & Wingate Campground (21 sites, 11 are tent only)
Fee: $35 – $50/night depending on season and campsite type (RV or tent)
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, both campgrounds feature electric hookups at select sites.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed.

Situated just north of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands, Dead Horse State Park offers two developed campgrounds that can accommodate both RV and tent campers. The Kayenta and Wingate campgrounds are located adjacent to each other and all sites feature shade structures, picnic tables, and fire pits.

It is important to note that there is no water source at either campground, so you’ll need to come prepared with all of the water you plan on needing.

The campgrounds here are also great if you’re interesting in exploring any of the excellent hiking trails in Dead Horse State Park.

Dead Horse State Park

Dead Horse State Park makes a great place to camp if all of the campgrounds in Canyonlands are full.

 

BLM Developed Campgrounds

Number of Sites: Plenty!
Fee: $20/night
Capacity: 10 people per campsite, group sites more
RVs: Permitted at some campgrounds, but check individual campsite pages for details.
Reservations: All campgrounds are first-come, first-served
Pets: Allowed.

The Bureau of Land Management maintains dozens of developed campgrounds in the Moab area. These campgrounds are all first-come, first-served and make a great option for basic car camping just outside of Canyonlands National Park.

While all of the campgrounds in the Moab area will work well for a visit to Canyonlands, the following are especially well-located:

  • Cowboy Camp: North of the Island in the Sky District. 7 campsites, and no RVs.
  • Horsethief: North of the Island in the Sky District. 85 individual campsites, five group sites. RVs allowed, but no hookups.
  • Hatch Point: East of the Needles District. 10 campsites.
  • Windwhistle: East of the Needles District. 15 campsites.

You can check out the BLM map below which shows all of their campgrounds in the Moab area. Also, be sure to check our their excellent brochure for additional information.

Map of BLM campgrounds near Canyonlands National Park

Map of BLM campgrounds near Canyonlands National Park. Map courtesy of BLM. Click to enlarge.

 

Glamping Canyonlands

Number of Sites: Three “glamping” tents available
Fee: $85/night
Capacity: Two people per tent.
RVs: N/A
Reservations: Required. Reserve here. 
Pets: Not allowed.

Glamping Canyonlands is not a typical campground, but may appeal to your more luxurious side. Located east of the Needles District in Canyonlands, this upstart glamping operation currently has three tents that all feature queen beds, a small deck, and comfortable chairs.

You’ll be well located here to explore both Canyonlands and the rest of the Moab area.

 

Free dispersed camping near Canyonlands

The final option for camping outside of Canyonlands National Park is to find a free, dispersed campground on the adjacent BLM land. This is a bit trickier than you might expect given the huge swaths of public land in this section of Utah, but it is important to know where dispersed camping is allowed.

First, and most importantly, there is no dispersed camping permitted within 20 miles of Moab.

This is to help protect the sensitive ecosystem of this extremely popular landscape. Please obey this requirement and take advantage of the options below or stay at of the campgrounds listed in the sections above.

Here are you best bets for free dispersed camping near Canyonlands National Park:

  • Dubinsky Well Road: Located north of the Island in the Sky District, this free dispersed camping area can accommodate up to 12 groups. Located north of the Lone Mesa Campground just off BLM Road 137.
  • Gemini Bridges Road: Just south of Moab a 4WD road leads to the Bride’s Canyon trailhead. Just before reaching the trailhead there are several beautiful campsites located on the north side of the road.
  • Mineral Bottom: The Mineral Bottom dispersed camping area is located just northwest of Canyonlands National Park, although it will be quite a drive to actually enter the park. Recommended only if the other options are full.

 

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on Canyonlands National Park camping in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!

Canyonlands National Park camping

 

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Badlands National Park | Maps & Resources

Badlands National Park preserves over 240,000 acres of prairie grassland, sandstone spires, and stunning rock formations in southwestern South Dakota. The park is somewhat remote, with few major cities in…

Badlands National Park preserves over 240,000 acres of prairie grassland, sandstone spires, and stunning rock formations in southwestern South Dakota. The park is somewhat remote, with few major cities in close proximity to its borders.

Badlands is also unique in the fact that it’s managed by both the National Park Service as well as the Oglala Lakota Tribe, which manages what is known as the South Unit. Given the large size and unique geography of the park, it is especially important to have a good sense of where you plan to visit and what you’d like to see.

To help with this, we’ve created this complete guide to all of the Badlands National Park maps you’ll need to ensure you don’t waste time figuring out how to get from point A to B and can instead enjoy your trip to this incredible national park.

Let’s get started.

View of sandstone rocks in the Badlands

 

In this Post

Where is Badlands National Park?

Badlands National Park is located in southwestern South Dakota, approximately 1 hour east of Rapid City. The park can generally be divided into the North and South Units, with the North Unit being the more frequently visited section of the park.

In addition, Badlands National Park also includes a small “island” of land that is not contiguous with the main park. Known as the Palmer Creek Unit, this section of the park sits entirely within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Check out the overview map below to get a general sense of the location of Badlands National Park.

Map showing the location of Badlands National Park

Overview map of Badlands National Park. Click to enlarge.

 

Zooming in a bit from the high-level overview provided above, you’ll see on the map below that Badlands National Park has several other public lands close by, including Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

You can also see that there are several small towns that provide access to the various sections of the park, with the main entrance points being the towns of Scenic, Wall, and Interior, SD.

Map of the area surrounding Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park Area Map. NPS map.  Click to enlarge.

 

Looking for a PDF map of the Badlands National Park Area Map? Click here to download directly from the National Park Service.

 

Badlands National Park Maps

The following sections contain all the map resources you’ll need to plan your perfect trip to Badlands National Park. We’ve compiled maps from the National Park Service as well as created a few of our own to help supplement what the park service provides.

As always, you can find the full set of Badlands National Park maps produced by the National Park Service here.

Badlands National Park Brochure Map

The park brochure map provides a nice general orientation to Badlands National Park and is useful for getting a sense of where the main attractions are located. Use it to help organize your trip, understand distances in the park, and think about where you may want to stay during your visit.

Badlands National Park map

Map of Badlands National Park from the NPS park brochure. NPS map. Click to enlarge.

 

Interested in a PDF map of the Badlands National Park Brochure Map? Click here to download directly from the National Park Service.

 

Detailed maps of the Cedar Pass area of Badlands National Park

Most visitors will start their trip to the Badlands by stopping at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, which serves as the park headquarters. This frequently visited section of the park also includes the main campground, the start of the Badlands Loop Road, and several popular hikes.

Map of Cedar Pass area

Detailed Map of the Cedar Pass section of Badlands National Park. NPS Map. Click to enlarge.

 

Interested in a PDF map of the Cedar Pass Area Map? Click here to download directly from the National Park Service.

For those interested in exploring the Cedar Pass section of the park, we recommend checking out the following:

Badlands National Park Campground Map

For those interested in camping during their visit to Badlands National Park, we’ve put together a complete guide below.

Check out the Complete Guide to Camping in Badlands National Park here.

We’ve also created the map below to give you a sense of where the park’s two main campgrounds are located.

Map of campsites at Badlands National Park

Car camping options in Badlands National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. Click to enlarge.

 

In addition, the NPS also provides a helpful map of the popular Cedar Pass Campground, as shown below.

Map of the Cedar Pass Campground

Map of the Cedar Pass Campground in Badlands National Park. NPS Map. Click to enlarge.

 

Getting to Badlands National Park

Most visitors will travel to the Badlands by taking Interstate 90, which runs just north of the national park. From here, you’ll have easy access to the Pinnacles Entrance from the town of Wall as well as the Northeast Entrance from State Highway 240.

For those coming from the south, Highway 44 brings visitors to the town of Interior and the main park headquarters. Highway 44 continues west from here to the town of Scenic, which provides access to the South Unit in Badlands.

Use the Google Map below to get directions from your specific location to Badlands National Park:

Main park entrances

Badlands National Park has four main entrances conveniently located throughout the park. These include:

  • Interior Entrance: The main entrance to the park.
  • Northeast Entrance: Easily accessed from I-90 and close to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center.
  • Pinnacles Entrance: Accessed from the town of Wall, the Pinnacles Entrance provides access to the Sage Creek Area.
  • White River Entrance: The only entrance to the South Unit and the White River Visitor Center.

Map of entrance stations to Badlands National Park.

Map of entrance stations to Badlands National Park. NPS map. Click to enlarge.

Getting around Badlands National Park

Finally, it is important to have a sense of the main roads through the park and how they connect to the various sections of the Badlands.

Badlands Loop Road

The Badlands Loop Road is the main thoroughfare through the North Unit of Badlands National Park. Connecting the the main visitor center with the Pinnacles Overlook, this winding road takes visitors through much of the most stunning scenery that the Badlands have to offer.

Sage Creek Rim Road

Sage Creek Rim Road continues west from where the Badlands Loop Road ends near the Pinnacles Overlook. The road is unpaved, so travel can be slow going at times. The Sage Creek Rim Road will bring visitors to the less-visited sections of the Badlands where you’re likely to encounter some of the wildlife that call the park home.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope these mapping resources for Badlands National Park have given you an overview of this incredible landscape. Let us know of any other maps you’d like to see in the comments below!

Close up view of the Badlands

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The Complete Guide to Camping in Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park, located in central Kentucky, is one of America’s most unique national parks. The park preserves the longest cave system in the world, known as Mammoth Cave,…

Mammoth Cave National Park, located in central Kentucky, is one of America’s most unique national parks. The park preserves the longest cave system in the world, known as Mammoth Cave, which contains a staggering 400+ miles of underground tunnels. In addition to the cave system, the park also preserves a variety of landscapes including rivers, dense forest, and an incredible diversity of animal and plant life.

The only national park in Kentucky, Mammoth Cave is easily accessed from many major cities in the mid-west and south. Given this, we think the best way to experience Mammoth Cave National Park is to spend a night sleeping in your tent or RV, where you’ll get to experience this incredible environment first hand. 

The park features plenty of camping opportunities, from the three developed campgrounds, to the thirteen backcountry campsites, as well as opportunities for camping along one of the park’s beautiful rivers. In addition to the campgrounds founds within Mammoth Cave, there are also great options for RV and car camping, and a few free campsites just outside the park’s boundary. Needless to say, you’ll be spoiled for options.

Keeping reading to get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip in Mammoth Cave National Park.

In this Post

 

Mammoth Cave National Park Campgrounds

Mammoth Cave National Park is well served by a variety of campgrounds. Visitors are likely to access the park from the south, where the main visitor center is located. The park is generally divided into a northern and southern section, with the Green River serving as the dividing line. Campgrounds are provided in both sections, with the majority of the backcountry campsites located in the less-developed northern section of Mammoth Cave.

There are three “front country” developed campgrounds located in Mammoth Cave National Park. These campgrounds are well dispersed and provide visitors with great camping options regardless of which section of Mammoth Cave they plan on exploring.

In addition, there are thirteen backcountry campgrounds located in the wilderness of Mammoth Cave. These backcountry campsites are concentrated in the north-west section of Mammoth Cave and can be accessed by a number of excellent hiking trails. Finally, those who plan to camp along either the Green or Nolan Rivers will have nearly unlimited options in the national park.

The map below gives you a general sense of where each of these campgrounds are located in Mammoth Cave National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area. 

Map of campgrounds in Mammoth Cave National Park

Campgrounds in Mammoth Cave National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

Of the developed campgrounds, only the Houchin Ferry Campground is open year round. Both Mammoth Cave and Maple Springs Campgrounds are closed seasonally from December 1st – February 28th.

Keep reading to learn about reservations and permits for camping in Mammoth Cave National Park. 

Reservations & Permits

Reservations are required for all of the campsites within Mammoth Cave National Park. This includes the park’s three developed campgrounds as well as the thirteen backcountry sites. To make a reservation at any of the campgrounds in Mammoth Cave, head over to Recreation.gov, which handles all booking for the national park.

Reservations are generally available on a 6-month rolling basis, with availability opening up at 10am ET for 6 months out. We highly recommend making your reservation as early as possible, especially on busy summer weekends, as all of the campgrounds in the park are known to fill up.

Reservations for Mammoth Cave National Park Campgrounds can be made here via Recreation.gov

The Mammoth Cave and Maple Springs Campgrounds only accept reservations from March 1st – November 30th each year, while the more basic Houchin Ferry Campground accepts reservations year round.

Boats along the Green River.

 

For the adventurous campers out there who hope to plan a backcountry camping or riverside camping trip in Mammoth Cave National Park you’ll also need to secure a permit in advance.

The thirteen backcountry campsites in the national park have an online reservation system that requires advance booking. This can be done online through Recreation.gov or by visiting the Mammoth Cave Campground information kiosk. Permits cost $10 regardless of the number of nights you plan on camping. We recommend utilizing Recreation.gov for this as you’ll have a better chance of getting your desired campground if you book in advance.

Click here to reserve you backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave National Park

For riverside camping in Mammoth Cave you do not need advance reservations, but a permit is required. This can be obtained the day of your trip for free at the Mammoth Cave Campground Kiosk.

Learn more about backcountry & riverside camping in Mammoth Cave in this section.

