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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West Highland Way Accommodation Guide

The West Highland Way is celebrated for its dramatic scenery and rich cultural experiences. You’ll enjoy much of this while you’re walking throughout each stage, but the experience certainly doesn’t…

The West Highland Way is celebrated for its dramatic scenery and rich cultural experiences. You’ll enjoy much of this while you’re walking throughout each stage, but the experience certainly doesn’t end when you stop and put your feet up for the day. From luxurious B&B’s to rustic bothies, there are accommodation options to suit every style and budget. What’s more, not only is lodging convenient and accessible along the route, enjoying the Scottish hospitality at these special places is undoubtedly one of the best parts of walking the West Highland Way.

We put together this accommodation guide to help you get the most out of your West Highland Way adventure. Here’s what’s covered in the post:

Quintessential Highlands scenery in Strathfillan.

Do I need to reserve my West Highland Way accommodation in advance?

Generally speaking, yes. During the peak season (May-August), it is very likely that many places will be sold out nearly every night. Even outside of the busy months, it is a good idea to make advance bookings for places in resort areas, small towns with few accommodation options, and on weekends and holidays.

Most campgrounds on the West Highland Way do not require reservations, but there are a few notable exceptions. You should book ahead for the Sallochy Campground and also at the MacDonald Hotel. Check out this Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way for more camping-specific information.

When booking for peak season, the earlier the better. If possible, try to reserve the most in-demand accommodations 3-6 months in advance. If you’re more of a last-minute person, don’t despair. Even calling a few days ahead can really pay off.

A snow capped mountain on the West Highland Way
If you’re willing to brave the harsh Scottish winters, you can enjoy crowd-free trails and good deals at many accommodations.

How much does accommodation cost on the West Highland Way?

A wonderful aspect of the West Highland Way is its very customizable nature. No two walkers have the same experience on this dynamic trek; in fact, if you walk it twice you’ll likely have vastly different experiences each time! Just as you can tailor your itinerary to match your timeframe and your packing list to fit your travel style, so can you choose accommodation to fit your budget.

Prices vary greatly from place to place, but generally speaking, here’s what you can expect to pay for accommodation along the West Highland Way:

  • B&B/Guesthouse/Hotel: £75+ (per person/per night)
  • Bunkhouse/Hostel: £40 (per person/per night)
  • Camping: £10 (per person/per night)

In our accommodation directory, we’ve provided our recommendations for high-end, mid-range, and budget options at all of the typical West Highland Way stops. We’ve defined those categories as follows:

  • High-End: £70+ (per person/per night)
  • Mid-Range: £40-70 (per person/per night)
  • Budget:<£40 (per person/per night)

NOTE: Camping accommodation is not included in this post. Check out our detailed Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way for camping options on every stage.

Read more: How Much It Cost Us to Hike the West Highland Way

Glasses of beer on the West Highland Way
One of our favorite parts of hiking the West Highland Way!

West Highland Way Accommodation Directory

There are wonderful places to stay along the entire West Highland Way route. In this directory, we’ll give you key details about all of your options, as well as our best recommendations for every budget.

We’ve organized our list to follow most variations of the classic south to north walking itinerary.

Want help planning the perfect itinerary? Check out this handy West Highland Way Maps article!

The path from Milngavie to Drymen on the West Highland Way
Easy walking from Milngavie to Drymen.

Milngavie

High-End: West Highland Way Rooms

These two well-appointed apartments provide a perfect starting point for your West Highland Way adventure. They feature handy amenities like laundry, kitchen/kitchenette facilities, and free wifi, and the location is convenient for starting the walk.

Mid-Range: Premier Inn

There are actually two Premier Inns in Milngavie, one is called the Premier Inn Glasgow (Milngavie) and the other is the Premier Inn Glasgow (Bearsden). They are just a few minutes apart from each other and both are about a mile from the WHW starting point. These hotels are a great value for the price.

Budget: West Highland Way Campsite

Located a few miles past the starting point of the West Highland Way, this accommodation might be conveniently located for some, while a bit out of the way for others. The campsite offers luxury safari tents and well-appointed caravans in a tranquil setting.

Drymen

High-End: Ashbank Bed and Breakfast

Walkers seeking a bit of luxury after their first day on the trail will not be disappointed by this lovely B&B. Clean, welcoming, and conveniently located, this is an excellent option in Drymen. As an added bonus, the delicious hearty breakfast will sustain you for miles!

Mid-Range: The Drymen Inn

This classic Scottish inn serves up plenty of charm and warm hospitality. The vintage feel is balanced with modern conveniences, like free wifi and private bathrooms.

Budget: The Winnock Hotel

This hotel, now operated by Best Western, is a good value considering its many amenities and central location. While not particularly fancy, the rooms are cozy and there is a bar and restaurant on site.

Read more: West Highland Way Packing List

Rowardennan

High-End: Rowardennan Hotel

This beautiful historic hotel is set in a stunning location on the banks of Loch Lomond, with many of the guest rooms enjoying great views of the surrounding area. The Rowardennan Hotel is the only high-end option in the area, but it is a good one!

Mid-Range: Rowardennan Lodge Youth Hostel

The charming old building and idyllic lochside location are just a few of the many things to love about this hostel. There is also a self-catering kitchen, laundry facilities, and a drying room. Private and en-suite rooms are available.

Budget: Ben Lomond Bunkhouse

Not only does this bunkhouse get rave reviews for its clean, cozy facilities and convenient location, but all proceeds from your stay will be used by the National Trust for conservation work on Ben Lomond. The bunkhouse has a communal kitchen and wonderful lounge in addition to its two small bedrooms. Space is quite limited, so it is definitely a good idea to book ahead.

Pebble beach along Loch Lomond.

Inversnaid

High-End: Garrison of Inversnaid

This incredible B&B offers two studio rooms inside a converted barn house. The property is a working farm that dates back to 1719 and boasts incredible mountain scenery in all directions. Weary walkers will enjoy the hot tub and lavish breakfast spread. Be advised that you’ll need to walk a little under a mile uphill from the WHW trail to reach this accommodation.

Mid-Range: Inversnaid Hotel

While this hotel is primarily used for coach tours, they do accept individual bookings when rooms are available. The hotel has a beautiful lochside location that is situated directly on the WHW route.

Budget: Inversnaid Bunkhouse

This unique bunkhouse is located inside an old church and offers a variety of room types to suit your needs. There is a pub on site, as well as a drying room and a hot tub. The bunkhouse is located a bit off the trail, but they offer free pick and and drop off on most days.

Inverarnan

High-End: The Drovers Inn

Guests will enjoy the unique character and friendly service at this historic hotel. There is an excellent restaurant on site that is known for its cozy setting and great atmosphere. There are a variety of rooms on offer, from the luxurious jacuzzi room to the reputedly haunted room in the lodge across the street!

Mid-Range: Rose Cottage B&B

This friendly B&B offers clean, comfortable rooms in a convenient location. The kind hosts provide laundry service upon request, as well as a hearty breakfast and warm hospitality. There is no website for this B&B, but bookings can be made through murielrosecottage@hotmail.com or by phoning +44 01301-704255.

Budget: Beinglas Farm

This excellent accommodation offers a variety of lodging options to suit any budget. There is a cozy B&B, as well as basic camping cabins and tent camping available. There’s a great restaurant, a small shop, and laundry facilities on site.

The restaurant at Beinglas Farm knows how to feed hungry hikers!

Crianlarich

High-End: Glenardran House

The village of Crianlarich is located about 15 minutes off the main WHW route, but many walkers find it to be a worthwhile detour. This is especially true if you choose to stay at the stylish and comfortable Glenardran House. With a welcoming staff and delicious breakfast, it’s everything a B&B should be and more.

Mid-Range: Best Western Crianlarich Hotel

This cozy hotel has clean, comfortable rooms and a good quality restaurant/bar on site. It is a dependable stop and a good value for those making the short detour to Crianlarich.

Budget: Crianlarich Youth Hostel

This excellent hostel is located inside a beautiful bungalow in a tranquil wooded location. There are private rooms and dorm beds available, as well as a drying room, communal kitchen, and lounge area.

Want to take the stress out of navigating on your West Highland Way trek? Learn more about our downloadable GPS file!

Tyndrum

High-End: Glengarry House B&B

Walkers rave about this exceptional bed and breakfast located on the outskirts of Tyndrum. The hosts are welcoming and knowledgeable, the space is cozy and peaceful, and the breakfast is delicious. They offer the option for laundry and an evening meal.

Mid-Range: Dalkell Cottage

This lovely little B&B offers rooms in their guesthouse as well as the option to stay in the cozy cottage on the property. All of the rooms provide tea/coffee and plenty of thoughtful touches. The friendly hosts enjoy catering to weary walkers.

Budget: By the Way Hostel and Campsite

In addition to dorm beds in the hostel, there are a range of unique accommodations available at By the Way (including camping pods and hobbit houses). Regardless of which type of lodging you choose, you’ll be perfectly located along the WHW trail and close to the shops of Tyndrum. The facilities are well-maintained and include a drying room and a communal kitchen.

Bridge of Orchy

High-End: Bridge of Orchy Hotel

This splendid hotel is one of only a couple options in the area, but being set in the middle of nowhere works in its favor. The Bridge of Orchy Hotel enjoys gorgeous views of the tranquil valley on the banks of the Orchy River. The building has plenty of traditional charm, but rooms have comfortable modern updates.