What to bring on your Mammoth Cave National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Mammoth Cave National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Shenandoah:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for whipping up classic campsite dinners.
  • Tick repellent– Ticks are common throughout this part of Kentucky, and while it is always a good idea to wear long pants, this tick repellent from Ben’s is worth applying when out hiking or camping.
  • Portable water container – Save yourself the countless trips to the water tap and bring one of these.
  • Cooler – The hot summer temperatures make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Mammoth Cave National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • Mammoth Cave Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Mammoth Cave.

When to Camp in Mammoth Cave National Park

Only the Houchin Ferry Campground in Mammoth Cave is open year-round, with the other two developed campgrounds closed seasonally during the winter months from December 1st – February 28th. Peak season for camping in Mammoth Cave National Park is generally during the summer months from May – September.

Winter in Mammoth Cave brings colder weather, with average daily temperatures from December – February in the 35 – 40 degree range. The park warms considerably heading into the Spring with average daily highs reaching into the 60s by April. Summer brings hot and humid days, although still a very pleasant time to camp. 

We think the best time to camp in Mammoth Cave National Park is from April – October when temperatures are warm. Summer months will be hotter, but you’ll be able to take advantage of the many things to do in the national park.

Find more information on the weather conditions you can expect to encounter in Mammoth Cave National Park here. 

Autumn colors in Mammoth Cave National Park.

Autumn can be a lovely time to camp in Mammoth Cave National Park. Photo credit NPS.

 

Developed Campgrounds

There are three developed campgrounds located in Mammoth Cave National Park. These campgrounds are easily accessed via the park’s excellent road network and offer a variety of camping experiences.

Keep reading for all the details. 

Mammoth Cave Campground

Number of Sites: 111 sites
Fee: $20/night for individual sites // $50/night for full hookup RV sites
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 38′.
Reservations: Available from March 1st – November 30th. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open from March 1st – November 30th.
More Information

The Mammoth Cave Campground

Mammoth Cave Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Mammoth Cave Campground is the largest and most popular campground in Mammoth Cave National Park. Located adjacent to the visitor center and hub of activity for the park, this is a very convenient place to spend the night.

The campground is perfect for those looking to take an iconic cave tour, hike the Green River Bluffs trail, or tackle the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike and Hike Trail. Be sure to visit the nearby Mammoth Cave Visitor Center for an excellent introduction to the park and great information on all Mammoth Cave has to offer.

The Mammoth Cave Campground features 111 campsites that can accommodate tents, RVs, and even some larger groups. 37 of the campsites are tent-only, while there are four group campsites that can accommodate up to 16 people each. The remaining sites can accommodate both tents and RVs, and will be perfect for most campers.

The campground is organized into three loops, with each loop featuring restrooms and drinking water. Nearby you’ll find the Caver’s Camp Store, which stocks essentials that you may have forgotten.

Campsites at the Mammoth Cave Campground are reservable up to six months in advance during peak season, from March 1st – November 30th each year.

Click here to reserve your campsite at the Mammoth Cave Campground

Check out the map linked below for a detailed map of the campground as well as more information on the features of each campsite.

Map of the Mammoth Cave Campground.

Map of the Mammoth Cave Campground. Courtesy of NPS.

 

Maple Springs Group Campground

Number of Sites: 8 sites, including two with electric/water hookups
Fee: $25 – $35/night depending on hookups
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 40′.
Reservations: Available from March 1st – November 30th. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open from March 1st – November 30th.
More Information

Picnic tables at the Maple Springs Campground in Mammoth Cave National Park

Maple Springs Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Maple Springs Campground in Mammoth Cave National Park features eight campsites that can accommodate large groups as well as equestrian users. Located on the north side of the Green River, this is an excellent campground for those looking to escape from the busy visitor center area.

Maple Springs is perfect for groups hoping to hike on the Sal Hollow and Buffalo Creek Trail or visit the historic Good Spring Church.

The eight campsites at Maple Springs are designed to accommodate a variety of users. There is a single group site for those without horses that can accommodate up to 16 campers, as well as equestrian group sites both with and without electric hookups. Head over to Recreation.gov at the link below to learn more about the specific sites and to reserve.

Click here to reserve your campsite at the Maple Springs Campground

All of the campsites at Maple Springs include a picnic table, fire ring and access to potable water.

Campsites at the Maple Springs Campground are reservable up to six months in advance during peak season, from March 1st – November 30th each year.

 

Houchin Ferry Campground

Number of Sites: 12 tent-only sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Not allowed.
Reservations: Required year round. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round.
More Information

Tent at the Houchin Ferry Campground

Houchin Ferry Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Houchin Ferry Campground is located in Mammoth Cave’s far northwest corner and is easily accessed from the nearby town of Brownsville, KY. Located on the Green River, the Houchin Ferry Campground is small and only accommodates tents, making it the perfect rustic escape.

Those camping here will be well positioned for a boat trip on the Green River and still only a short drive from the main visitor center and park attractions.

Houchin Ferry features 12 tent-only campsites tucked into a serene location along the river. The campsites all feature fire rings, picnic tables, and easy access to drinking water. Houchin Ferry is the only campground in Mammoth Cave National Park that is open year-round, making it attractive for the hearty winter campers out there!

Campsites at the Houchin Ferry Campground are reservable up to six months in advance at the link below.

Click here to reserve your campsite at the Houchin Ferry Campground

 

Backcountry camping in Mammoth Cave National Park

In addition to the developed campgrounds described in the section above, Mammoth Cave National Park also provides incredible opportunities for the adventurous campers out there. The park features miles of hiking trails that connect a system of 13 backcountry campsites and also allows for backcountry camping along the Green and Nolan Rivers for those on a float trip.

The primitive nature of these campsites means you won’t find any bathrooms, water taps, or other amenities that the developed campgrounds in the park offer. In exchange for roughing it you’ll be treated to a solitude only possible by venturing off the beaten path!

The National Park Service publishes an excellent Backcountry Map & Guide available here. 

Keep reading to learn more about backcountry camping in Mammoth Cave National Park.

Riverside Camping in Mammoth Cave

A unique way to experience Mammoth Cave National Park is to take a river camping trip along the Green or Nolan Rivers. These beautiful rivers provide a level of solitude that is difficult to come by in other sections of the park. Camping along either of these rivers couldn’t be easier, just be sure to follow these simple regulations:

  • Obtain a free riverside camping permit at the Mammoth Cave Campground prior to setting out.
  • Camping is permitted on the river shores as well as islands within the park boundary.
    • The exception is that camping is prohibited within the Green River Ferry, Houchin Ferry and Dennison Ferry Day Use Area. Camp at least 1/2 mile from any of these locations.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

The NPS also recommends checking water levels before setting out on a riverside camping trip in Mammoth Cave National Park.

Check out all the details on riverside camping from the NPS here.

Backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave

In addition to backcountry riverside camping, Mammoth Cave National Park also allows for traditional backcountry camping at a series of 13 backcountry campsites. These campsites are generally located in the less-visited northwest section of the park and allow visitors to explore a quieter side of Mammoth Cave.

Check out the map below for the location of all thirteen campsites. 

Map of backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave National Park.

Map of backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

The campsites must be reserved in advance and users are required to obtain a backcountry use permit for any backpacking trip in Mammoth Cave. The permits cost $10 per group, regardless of the number of nights you plan on camping. The full list of backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave National Park is below:

  • Second Creek
  • First Creek 1
  • First Creek 2
  • Three Springs
  • Ferguson
  • Collie Ridge
  • McCoy Hollow
  • Bluffs
  • Sal Hollow
  • Raymer Hollow
  • Homestead
  • Turnhole Bend
  • White Oak

To reserve your campsites and backcountry use permit you’ll head over to Recreation.gov, which has a full itinerary builder for Mammoth Cave.

Reserve your backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave National Park here.

Backcountry campsite in Mammoth Cave National Park

A backcountry campsite in Mammoth Cave. Photo credit NPS/Mary Schubert.

 

Mammoth Cave National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Mammoth Cave National Park. First, it is important to familiarize yourself with the general camping regulations in the park:

  • For developed campground check-in time is 2pm and check-out is by 11am
  • Generators are permitted from 8am – 8pm at developed campgrounds
  • Quiet hours are 10pm – 6am

For a full list of camping regulations in Mammoth Cave National Park be sure to read the sections below and find the full list of regulations here.

Campfires in Mammoth Cave

Fires are allowed in both the developed campgrounds as well as the 13 established backcountry campsites in Mammoth Cave. Campfires must be contained in the provided fire rings and always remember to never leave a fire unattended.

It is also important to not bring any wood with you into Mammoth Cave National Park. Firewood can carry invasive pests that can cause serious damage to the fragile ecosystem. Firewood is available for purchase at the Caver’s Camp Store near the visitor center.

Campfire in a grate.

Fires are permitted in the provided fire grates in Mammoth Cave National Park.

 

Wildlife

Mammoth Cave National Park is home to a huge diversity of wildlife that makes this one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Many of these unique species live deep underground in the cave system and have unique adaptations found nowhere else in the world.

In addition, there are a few animals and insects that campers should be especially aware of:

  • Ticks: Ticks are found throughout Mammoth Cave National Park and campers should be on especially high alert. We suggest wearing light colored clothing, long pants, and frequently check yourself and any pets for ticks.
  • Snakes: Venomous snakes do inhabit the national park, although they tend to be more active at night. Always keep an eye out and leave any snakes you do see undisturbed.
  • Bats: Bats thrive in Mammoth Cave National Park, and while most are harmless it is important to be aware of any signs of rabies. Always leave any bats you encounter alone, especially if they are behaving strangely.

You can find more information on the wildlife of Mammoth Cave National Park here.

 

Pets

Mammoth Cave permits pets within the National Park, although with several strict guidelines as outlined below.

  • Pets must be leashed at all times.
  • Pets are allowed on all trails in the park.
  • Pets are not allowed in any park building or in the caves.
  • Always properly dispose of your pet’s waste.

If you do bring your pet and plan on visiting a section of the park where they are not allowed, the Mammoth Cave Lodge provides a pet boarding service. 

For a complete list of regulations related to pets check out the Mammoth Cave National Park website here.

Dog walking on a trail.

 

Where to get supplies

Unlike many national parks, Mammoth Cave has easy access to several nearby towns with plenty of services. This makes planning a camping trip here convenient, as you’ll have no problem stocking up on supplies before your trip. Check out your best options to pick up camping supplies near Mammoth Cave National Park below:

Camping near Mammoth Cave National Park

The campgrounds in Mammoth Cave National Park all provide excellent options for your perfect camping trip. However, it is always possible that you may not be able to secure a campsite within the park boundaries or you may want more amenities than what the NPS campgrounds offer.

If that is the case, don’t fret, as there are plenty of great camping options outside of Mammoth Cave National Park. Check out your best bets for RV campgroundscar camping, and free camping near Mammoth Cave National Park below.

RV campgrounds

Those searching for RV campgrounds just outside of Mammoth Cave National Park will have several great options. We’ve organized the campgrounds by their geographic location, either north of the park, or in the southeast of the park near Cave City.

Keep reading to learn more.

RV parked near Mammoth Cave

 

RV Campgrounds near Cave City/Southeast of Mammoth Cave National Park

Rock Cabin Camping

Number of sites: Plenty
Fee: $25 – $33/night for RV sites and $18/night for tent sites
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Call 270-773-4740.
Pets: Allowed

Located just outside the park boundary, Rock Cabin Camping is a basic but well run campground. Here you can choose from basic tent sites to full hookup RV sites, all at very reasonable prices. There aren’t tons of amenities at the campground, but it does get rave review for the incredibly friendly and helpful owners.

 

Diamond Caverns RV Resort

Number of sites: 68 sites
Fee: $38 – $65/night depending on hookups, RV size.
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed

The Diamond Caverns RV Resort is located immediately south of Mammoth Cave National Park and is just a 15 minute drive from the visitor center. This is a large campground which can accommodate all variety of tents and RVs. Amenities include a swimming pool, laundry facilities, WiFi, and a playground. This is a busier campground so we recommend it for those who aren’t looking for a rustic experience.

 

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park – Mammoth Cave

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $36 – $131/night depending on site and amenities
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed

Located just 15 minutes from the Mammoth Cave Visitor Center, Jellystone Mammoth Cave is a great option for full service family camping. Here you’ll find tons of family-friendly activities including a huge water slide, jumping pillows, mini-golf, and more. While the campground is certainly more costly than most, it may be worth it if you’ll take advantage of everything on offer.

 

Horse Cave KOA

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $38 – $50/night
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed

The Horse Cave KOA Campground is located a bit further from Mammoth Cave National Park than the other options in this section, but it provides a great option for those looking for a predictable camping experience. Equipped with all the amenities KOA’s are known for, you’ll enjoy a swimming pool, basketball court, laundry facilities and WiFi.

 

RV Campgrounds north of Mammoth Cave National Park

Double J Stables and Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $25/night
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Call 270-286-8167.
Pets: Allowed

The Double J Stables and Campground is located immediately north of Mammoth Cave National Park and provides a great campground for both equestrian users as well as those looking for a relaxing place to spend the night. The campground can accommodate RVs with full hookups as well as simple tent camping, all at very affordable rates. Amenities are basic, but include WiFi, fire rings, picnic tables, a playground, and more. Highly recommended, especially those interested in horseback riding in Mammoth Cave!

 

Mammoth Cave Horse Camp

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $16 – $26/night
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed

As the name suggests, Mammoth Cave Horse Camp features campsites that can accommodate anyone traveling with a horse. However, even for those who are just looking for a great campground, Mammoth Cave Horse Camp is a great option. Located on the northwest side of the park, this is a perfect place to spend the night before setting out to explore this less visited section of Mammoth Cave. Affordable rates and friendly staff earn this campground high marks!

 

Car camping sites

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Mammoth Cave National Park you’ll want to check out Nolan Lake State Park, described below. In addition to the campground here, car camping is permitted and recommend at all of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above.  Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near Mammoth Cave.

Car camping site near Mammoth Cave National Park.

 

Nolan Lake State Park

Number of Sites: 32 full hookup site + 27 primitive tent sites
Fee: $16 – $32/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, hookups available at specific sites.
Reservations: Recommended. Reserve here. 
Pets: Allowed.

Nolan Lake State Park is conveniently located just a few miles north of Mammoth Cave National Park. The large campground here can accommodate both RVs and car campers with a variety of campsites available. You’ll have great lake views and be able to enjoy swimming, mountain biking, and easy access to the surrounding area.

 

Free camping near Mammoth Cave

Your final option for camping near Mammoth Cave National Park is to try and find a free campsite in the surrounding area. While certainly not as easy in this part of the country when compared to the abundant free camping available in the western US, you’ll have at least one good option.

Located approximately 30 minutes from Mammoth Cave, Thelma Stovall Park in Munfordville, KY generally allows free camping for a few nights. While not officially listed on the City’s website, there are numerous reports on FreeCampsites.net that camping is permitted here at no cost.

We recommend inquiring with the City prior to camping here.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Mammoth Cave National Park in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!

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The Complete Guide to Camping in Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah preserves an incredible landscape and history. This beautiful and unique national park features stunning canyons, red rock cliffs, and the geologic wonders known…

Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah preserves an incredible landscape and history. This beautiful and unique national park features stunning canyons, red rock cliffs, and the geologic wonders known as the Waterpocket Fold and Cathedral Valley. Capitol Reef is is named after the large sandstone formations that evoke the capitol domes founds in statehouses across the country.

The park is also incredibly remote, making it the perfect place to do some serious stargazing. In fact, Capitol Reef has been designed as an international dark sky parkGiven all that, we think the best way to experience all that Capitol Reef National Park has to offer is by spending the night in your tent or RV where you’ll experience this beautiful landscape first hand.

Capitol Reef National Park and the surrounding areas have camping options to suit any style. From the national park’s lone developed campground, free primitive campgrounds for those with an adventurous spirit, and endless opportunities for backcountry camping, you’re sure to find the perfect campsite for your next trip to Capitol Reef.

In addition to the campgrounds within the national park you’ll also find great options for RV,  car camping, and tons of free dispersed camping just outside the Capitol Reef National Park boundary.  Needless to say, you’ll be spoiled for options.

Keeping reading to get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip in Capitol Reef National Park

Rock formation in Capitol Reef

The stunning rock formations are just one reason to camp in Capitol Reef National Park.

 

In this Post

 

Capitol Reef National Park Campgrounds

Capitol Reef National Park occupies a long and narrow section of Utah’s canyon country. The park is approximately 60 miles long from north to south, but is only a few miles wide for much of its length. This naturally splits the park into northern and southern districts, with remote terrain separating the two sections.

The main access to Capitol Reef is from Utah State Highway 24, which cuts east-west across the park’s northern district. The vast majority of visitors will arrive on this highway and head to Fruita, the main hub of activity in Capitol Reef National Park.

Temple of the sun and moon in Cathedral Valley

Explore Cathedral Valley by camping at the Cathedral Valley primitive campground in Capitol Reef.

 

There is a single developed campground in Capitol Reef, located in Fruita. In addition to the Fruita Campground there are also two ‘primitive’ campgrounds in the park. These are well-located for exploring the different districts of Capitol Reef, with the Cathedral Valley Campground located in the northern district and the Cedar Mesa Campground located in the southern district.

In addition to these designated campgrounds Capitol Reef is also home to vast backcountry wilderness open to camping that can be accessed by foot. Given the unforgiving landscape of Capitol Reef, these campgrounds are only for the experienced and prepared backcountry camper.

The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the developed & primitive campgrounds are located in Capitol Reef National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area. 

Map of campgrounds in Capitol Reef National Park

Campgrounds in Capitol Reef National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

All of the campgrounds in Capitol Reef, with the exception of the Fruita Group Campsite, are open year round making a trip any time of year possible. However, keep in mind that it may be difficult to reach the Cathedral Valley and Cedar Mesa campgrounds during inclement weather.

Keep reading to learn more about reserving your campground in Capitol Reef National Park.

Reservations & Permits

The developed Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef accepts reservations from March 1st – October 31st each year. Campsites here are reserved through Recreation.gov and reservations can be made up to six months in advance.

Click here to make a reservation for the Fruita Campground via Recreation.gov

In addition, the group campsite at the Fruita Campground which can accommodate groups of up to 40 people requires an advance reservation. The group campsite is open seasonally and reservations can be made up to 12 months in advance via Recreation.gov.

Click here to make a reservation for the Fruita Group Campground via Recreation.gov

The two primitive campgrounds located in Capitol Reef, Cathedral Valley and Cedar Mesa, do not allow advance reservations. Both of these campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the year. If you’re looking to grab a campsite at either of these campgrounds during the peak season we highly recommend you arrive early as spots tend to fill up on busy weekends!

Tent in Capitol Reef National Park

 

For those interested in exploring the vast backcountry wilderness in Capitol Reef on a backcountry camping trip you’ll need to secure a free backcountry use permit. These permits can be obtained at the Fruita Visitor Center during normal business hours and are required for any overnight stay in Capitol Reef’s backcountry.

Information on backcountry regulations in Capitol Reef can be found here.

Backcountry wilderness in Capitol Reef National Park

Explore Capitol Reef’s vast wilderness on a backcountry camping trip.

 

What to bring on your Capitol Reef National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Capitol Reef National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Capitol Reef:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for Capitol Reef as campfires are prohibited throughout the park.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun in Utah can be extremely strong. While there is some shade at the Fruita Campground it’s always good to be able to create your own. We recommend bringing a portable shade structure like this one.
  • Portable water container – These portable water containers are a life saver.
  • Cooler – The hot temperatures here make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Capitol Reef National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • Capitol Reef Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Capitol Reef. We like this guide to all 62 National Parks from Moon Guides. This Capitol Reef Hiking Guide is also a great resource.

When to Camp in Capitol Reef National Park

All three of the campgrounds (just not the Fruita Group site) in Capitol Reef National Park are open year round providing the opportunity for a camping trip throughout the year. However, peak season for camping in Capitol Reef is generally from March 1st – October 31st.

The winter months bring snow and cold temperatures to Capitol Reef, making camping only appealing to the hardcore winter campers out there. In addition, the summer months bring high temperatures consistently reaching into the 90s and 100s during the day in July and August. While you can still camp during these months, you’ll need to be prepared with plenty of water.

Winter in Capitol Reef national park

Winter in Capitol Reef brings snow and tough camping conditions. Photo credit NPS/Chris Roundtree

 

We think the best time to camp in Capitol Reef is during the spring and fall when temperatures are more moderate and you’ll be able to take advantage of the many things to do in the national park.

Find more information on the weather conditions you can expect to encounter in Capitol Reef National Park here. 

Developed Campgrounds

There is a single developed campground in Capitol Reef National Park, located in Fruita. In addition, the Fruita Campground also features a group campsite and has easy access to the majority of services in the national park.

Keeping reading for all the details. 

Fruita Campground

Number of Sites: 71 sites
Fee: $20/night
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 50′.
Reservations: Available from March 1st – October 31st. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round.
More Information

Tents in the Fruita Campground

The Fruita Campground is a beautiful place to spend the night. Photo credit NPS/Ann Huston.

 

The Fruita Campground is the lone fully developed campground in Capitol Reef National Park. Located just south of the visitor center, the campground sits adjacent to the Fremont River making for an idyllic place to spend the night.

The campground is well located for exploring the Cohab Canyon Trail, Fremont River Trail, as well as the historic Fruita Schoolhouse. Be sure to check out the Park Service’s excellent list of hikes in the Fruita area here and also download the Fruita Area Map & Guide.

The Fruita Campground contains 71 individual campsites and one group campsite. The campground is organized into three loops (A, B, and C) with each loop having access to restrooms. Potable water and a dump station are available near the entrance to the campground. Campsites at the Fruita Campground come well-equipped with a picnic table and fire grate/grill.

Campsites at the Fruita Campground are reservable up to six months in advance during peak season, from March 1st – October 31st each year. Outside of this time frame all of the campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Click here to reserve your campsite at the Fruita Campground

The campground can accommodate both tents and RVs, with multiple sites able to fit campers in excess of 40′ in length. There are also several walk-in tent sites at the Fruita Campground, perfect for those with a smaller set-up. Check out the map linked below for a detailed map of the campground as well as more information on the features of each campsite.

View a map of the Fruita Campground here. 

Fremont River from the Cohab Canyon Trail

The Fruita Campground provides easy access to the Cohab Canyon Trail. Photo credit NPS/Chris Roundtree.

 

Fruita Group Campground

Number of Sites: 1 group site
Fee: $100/night
Capacity: 40 people
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 50′.
Reservations: Required. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open seasonally from mid-April to mid-October
More Information

Fruita Group Campground in Capitol Reef National Park

The Fruita Group Campground can accommodate up to 40 people. Photo credit NPS/A. Huston.

 

In addition to the 71 individual campsites, the Fruita Campground also features a large, group campsite. Located in a secluded area away from the main campground, the Fruita Group Campsite can accommodate up to 40 campers at a time. You’ll enjoy access to picnic tables, fire grate, and a covered shelter.

The Fruita Group Campground costs $100/night to reserve regardless of how many people are camping and has a limit of 10 total vehicles. RVs are welcome, but keep in mind that anything longer than 27′ will have a difficult time navigating the parking area.

Reservations for the Fruita Group Campground are required and can be made up to 12-months in advance via Recreation.gov. The campground is only open during the peak season, generally from mid-April through mid-October.

Reservations for the Fruita Group Campground can be made here. 

Barn in the Gifford Homestead in Capitol Reef National Park

Explore the Gifford Homestead from your campsite at the Fruita Group Campground.

 

Primitive Campgrounds

In addition the developed Fruita Campground, Capitol Reef National Park features two primitive campgrounds located on the park’s iconic dirt roads. These campgrounds are located in the northern and southern districts of Capitol Reef, allowing visitors to camp and explore different sections of the park.

The primitive nature of these campsites means you won’t find any flush toilets, water taps, or other amenities that developed campgrounds offer. In exchange for roughing it you’ll be treated to a solitude only possible by venturing off the beaten path!

Keep reading to learn more about the two primitive campgrounds in Capitol Reef National Park.

Cathedral Valley Campground

Number of Sites: 6 sites
Fee: Free
RVs: Not recommend.
Reservations: First-come, first-served.
Season: Open year round.

Picnic table in the Cathedral Valley Campground

The Cathedral Valley Campground. Photo credit NPS/ Erik McDonald

 

The Cathedral Valley Campground is located in Capitol Reef’s northern district, known as Cathedral Valley. This stunningly beautiful section of the national park got its name from the sandstone towers that dot the landscape and evoke the forms of medieval cathedrals. Spending the night here will also have you well located to explore the many hikes that take in the incredible scenery of Cathedral Valley.

Situated on the popular Cathedral Valley Loop Road, a 58-mile dirt road that circumnavigates the area, the campground generally requires a 4WD vehicle with high clearance to reach. As such, we don’t recommend trying to camp here with an RV.

The campground has six individual campsites that each feature a basic picnic table and fire ring. There are also pit toilets for the campground. There is no running water available at the Cathedral Valley Campground, so be sure to bring all that you’ll need for your trip. 

All of the sites are free of charge and available on a first-come, first-served basis. The campground will fill most nights on busy weekends during the peak season, so we recommend trying to arrive early to secure your site.

Views of the Cathedral Valley

Exploring the Cathedral Valley is a quintessential experience in Capitol Reef. Photo credit NPS/Nielson.

 

Cedar Mesa Campground

Number of Sites: 5 sites
Fee: Free
RVs: Not recommend.
Reservations: First-come, first-served.
Season: Open year round.

The Cedar Mesa Campground is located in the southern district of Capitol Reef National Park. This less explored section of the park is home to several excellent hikes as well as the famous Burr Trail switchbacks. Take advantage of the campground’s location at the start of the Red Canyon Trail, a popular hike in this section of the park.

Cedar Mesa is located on the Notom-Bullfrog Road which ultimately leads to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, south of Capitol Reef. Getting to the campground is typically doable in a 2WD vehicle, although it is always a good idea to touch base with a ranger for the latest road conditions prior to setting out.

The campground has five individual campsites that each feature a basic picnic table and fire ring. There are also pit toilets for the campground. There is no running water available at the Cedar Mesa Campground, so be sure to bring all that you’ll need for your trip. 