Budget: West Highland Way Sleeper

This cozy bunkhouse is the only other accommodation on this part of the route. Housed inside a historic train platform building, it is a unique and convenient option. Accommodation is basic but comfortable. There is a drying room, and a continental breakfast and linens are provided. Advance bookings are essential during the summer months.

Bridge of Orchy frames the green hills beyond.

Kingshouse

High-End: Kingshouse Hotel

Walkers looking for a spot of luxury will not be disappointed by their stay at the Kingshouse Hotel. This excellent accommodation boasts stunning quintessential Highlands scenery and beautifully renovated rooms in an 18th-century building. There is an upscale restaurant/bar on site, as well as a more casual pub next door.

Mid-Range: Glencoe Mountain Resort

With limited lodging in the area, this is a good value option for those who are willing to rough it just a bit. The resort offers cozy microlodges that sleep up to six people. The accommodation is very basic- just bunks with mattresses (bring your own sleeping bag) and shared bathroom facilities, but they are clean and comfortable. There is a fully licensed cafe on the site.

Budget: The Kingshouse Hotel Bunkhouse

If you want to enjoy the beautiful scenery and warm ambiance of the Kingshouse Hotel on a shoestring budget, this is an excellent option. The bunkhouse features a variety of room sizes, sleeping anywhere from two to six people. There are shared bathroom facilities and a communal kitchenette. Linens are provided and towels are available for rent.

Hanging out at Glencoe Mountain Resort.

Kinlochleven

High-End: Tigh na Cheo Guest House

It’s the small details and thoughtful touches that elevate a place like Tigh na Cheo from good to exceptional. From their super comfortable beds to the bath salts provided for soaking sore muscles, this welcoming B&B will make sure that your final night on the trail is extra special.

Mid-Range: MacDonald Hotel and Cabins

While you have to walk a few minutes past the town center to reach this hotel, it is certainly worth it to enjoy the secluded setting and stunning views on the banks of Loch Leven. Hotel rooms feature en suite bathrooms and complimentary breakfast, while the budget-friendly cabins have shared bathroom facilities and linens provided (sleeping bags can be rented on site).

Budget: Blackwater Hostel

When it comes to hostels, this is one of the best along the West Highland Way. There are a variety of dormitory sizes available, allowing many walkers to enjoy a private room. The excellent facilities include good hot showers (shampoo and soap provided), drying rooms, and a well-equipped communal kitchen. It’s conveniently located near the shop and pubs.

A rare glimpse of Ben Nevis as the clouds part.

Fort William

High-End: Gowan Brae Bed and Breakfast

What better way to celebrate your completion of the West Highland Way than by enjoying a stay somewhere luxurious? Gowan Brea B&B has it all: welcoming hosts, a central location, beautiful views, and plush rooms. Plus, the breakfast is divine.

Mid-Range: Myrtle Bank Guest House

Everything about this guest house is truly magical. Set inside an 1890’s Victorian on the banks of Loch Linnhe, there’s no shortage of great views and ambiance. The service is top-notch and the price is right.

Budget: Fort William Backpackers

This friendly hostel has good facilities and tons of quirky charm. It’s set in a cozy historic house, which means that some features are a bit dated (such as the very limited number of outlets in the rooms). The hostel has a lovely lounge and communal kitchen, a very affordable continental breakfast option, and linens are provided.

What’s Next?

Check out our other great West Highland Way resources!

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The Complete Guide to Camping in Great Basin National Park

Great Basin National Park, located in eastern Nevada, is one of America’s most stunning national parks. The park features the 13,065′ Wheeler Peak, a mammoth mountain that dominates the skyline….

Great Basin National Park, located in eastern Nevada, is one of America’s most stunning national parks. The park features the 13,065′ Wheeler Peak, a mammoth mountain that dominates the skyline. At the base of the peak you’ll find the Lehman Caves, a spectacular cave system that is over 2 miles in length, the longest in Nevada. Great Basin is also home to several stands of bristlecone pines, considered to be some of the oldest living organisms in the world.

Needless to say you’ll have plenty of natural wonders to explore during your visit. We think the best way to experience everything that Great Basin has to offer is to spend a few nights under the stars in your tent or RV. Great Basin National Park has plenty of camping options from the five developed campgrounds within the park, to the primitive sites along Snake Creek Road, to the abundance of backcountry options as well as nearby RV and dispersed campsites. 

Keep reading to learn all the details you’ll need to plan your perfect camping trip in Great Basin National Park. 

Aspen tree in front of Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park.

Great Basin National Park has plenty of options for your perfect camping trip.

 

In this post

 

Great Basin National Park Campgrounds

There are five developed campgrounds within Great Basin National Park. These campgrounds are generally located in the northern section of the park off of Highway 488, the main road in the park. Access is through the town of Baker, NV, the main gateway to Great Basin National Park.

In addition to the developed campgrounds you’ll also find primitive campgrounds located along Snake Creek Road that generally require a 4WD vehicle to access. Snake Creek Road is located in the southern section of the national park, with access from Garrison, NV.

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

Map of campgrounds in Great Basin National Park.

Campgrounds in Great Basin National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

The majority of the campgrounds in Great Basin National Park are open seasonally from approximately May – October. However, Lower Lehman Creek Campground is open year round as are the primitive sites along Snake Creek Road. Peak season for camping in Great Basin is during the summer, from approximately June – August.

Keep reading to learn about reservations and permits for camping in Great Basin National Park. 

Reservations & Permits

Only the Grey Cliffs Campground in Great Basin National Park accepts reservations, while the others are all first-come, first-served. Reservations can be made at Grey Cliffs from Memorial Day through the end of September, and can only be made for tent camping sites. No RV camping reservations are available. For all of the other sites your best bet during the peak season is to arrive early!

Reservations for the Grey Cliffs Campground can be made through Recreation.gov at the link below:

Reservations for the Grey Cliffs Campground can be made here via Recreation.gov

For those interested in exploring the backcountry of Great Basin National Park there are countless opportunities for backcountry camping in the park. Although it is not required, backcountry campers are strongly encouraged to register with the National Park Service before heading out. Registration is free and can be completed at either the Great Basin Visitor Center or Lehman Caves Visitor Center.

We highly recommend all backcountry campers register as this will ensure the NPS knows you are in the wilderness should anything go wrong on your trip. Learn more about backcountry camping in Great Basin National Park in this section.

View of Wheeler Peak from the Great Basin Backcountry.

Be sure to register with the NPS prior to setting out on a backcountry camping trip in Great Basin National Park. Photo credit NPS.

What to bring on your Great Basin National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Great Basin 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 Great Basin:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This stove is perfect for cooking up camping classics at the campground.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun in Nevada can be intense! We recommend bringing a portable shade structure like this one.
  • Portable water container – Especially useful for camping along Snake Creek Road, portable water containers are a life saver.
  • Cooler – The hot summer temperatures make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Great Basin National Park Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Great Basin.

Developed Campgrounds

There are five developed campgrounds for those looking to car camp in Great Basin National Park. These campgrounds vary in size and all are located in the northern section of the park. Details for five campgrounds are below.

Note that while none of the individual campgrounds feature a dump station, there is one available on the road leading to the Lehman Caves.

Lower Lehman Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 11 sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes, limited number of sites available.
Reservations: First-come, first-served.
Season: Open year round.
More Information

A trail through the Lehman Caves in Great Basin National Park.

The Lower Lehman Creek Campground is the perfect place to spend the night before exploring the Lehman Caves. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Lower Lehman Creek Campground is one of the first campgrounds you’ll encounter upon entering Great Basin National Park through the Baker entrance. This is the only campground that is open year round in the park, so will be your best bet during the off season. Lower Lehman Creek is on the smaller side with only 11 sites, so be sure to get there early to snag a campsite!

The campground does not accept reservations and all sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The campground has a few campsites that can accommodate pull-thru RV parking, but the ground tends to be uneven and can make it difficult to find a level spot. Tent campers should be just fine as all of the sites have sufficient space for a tent or two.

Click here to view a map of the Lower Lehman Creek Campground

Lower Lehman Creek is located close to the Lehman Caves and the Lehman Creek trail and makes a great place to spend the night prior to exploring the area.

 

Upper Lehman Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 24 sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes
Reservations: First-come, first-served.
Season: Open seasonally from May – October.
More Information

The Upper Lehman Creek Campground is perfect for those looking for easy access to hiking trails, as the Lehman Creek trails starts directly from the campground. Located just off Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, the campground features 24 sites that are open seasonally from May – October. The campground can accommodate small RVs and trailers, but be prepared for an uneven ground surface.

All of the campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to arrive early during peak season to secure a spot. The lovely Lehman Creek meanders its way through the campground, making for an atmospheric place to spend the night.

Click here to view a map of the Upper Lehman Creek Campground

The campground generally has potable water available during the peak season and features picnic tables and vault toilets.

 

Wheeler Peak Campground

Number of Sites: 37 sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes
Reservations: First-come, first-served.
Season: Open seasonally from May – October.
More Information

Wheeler Peak from Wheeler Peak Campground in Great Basin National Park.

Wheeler Peak Campground’s namesake peak. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Wheeler Peak Campgrounds sits at 9,800′ above sea level and provides a high-alpine camping experience. The campground features 37 campsites, a few of which can accommodate larger trailers and RVs. To reach the campground you’ll need to drive approximately 12 miles along Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive, a steep and narrow road. It is important to note that no vehicles/trailers longer than 24′ are allowed on Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive past the Upper Lehman Creek Campground.