All of the sites are free of charge and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Burr Trail switchbacks near the Cedar Mesa campground

The Burr Trail Switchbacks are approximately 45 minutes from the Cedar Mesa Campground.

 

Backcountry camping in Capitol Reef National Park

For the adventurous, a backcountry camping trip in Capitol Reef National Park is the perfect opportunity to explore this vast wilderness. The park’s remote terrain provides the chance for solitude and an experience that can’t be found at the developed or primitive campgrounds in Capitol Reef. However, a backpacking trip here is not for the inexperienced. Be sure you are prepared for this unique environment and follow the national park guidelines for backcountry camping, outlined below. 

A backpacking trail in Capitol Reef National Park

 

Backcountry Use Permit

Anyone planning to spend the night in the Capitol Reef backcountry is required to obtain a free, backcountry use permit. These permits are available at the Fruita Visitor Center during normal operating hours.

By registering, you’re letting the NPS and rangers know about your trip length, approximate camping locations, and who is in your group should something go wrong.

We can’t overemphasize how important this step is! If something were to go wrong, it is essential that the Park Service has this information about your trip.

Backcountry Regulations

The following backcountry regulations should be observed by anyone venturing into the Capitol Reef backcountry, especially those planning an overnight trip:

  • Limit group size to no more than 12 people.
  • Camp away from roads and out of sight of trails or other campers.
  • Properly dispose of all human waste.
  • Campfires are prohibited in the Capitol Reef backcountry.
  • Pets are not allowed on any trail or in the backcountry.
  • Always prace Leave No Trace principles.

Click here for a full list of backcountry regulations in Capitol Reef National Park

Sandstone ridge

 

Where to go backpacking in Capitol Reef

Once you’ve got the basic regulations for planning a backpacking trip in Capitol Reef down you can move on to the fun part: planning your trip!

While you can technically backpack and camp anywhere within the park boundaries, the park service has an excellent list of recommended backpacking trips, outlined below:

A hiker explores the Halls Creek Narrows

Exploring the Halls Creek Narrows on a backpacking trip. Photo credit NPS.

 

Capitol Reef National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Capitol Reef National Park.

Campfires in Capitol Reef

Campfires are permitted only in the provided fire rings and grates at the Fruita Campground as well as the Cathedral Valley and Cedar Mesa primitive campgrounds. The fire must be contained within the provided fire pit/grate and should not be left unattended.

It is also important to ensure that any wood you bring into the park is properly sourced, as firewood can introduce invasive pests that can cause irreparable damage. Do not gather any existing wood from the national park.

Firewood is available for purchase from the Gifford House, near the Fruita Campground.

There are no fires allowed in the Capitol Reef backcountry, so plan to bring a camp stove if backpacking.

Wildlife

Capitol Reef National Park is home to a wide variety of wildlife that inhabit this unique ecosystem. The rugged nature of Utah’s canyon country means that many of these species have adapted to live where water can be scare and the terrain unforgiving. Campers should be especially aware of the following:

  • Rock squirrels: This is mammal you are most likely to encounter on a camping trip in Capitol Reef. They are commonly found near the Fruita area and are known to try to snack on your camping supplies!
  • Snakes: Capitol Reef is home to a wide variety of snake species. Snakes are most active at night, but be sure to always be scanning the trail and near campgrounds for them. The only venomous snake found in Capitol Reef is the Midget Faded Rattlesnake, which are very common throughout the park.
  • Desert Bighorn Sheep: This incredible species was successfully reintroduced to Capitol Reef National Park in the 1990s. Spotting a bighorn sheep as they move effortlessley along a cliff face is a truly spectacular sight!

You can find more information on the wildlife of Capitol Reef National Park here.

A desert bighorn sheep in Capitol Reef

A desert bighorn sheep in Capitol Reef. Photo credit NPS/Nielson.

 

Pets

As with many national parks, Capitol Reef has strict guidelines on where you are allowed to bring a pet. Pets are permitted at all three of the designed campgrounds in Capitol Reef. Pets are also allowed in the following places:

  • The trail between the Fruita Campground and Visitor Center
  • On specific portions of the Fremont River Trail
  • Parking & Picnic Areas
  • Within 50′ of roadways

Please keep you pet on a leash at all times and remember that pets are not allowed in the backcountry or on any hiking trails in Capitol Reef National Park.

In addition,  it is important to take proper precautions when bringing a pet to Capitol Reef. This includes bringing plenty of water for them and never leaving them unattended in a car.

For a complete list of regulations related to pets check out the Capitol Reef National Park website here.

Where to get supplies

Capitol Reef National Park is incredible remote with no major towns in close proximity. Thus, stocking up on camping supplies before your camping trip is essential. It is especially important to be sure you’re well equipped with plenty of water given the lack of water sources in the national park. Luckily, there are a few small towns that provide some essential services near Capitol Reef National Park. Check out your options below:

  • In the park
    • There are no major services located within Capitol Reef National Park. The only store resides in the Gifford House which sells local craft goods, some very basic food items, and firewood. The store only operates during peak season.
  • East of Capitol Reef
    • Hanksville, Utah: Hanksville is located approximately 45 minutes east of Fruita along State Highway 24. Here you’ll find a basic grocery store, a few gas stations, and a handful of restaurants.
  • West of Capitol Reef
    • Torrey, Utah: Located just 8 miles west of Fruita, Torrey is likely to be your best bet for any last minutes camping supplies. The town features an excellent outdoor store, grocery store, and several gas stations.

 

Camping near Capitol Reef National Park

Spending a few nights camping in Capitol Reef National Park is an experience not to be missed. However, given the somewhat limited options within the national park it is always possible that you’ll arrive only to find all the campgrounds full.

Don’t let that deter you, though, as there are plenty of great camping options outside of Capitol Reef National Park. Check out your best bets for RV campgrounds, car camping, and free dispersed camping near Capitol Reef National Park below.

If you’re looking to check out any of the other Utah National Parks, but sure to take a look at our other camping guides below:

RV driving towards Capitol Reef National Park

 

RV campgrounds near Capitol Reef

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Capitol Reef National Park. RV campgrounds are generally found along State Highway 24 on both the west and east side of the national park. Learn more below.

RV Campgrounds East of Capitol Reef National Park (Caineville & Hanksville)

The following campgrounds are all located to the east of Capitol Reef National Park:

Sleepy Hollow Campground – Caineville

Number of sites: 30
Fee: Varies
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Call 435-456-9130
Pets: Allowed

The Sleepy Hollow Campground is located adjacent to the Fremont River just off State Highway 24. From here it is only a short drive, 20 minute drive to the heart of Capitol Reef. The campground gets excellent reviews for the beautiful views and very friendly owner. Highly recommended.

 

Duke’s Slickrock Campground & RV Park- Hanksville

Number of sites: 49 RV site + 30 tent-only sites
Fee: $35/night for RV sites and $20/night for tent sites
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here to reserve. 
Pets: Allowed

Centrally located in Hanksville, UT, Duke’s Slickrock Campground is a great option for those looking for an RV campground with great services and amenities. You’ll be a bit further from the national park here (30 minute drive), but in exchange you’ll have access to laundry facilities, free WiFi, and an on-site restaurant.

 

RV Campgrounds West of Capitol Reef National Park (Torrey & Hanksville)

Wonderland RV Park- Torrey

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: Varies. More information here. 
Capacity: $42/night for RV sites, $20/night for tent sites
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here to reserve. 
Pets: Allowed

The Wonderland RV Park is located on the eastern edge of Torrey, UT putting you extremely close to Capitol Reef National Park. This large campground features a variety of campsites to accommodate all types of RVs, including sites with full-hookups. In addition, there are dedicated tent-only campsites. Amenities include free WiFi, shower and laundry facilities, and free cable tv.

The campground gets great reviews for its clean facilities and stunning location.

 

Sandcreek RV Park & Campground – Torrey

Number of sites: 15 RV sites + 12 tent-only sites
Fee: Varies. More information here. 
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here to reserve. 
Pets: Allowed

The Sandcreek RV Park & Campground is located on the western side of Torrey, putting you in a convenient location for accessing Capitol Reef National Park. This smaller campground has just 15 RV sites which makes for a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Campers have access to free WiFi, showers, and laundry facilities.

Storm clouds over Capitol Reef National Park

 

Car camping sites near Capitol Reef National Park

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Capitol Reef National Park you’ll have a few good options to choose from. In addition to the campgrounds listed below, car camping is permitted and recommend at all of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above.  Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near Capitol Reef.

Car camping near Capitol Reef

 

Fishlake National Forest

Number of Sites: Singletree (31 sites), Upper Pleasant Creek (16 sites), and Oak Creek (9 sites)
Fee: $10 – 20/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, but check individual campsite pages for length restrictions. Not recommended at Oak Creek.
Reservations: Only for Singletree Campground. Reserve here. 
Pets: Allowed.

Map of campgrounds in Fishlake National Forest near Capitol Reef.

The campsites in Fishlake National Forest make a great car camping option near Capitol Reef. Map credit NPS.

 

Just south of Torrey, UT on the western edge of Capitol Reef National Park sits Fishlake National Forest. There are three developed campgrounds here that make a great option for those looking to car camp prior to their visit to Capitol Reef National Park.

The first and largest of the three campgrounds is the Singletree Campground, which can accommodate larger RVs in addition to tent campers. Reservations are recommended here. Traveling a bit further south along Highway 12 will bring you to the Upper Pleasant Creek and Oak Creek Campgrounds. These are more basic and are best suited to tent campers.

Free dispersed camping near Capitol Reef National Park

Your final option for camping near Capitol Reef National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or United States Forest Service (USFS) land adjacent to the national park. If this appeals to you you’re in luck, as Capitol Reef National Park is practically surrounded by this public land with tons of free camping opportunities.

Much of this land is overseen by the BLM and USFS which manages hundreds of thousands of acres of public land throughout the country and generally allows for ‘dispersed camping’ on it. You can find more information on dispersed camping on BLM land here.

The park service provides the handy map below that shows the different areas surrounding Capitol Reef National Park that is open to dispersed camping and we’ve highlighted some of our favorites below.

Map of dispersed camping areas near Capitol Reef National Park

There are tons of options for dispersed camping near Capitol Reef National Park. Map credit NPS.

 

Dispersed Camping West of Capitol Reef

There is an abundance of public land that allows for free dispersed camping on the west side of Capitol Reef National Park. These areas are primarily located in Fishlake National Forest and are concentrated south of Torrey, UT on State Highway 12 as well as just north of State Highway 24 between Torrey and the national park boundary.

The most popular of these campsites is located just north of Highway 24 around mile marker 73. Find more detail here on FreeCampsites.net. 

For those looking for a bit more privacy, the dispersed camping along State Highway 12 south of Torrey tends to be a bit more secluded.

As always, please be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping.

Be sure to contact the Dixie/Fishlake Ranger Office if you have any questions about dispersed camping on the west side of Capitol Reef. They can be reach at (435) 836-2811.

Dispersed Camping East of Capitol Reef

On the east side of Capitol Reef dispersed camping is available on BLM land immediately adjacent to the park. You’ll find good free campsites located along State Highway 24 as well as south along Notom-Bullfrog Road.

There is a large site just south of the highway on Notom-Bullfrog Road that gets good reviews. Find more information on this free campsite here.

Along State Highway 24 this campsite on BLM land gets good reviews for its beautiful river views.

As always, please be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping.

The NPS recommends contacting the Henry Mountain Field Station to inquire about dispersed camping on BLM land near Capitol Reef National Park.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Capitol Reef National Park in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!

Red sandstone cliffs in Capitol Reef

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The Complete Guide to Camping in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the contiguous United States. Covering an area of over 3.3 million acres, Death Valley preserves one of the most unique…

Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the contiguous United States. Covering an area of over 3.3 million acres, Death Valley preserves one of the most unique ecosystems in the world. Home to some of the hottest temperatures on earth, Death Valley National Park has an incredible diversity of natural features. From the famous ‘moving rocks’ of Death Valley’s Racetrack, to the stunning drive through Twenty Mile Mule Team Canyon you’re sure to have an incredible visit.

Given all that Death Valley National Park has to offer, we think the best way to explore this national park is by spending a few nights under the stars in your tent or RV. You’ll get to experience this magical landscape firsthand and gain an appreciation that is only possible while camping!

Death Valley National Park and the surrounding areas have tons of options for camping. From the twelve developed campgrounds located within the park boundaries, to simple backcountry road campsites, to adventurous backpacking campsites, you’re sure to find your perfect campsite in Death Valley.

In addition, you’ll find great options for camping just outside the national park. Needless to say you’ll be spoiled for options.

Keep reading to get all the details to help plan your perfect camping trip in Death Valley National Park.

Death Valley

Camping in Death Valley National Park is an experience not to be missed.

 

In this Post

 

Death Valley National Park Campgrounds

There are twelve developed campgrounds located in Death Valley National Park. Of these, nine are operated by the National Park Service, while the remaining three (Stovepipe Wells RV Park, Fiddler’s Campground, and Panamint Springs Resort) are all owned and operated by private companies. Developed campgrounds provide basic amenities such as restrooms, tables, and fire rings. Most, but not all, have potable water available.

In addition, those looking for a more primitive experience will have the option of camping along one of Death Valley’s many dirt roads at undeveloped backcountry roadside campsites. These are not formal campgrounds, but rather simple sites that offer some solitude from the main park campgrounds.

Finally, those with a sense of adventure will have the option of setting out on a backpacking trip in Death Valley. While the park maintains few formal trails, there are good possibilities for backcountry camping for those with the proper experience and equipment. There are no formal backcountry campsites, just a simple set of regulations to guide where you are allowed to camp in the Death Valley backcountry.

The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the developed campgrounds are located in Death Valley National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area. 

Map of campgrounds in Death Valley National Park

Campgrounds in Death Valley National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

Furnace Creek, Mesquite Spring, Emigrant, Wildrose, Fiddler’s, Panamint Springs, and Stovepipe Wells RV Park are generally open year round while the other campgrounds in the park are open seasonally.

Peak season for camping in Death Valley depends on the section of the park you plan on visiting. In the low lying desert areas, peak season is generally form late-Fall through early-Spring. In the higher elevations where snow is common, peak season early-summer through the fall.

Keep reading to learn more about reserving your campground in Death Valley National Park.

Reservations & Permits

Of the nine developed campgrounds operated by the National Park Service in Death Valley, only Furnace Creek Campground accepts reservations. Campers can make a reservation here during peak season, from October 15th – April 15th via Recreation.gov. The other eight NPS campgrounds are all available on a first-come, first-served basis.

In addition to the NPS run campgrounds, there are also three privately run developed campgrounds within Death Valley National Park: Stovepipe Wells RV Park, Fiddler’s Campground, and Panamint Springs Resort. All three of these campgrounds accept reservations, which can be made by contacting the campgrounds directly.

Mountains in Death Valley

 

For those interested in exploring the backcountry of Death Valley, either by camping at one of the backcountry road campsites or by hiking to a backcountry campsite, we highly recommend you obtain an optional Wilderness/Backcountry Use Permit. These permits are not mandatory, but they are free and will give the NPS important information about your trip and planned campsites.

Learn more about backcountry camping in Death Valley in this section.

What to bring on your Death Valley National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Death Valley National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Death Valley:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for Death Valley, especially where fire aren’t allowed.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun in Death Valley is incredibly strong. We recommend bringing a portable shade structure for any of the campgrounds.
  • Portable water container – Water is scarce in Death Valley and these portable water containers are a life saver.
  • Cooler – The hot temperatures make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Death Valley National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • Death Valley Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Big Bend. We like this guide to all 62 National Parks from Moon Guides. This Death Valley Hiking Guide is also a great resource.

Developed Campgrounds

There are twelve developed campgrounds located in Death Valley National Park. These campgrounds vary in size and services and give plenty of options for those looking to explore all that Death Valley has to offer. Details for all twelve campgrounds are below.

Furnace Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 136 sites (including 18 with hookups)
Fee: Tent site: $22/night | Full hookup site: $36/night | Group sites: $35 – $60/night
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Available between October 15h – April 15th. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round.
More Information

Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley National Park

Furnace Creek Campground, Death Valley National Park. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Furnace Creek Campground sits on the eastern edge of Death Valley National Park and is located at Furnace Creek, the main entry point for most visitors to Death Valley. The campground is perfect for those looking to explore Desolation Canyon, drive Twenty Mule Team Canyon, or visit the Harmony Borax Works.

The campground features 136 campsites, 18 of which are full-hookup RV sites, and is situated just behind the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Campsites are located along several small roads with larger sites that can accommodate RVs the closest to the visitor center. Furnace Creek Campground is the only NPS operated campground in Death Valley that can be reserved ahead of time, with reservations made through Recreation.gov.

The campsites are reservable from October 15th – April 15th. Outside of this timeframe all campsites are first-come, first-served.

Click here to make a reservation at Furnace Creek Campground

Campsites at the Furnace Creek Campground feature picnic tables and fire pits while campers will have access to flush toilets, potable water and an RV dump station.  Generator use is generally allowed between 7am – 7pm.

Nearby you’ll find plenty of amenities including a post office, gas station, restaurants, and more. In addition, laundry and shower facilities are available at the adjacent Oasis at Death Valley for a fee.

Harmony Borax Works in Death Valley

The Furnace Creek Campground is the perfect place to spend the night before exploring the Harmony Borax Works. Photo credit NPS/Kurt Moses.

 

Sunset Campground (at Furnace Creek)

Number of Sites: 270 sites
Fee: $14/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available.
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Late fall through spring
More Information

Map of the Furnace Creek area in Death Valley National Park

The Sunset Campground is located just across Highway 190 from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

The Sunset Campground sits just east of Highway 190 in the Furnace Creek area of Death Valley National Park. Sunset makes a great option for those looking to be centrally located within the park, and you’ll also be close to a variety of attractions in the Furnace Creek area.

The Sunset Campground is large, containing 270 campsites that can accommodate both tents and RVs. There are no hookups available for RVs at the Sunset Campground, although there is a dump station. All sites at the Sunset Campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis and given the large size, the campground is rarely at capacity.

Campsites at the Sunset Campground are quite basic and do not include picnic tables or fire pits. Restrooms and potable water are available at the campground and you’ll be adjacent to the many services on offer at Furnace Creek.

There is little to no shade at the Sunset Campground, so be sure to bring your portable shade structure or tent!

Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Twenty Mule Team Canyon is just a short drive from the Sunset Campground in Death Valley. Photo credit NPS.

 

Texas Springs Campground (at Furnace Creek)

Number of Sites: 92 sites (26 tent only)
Fee: $16/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available.
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Late fall through spring
More Information

Historic restrooms at the Texas Springs Campground

Historic restrooms at the Texas Springs Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Texas Springs Campground is the third campground located in the Furnace Creek area of Death Valley National park that is operated by the park service. The campground sits just up the road from the Sunset Campground and is close to many of Death Valley’s main attractions, including the campground’s nakesake Texas Springs Trail.

Texas Springs features 92 campsites, 26 of which are designated as tent-only sites. The campground is located at a higher elevation than the other campgrounds at Furnace Creek (most of which are below sea-level!), and feels a bit more secluded. Here, campsites are well equipped with picnic tables and fire rings as well as access to potable water and flush toilets.

RVs are allowed at the Texas Springs Campground, but the use of generators is prohibited. As with the other campgrounds in this section of Death Valley, you’ll have easy access to the many services available at Furnace Creek.

Mountains in Death Valley National Park

 

 

Fiddler’s Campground – The Oasis at Death Valley (at Furnace Creek)

Number of Sites: 35 sites
Fee: $24/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round
More Information

The fourth and final campground located in the Furnace Creek area of Death Valley National Park is the privately-run Fiddler’s Campground. Located at the Oasis at Death Valley, the Fiddler’s Campgrounds features 35 full-hookup RV campsites.

A great option for those looking for a bit more luxury than a typical NPS campground, Fiddler’s Campground gives guests access to a pool, hot showers, outdoor games (tennis, basketball, bocce ball, etc.), and more. The campground is also located near restaurants and the well regarded Furnace Creek Golf Course.

The campsites are spaced relatively close together, but the large shade trees make this a beautiful place to spend the night. There are not individual picnic tables or fire pits at the campsites, although there is a community fire pit and picnic area that campers can use.

Highway 190 winds through Death Valley

 

Stovepipe Wells Campground

Number of Sites: 190 sites (28 tent only)
Fee: $14/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available. 30′ max length.
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: October 15h – April 15th
More Information

Stovepipe Wells Campground, Death Valley National Park

Stovepipe Wells Campground, Death Valley National Park. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Stovepipe Wells Campground is located approximately 30 minutes west of the Furnace Creek area of Death Valley National Park. Stovepipe Wells is a perfect place to spend the night before exploring the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, which are only a short drive away.

Here you’ll find 190 total campsites, with 28 of those set aside as tent-only sites. The campground is really just a large, open gravel parking area. While there are specific places to park your RV or place your tent don’t expect much privacy or seclusion. The campsites at Stovepipe Wells Campground are all available on a first-come, first-served basis and the campground is open from October 15h – April 15th each year.

There are a few picnic tables and fire rings available, but not every campsite here has one. There is potable water available as well as a nearby dump station.

Nearby you’ll find the Stovepipe Wells general store, a gas station, and the Stovepipe Wells Village hotel. If you’re looking for RV camping with full hookup you can take advantage of the Stovepipe Wells RV Park just across the highway.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park

You’ll be well located to explore the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes if you camp at Stovepipe Wells.

 

Stovepipe Wells RV Park

Number of Sites: 14 sites
Fee: $40/night
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round
More Information

Located just across the highway from the NPS run Stovepipe Wells Campground, the Stovepipe Wells RV Park is a small, privately run RV campground in the heart of Death Valley. You’ll be a short drive from many of the park’s best attractions including the Furnace Creek area and Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes.

Stovepipe Wells RV Park is small, with only 14 full-hookup RV sites available.  The campground sits adjacent to the Stovepipe Wells Village and is run by the same company that operates the general store, hotel, and restaurant. Reservations are recommended, but not required for the campground.

Those staying at the Stovepipe Wells RV Park will get access to a swimming pool and free WiFi, welcome amenities for your visit to Death Valley National Park!

Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells

 

Mesquite Spring Campground

Number of Sites: 40 sites
Fee: $14/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available.
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Open year round
More Information

Mesquite Spring Campground, Death Valley National Park

Mesquite Spring Campground, Death Valley National Park. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Mesquite Spring Campground is located in the northern section of Death Valley National Park, near the Scotty’s Castle Visitor Center. Unfortunately, a 2015 flood caused severe damage to Scotty’s Castle, although the campground remains open. Staying here will leave you well positioned for a visit to the Ubehebe Crater, one of the must see sights in Death Valley.

Mesquite Spring features 40 campsites that can accommodate both tents and RVs. The campground is located adjacent to high desert mountains and generally lacks any form of shade. However, given that the campground sits at an elevation of 1,800′ above sea-level temperatures are much cooler here compared to other areas of the park. All campsites at the Mesquite Spring Campground are first-come, first-served.

Each campsite includes a picnic table and fire grate. There is also a RV dump station nearby.

The ubehebe crater in Death Valley.

The Mesquite Springs Campground is well positioned for a visit to the Ubehebe Crater. Photo credit NPS.

 

Emigrant Campground

Number of Sites: 10 sites (tents only)
Fee: Free
RVs: No.
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Open year round
More Information

Emigrant Campground, Death Valley National Park

Emigrant Campground, Death Valley National Park. Photo credit NPS/C. Rohe.

 

The Emigrant Campground is a free, tent-only campground located a few miles west of the Stovepipe Wells area of Death Valley. Emigrant is centrally located in the park and situated just off Highway 190, making this a good location for exploring a variety of areas of Death Valley National Park.

At the campground you’ll just 10 tent-only campsites, which are really nothing more than a gravel parking lot just off the highway. While there are no fire pits here you will find that all of the campsites are equipped with a picnic table and have access to flush toilets and potable water.  Campsites at the Emigrant Campground are all available on a first-come, first-served basis.

The closest amenities are in the Stovepipe Wells area where you’ll find the Stovepipe Wells general store, a gas station, and the Stovepipe Wells Village hotel. Emigrant is only a 10 minute drive along Highway 190 from these services.

Highway 190 passes a campground in Death Valley

The Emigrant Campground is located just off Highway 190, providing easy access to all that Death Valley has to offer.

 

Panamint Springs RV Park

Number of Sites: 54 sites
Fee: $10 – $40/night depending on site
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Call (775)482-7680 or email reservations@panamintsprings.com
Season: Open year round
More Information

The Panamint Springs RV Park is a privately run campground located on the far western edge of Death Valley National Park. Panamint Springs location on the west side of Death Valley is ideal for a visit to Father Crowley Vista Point and also will be a great place to spend the night for those completing the long drive to the park from the western portion of California.

The campground is part of the larger Panamint Springs Resort which includes a hotel, general store, gas station, restaurant and bar. The campground features a total of 54 campsites with 22 tent sites, 6 full-hookup RV sites, and 22 RV sites with no hookups. A majority, but not all, of the campsites include a picnic table and fire ring.

Reservations are recommended for any of the campsites at Panamint Springs, although 19 of the no-hookup RV sites are held on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Panamint Springs Valley in Death Valley National Park.

Explore the Panamint Springs Valley in Death Valley.

 

Wildrose Campground

Number of Sites: 23 sites
Fee: Free
RVs: Yes, no hookups. Vehicles longer than 25′ cannot access.
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Open year round
More Information

Wildrose Campground, Death Valley National Park

Wildrose Campground, Death Valley National Park. Photo credit NPS/C. Rohe.

 

The Wildrose Campgrounds is located high in the Panamint Mountains of Death Valley National Park. Situated at an elevation of 4,100′ above sea level this is a great place to spend the night with a plan to explore the quieter sections of Death Valley. Nearby you’ll find excellent hiking, such as the trail to the top of Wildrose Peak.

Wildrose Campgrounds features 23 free campsites which can accommodate both tents and RVs shorter than 25′. Campsites are dispersed throughout the hillside and feature picnic tables and fire rings. There is also potable water available at the campground. Reservations are not accepted here, and all sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

There isn’t much nearby in terms of amenities as the Wildrose Campground is located in a relatively isolated section of Death Valley.