Click here to view a map of the Wheeler Peak Campground

This is the most convenient campground to stay at if you’re interested in hiking (or driving) to the Wheeler Peak summit. Given its proximity to the Wheeler Peak summit trail, the campground is quite popular. Be sure to arrive early as all of the sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The campground generally has potable water available during the peak season and features picnic tables and vault toilets. Wheeler Peak Campground closes during the winter season.

Baker Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 38 sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes
Reservations: First-come, first-served.
Season: Open seasonally from May – October.
More Information

The Baker Creek Campground is the largest in Great Basin National Park and features 38 campsites. The campground is located at the end of Baker Creek Road, an easily passable gravel road. This is the perfect place to camp before hiking to Baker and Johnson Lakes, which is a popular loop trail in Great Basin.

Click here to view a map of the Baker Creek Campground

Baker Creek can accommodate medium sized RVs and trailers, but be aware that the road leading through the campground is quite narrow. As with the majority of the campgrounds in Great Basin National Park, all of the sites at Baker Creek are first-come, first-served. Similarly, the campground is only open during the summer season from May – October.

Grey Cliffs Campground

Number of Sites: 12 individual sites + 4 group sites
Fee: $15/night for individual sites, $30/night for group sites
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Click Here to Reserve
Season: Open seasonally from May – October.
More Information

The Grey Cliffs Campground is located a short-drive up Baker Creek Road. This excellent campground features 12 individual sites as well as 4 group sites. The group sites can accommodate up to 12 people. Reservations are required for any of the group sites and can also be made for the individual sites at the Grey Cliffs campground. Make your reservations via Recreation.gov here. Note that there is a two night minimum for any camping reservation at Grey Cliffs.

Click here to view a map of the Grey Cliffs Campground

It is important to note that there is no potable water available at the Grey Cliffs Campground. Campers will have to get their water from the Baker Creek Campground, located approximately 1.5 miles up Baker Creek Road.

Snake Creek Road Primitive Campgrounds

In addition to the five developed campgrounds described above, Great Basin National Park also features primitive campgrounds along Snake Creek Road. Snake Creek Road begins in the town of Garrison, NV and winds its way for approximately 8.5 miles into the heart of Great Basin National Park. See the map below for more detail.

Map of campgrounds along Snake Creek Road in Great Basin National Park

Map of campgrounds along Snake Creek Road in Great Basin National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

Number of Sites: 12 campsites – please camp at designed sites only!
Fee: Free
Capacity: Up to 15 people / 6 pack animals / 6 vehicle per site
RVs: Not recommended
Reservations: First come, first served
More Information

Although they are not developed campgrounds, the primitive sites along Snake Creek Road provide an excellent option for camping in Great Basin National Park. Each of the campsites along Snake Creek Road include a picnic table and many have fire rings. The park service requires that you place your tent within 30′ of either the picnic table or fire ring. The campsites are generally quite large and can accommodate groups of up to 15 people.

There are no restrooms or trash facilities along Snake Creek Road, so always be sure to bury your waste (at least 100′ from the nearest water source!) and pack out all of your trash. Water can occasionally be drawn from Snake Creek, but must be treated.

The road itself can be quite tough at times, so a high clearance vehicle is recommended. While you may be able to pass some portions in a smaller passenger vehicle, we don’t recommend it. For these same reasons RVs and trailers are not recommended for any of the campsites along Snake Creek Road.

Best of all, the campsites along Snake Creek road are all first-come, first-served and free of charge. In order to preserve these great campsites for future visitors it is very important to practice Leave No Trace principles when camping in this section of Great Basin National Park.

 

Backcountry camping in Great Basin National Park

Backpacking in Great Basin National Park is often overlooked for other, more glamorous trips in the bigger national parks. It shouldn’t be! While Great Basin only boasts 60+ miles of trails to explore, you’re bound to encounter few, if any, other backpackers during your trip. That fact combined with the lack of a permitting system making planning a backpacking trip in Great Basin National Park an easy endeavor. Read on to find out what you need to know.

A hiking trail in Great Basin National Park

 

Backcountry Camping Registration

Registration is not required for backcountry camping in Great Basin National Park. However, we strongly recommend that all backcountry campers take the time to register prior to embarking on their trip. Registration is free and it is always a good idea of let the NPS know where you plan to be should something go wrong. Registering also helps the NPS understand visitor usage in the park and better preserve this important ecosystem.

Backcountry camping registration can be completed at either the Lehman Caves or Great Basin Visitor Centers in Great Basin National Park. Prior to registering, it is important to keep a few key regulations in mind:

  • No more than 15 people per group.
  • No backcountry camping is permitted in the Wheeler Peak Day Use or Lexington Arch Day Use areas.
  • Camping is not allowed in bristlecone pine groves.
  • Camping is not allowed on the Osceola Ditch trail.

Outside of the restrictions above, backcountry camping is permitted in most areas of the park. You’ll want your campsite to meet the following guidelines provided by the NPS:

  • Be at least 1/2 mile from the nearest trail
  • Campsites must be 1/4 mile from the nearest park facility (campgrounds, trailheads, etc.)
  • At least 100′ from any water source
  • 500′ from any archeological site (mines, ruins, etc.)
  • Fires are prohibited above 10,000 feet

For a full list of backcountry camping regulations in Great Basin National Park visit the NPS website here. 

Where to camp in the Great Basin backcountry

Great Basin National Park does not have designated backcountry campsites. Rather, the NPS recommends that backcountry hikers camp at obvious campsites which have been developed by previous users. These should be fairly obvious on the trail as you’ll generally be able to see where tents have been placed, logs arranged for seating, etc.

Regardless of where you decide to pitch your tent you’ll need to be at least 1/4 mile from the nearest road,  and avoid close proximity to water sources, other campers, structures, and trails.

Pyramid Peak Loop

The most popular backcountry trip in Great Basin National Park is the Pyramid Peak Loop. This 13 mile loop makes the perfect overnight trip in the Great Basin backcountry and provides excellent views of Wheeler Peak while visiting both Baker and Johnson Lakes. Find additional information on this excellent trip below:

You can view a full list of the hiking trails in Great Basin National Park here. 

Great Basin National Park backcountry

Backcountry campers will have plenty of trails to explore in Great Basin National Park. Photo credit NPS.

 

Great Basin National Park Camping Must Know

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

  • The maximum stay at any campground or campsite is 14 days
  • Tents must be placed within 30 feet of the campsites fire ring or picnic table
  • Always pay your campsite fee within 30 minutes of arrival

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

Campfires in Great Basin

Fires are permitted at all of the developed campgrounds as well as the primitive campgrounds along Snake Creek Road. At these locations, your fire must be fully contained within the provided fire pit/fire grate and should never be left unattended.

In the Great Basin backcountry, campfires are allowed as long as you are below 10,000′. Above this elevation fires are prohibited. If you are camping in an area of the backcountry where fires are allowed, be sure to follow these regulations:

  • Only build fires in areas of bare soil or snow.
  • There must be at least a 10′ clear area around the fire.
  • Do not clear vegetation to create a fire pit.
  • Do not construct a stone ring fire pit.
  • Ensure the fire is completely out before leaving your campsite.

Gathering of wood in Great Basin National Park is permitted, so long as it is already dead and on the ground. You are not allowed to cut any living trees, shrubs, etc in the National Park for use as firewood. 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.

Campfire in Great Basin National Park

 

Wildlife

The high desert landscape of Great Basin National Park is home to a diversity of wildlife. Many of these animals have adopted specific adaptations to survive in this unique environment. While most visitors are unlikely to encounter many of the animals that live in the park, campers should be aware of a few specific species:

  • Coyotes: This is mammal you are most likely to encounter on a camping trip in Great Basin. Be sure to securely store all food, especially in the backcountry to limit your impact.
  • Snakes: Great Basin is home to several snake species, most notably the rattlesnake. Snakes are most active at night, but be sure to always be scanning the trail for them.
  • Mountain lions: Mountain lions are solitary animals and they are incredibly rare to see in person. However, campers and especially those in the backcountry should always be aware of their surroundings.

Learn more about the wildlife in Great Basin National Park here.

Mountain lion perched on a rock.

 

Pets

As with many national parks, Great Basin has restrictions about where you are allowed to bring your pet within the national park. Generally speaking, pets are allowed at the developed campgrounds and in areas immediately surrounding park buildings, such as visitor centers. In addition, pets are allowed on the Lexington Arch trail.

Pets are not allowed on any other trails in Great Basin National Park or anywhere in the backcountry. This includes the primitive campgrounds along Snake Creek Road.

If you do plan on bringing your pet to Great Basin National Park, please follow these guidelines:

  • Pets must be on a six-foot leash at all times.
  • Please pick up your pet waste.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

You can find the full list of pet regulations on the Great Basin National Park website here. 

 

Where to get supplies

Great Basin National Park is nothing if not remote. Located in far east Nevada, the park provides a true wilderness experience. All that solitude makes it important to be prepared for your camping trip as there aren’t many services close to the national park.

Check out your best bets for stocking up prior to your Great Basin National Park camping trip below:

  • Baker, NV: Baker is considered the gateway to Great Basin National Park. Located just a few miles from the national park, this is your most convenient option to stock up prior to your trip. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of services in Baker. However, you will find a gas station, several restaurants, an excellent coffee shop, a few hotels and friendly locals.

 

  • Ely, NV: For those in need of more services than what is available in Baker, you’ll need to head to Ely. Located approximately 1 hour from Great Basin National Park, Ely has an outdoor store, multiple grocery stores, and all the services you may need to stock up before your camping trip.