Wildrose Peak in Death Valley National Park

A hike to the top of Wildrose Peak is a great outing in Death Valley. Photo credit NPS/Dan Kish.

 

Thorndike Campground

Number of Sites: 6 sites
Fee: Free
RVs: Yes, no hookups. Vehicles longer than 25′ cannot access.
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Late spring through fall
More Information

Thorndike Campground, Death Valley National Park

Thorndike Campground, Death Valley National Park. Photo credit NPS/C. Rohe.

 

The Thorndike Campground is a rugged and remote campground located high in Death Valley’s Panamint Mountains. The 6 campsites at Thorndike are free of charge, but you’ll need a high-clearance vehicle with 4WD to reach them. In exchange for this effort you’ll be rewarded with relative solitude and cooler summer temperatures when compared to the scorching valley’s below. Nearby, the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns are a popular attraction.

The campsites can accommodate tents and RVs less than 25′ long, although we wouldn’t recommend trying to reach Thorndike without 4WD as the road is quite rough. While the campsites feature small fire rings and picnic tables there is no potable water at the campground. Be sure to bring all that you’ll need!

Reservations are not accepted at the Thorndike Campground, and all sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley

A visit to the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns is recommended for those camping at the Thorndike Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

Mahogany Flat Campground

Number of Sites: 10 sites
Fee: Free
RVs: Yes, no hookups. Vehicles longer than 25′ cannot access.
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Late spring through fall
More Information

The Mahogany Flat Campground is one of the most remote places to spend the night in Death Valley National Park. Located at the end of a rough dirt road, this campground can only be reached by high-clearance vehicles with 4WD. The trail to the top of Telescope Peak leaves from the campground and is a highly recommended hike!

There are 10 free campsites at Mahogany Flat, all of which feature picnic tables and fire rings. Similar to the nearby Thorndike Campground, there is not potable water source at Mahogany Flat. The campsites are nicely shaded and provide a stark contrast to the desert valley campgrounds in the park.

Views from Telescope Peak in Death Valley

You’ll enjoy spectacular views from the top of Telescope Peak. Photo credit NPS/Dan Kish.

 

Backcountry Road Campsites

In addition to the twelve developed campgrounds outlined in the section above, Death Valley National Park allows for the unique experience of camping along one of the parks many backcountry dirt roads. This is the perfect opportunity for those with a sense of adventure and who are interested in exploring the vast wilderness of Death Valley.

Given the remote nature of these campsites as well as the harsh conditions of Death Valley it is important to come prepared and follow all NPS regulations. Campers are strongly encouraged to obtain a voluntary Wilderness/Backcountry Use Permit.

These permits are not mandatory, but they are free and will give the NPS important information about your trip and planned campsites.

Death Valley National Park’s dirt roads offer endless opportunities for exploration.

 

Where to Camp

Camping along Death Valley’s dirt roads is generally permitted throughout the national park. However, there are a few exceptions to this intended to help minimize the impact on some of the high visitor areas of the park.

Camping is prohibited in the following areas:

  • In day-use only areas
  • The valley floor from Ashford Mill to 2 miles north of Stovepipe Wells
  • Eureka Dunes
  • Greenwater Canyon
  • Historic mining areas, including:
    • Keane Wonder Mine
    • Lost Burro Mine
    • Ubehebe Lead Mine
    • Skidoo Mill
  • Within 1 mile of any standing mining structure
  • Within 100 yards of a water source

In addition, your campsite must be at least 1 mile from the nearest paved road or ‘day-use only’ area. The NPS also requires that you camp in an area that has already been used as a campsite or immediately adjacent to the roadway. This helps minimize the impact camping has on the fragile desert environment.

View the full list of regulations for backcountry road camping in Death Valley here. 

To get an idea of the best areas to camp in the Death Valley backcountry be sure to read the National Park Service’s excellent Backcountry & Wilderness Access Map here.

Check out the Backcountry & Wilderness Access Map here. 

Some of the best options for backcountry roadside camping in Death Valley National Park include:

Echo Canyon Road

Echo Canyon Road is one of the most centrally located roadside camping areas in Death Valley. Located just a few miles south of the Furnace Creek area. High-clearance vehicles are a must and 4WD is recommended. The road beyond Echo Canyon is only for the most experienced and well-equipped off-road drivers.

Map of Echo Canyon Road in Death Valley

Echo Canyon Road – Death Valley National Park. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

Hole in the Wall Road

Located just south of Echo Canyon Road, Hole in the Wall Road is another great option for primitive roadside camping in Death Valley. It is four miles to Hole in the Wall, a 400′ deep gap in the stunning ridgeline.

Map of Hole in the Wall Road in Death Valley

Hole in the Wall Road – Death Valley National Park. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

Cottonwood Canyon Road

Cottonwood Canyon road is a rough and rugged 4WD road located just north of Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley. The road is famous for the small stream lined with Cottonwoods located at the end of the road. High clearance vehicles with 4WD are a must.

Map of Cottonwood Canyon Road in Death Valley

Cottonwood Canyon Road – Death Valley National Park. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

Racetrack Road

For those who want to visit the famous and mystifying ‘moving rocks’ of Death Valley’s Racetrack, a camping trip on Racetrack Road is the perfect opportunity. This road is notorious for causing flat tires, so be sure you’re prepared! Also, no sedans or RVs permitted and be sure to not drive on the lake bed itself.

Map of Racetrack Road in Death Valley

Racetrack Road – Death Valley National Park. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

Warm Springs Canyon Road

Warm Springs Canyon Road is located in the southern section of Death Valley National Park and only requires a high-clearance 2WD vehicle for the first 10 miles or so. This is a great option for backcountry camping for those who are not equipped with a serious 4WD vehicle.

Map of Warm Springs Canyon Road - Death Valley

Warm Springs Canyon Road – Death Valley National Park. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

Be sure to check out a full list of roads and road conditions in Death Valley National Park here prior to setting out!

The Racetrack in Death Valley National Park

Backcountry camping gives you an opportunity explore some of Death Valley’s most incredible landscapes.

 

Backpacking in Death Valley National Park

Backpacking in Death Valley National Park is not for the faint of heart. While the expanse of wilderness in the park provides for nearly endless options, you’ll need to be prepared for the harsh conditions you’re likely to encounter.

However, for those who invest the time and resources in planning a backpacking trip in Death Valley you’ll be rewarded with solitude, stunning night skies, and the experience of a lifetime. Keep reading to learn how to plan your own backpacking trip in Death Valley National Park.

A backcountry camper in Death Valley National Park.

Exploring the nearly endless wilderness on a backcountry camping trip in Death Valley.

 

For those planning a backpacking trip in Death Valley we highly recommend that you secure a free backcountry use permit ahead of time and have a well planned itinerary. There are only a few designed hiking trails in Death Valley, so the NPS has created the following guidelines to help you plan a successful trip:

  • Utilize old dirt roads, canyon bottoms, and desert washes to get around.
  • Limit group size to no more than 12 people.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.
  • Campfires are prohibited.
  • Pets are not allowed in the backcountry.
  • Carry at least 1 gallon of water per person per day.
  • Always have a topo map and compass AND know how to use them.

We highly recommend that you stop by the Furnace Creek Visitor Center prior to setting out to discuss your plans with a park ranger. They’ll be able to update you on current conditions in the park and give advice on how to have a successful trip.

For those looking for recommendations for possible backpacking trips in Death Valley, the NPS recommends the following destinations:

  • Big Horn Gorge
  • Cottonwood-Marble Canyon Loop
  • Fall Canyon
  • Hanaupah Canyon
  • Hungry Bill’s Ranch
  • Indian Pass
  • Owlshead Mountains
  • Panamint Dunes
  • Surprise Canyon
  • Telescope Peak
  • Titanothere Canyon

Learn more about desert backpacking in Death Valley on the National Park Services’ website here.

A hiker in Death Valley

Explore Death Valley’s vast desert landscape on a backcountry camping trip.

 

Death Valley National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Death Valley National Park. Before we dive in, there are a few important regulations to note:

  • No more than eight people and two vehicles per campsite.
  • The maximum stay at the Furnace Creek campground is 14 days per calendar year.
  • All other campgrounds have a maximum stay of 30 days per calendar year.
  • Generators are generally allowed from 7am – 7pm, but be sure to check the regulations for your specific campground.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

Detailed information on fires, pets, wildlife, and more can be found in the sections below.

Camper with headlamp in Death Valley

 

When to camp in Death Valley

Depending on the area of the park you’d like to explore it is possible to camp in Death Valley throughout the year. There are campgrounds located in both the valleys and mountains which provides for camping opportunities in both the summer and winter.

Read on to learn more about your camping options in Death Valley depending on the season.

Winter camping in Death Valley

During the winter and spring months, generally October – April, you’ll be able to comfortably camp at many of the campgrounds located on the valley floors throughout Death Valley. These are often inhospitable during the summer months when day time temperatures regularly surpass 110 degrees fahrenheit.

However, during the winter and spring months you’ll be able to enjoy much milder temperatures here. We recommend the following campgrounds for winter and spring camping in Death Valley:

Summer camping in Death Valley

Death Valley summers are known for the extreme heat that takes over much of the park. Daily temperatures often exceed 110 degrees, and night time lows often are in the low 100s or 90s. Not a great time to be sleeping in your tent! However, many of the higher altitude campgrounds in Death Valley are prime for a summer camping trip. The snow has melted and temperatures are much cooler at the higher elevations.

We recommend the following campgrounds for a summer camping trip in Death Valley:

Fires

Fires are generally permitted at the twelve developed campgrounds within Death Valley National Park. Fires must be completely contained within the provided fire pit/grate and should not be left unattended. The gathering of any vegetation in Death Valley is strictly prohibited, so be sure to bring your own firewood. It is also available for purchase at the Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells General Stores.

Fires are not permitted at the Wildrose, Thorndike, or Mahogany Flat campgrounds during the summer months, as fire danger increases significantly during this time.

Campfires are prohibited in the backcountry of Death Valley National Park, so if you’re planning a backpacking trip be sure to bring a camp stove.

Campfire

Pets

Pets are allowed in Death Valley National Park, but only in the developed sections of the park. The NPS generally defines this as anywhere a car can go.

They are permitted in the developed campgrounds, adjacent to park infrastructure, and on the main park roads.

We generally recommend against bringing you pet to Death Valley, but if you do please follow these regulations:

  • Pets must be on a leash at all times.
  • Pets are allowed within campgrounds, on park roads, and in picnic areas.
  • Pets are not allowed in park buildings, on trails, or in the backcountry.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended in your vehicle. Temperatures can get extremely hot in Death Valley.
  • Always properly dispose of pet waste.

For a complete list of regulations related to pets check out the Death Valley National Park website here.

 

Where to get supplies

Stocking up on camping supplies before your trip to Death Valley is an important part of trip planning. Death Valley National Park is in a very remote area with few amenities or services nearby, so you’ll want to invest some time making sure you are prepared. It is especially important to be sure you’re well equipped with plenty of water given the lack of water sources in the national park.

Luckily, there are a few town convenient to the various entrances to Death Valley as well as two general stores within the national park itself. Check out your options below:

Coming from the east/Las Vegas: Pahrump, NV

The town of Pahrump, NV will be your best bet for securing supplies if you’re coming to Death Valley from the Nevada/Las Vegas area. From here, it is an approximately 1 hour drive to the Furnace Creek area of Death Valley. Pahrump has everything you need to prepare for your camping trip including grocery stores, gas station, and an outdoor shop.

Coming from the southwest/Los Angeles: Ridgecrest, CA

Ridgecrest, CA is the most convenient place to stop on your way to Death Valley from the Los Angeles/Southern California area. Ridgecrest is about 1.25 hours from the edge of Death Valley National Park, near Panamint Springs. You’ll find everything you need here including several excellent camping and outdoor stores.

Coming from the south: Baker, CA

For those coming from the south and heading into Death Valley on State Highway 127, your last and best chance for decent supplies comes in Baker, CA. Baker is a small town but does have a nice local grocer, gas station, and even the world’s tallest thermometer!

In the Park

Finally, there are three general stores located within Death Valley National Park that carry some basic camping supplies, groceries, and souvenirs. These are located at Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells, and Panamint Springs, all along State Highway 190.

Camping near Death Valley National Park

Camping in Death Valley National Park is an incredible experience. However, you may find yourself in a situation where utilizing one of the park campgrounds doesn’t make sense.  The campgrounds may be full, you may want to stop and spend the night after a long drive before reaching the park, or you might be looking for something with a few more amenities. Regardless of your reason, there are several great campgrounds just outside of Death Valley National Park. We’ve highlighted a few good options below.

If you’re looking to check out any of the other California National Parks be sure to take a look at our other camping guides below:

Car pulling a trailer

 

Death Valley RV Park (North of the National Park)

Number of sites: 39 sites
Fee: Varies
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Call (775) 553-9702
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Death Valley RV Park is located northeast of Death Valley National Park in Beatty, NV. The park features 39 RV campsites with 50 amp hookups. You’ll have access to free WiFi, laundry facilities, a hot tub, and pool.

From here you’re only a 40 minutes to Stovepipe Wells in the national park.