Camping near Great Basin National Park

Spending a few nights camping in Great Basin National Park is an experience not to be missed. However, the popularity of of camping in the park and limited availability for reservations means you may arrive to completely full campgrounds. Don’t let that deter you, though, as there are plenty of camping options just outside of Great Basin National Park. From full service RV campgrounds, to free dispersed camping check out your best bets below.

RV parked in the desert

There are plenty of RV campgrounds near Great Basin National Park.

 

RV campgrounds

Whispering Elms Motel & Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $30 – $40/night depending on hookups
Capacity: 6 people per site
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Located a short drive from Great Basin National Park in Baker, NV the Whispering Elms Motel & Campground is the closest RV campground to the national park. At Whispering Elms you’ll find hookups for 30/50 amps as well as water and sewer hookups. In addition to RVs, the campground can also accommodate tent campers.

Amenities include free pool, TV, WiFi, laundry facilities, and a restaurant/lodge. Whispering Elms gets great reviews for the stunning views from the campground and clean facilities.

The Border Inn

Number of sites: Limited
Fee: $25/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

The Border Inn sits, you guess it, right on the border of Nevada and Utah, approximately 15 minutes from Great Basin National Park. More than just a campground, the Border Inn features a small casino, motel, gas station, and small convenience store.

The campground is small, but the sites are level and hookups are available. The Border Inn isn’t the most family friendly of your options near Great Basin National Park, but they provide an affordable camping option and get great reviews for the friendly staff.

 

Ely KOA

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $40 – $60/night
Capacity: 2 – 8 people depending on site.
RVs: Yes, up to 90′
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Ely KOA is located in the town of Ely, NV approximately 1 hour from the entrance to Great Basin National Park. Although a bit further from the park than other options you’ll find a predictably good campground with access to plenty of services in the town of Ely. The campgrounds feature full hookups and you’ll get access to great amenities including a dog park, free WiFi, and a fire pit.

The Ely KOA also provides sites for tent campers, making this a great option before exploring Great Basin National Park.

 

Car camping sites

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Great Basin 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 Great Basin.

Car and tent near Great Basin National Park.

There are plenty of car camping sites near Great Basin National Park.

 

Cave Lake State Park – Elk Flat Campground & Lake View Campground

Number of sites: Elk Flat (15 sites) and Lake View (17 sites)
Fee: $15/night
Capacity: None Stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: First-come, first-served. Group site reservations may be available.
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

Located to the northwest of Great Basin National Park, Cave Lake State Park offers two developed campgrounds that provide a good car camping option near the park. The campgrounds are located approximately 1 hour from the entrance to Great Basin and there are a total of 32 campsites at Cave Lake.

All of the campsites are first-come, first-served with the exception of a few sites that are available for group reservations. To reserve a group site, email clsp@parks.nv.gov.

Cave Lake State Park has a small lake with great fishing as well as plenty of hiking trails, making it an excellent destination in its own right.

Dispersed camping near Great Basin National Park

Your final option for camping near Great Basin National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite on adjacent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land which practically surrounds the national park. This land is overseen by the BLM 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.

There are several excellent options for dispersed camping near Great Basin National Park, and we’ve outlined your best bets below.

Tent in the desert near Great Basin National Park

Free dispersed camping is available on BLM land near Great Basin National Park.

Snake Creek Road

Snake Creek Road connects Garrison, NV with Great Basin National Park. Within the park the NPS allows for free, primitive camping along the road, as we described in the section above. Similarly, there is a free dispersed campsite on Snake Creek Road in BLM land just outside the national park boundary.

You’ll find the campsite by turning south off of the main road just prior to entering the national park. Be aware that large trailer and RVs will have trouble accessing this site.

Also, there is no bathroom or potable water source at the campsite so be prepared to be self reliant and practice Leave No Trace principles.

Sacramento Pass

The Sacramento Pass Recreation Area is located just north of Great Basin National Park along State Highway 50. This free dispersed camping area is more developed than most, and you’ll find pit toilets as well as picnic tables at the campsite here. While not as close as camping along Snake Creek Road, you’ll still only be 20 minutes from the park.

Several of the campsites are large enough to accommodate RVs and trailers, so this makes a great campground for those with a big rig.

Cleve Creek

The final option for dispersed camping near Great Basin National Park is the Cleve Creek Campground.

Cleve Creek is located to the northwest of Great Basin, just outside of Humboldt National Forest. The campground has 12 individual campsites and 1 group site. There are restrooms at the campground and each site features a picnic table. There is no potable water available at Cleve Creek, so be sure to bring all that you’ll need.

Bureau of Land Management – Ely, NV Office

For the most up to date information on dispersed camping near Great Basin National Park be sure to reach out the the Ely office of the BLM. The helpful rangers will be able to provide information on potential places to camp, fire restrictions, and other pertinent information for your trip.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Great Basin 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 and Near Hot Springs National Park

Historical interest and natural beauty strike a perfect balance in Hot Springs National Park. This little gem is the oldest park to be managed by the National Park System, but…

Historical interest and natural beauty strike a perfect balance in Hot Springs National Park. This little gem is the oldest park to be managed by the National Park System, but its storied past extends thousands of years beyond that as a sacred place for numerous Indigenous Peoples. Visitors today can enjoy peaceful hiking trails, grandiose bathhouses, and endless recreational activities in the park and the nearby city of Hot Springs.

Those looking to make the most of their escape to nature will have their pick from a wealth of excellent camping options in the area. Whether you’re looking for a deluxe glamping experience or free dispersed camping, we’ve got you covered. This guide details all of the best places to camp in and near Hot Springs National Park and provides need-to-know information to help you have your best possible trip. Happy Camping!

Gulpha Creek in the fall.
You can camp year-round in and near Hot Springs National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Mitch Smith.

In this Guide:

Camping in Hot Springs National Park

Given the relatively small size of the park and its urban surroundings, camping options are limited inside Hot Springs National Park. Backcountry and dispersed camping are not permitted anywhere inside the park. The only place you can camp within Hot Springs National Park is at the Gulpha Gorge Campground, but fortunately, this is an excellent option.

With a shady and idyllic location on the banks of Gulpha Creek, Gulpha Gorge Campground accommodates both tents and RVs and gives campers easy proximity to trails, bathhouses, the Visitor Center, and other attractions. It is open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis.

An RV parked by the stream at Gulpha Gorge Campground.
Many of the sites at Gulpha Gorge Campground are located right along Gulpha Creek. Photo courtesy of NPS/Mitch Smith.

What to bring on your Hot Springs National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Hot Springs 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 Hot Springs National Park:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for whipping up campsite classics.
  • Portable water container – Save yourself from making dozens of trips to the campground water tap and bring one of these.
  • Cooler – The temperatures make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!

Gulpha Gorge Campground

# of Sites: 40

Type: Tent, RV

Fees: $30/night (credit or debit only)

Amenities:

  • Flush toilets
  • Potable water
  • Electric, water, and sewer hookups
  • Dump station
  • Trash/recycling
  • Picnic tables
  • Grills

Pets: Pets are allowed in the campground and on all of the trails in Hot Springs National Park. Dogs must be kept on a 6′ leash.

Fires: Grills are provided at all campsites. Ground fires are only permitted in designated fire rings at the campground.

Reservations: It is not possible to reserve a spot at Gulpha Gorge Campground. All sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. It is important to register before setting up camp and you can only pay with a credit or debit card.

Wildlife: Hot Springs National Park is home to thousands of species, including black bears, white tailed deer, coyotes, and bats. Although it’s unlikely that you’ll see a bear at the campground, be sure to secure all of your food items in a car or bear canister. The most common animal you’ll encounter in the summertime is the mosquito, so pack the bug spray!

Website: Gulpha Gorge Campground

A white tailed deer, seen while camping at Hot Springs National Park.
White tailed deer are common in Hot Springs National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Mitch Smith.

Campgrounds Near Hot Springs National Park

From rustic to resort-like, there are plenty of great camping options near Hot Springs National Park to suit every style and budget. In this section, you’ll find our recommendations for the best campgrounds within a 35-minute drive from the National Park.

Hot Springs KOA

# of sites: 70

Type: RV, Tent, Cabins

Fees: $30/night (Tent), $40-$75/night (RV), $75-$140/night (Cabin)

Distance to Hot Springs National Park: 4 miles ( 7-minute drive)

Amenities:

  • Toilets/Showers
  • Communal kitchen
  • Laundry
  • Water/Electric hookups (50 amp max)
  • WiFi
  • Pool
  • Snack bar
  • Games
  • Shuttle to Hot Springs National Park

Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.

Fires: Permitted in designated fire pits. Firewood is available for purchase at the campground.

Reservations: Recommended. Reservations can be made HERE.

Website: Hot Springs National Park KOA

Bar Fifty RV Park and Horse Camp

# of sites: 57

Type: Tent, RV, Bunkhouse

Fees: $15 (Tent), $32 (RV)

Distance to Hot Springs National Park: 20 miles (35-minute drive)

Amenities:

  • Toilets/Showers
  • Potable Water
  • Water/Electric hookups
  • Picnic tables
  • Horse pens

Pets: Yes.

Fires: Yes

Reservations: Recommended for busy weekends/holidays.

Lake Ouachita State Park

# of sites: 93

Type: Walk-in tent, Tent, RV, Cabin

Fees: $14/night (Tent), $36/night (RV w/hookups), $200-$250 (Cabin)

Distance to Hot Springs National Park: 15 miles (25-minute drive)

Amenities:

  • Toilets/Showers
  • Potable water
  • Water/sewer/electric (50 amp) hookups (Class AAA sites)
  • Picnic tables
  • Barbeques
  • Gift shop in Visitor’s Center
  • Boat rentals

Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.

Fires: Yes, in designated areas.

Reservations: Recommended. There is a two-night minimum for weekend reservations and a three-night minimum for holidays. Reservations can be made HERE.

Website: Lake Ouachita State Park

Charlton Recreation Area

# of sites: 52

Type: Tent, RV, Group

Fees: $15/night (tent sites), $25/night (Single RV sites w/hookups), $40/night (Double RV sites w/hookups), $40/night (Group tent site)

Distance to Hot Springs National Park: 22 miles (35-minute drive)

Amenities:

  • Flush toilets/Showers
  • Potable water
  • Picnic tables
  • Barbeques and fire pits
  • Tent/trailer pad
  • Swimming area
  • Water/Electric hookups (Loops B & C)
  • Dump Station

Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.

Fires: Yes, in designated areas.

Reservations: N/A. All sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Website: Charlton Recreation Area

Lake Catherine State Park

# of sites: 76

Type: Tent, RV, Yurt, Cabins

Fees: $13/night (primitive tent sites), $23/night (Class B sites), $36/night (class AAA sites), $58/night (yurt), $100/night (cabins)

Distance to Hot Springs National Park: 13 miles (20-minute drive)

Amenities:

  • Flush toilets/Showers
  • Potable water
  • Picnic tables
  • Barbeques and fire pits
  • Tent/trailer pad
  • Marina/Boat Rentals
  • Water/Electric hookups

Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.

Fires: Yes, in designated areas.

Reservations: Highly recommended. Reservations can be made HERE.

Website: Lake Catherine State Park

RV Camping near Hot Springs National Park
There are plenty of great options for both RV and tent camping near Hot Springs National Park.

Dispersed Camping Near Hot Springs National Park

The hands-down best place for dispersed camping near Hot Springs National Park is in Ouachita National Forest. This incredible wilderness area encompasses 1.8 million acres and includes Arkansas’ largest lake, Lake Ouachita.

The Forest Service offers this advice about camping in Ouachita National Forest:

“…[P]rimitive camping is allowed almost anywhere in the Ouachita National Forest unless there is a sign stating otherwise, or it is a wildlife food plot. Located throughout the Forests are areas that have been campsites for many years. These are located along roadsides, trails, mountain tops, or near streams.”

For easy access to Hot Springs National Park, camp in the southeastern part of Ouachita National Forest. The Jessieville-Winona-Fourche Ranger District and Caddo/Womble Ranger District are both good options. If you are feeling adventurous, head towards Ouachita via US-270W or AR-298W, and choose a series of dirt roads to follow to seek out a camp spot once inside the forest.

Those looking for a little more guidance can check out the recommendations on this website.

Always follow National Forest Guidelines and Leave No Trace Practices when dispersed camping.

Dispersed Camping near Hot Springs National Park
Dispersed camping near Hot Springs National Park is a peaceful and free option.

Ouachita National Forest

# of Sites: Varies

Type: Primitive (some spaces can accommodate RVs, but no hookups)

Fees: Free

Distance to Hot Springs National Park: Varies (likely about an hour+ drive)

Amenities:

  • None
  • Water should be filtered before drinking from lakes or streams.
  • There may be a recreation area nearby with water/bathrooms, and necessities are available in some towns within 30-minutes’ drive.

Pets: Yes

Fires: Yes

Reservations: N/A

Website: Ouachita National Forest

Tent Camping Hot Springs National Park

Conclusion

Whether you’re enjoying the modern comforts of an RV Resort or adventuring into the wilderness to find that perfect dispersed campsite, you’ll be well-situated to make the most of all that Hot Springs National Park has to offer. We hope this guide helps you spend less time planning and more time in the great outdoors. Got any questions or tips to share? Leave them in the comments below.

Happy Camping!

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The Complete Guide to Camping in Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park is one of America’s largest and most unique national parks. Covering an area of over 1.5 million acres, the Everglades preserves a truly unique ecosystem. Located in…

Everglades National Park is one of America’s largest and most unique national parks. Covering an area of over 1.5 million acres, the Everglades preserves a truly unique ecosystem. Located in southern Florida, the park protects incredibly biodiverse landscapes including freshwater sloughs, mangrove forests, pine forests, marine and tidal estuaries, and more. We think the best way to experience this one of a kind environment is to spend a few nights under the stars camping in Everglades National Park. 

The Everglades have some truly unique options for your next camping trip. There are two developed campgrounds located in the national park, beach campsites, backcountry ‘chickee’ campsites and nearby RV sites. Needless to say, whichever type of camping trip in Everglades National Park you’re planning they’ll be a great option for you.

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

Tent in the Flamingo Campground in Everglades National Park

Flamingo Campground, Everglades National Park. Photo Credit NPS/Rodney Cammauf

 

In this Post

 

Everglades National Park Campgrounds

There are two developed campgrounds located within Everglades National Park. Both campgrounds are located along State Highway 9336, the main road through the national park, and are easily accessed from the Miami area. To reach either campground you’ll pass through the Homestead Entrance and have the option to visit the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center.

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

Map of campgrounds in Everglades National Park.

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

 

The Flamingo Campground in Everglades National Park is open year round, although you’ll find it is much less crowded during the summer off-season. This is for good reason and camping in the summer in the Everglades can be unbearable!

The Lone Pine Key Campground is only open during the peak season, generally from November through the first part  of May.

Peak season for camping in the Everglades is from December – April, during South Florida’s dry season. During this time you’ll have the best chance for sun, milder temperatures, and avoid the mosquito swarms that are typical during the summer months.

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

Reservations & Permits

Reservations for the campgrounds in Everglades National Park are recommend, but depend on which campground you are considering:

  • Lone Pine Key Campground only accepts reservations for the campsites that allow RVs and does not accept reservations for any of the tent sites, which are made available on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Flamingo Campground accepts reservations for RV campsites and drive-in tent campsites, but does not accept reservations for the 38 walk-in tent sites.

While neither of the two campgrounds in Everglades National Park require advance reservations, we highly recommend making one for any time during the peak season, generally December – April. The last thing you want is to pack up all of your camping gear only to arrive at a full campground!

Unlike many of the national parks, reservations for the Lone Pine Campground and Flamingo Campground are not managed through Recreation.gov. Instead, Flamingo Adventures, a private ‘concessioner’ of the National Park Service, operates both of these campgrounds. To make a reservation at either campground, visit their website below:

Reservations for Everglades National Park Campgrounds can be made here via Flamingo Adventures

RVs in the Lone Pine Key Campground, Everglades National Park.

Expect both campgrounds in Everglades National Park to be full during peak season. Photo credit NPS.

 

For those interested in exploring the vast wilderness on offer in the Everglades, a wilderness permit is required. Permits can be obtained from either the Flamingo Visitor Center, located in the far south area of the park, or the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, located at the northwest entrance to the park.

Wilderness permits can only be obtained the day before or the day of your planned departure. This makes it very important to have flexible plans for your backcountry trip in the Everglades, as there is no way to ensure your preferred campground will be available.

Our best advice? Get there early and have a few options in mind! The rangers at the permit desks are also very knowledgeable and can often suggest excellent alternative itineraries.

Permits cost $15 + $2/person per day.

Learn more about wilderness camping in Everglades National Park in this section.

What to bring on your Everglades National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Everglades 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 the Everglades:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for the Everglades.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun in south Florida can be intense. While there is some shade at Lone Pine Key Campground, if you’re camping at the Flamingo Campground this is a must.
  • Portable water container – Save yourself from making dozens of trips to the water spigot and bring one of these.
  • Cooler – The hot Florida temperatures make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Everglades National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • Everglades Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to the Everglades. We think this Falcon Guide will help you create a great itinerary.

Frontcountry & Car camping sites

There are two ‘frontcountry’ campgrounds located in Everglades National Park: Flamingo Campground and Lone Pine Key Campground. Both are located along State Highway 9336 and provide camping options for tents and RVs. Full details for both of these excellent campgrounds are below.

Lone Pine Key Campground

Number of Sites: 108 individual (up to 6 people) and 1 group site (up to 15 people)
Fee: $25/night for individual sites, $35/night for the group site
RVs: Yes. No electric or water hookups available, but a dump station is available.
Reservations: Recommended for RV sites. Tent sites are first-come, first-served.
More Information
Click Here to Reserve

Entrance to the Lone Pine Key Campground

Lone Pine Key Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

The Lone Pine Key Campground is the smaller and more basic of the two campgrounds located in Everglades National Park. It is also the first campground you’ll reach when entering the national park from the Homestead Entrance. Lone Pine Key is open seasonally from November – early-May. The campground is located adjacent to the Long Pine Key trail, so is a great place to spend the night prior to exploring the trail.

Lone Pine Key features 108 individual campsites that can accommodate up to 6 people each as well as one group site for up to 15 people. Reservations can be made for the RV sites at the campground, but all of the tent-sites are first-come, first-served. The RV campsites do not have any water or electric hookups, but there is a dump station at the campground.

The campground features cold water showers and each campsites comes with a picnic table, fire pit, and grill stand. There is also a small lake adjacent to the campground where fishing is permitted, but do not swim as alligators are known to frequent the area.

Pine trees behind water on the Long Pine Key Trail in Everglades National Park

The Long Pine Key Trail starts at the Lone Pine Key campground. Photo credit NPS/Denise Diaz.