 

Shoshone RV Park (South of the National Park)

Number of sites: 25 full-hookup sites + room for tents
Fee: $30/night for tents, $45/night for RVs
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Located just south of Death Valley National Park is the well reviewed Shoshone RV Park. This campground features 25 full-hookup RV spots as well as plenty of tent-only campsites. From here, its less than 1 mile to the park boundary.

Amenities include a mineral springs swimming pool, laundry facilities, showers, community room, and fire pit.

 

Preferred RV Resort (East of the National Park)

Number of sites: 270 sites
Fee: $40/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Located in Pahrump, NV Preferred RV Resort is only a short drive from Furnace Creek and the heart of Death Valley. This large campground features full hookup sites with beautiful pine trees separating most campsites.  Amenities here include a pool, free WiFi, exercise room, and indoor spa.

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Death Valley National Park in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!

Road sign with mountains in the background

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The Complete Guide to Camping in Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park sits on the Rio Grande River in West Texas. This stunning national park features an incredible landscape of deep canyons, high mountains, and arid desert that…

Big Bend National Park sits on the Rio Grande River in West Texas. This stunning national park features an incredible landscape of deep canyons, high mountains, and arid desert that protects a vast area of Chihuahuan Desert. Big Bend is so remote that the National Park Service has determined that it has the best stargazing of any of the national parks in the lower 48 states.  Given all that, we think the best way to experience all that Big Bend National Park has to offer is by spending the night in your tent or RV where you’ll experience this incredible landscape first hand.

Big Bend National Park and the surrounding areas have plenty of options for camping. From the four developed campgrounds located within the national park, to the primitive roadside campgrounds dotted through the landscape, to the backcountry wilderness campsites high in the Chisos Mountains, you’re sure to find the perfect campsite in Big Bend.

In addition to the campgrounds within the national park you’ll also find great options for RV and car camping just outside the park boundary.  Needless to say, you’ll be spoiled for options.

Keeping reading to get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip in Big Bend National Park.

Mountains of Big Bend

Camping in Big Bend National Park is an experience not to be missed.

 

In this Post

 

Big Bend National Park Campgrounds

There are four developed campgrounds located with Big Bend National Park. Three of these are run by the National Park Service while the fourth, Rio Grande Village RV Park, is run by Forever Resorts, a concessioner of the park.

In addition to these four campgrounds, Big Bend also features dozens of primitive roadside campsites and a plethora of backcountry campsites reached only by foot. All of the campgrounds are well located throughout the park, giving visitors plenty of campsites to choose from regardless of which section of Big Bend they want to explore.

The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the developed campgrounds are located in Big Bend National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area. 

Map of campgrounds in Big Bend National Park

Campgrounds in Big Bend National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

Campgrounds in Big Bend are open year round making a trip any time of year possible. Peak season for camping in Big Bend is from January 1st – April 1st, when temperatures in the park are more moderate.

Keep reading to learn more about reserving your campground in Big Bend National Park.

Reservations & Permits for Big Bend National Park Camping

Generally speaking only the Chisos Basin Campground, Rio Grande Village Campground, and Rio Grande Village RV Campground accept reservations. Reservations at the Rio Grande Village Campground are only available from November 1st – April 15th. However, at the time of this writing reservations are now required for all of the campgrounds within the national park.

Get the most up-to-date information on campground reservations in Big Bend here. 

In addition, reservations are required year round for the group campgrounds located at Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, and Cottonwood Campgrounds. 

To make a reservation for the Big Bend Campgrounds you’ll need to visit Recreation.gov, which manages campground reservations for the National Park Service. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance of your trip, but are not accepted less than 48 hours prior to arrival.

Reservations for Big Bend National Park Campgrounds can be made here via Recreation.gov

For the Rio Grande Village RV Campground reservations can be made by calling 1-877-386-4383.

It is important to know that even if you don’t have a reservation  you can still find a campground in Big Bend. All of the campgrounds within the national park have a number of first come, first served campsites available. These can be a lifesaver when you plan a last minute camping trip to Big Bend!

To secure a first-come, first-served campground during peak season, you will want to be sure to arrive early!

Tent in Big Bend lite up at night.

You’ll be glad to made a reservation if you’re hoping to camp in peak season in Big Bend.

 

For those interested in exploring the backcountry of Big Bend, either by camping at one of the roadside primitive campsites or by hiking to a backcountry campsite, you’ll need a Backcountry Use Permit issued by the park service.  Backcountry permits are required for anyone camping in the Big Bend backcountry, so be sure to secure yours in advance.

In order to secure your permit you’ll need to have each night of your itinerary planned out. The backcountry use permit is obtained through Recreation.gov and grants access to a specific campsite for the night. You’ll want to be sure you have a variety of options during peak-season in case your desired campsite is already taken.

Backcountry campsites can be reserved up to 6 months in advance via Recreation.gov. 

Reservations for Big Bend National Park backcountry campsites can be made here via Recreation.gov

In addition to the backcountry campsites located in the Chisos Mountains, there is also the possibility of camping in the open desert areas of Big Bend. While you’ll still need a backcountry use permit for desert wilderness camping, you won’t need to specify a specific campsite for each night of your trip.

Learn more about backcountry camping in Big Bend in this section.

Cliff in Big Bend National Park

Backpacking will give you access to some of the most incredible scenery Big Bend has to offer.

 

What to bring on your Big Bend National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Big Bend National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Big Bend:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for Big Bend as campfires are prohibited throughout the park.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun in south Texas is nothing to sneeze at! While there are some shade structures at the Chisos Basin Campground it’s always good to be able to create your own. We recommend bringing a portable shade structure, especially for any primitive dirt road campsites!
  • Portable water container – Especially useful for roadside camping in Big Bend these portable water containers are a life saver.
  • Cooler – The hot temperatures make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Big Bend National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • Big Bend Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Big Bend. We like this guide to all 62 National Parks from Moon Guides. This Big Bend Hiking Guide is also a great resource.

 

Developed Campgrounds in Big Bend

There are four developed campgrounds located in Big Bend National Park. These campgrounds vary in size and services and give plenty of options for those looking to explore all that Big Bend has to offer. Details for all four campgrounds are below.

Chisos Basin Campground

Number of Sites: 60 sites (including 7 group sites)
Fee: $16/night
RVs: Yes, max size of 24′ or 20′ trailer. Not allowed at the group sites.
Reservations: Available for 40 sites. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round.
More Information

Picnic table at the Chisos Basin Campground.

Chisos Basin Campground, Big Bend National Park. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Chisos Basin Campground sits in the center of Big Bend National Park at the base of the Chisos Mountains. The campground is the perfect place to spend the night before exploring the Window Trail, Boot Canyon Trail, or Chisos Basin Loop trail as they are all located near the campground. You can see a full list of hikes in the mountains of Big Bend here.

The Chisos Basin Campground contains 60 campsites, seven of which are designated group sites. The campground is organized into several loops with potable water and restrooms available throughout. 40 out of the 60 total campsites are reservable in advance on Recreation.gov, while 20 sites are always available on a first-come, first-served basis. The seven group sites at Chisos Basin require an advance reservation year round.

View a map of the Chisos Basin Campground here. 

The Chisos Basin Campground can accommodate RVs and features a dump station. RVs longer than 24′ and trailers longer than 20′ are not recommended at the campground due to the narrow roads. Generator use is generally allowed between 8am – 11am and 5pm – 8pm, but only in designated areas of the campground.

Nearby you’ll find the Chisos Basin Visitor Center and Store, which carries a few camping basics and simple groceries.

View of the Chisos Mountains

Chisos Basin is the perfect place to spend the night before exploring the mountains of Big Bend.

 

Cottonwood Campground

Number of Sites: 24 sites (including 1 group site)
Fee: $16/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available.
Reservations: First-come, first-served for individual sites. Reservation required for group site. 
Season: Open year round.
More Information

Picnic table at the Cottonwood Campground

Cottonwood Campground, Big Bend National Park. Photo credit NPS/C. Hoyt.

 

The Cottonwood Campground is located in the far southwest of Big Bend National Park and sits adjacent to the Rio Grande river. Cottonwood is the smallest campground in the park and is situated just a short drive from the spectacular Santa Elena Canyon.

Cottonwood Campground has just 24 campsites, one of which is a group site that can accommodate up to 25 people. The campground is laid out in a single loop, located just off Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. The campground has restrooms, a potable water tap, and an amphitheater where ranger presentations often occur. Individual campsites feature picnic tables and charcoal grills.

All of the individual campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, while reservations are required for the single group site.

View a map of the Cottonwood Campground here. 

RVs are allowed at Cottonwood, although there are no hookups or dump stations available and generators are not allowed.

Adjacent to the campground you’ll find the Castolon Visitor Center and Historic District, a worthwhile stop on your visit to Big Bend.

Canoes in Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend.

 

Rio Grande Village Campground

Number of Sites: 100 sites (including 4 group sites)
Fee: $16/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available. Dump station nearby.
Reservations: Available for 60 sites from Nov 1st – April 15th. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round.
More Information

RVs in the Rio Grande Village Campground

Rio Grande Village Campground, Big Bend National Park. Photo credit NPS/C. Hoyt.

 

The Rio Grande Village Campground is located on the far eastern edge of Big Bend National Park and sits near the banks of the Rio Grande River. Rio Grande Village is perfectly located for those looking to take a soak in Big Bend’s famous hot springs, explore the Boquillas Canyon Trail, or cross the Rio Grande to explore Boquillas, Mexico.

The campground is the largest in the national park and features 100 campsites, four of which are group sites. The main camping area is organized in a large U shape with campsites clustered in neat rows. Group campsites are located on their own loop, away from the main camping area.

60 of the campsites at Rio Grande Village are able to be reserved in advance from November 1st – April 15h. Group sites require an advance reservation throughout the year.

View a map of the Rio Grande Village Campground here. 

RVs are welcome at the Rio Grande Village Campground, although there are no hookups available. Generators are allowed in specific sections of the campground and can be operated from 8am – 8pm. If you are in search of RV camping with hookups, just head next door to the Rio Grande Village RV Campground.

Near the campground you’ll find good services including the Rio Grande Visitor Center, open seasonally, as well as a camp store selling basic supplies, showers, and laundry.

Sunset over the Rio Grande River

Enjoy stunning sunsets from the Rio Grande Village Campground.

 

Rio Grande Village RV Campground

Number of Sites: 25 sites
Fee: $40/night
RVs: Yes, full hookups available.
Reservations: Available for 20 sites. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round.
More Information

RVs parked at the Rio Grande Village RV Campground

Rio Grande Village RV Campground, Big Bend National Park. Photo credit NPS.

 

Located just up the road from the Rio Grande Village Campground described above, the Rio Grande Village RV Campground is the only campground in Big Bend that features full hookups for RVs. The campground is operated by Forever Resorts, a concessionaire of the NPS. The campground is well located for checking out the Big Bend hot springs as well as the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail.

The campground is on the smaller side and doesn’t offer much privacy when compared to your other options. However, it does provide water, electric, and sewer hookups for RVs. Rio Grande Village RV Campground is located just off Daniel’s Ranch Road and consists of a single drive-aisle with campsites located on both sides. 20 out of the 25 campsites at Rio Grande Village RV Campground are able to be reserved in advance.

View a map of the Rio Grande Village RV Campground here. 

Most size RVs can be accommodated at Rio Grande Village RV Campground, although a few sites can not accommodate trailers or RVs greater than 40′.

Near the campground you’ll find good services including the Rio Grande Visitor Center, open seasonally, as well as a camp store selling basic supplies, showers, and laundry.

The Rio Grande River

Enjoy views of the Rio Grande River from your campsite.

 

Big Bend National Park Primitive Roadside Campgrounds

In addition to the developed campgrounds described in the section above, Big Bend National Park also features numerous ‘primitive’ campgrounds on its nearly endless miles of dirt roads. These roadside primitive campgrounds are perfect for those looking to explore the vast backcountry of Big Bend without having to pack up their backpack.

The primitive nature of these campsites means you won’t find any bathrooms, water taps, or other amenities that the developed campgrounds in the park offer. In exchange for roughing it you’ll be treated to a solitude only possible by venturing off the beaten path!

Keep reading to learn more about primitive roadside camping in Big Bend National Park.

Big Bend Primitive Campground Permits

All of the primitive roadside campgrounds in Big Bend require a backcountry use permit. You have traditionally only been able to secure these permits in person at one of the visitor centers in the park, but they are now reservable in advance via Recreation.gov.

Your backcountry permit is good for a specific night and specific campsite, so be sure to have your exact itinerary planned out before applying for a permit. Camping permits cost $10/night and can be reserved up to 6 months in advance.

Reservations for Big Bend National Park primitive roadside campsites can be made here via Recreation.gov

Keep reading to learn about your different options for primitive camping in Big Bend.

Dirt road with mountains in the background

The dirt roads of Big Bend offer a unique camping experience.

 

Campsites on Improved Dirt Roads

Your first option for backcountry roadside camping in Big Bend is to camp at one of the campgrounds located on improved dirt roads. These are roads that are passable by most vehicles and don’t require 4WD. Keep in mind that this can change during periods of heavy rain or mud, when you may have a difficult time driving these roads without 4wd.

Most of these campsites are located in the northern section of the park, with a handful located in the southwest portion of Big Bend, near the Rio Grande. Take a look at the map and list below to get a sense of the campsites general location as well as a few details.