 

Flamingo Campground

Number of Sites: 157 sites
Fee: $25 – $45/night depending on hookups
RVs: Yes.
Reservations: Recommended for RV/drive in tent sites. Walk-in tent sites are first-come, first-served.
More Information
Click Here to Reserve

Tents set up at the Flamingo Campground in the Everglades

Flamingo Campground, Everglades National Park. Photo credit NPS/Rodney Cammauf.

The Flamingo Campground is the largest and most popular in the Everglades. The campground is located at the far southern tip of the national park and features drive-in RV and tent sites as well as walk-in tent sites on the Florida Bay. In addition, the campground also features ‘eco-tents’ which are small “safari style” canvas tents that include electricity, fans, and a small deck to sit on. Eco-tents can be reserved with or without a bed.

View a map of the Flamingo Campground here. 

Eco-tents at the Flamingo campground

Eco-tents at the Flamingo Campground. Photo credit NPS/Dylann Turffs.

 

We highly recommend reserving your RV site well in advance for the peak season as the Flamingo Campground is known to fill up. RV sites are available with or without electricity and there is potable water and a dump station available at the campground. Drive in tent sites are available in addition to the walk-in sites that are along the Florida Bay. For the walk-in campsite you’ll have to park your car and then walk your camping setup out to your site. Well worth it for a campsite on the Bay!

All campsites feature a picnic table, fire ring, and grill stand or fire grate.

The campground is near the Christian Point Trail and the Coastal Prairie Trail making it a great place to spend the night before exploring the area.

RVs parked at the Flamingo Campground in Everglades National Park

Photo credit NPS/Rodney Cammauf.

 

Looking for more campgrounds near the Everglades? Check out this section!

 

Backcountry & Wilderness campsites in the Everglades

Exploring the backcountry wilderness of Everglades National Park is an experience like no other. Rather than setting out on a hiking trail, most visitors to the Everglades wilderness rely on canoes, kayaks, or other small boats to access the backcountry. This will reward backcountry campers with solitude, quiet, and an opportunity to immerse themselves in this spectacular ecosystem.

Wilderness camping in the Everglades is best done during the winter (December – March) as temperatures are much more moderate and you’re likely to encounter clearer weather. Only a hardy few will brave the backcountry during the summer, as the heat, humidity, and mosquitos can be unbearable. Plan ahead accordingly!

Backcountry campers should plan to bring all of the potable water they need with them on their trip. Drinking water can be scarce to non-existent in the backcountry so plan to bring at least 1 gallon per person per day. The National Park Service recommends sturdy containers to prevent wildlife from getting your water. This means no plastic gallon containers!

With the right plan in place you’re sure to have a great trip in the backcountry of Everglades National Park. Learn everything you need to know to place your trip below.

Kayak on the beach in Everglades National Park

Exploring the backcountry in Everglades National Park. Photo credit NPS.

 

Everglades Wilderness Campsites

Backcountry campers are required to stay at one of the 45 designated wilderness campsites located throughout the park. The campsites consist of beach sites along the Gulf of Mexico, ground sites situated on islands or other land areas, and “Chickees”, platform campsites that sit above the water.

All of the campsites within the national park have specific limits for the number of people, number of groups, and number of tents that are permitted at a specific campsite. Beach sites tend to have the largest capacity, up to 60 people in some cases, while single Chickee sites can often only accommodate up to 6 people.

The National Park Service has an excellent table listing all of the wilderness campsites in the Everglades and their capacity here. You can view a map of all of wilderness campgrounds in the Everglades below:

Map of wilderness campsites in Everglades National Park

Map of wilderness campsites in Everglades National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

More details on each type of campsite in Everglades National Park are below:

Everglades Beach Campsites

Beach campsites in Everglades National Park are primarily located along the Gulf Coast. Beach campsites can accommodate up to 60 people (!), although there are smaller, more secluded sites available. These campsites do not have potable water sources or bathrooms, so be prepared to bring all of the water you’ll need and properly dispose of human waste. Campfires are generally allowed at beach campsites as long as they are located below the high-tide line.

Tent and Kayak on the beach in Everglades National Park

Beach campsite in Everglades National Park. Photo credit NPS.

 

Everglades Ground campsites

Ground campsites are exactly what they sound like: wilderness campsites located on solid ground within the park. These campsites are located on small islands, inland areas, and other places where the ground is stable enough to support a campsite. Campfires are not allowed at ground campsites in the Everglades.

Pinelands in Everglades National Park

Ground campsite are mostly located in the interior of the Everglades. Photo credit NPS/Caitlin Rivas.

 

Everglades Chickees

Chickees are the most unique campsite option in the Everglades. These campsites are located over water and consist of a 10′ x 12′ wooden platform with an attached porta-pottie. Many of the chickee sites contain two platforms connected by a walkway to the bathroom. You’ll need to be sure to bring a free standing tent, as there is no way to stake a tent on a chickee. Campfires are not allowed at chickee campsites and visitors will also want to be sure to bring a rope to secure their water craft while camping.

Chickee campsite in Everglades National Park.

A chickee campsite in the Everglades. Photo credit NPS.

 

Everglades Wilderness Camping Permits & Regulations

All backcountry campers in Everglades National Park are required to obtain a wilderness permit prior to starting their trip. During the peak season (November – April) permits can be obtained in person at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center or Flamingo Visitor Center. During the off season (May – October) permits can be obtained via self-registering at either of the visitor centers above. When obtaining a permit for a wilderness trip in the Everglades there are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • Permits cost $15 +$2/person per night in the peak season. Permits are free in the off season.
  • Permits can only be obtained up to 24 hours prior to your trip.
    • This means you may not be able to reserve your preferred campsite. Always have a backup plan!
  • Campsites have varying capacity for the number of groups, tents, and people. Be sure your planned campsite can accommodate your group.
  • Plan to arrive as early as possible to secure permits during peak season. You’ll have a better chance of getting your preferred campsite.

Mangrove in Everglades National Park.

Wilderness permits are required for backcountry camping in the Everglades. Photo credit NPS/Brian Call.

 

Wilderness Camping trips in Everglades National Park

As you’re planning your wilderness camping trip in Everglades National Park you’ll want to spend some time thinking about your planned route. While there are countless options, the  most popular trip is described below:

Everglades Wilderness Waterway

The Everglades Wilderness Waterway is a 99-mile route that traverses the national park via canoe, kayak, or small boat. The route connects Flamingo, FL with Everglades City, FL and is the most famous backcountry adventure in the Everglades. Expect the trip to take anywhere from between 10 – 14 days if traveling by kayak or canoe.

This is a serious undertaking so be sure you are up to the challenge and check out these helpful resources below:

Canoe on the Everglades Wilderness Waterway.

Exploring the Everglades wilderness. Photo credit NPS.

 

For those who are in search of a more mellow outing, don’t be dissuaded. There are plenty of easier overnight trips into the Everglades wilderness that don’t require two weeks of paddling! Your best bet is consult the Wilderness Trip Planner and to talk to one of the rangers at the Everglades National Park Visitor Centers to learn what might be a good option for you.

 

Everglades National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Everglades National Park. First a few basics:

  • Be sure you know the maximum group size allowed at your planned campsite. 
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles at all of the campsites within the Everglades.
  • You are not permitted to camp in Everglades National Park for more than 30 days/year. During peak season from November 1st – April 1st you are not allowed to camp in the Everglades for more than 14 consecutive days.

Fires

Campfires are permitted at both of the developed campgrounds (Flamingo and Lone Pine Key) in Everglades National Park. Your fire must be contained in the provided fire pit and should not be left unattended at any time. Always be sure your campfire is completely put out before going to bed or leaving your campsite.

In the backcountry, campfires are only permitted on the beach campsites. Here, fires must be located below the high-tide line. You are permitted to use wood that is already down or dead, but do not cut live wood in the national park for your fire.

Campfire in Everglades National Park.

 

Wildlife

Everglades National Park is renowned for its incredible wildlife that inhabits the park. This unique ecosystem hosts an incredible diversity of fauna, and as such it is important to minimize your impact on this ecosystem. For campers, there are a few specific species that you’ll want to be aware of, outlined below:

  • Raccoons: While raccoons are certainly not the first animal that comes to mind when thinking about the Everglades, they are one of the most pesky for wilderness campers. Raccoons are known to steal water and food of wilderness campers so be sure you’ve properly stored both while camping.
  • Vultures: Vultures are native to the Everglades, but are known to cause problems for visitors and campers alike. They are attracted to rubber parts and pieces on automobiles, tents, and campers, and have been known to cause quite a bit of damage. The park service will provide visitors with a free tarp and bungee cords to protect your vehicle or camper. Learn more here.
  • Alligators & Crocodiles: The quintessential wildlife of the Everglades, alligators and crocodiles are found throughout the park. These creatures will generally leave campers and visitors alone, but it always pays off to be vigilant. More important, please be respectful of their habitat as they are a keystone species in the Everglades.

Alligator swimming in Everglades National Park

 

Pets

Pets are only allowed in specific areas of Everglades National Park. They are allowed at both of the developed campgrounds in the national park, along park roads, in areas near park facilities, and on private boats.

Pets are not allowed in the wilderness or backcountry in Everglades National Park.

If you plan to bring your pet to the Everglades, please observe these regulations:

  • Pets must be kept of a leash at all times
  • Please pick up your pet waste.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

A full description of regulations surrounding pets in the Everglades can be found here.

Where to get supplies

Given the remote nature of Everglades National Park, it is important to stock up on camping supplies prior to your trip. The best place to stock up on camping supplies will depend on which section of the park you plan to camp in. We’ve broken down your best bets by entrance stations below:

  • Homestead Entrance (Lone Pine Key & Flamingo Campgrounds)
    • Homestead, FL: The Homestead Entrance is used by campers staying at the two developed campgrounds in the Everglades. A short, 20-minute drive from the entrance station is the town of Homestead, FL. Here you’ll find everything you need to prepare for a camping trip including grocery stores, gas stations, and a fishing shop.
  • Miami Entrance (wilderness camping)
    • Miami, FL: The Miami Entrance to Everglades National Park doesn’t see many campers, as there are few wilderness campgrounds in this area of the park. However, it is the closest to the major metropolis of Miami where you’ll find any and all services you may need for your camping trip.
  • Everglades City Entrance (wilderness camping) 
    • Everglades City, FL: The Everglades City Entrance is commonly used by wilderness campers and is the traditional starting point of the Everglades Wilderness Waterway. Here you’ll find gas stations, a grocery store, and a few fishing shops. For other needs you’ll have to head to Naples, an approximate 45 minute drive from the entrance station.

Camping near Everglades National Park

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

Many of these nearby campgrounds can be found in Big Cypress National Preserve, located just north of Everglades National Park. Big Cypress covers an area of over 700,000 acres and features eight developed campgrounds to choose from.  Check out your options for camping in Big Cypress National Preserve below.

Big Cypress National Preserve Campgrounds

Big Cypress National Preserve is located just north of Everglades National Park and is managed by the National Park Service. The preserve protects thousands of acres of cypress swamps and is an important ecosystem that has a symbiotic relationship with the Everglades.

Sunset in Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress National Preserve provides excellent camping options near the Everglades. Photo credit NPS.

 

Of the eight campgrounds in the preserve four of them are available on a first-come, first-served basis, while the others are reservable via Recreation.gov. The map below gives you a general sense of where each of these campgrounds are located in Big Cypress National Preserve as well as their relation to the Everglades. 

Map of campgrounds in Big Cypress National Preserve

Map of the campgrounds in Big Cypress National Preserve. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

As you look at the map above, note that Everglades National Park is located to the south (towards the bottom of the map), so a few of the campgrounds are much closer to the Everglades. The most convenient for visiting the Everglades are: Burns Lake, Monument Lake, Midway, Pinecrest, and Mitchell Landing. Details for all the campgrounds in Big Cypress National Preserve are below:

Bear Island Campground

Number of Sites: 40 sites
Fee: $10/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available
Reservations: All sites first-come, first-served.
More Information

Bear Island is a basic campground located in the northern section of Big Cypress National Preserve. Reservations are not available for Bear Island and all campsites are first-come, first-served. The campsites features pit toilets and does not have running water or hookups. 

View a map of the Bear Island Campground here. 

Burns Lake Campground

Number of Sites: 15 sites (5 tent sites + 10 RV sites)
Fee: $24/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended.
Click Here to Reserve
More Information

The Burns Lake Campground is centrally located along State Highway 41. It is the closest campground to the Everglades City entrance to the national park, making it a great option for those looking to explore Everglades National Park. The campground is basic and features 15 campsites, 10 of which can accommodate RVs. There is no water available at the campground, although there is an RV dump station.

Reservations can be made for the Burns Lake Campground via Recreation.gov here.

View a map of the Burns Lake Campground here. 

Gator Head Campground

Number of Sites: 9 sites (tents only)
Fee: $10/night
RVs: No.
Reservations: All sites first-come, first-served.
More Information

The Gator Head Campground is located in the northern section of Big Cypress and is not very convenient to the national park. At Gator Head you’ll find a basic campground with only 9 sites. The campground can only accommodate tents, so no RVs are permitted. There is no potable water and all sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Midway Campground

Number of Sites: 36 sites (10 tent sites + 26 RV sites)
Fee: $24/night for tent sites, $30/night for RV sites
RVs: Yes, electric hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended.
Click Here to Reserve
More Information

The Midway Campground is one of the largest campgrounds in Big Cypress National Preserve and is well located for visiting the Everglades. The campground has 36 campsites, 26 of which can accommodate RVs and provide electrical hookups. The campground has drinking water, restrooms, and a RV dump station.

Reservations can be made for the Midway Campground via Recreation.gov here.

You can take a virtual tour of the Midway Campground via Google Maps here

Mitchell Landing Campground

Number of Sites: 11 sites
Fee: $24/night
RVs: Yes, no hookups available.
Reservations: All sites first-come, first-served.
More Information

The Mitchell Landing Campground is a basic campground located near the Shark Valley Visitor Center in the Everglades. The campground has 11 first-come, first-served campsites and provides vault toilets. There is no drinking water available at Mitchell Landing, so plan to bring all the water you’ll need for your stay.

Monument Lake Campground

Number of Sites: 36 sites (10 tent sites + 26 RV sites)
Fee: $24/night for tent sites, $28/night for RV sites
RVs: Yes, no hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended.
Click Here to Reserve
More Information

The Monument Lake Campground features 36 campsites, 26 of which are designated for RVs. However, there are no RV hookups available at the campground. Monument Lake does not have any potable water or a dump station, so it is important to plan accordingly. The campground is well located for visiting the Everglades, as it is just off State Highway 41.

Reservations can be made for the Monument Lake Campground via Recreation.gov here.

Pinecrest Campground (Group Campground)

Number of Sites: 4 group sites
Fee: $30/night
RVs: No.
Reservations: Required.
Click Here to Reserve
More Information

The Pinecrest Group Campground is well located for visiting the Everglades, but is reserved for groups up to 15 people. The campground only has four sites, and all require advance reservations. There is no drinking water available and there are also no restrooms at the campground.

Reservations can be made for the Pinecrest Group Campground via Recreation.gov here.

Pink Jeep Campground

Number of Sites: 9 sites
Fee: $10/night
RVs: No.
Reservations: All sites first-come, first-served.
More Information

Pink Jeep Campground is located in the northern section of Big Cypress National Preserve. This is a basic campground, and requires an off-road vehicle to reach. There is no potable water available at Pink Jeep, although there are vault toilets.  Reservations are not available for Pink Jeep and all campsites are first-come, first-served.

 

RV campgrounds near the Everglades

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Everglades National Park. RV campgrounds are conveniently located near all of the entrances to the national park. We’ve outlined your best bets for RV camping near the Everglades below.

RVs camped near Everglades National Park

There are plenty of RV campgrounds near Everglades National Park. Photo credit NPS.

 

Florida City Campsite and RV Park

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $35/night
Capacity: None Stated.
RVs: Yes.
Reservations: Recommended.
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

The Florida City Campsite and RV Park is located in the Florida City/Homestead Area. This small campground is well located for those entering the Everglades via the Homestead Entrance Station, which is only a 20 minute drive from the campground.

The campground provides free WiFi, access to laundry facilities, and tons of nearby amenities.

View the Florida City Campsite & RV Park in Google Maps here.

 

Miami Everglades RV Resort

Number of sites: 471
Fee: $45 – $80/night depending on hookups & RV size.
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

The Miami Everglades RV Resort is a huge campground located in southwest Miami. The campground is close to both the Homestead and Shark Valley entrances to the national park. Here you’ll find a plethora of amenities that are sure to please even the most picky campers! Amenities include a clubhouse, laundry facilities, swimming pool, mini golf, WiFi and much more.

The Miami Everglades RV Resort can accommodate tents up to large RVs, so nearly every camper should be just fine here.

View the Miami Everglades RV Resort in Google Maps here.

Trail Lakes Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $30 – $50 depending on site/hookups.
Capacity: 4 – 8 people depending on site.
RVs: Yes, water and electric hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve. 
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

The Trail Lakes Campground is located in Ochopee, FL and is only 15 minutes from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. This is a well regarded campsite and can accommodate everything from tents to large RVs. Sites come with a variety of electric hookup options and vary in price from $30 – $50/night. This is a family-owned campground and gets great reviews for the friendly staff.

View the Trail Lakes Campground in Google Maps here.

Chokoloskee Island Park

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $59 – $69/night depending on season.
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, up to 30′. Full hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

The Chokoloskee Island Park Campground is located on Chokoloskee Island, just a few minutes from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. This is a unique campground that provides the opportunity to stay on a small island adjacent to the Everglades. Chokoloskee Island Park can accommodate tents and RVs up to 30′ in length, and each site has water, sewer and electric hookups available.

Amenities include a marina store, clubhouse with tv, WiFi, a full kitchen, book exchange, and a beautiful pavilion right on the water.

View the Chokoloskee Island Campground in Google Maps here.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Everglades 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 Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes National Park is one of America’s newest national parks, having been designated as a national park in 2019. Located along the shores of Lake Michigan in northeast Indiana,…

Indiana Dunes National Park is one of America’s newest national parks, having been designated as a national park in 2019. Located along the shores of Lake Michigan in northeast Indiana, the park covers over 15,000 acres with Indiana Dunes State Park fully enclosed within the national park’s boundaries. We think the best way to experience everything the Indiana Dunes have to offer is by spending a few nights sleeping under the stars in your tent or RV. You’ll get experience this incredible environment first hand!

Indiana Dunes National Park and the surrounding areas (including the Indiana State Park of the same name) have plenty of options to suit all types of campers. From the more rustic Dunewood Campground within the national park, to the campground located within Indiana Dunes State Park, and nearby full service campgrounds, you’ll be spoiled for options.

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

Dunefield in the Indiana Dunes national park.

Exploring the sand dunes is just one reason to camp at Indiana Dunes National Park.