Map of primitive campsites in Big Bend National Park.

Map of improved primitive roadside campgrounds in Big Bend. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

The following is a comprehensive list of the improved primitive roadside campsites in Big Bend:

Campsites on Primitive Dirt Roads

For those with an adventurous spirit and a 4WD vehicle you’ll find additional primitive campgrounds located along Big Bend’s more rugged primitive dirt roads. These roads are not passable by passenger vehicles or RVs and you will need 4WD. Beware that these roads can become extremely difficult to drive and even unpassable during heavy rainfall.

The primitive dirt road campsites can generally be found in the following areas of Big Bend National Park:

Glenn Springs Road

Glenn Springs Road connects River Road East in the southern section of Big Bend with Park Route 12, the main east-west road through the national park. Along Glenn Springs Road you’ll find 13 campsites, outlined on the map and in the list below.

Map of campsites along Glenn Springs Road

Map of primitive campsites along Glenn Springs Road. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

The following is a comprehensive list of the primitive roadside campsites along Glenn Springs Road:

Old Ore Road

Old Ore Road leads from the Rio Grande Village in the far southeast corner of Big Bend National Park north to the Main Park Rd as it nears the Permission Gap Visitor Center. The NPS estimates that it takes 3.5 hours to drive the entire length of Old Ore Road from south to north. Along the way you’ll find 11 primitive campsites outlined on the map and in the list below.

Map of primitive campsites along Old Ore Road

Map of primitive campsites along Old Ore Road. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

The following is a comprehensive list of the primitive roadside campsites along Old Ore Road:

River Road

River Road is split into east and west sections as it follows the Rio Grande River along the southern boundary of Big Bend National Park. This is one of the most remote and beautiful sections of the park, and the campsites make a truly spectacular place to spend the night. Be aware that it can take up to 7 hours to drive the entire length of the road and that a 4WD vehicle is a must.

Along the way you’ll find 20 primitive campsites outlined on the map and in the list below.

Map of campsites along River Road in Big Bend National Park

Map of primitive campsites along River Road. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

The following is a comprehensive list of the primitive roadside campsites along River Road:

Backcountry camping in Big Bend

Backpacking in Big Bend National Park presents nearly endless opportunity for adventure. For those planning a backpacking trip in Big Bend you’ll need to secure a backcountry use permit ahead of time and have a well planned itinerary. However, this upfront planning will pay off in spades as you’ll be able to explore an incredibly diverse and remote wilderness.

Backpacking in Big Bend can generally be split into the following three options:

Chisos Mountains Backpacking

The Chisos Mountains are entirely contained within Big Bend National Park and provide stunning terrain for the adventurous backpacker. Emory Peak, at 7,825 feet above sea-level is the highest point in the Chisos Moutains and can hiked in a strenuous day.

For those looking to explore further, the Chisos have 42 backcountry campsites located throughout the mountainous terrain. Each campsite provides a food storage locker to help keep your food safe from wildlife in addition to an area to pitch your tent.

You can view a map of the campsites and trails in the Chisos Mountains below:

Map of trails and campsites in the Chisos Mountains.

Map of trails and campsites in the Chisos Mountains. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your backpacking trip in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend:

  • Plan to bring all the water you’ll need. Water sources can be scare in Big Bend.
  • No fires of any kind are permitted. You must use a camp stove for all cooking.
  • Securely store all food in the provided storage lockers.
  • Pets are not permitted in the backcountry of Big Bend.

To learn more, be sure to read the National Park Service’s excellent Chisos Mountains Backpacking Guidebook here.

The Chisos Moutains

The Chisos Mountains provide numerous options for backcountry camping.

 

Desert Backpacking

Outside of the Chisos Moutains, it is possible to backcountry camp in Big Bend’s expansive desert ecosystem. This is not for the inexperienced as you’ll need to be fully self-sufficient, know how to navigate off trail, and be prepared for harsh conditions.

However, for those who are up to the challenge desert backpacking in Big Bend National Park offers the chance to experience some of the most remote sections of the area and gain a true appreciation for this incredible national park. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning a desert backpacking trip in Big Bend:

  • Always have a topo map and compass AND know how to use them.
  • You must obtain a backcountry use permit.
  • Be sure to notify the NPS of your planned route and itinerary.
  • Camp at least 500′ from the nearest road and 100 yards from the nearest trail.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

The National Park Service recommends the following areas as potential desert backpacking destinations:

Learn more about desert backpacking in Big Bend on the National Park Services’ website here. 

Sunset in Big Bend National Park

Explore Big Bend’s vast desert landscape on a backcountry camping trip.

 

Rio Grande River Trips

The final, and possibly the most spectacular, way to experience the backcountry of Big Bend National Park is to take a multi-day river trip along the Rio Grande. The park has several spectacular canyons to explore as well as peaceful, meandering sections of the Rio Grande River. You’ll need to secure a backcountry use permit for your trip and also have the required equipment prior to setting out. You’ll want to keep the following in mind when planning a river trip in Big Bend:

  • Be everyone in your group has a personal floatation device (PFD).
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.
  • Camp only in permitted areas.
  • Fire pans are required for all trips.

View the full list of regulations for planning a river trip in Big Bend National Park here.

The Rio Grande River

 

Big Bend National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Big Bend National Park. Before we dive in, there are a few important regulations to note:

  • The maximum stay at any campground or campsite is 14 consecutive nights and no more than 28 total nights in a calendar year.
  • You are not allowed to camp for a total of more than 14 nights between January 1st – April 15th.
  • Only camp in designated sites.
  • No more than eight people per campsite.
  • Always store your food using the provided food storage locker, in your car, or in an animal proof container.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

Detailed information on fires, pets, wildlife, and more can be found in the sections below.

Stone building in front of bluff in Big Bend

 

Fires

Campfires are prohibited throughout Big Bend National Park. This includes developed, primitive, and backcountry campsites. Fires can leave a deep scar on the sensitive desert environment, so please be sure to observe this important regulation. The following are permitted:

  • Use of camp stoves
  • Use of charcoal in provided grill stands in developed campground
  • Fires in pans for river trips

Please do not gather any wood from Big Bend National Park.

Wildlife

Big Bend National Park is home to an incredible diversity of wildlife. The desert, mountain, and river landscapes are all home to unique fauna that thrives in this protected park. Many of the animals who call the park home are most active during the night, a common trait among desert adapted species. That being said, there are a few specific animals that you’ll want to be aware of when planning your camping trip in Big Bend National Park.

  • Javelina: Often thought to be wild pigs, javelina are actually an entirely different animal. These fun loving creatures can be found throughout Big Bend. Campers will want to be especially careful to properly store their food, as javelinas are known to raid campsite kitchens!
  • Black bears: Big Bend’s black bears have an incredible story of survival and reestablishment in Big Bend National Park. Once thought to no longer inhabit the area, in the 1980s black bears again begin to appear in the Chisos Moutains, their traditional habitat. While you are unlikely to have any issues with bears in Big Bend, it is important to always practice bear safety when camping.
  • Snakes: Big Bend is home to over 30 species of snakes, many of which are venomous. Don’t fret too much, as human snake interactions are rare. However, it is always a good idea of keep an eye on the trail for both snakes and their burrows.

A javelina walks on a trail

Javelinas are found throughout Big Bend National Park.

 

Pets

Pets are allowed in Big Bend National Park, but only in specific areas and under specific rules. Pets are not allowed in the backcountry, anywhere off-road, or on the Rio Grande River.

They are permitted in the developed campgrounds (but not the primitive roadside campsite), adjacent to park infrastructure, and on the main park roads.

We generally recommend against bringing you pet to Big Bend, but if you do please follow these regulations:

  • Pets must be on a leash at all times.
  • Pets are allowed within campgrounds, on park roads, and in picnic areas.
  • Pets are not allowed in park buildings, on trails, or in the backcountry.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended in your vehicle. Temperatures can get extremely hot in Big Bend.
  • Always properly dispose of pet waste.

For a complete list of regulations related to pets check out the Big Bend National Park website here.

Where to get supplies

Big Bend National Park is incredibly remote, with no major cities in close proximity. This makes it both important and difficult to stock up on camping supplies prior to your trip. Check out your options below:

  • Cottonwood General Store: Located just west of Big Bend near Turlingua, TX, the Cottonwood General Store in a local favorite. Here you can purchase all the food, water, and other essentials you’ll need for your Big Bend camping trip.
  • Big Bend National Park Convenience Stores: Located at Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, and Castolon these basic shops sell groceries, camping supplies, and other essentials.
  • Marathon & Alpine, TX: These are the two closest towns to Big Bend that offer a significant number of services. Marathon is convenient for those entering Big Bend via the Permission Gap Visitor Center, while Alpine is best suited to those exploring the southwest section of the park. In both towns you’ll find grocery stores, gas stations, outdoor shops, and medical services.

Services are few and far between on the road to Big Bend.

 

Camping near Big Bend National Park

Camping in Big Bend National Park is an incredible experience. However, given the increasing popularity of the national park it is always possible that you’ll arrive to find no campsites available. If this happens, all is not lost as there are plenty of good campgrounds just outside the national park boundary. From RV campgrounds with full hookups to the desert campsites of Big Bend Ranch State Park you’re sure to find something that suits your needs. Keep reading to learn more.

Highway through Big Bend National Park.

There are plenty of campgrounds just outside Big Bend.

 

RV campgrounds

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Big Bend National Park. The majority of the RV campgrounds near Big Bend are located to the west of the national park near Terlingua. However, there are also campgrounds to the north and east, giving you tons of options to meet your camping needs.

Check out your best options for RV camping near Big Bend National Park below:

Lost Gringo RV Park

Number of sites: 15 sites
Fee: $25/night for tents, $35/night for RVs
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Call (432) 371-2111
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Located west of Big Bend National Park just outside of the ghost town of Terlingua, Lost Gringo RV Park provides a great option for RV campers. With only 15 campsites this is a small, well-run campground that will put you only a few minutes from the park.

Amenities include water and electric hookups, restrooms, showers, and laundry facilities.

Big Bend Resort

Number of sites: 131 sites
Fee: $25 – $45/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Big Bend Resort is located just a few minutes from the western entrance to Big Bend National Park, making it an incredibly convenient place to stay before exploring the park. This is a large campground with friendly staff, although some campers say the facilities could use an upgrade.

Regardless, Big Bend Resort is a great option for RV campers looking to explore the west side of Big Bend.

Terlingua Ranch Lodge

Number of sites: 20 RV sites + 28 tent sites
Fee: $30 – $40/night for RV sites // $16/person for tent sites
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Call 432-371-3146
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Terlingua Ranch Lodge is located northwest of Big Bend in a remote section of West Texas desert. While not as convenient to the park as some of your other options, you’ll be in a stunning and quiet location. Terlingua Ranch features campsites with electric, water, and sewer hookups. There are also basic tent sites available.

Amenities include WiFi, a restaurant, and shower facilities. Highly recommended.

Maverick Ranch RV Park

Number of sites: 100 sites
Fee: $49 – $69/night depending on season
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Call 432-424-5182
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Maverick Ranch RV Park is located in the far southwest corner of the Big Bend area in the town of Lajitas. You’ll be well positioned to explore the Santa Elena Canyon area of Big Bend as well as the Chisos Mountains. Maverick Ranch features campsites with full hookups, a pool, dog park, and more.

The campground is very popular during peak season, so be sure to call ahead to secure your site.

Stillwell Ranch RV Park

Number of sites: 65 pull thru sites + tent sites
Fee: $30 – $35/night for full hookup
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Call 432-376-2244
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Stillwell Ranch RV Park is located north of Big Bend National Park only a few minutes from the Permission Gap entrance. This campground and store features RV sites with full hookups as well basic tent sites. The campground has a well equipped shop and also features WiFi.

Don’t forget to check out the Hallie Stillwell Hall of Fame while you’re there!

Car camping sites

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Big Bend National Park you’ll have a few good options to choose from. The adjacent Big Bend Ranch State Park is worth exploring, and the Rancho Topanaga campground is a great choice for those looking to avoid the RV crowd on their camping trip. Read on to learn more.

Camping near Big Bend.

 

Big Bend Ranch State Park

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $12 – $16/night
Capacity: 8 – 12 people per site
RVs: Not recommended.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here.
More Information

Big Bend Ranch State Park is often considered the little brother of Big Bend National Park, but it is less crowded and features some incredible campsites. The park is located to the west of Big Bend National Park and includes the same stunning scenery, mountains, and river access. Big Bend Ranch State Park features a number of primitive campsites that are perfect for those looking for more of a wilderness camping experience.

Reservations are recommend, and can be made through Reserve America here.

Rancho Topanga Campground

Number of sites: 25 sites
Fee: $10 – $25/night depending location & number of people
Capacity: None stated
RVs: No
Reservations: Recommended. Call (432) 371-2131
More Information

The Rancho Topanga Campground is located west of Big Bend National Park along highway 170. This small, friendly campground can only accommodate tents, although a few sites may allow for a pop-up trailer. The campground is basic, but features restrooms, fire rings, and excellent views.

Rancho Topanga does not accept reservations via email or their website, so be sure to call ahead if you’d like to reserve your campsite.

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Big Bend National Park in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!

Starry sky while camping in Big Bend National Park.

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