 

In this Post

Indiana Dunes National Park Campgrounds

The first step in planning your perfect camping trip to the Indiana Dunes is to understand a bit about the geography of the national park and surrounding area. Indiana Dunes National Park is unique in that the park is not located in one contiguous land mass like most national parks. Rather, it exists in several smaller parcels along the shore of Lake Michigan as well as inland. Indiana Dunes State Park is located entirely within the national park boundaries, another unique geographical feature. See the map below to get a better understanding of the geography of Indiana Dunes National Park.

Map of campgrounds in Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes National Park campground and Indiana Dunes State Park. (Click to enlarge)

 

All of this is a benefit for those looking to camp at the Indiana Dunes given that there are campgrounds located within the national park and state park, giving you plenty of options.

The peak season for camping in the Indiana Dunes is from May – September, and the Dunewood Campground located within Indiana Dunes National Park is open seasonally from April 1st – November 1st. The Indiana Dunes State Park campground is open year round, but be sure you’re RV has heat if you’re planning a camping trip in the off season!

Reservations & Permits

Reservations are highly recommended for the Dunewood Campground in Indiana Dunes National Park. While they are not required, the campground is full during the majority of the peak summer season. For that reason, we highly recommend securing your campsite reservation in advance.

Reservations for the Dunewood Campground in Indiana Dunes National Park can be made here via Recreation.gov

You can reserve a campsite at the Dunewood Campground up to 6 months in advance. Availability for the upcoming season is typically released starting in mid-November and campsites can be reserved starting at 10 ET for the date six months out. If you’re hoping to secure a site for a popular weekend be sure you’re ready to book as soon as campsites are made available!

For the campground located in Indiana Dunes State Park reservations are also highly recommended. These sites are open year round and can be reserved through the State of Indiana website here.

Campground at Indiana Dunes National Park

Expect campgrounds at the Indiana Dunes to be full during busy summer weekends. Photo credit NPS.

 

What to bring on your Indiana Dunes National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Indiana Dunes 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 the Indiana Dunes:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for whipping up campsite classics.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun here can get intense! You won’t find much shade in the park, so we recommend bringing a portable shade structure to create your own!
  • Portable water container – Save yourself the hassle of dozens of trips to the water tap and bring one of these.
  • Cooler – The summer temperatures make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!

Car camping sites in Indiana Dunes National Park

The Dunewood Campground is the only campground available in Indiana Dunes National Park. Details for this excellent campground are below:

Dunewood Campground

Number of Sites: 67 sites (13 campsites are tent camping only)
Fee: $25/night
Capacity: 8 people per site
RVs: Yes. No hookups available, but potable water and a dump station are available.
More Information
Reservations: Required during peak season and for equestrian sites. First-come, first-served during off-season
Click Here to Reserve

Tent at the Dunewood Campground

The Dunewood Campground in Indiana Dunes National Park.

 

The Dunewood Campground is located in the northern portion of Indiana Dunes National Park and features 67 campsites. From the campground it is an approximate 5-minute drive or 30-minute walk to the Lake View Beach on Lake Michigan and the campground is set back in a beautiful, forested environment. The campground is also close to the Great Marsh Trail and Observation Deck, a unique walking trail that explores the wetland ecosystem.

Map of the Dunewood Campground in Indiana Dunes National Park.

Map of the Dunewood Campground. Map courtesy of the NPS.

 

The majority of the sites can accommodate RVs, although 13 of the sites are set aside for tent camping only. There are no hookups available, but there is potable water and a dump station. Dunewood also features public restrooms and showers.

A unique aspect of the Dunewood Campground is the fact that it can be easily reached by train, not something many National Park campgrounds can attest to! The Beverly Shores train stop is located just a few steps from the campground!

View of Lake Michigan from the Indiana Dunes.

 

Indiana Dunes State Park Campgrounds

If the Dunewood Campground is full or if you prefer to have some additional amenities, the nearby Indiana Dunes State Park Campground is a great option. Check out all the details below.

Indiana Dunes State Park Campground

Number of Sites: 141 sites, 3 of which are reserved for non-profits/groups
Fee: $23 – $30/night depending on hookups
Capacity: 6 people per site
RVs: Yes, many sites up to 55′.
More Information
Reservations: Required during peak season and for equestrian sites. First-come, first-served during off-season
Click Here to Reserve

Campground at Indiana Dunes State Park

The Indiana Dunes State Park Campground is located a short walk from the beach.

 

The Indiana Dunes State Park Campground is centrally located within the state park. Since the state park is surrounded by Indiana Dunes National Park, you’ll be perfectly located for exploring all this area has to offer. Unlike the Dunewood Campground, the Indiana Dunes State Park Campground is located just a short walk from the lake shore. There is also a small camp store at the campground selling essentials.

The campground is perfectly located for anyone interested in hiking Mt. Tom, as the trail leaves from the campground.

Reservations are recommended at the Indiana Dunes State Park Campground during the peak summer season.  The campsites can accommodate tents as well as RVs and most sites feature electric hookups. The campgrounds provides plenty of restrooms and also features showers.

View a map of the Indiana Dunes State Park Campground here.

The campground also features three ‘youth’ campsites located away from the main campground. These campsites, known as the Nissaki Youth Tent Area are provided for youth based non-profit groups. These are not reservable by the general public.

Dunes at Indiana Dunes State Park near the campground.

 

Indiana Dunes National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Indiana Dunes National Park. First a few basics:

  • The Maximum group size for individual campsites is eight people. There are no group campgrounds in Indiana Dunes National Park.
  • Ensure you’re tent/RV is on pavement or the tent pad at all times.
  • Pets must be on a leash at all times.
  • You are not permitted to camp in Indiana Dunes National Park for more than 14 days in a 30-day period.
  • No fireworks.

Fires

Campfires are permitted at the Dunewood Campground in Indiana Dunes National Park provided it is within the provided fire grate. Your campfire should never be left unattended and always be sure it is completely out before walking away. It is also important to ensure that wood brought to the National Park is properly sourced, as firewood can often introduce invasive pests.

It is also worth noting that you should not gather any firewood or try to cut down any trees within Indiana Dunes National Park.

Campfire at Indiana Dunes National Park.

Campfires are permitted at Indiana Dunes National Park.

 

Wildlife

Indiana Dunes National Park is home to an abundance of wildlife. The intersection of wetlands, sand dunes, and Lake Michigan creates a diverse ecosystem that is home to birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. For those camping in Indiana Dunes National Park there are a few important considerations related to wildlife in the park. Campers should be aware of the following:

  • Coyotes: The Indiana Dunes are home to a sizeable population of coyotes. While you’re unlikely to encounter these on any given visit to the national park, it is important to keep your food properly stored to avoid providing the coyotes with an easy meal.
  • Raccoons: Similar to coyotes, raccoons will happily feast on any food left unattended at your campsite. Be sure to properly store all food to avoid encouraging wildlife to enter campgrounds.
  • Birds: Indiana Dunes National Park hosts an incredible diversity of bird species. According to the National Park Service over 350 unique bird species visit the park each year!

You can learn more about the wildlife in Indiana Dunes National Park here. 

Pets

Indiana Dunes National Park generally allows pets in the national park. However, there are a few regulations that you need to be sure and follow. If you plan to bring your pet on your Indiana Dunes camping trip, be sure to adhere to the following:

  • Pets must be on a leash at all times – this includes on the beach and in the water!
  • Pets are allowed within campgrounds
  • Pets are not allowed on the following trails: Pinhook Bog Trail and the equestrian portion of the Glenwood Dunes Trail.
  • Pets are not allowed at the West Beach lifeguard area from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
  • Pets are not allowed in park buildings.

See the National Park Service map below to get a sense of where pets are prohibited in the Indiana Dunes.

Map of pet areas in Indiana Dunes National Park

Map of pet regulations in Indiana Dunes National Park. Pets are not allowed in the red areas. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

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

 

Where to get supplies

Stocking up on camping supplies before your trip to Indiana Dunes National Park couldn’t be easier. The park’s urban location provides for tons of nearby amenities that are sure to have everything you need for your trip. Your best options are listed below:

  • Michigan City, IN: Michigan City is located just a few miles north along the lake shore from Indiana Dunes National Park. You’ll find everything you need here to stock up for your camping trip including grocery stores, liquor stores, and gas stations.
  • Portage, IN: Portage is located south of the national park along I-94. While not the most convenient place to stop prior to your camping trip, there is a well stocked Bass Pro Shops located here. This will be your best bet for any camping equipment you may have forgotten.
  • Dunes Highway: The Dunes Highway (State Highway 12) cuts right through the national park and runs past the Dunewood Campground. At the intersection with Broadway (the entrance to the Dunewood Campground) you’ll find a gas station, small camp store, and the Goblin & Grocer diner. This is the most convenient for basic needs in the national park.

Bird flying near Michigan City, Indiana

 

Camping near Indiana Dunes National Park

Given the popularity of Indiana Dunes National Park and the fact there is only a single campground in the park, it is always possible that you won’t be able to secure a campsite. However, don’t give up as there are plentiful camping options just outside the National Park boundary! Check out your best options below:

RV campgrounds near Indiana Dunes

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Indiana Dunes National Park. Check out all of your options below.

RV campground near the Indiana Dunes

 

Lake Shore Camp Resort

Number of sites: 115 campsites
Fee: $37 – $64/night depending on hookups and time of year.
Capacity: Rates are based on five people per campsite.
RVs: Yes, up to 40′.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Lake Shore Camp Resort is located south of  Indiana Dunes National Park in the town of Portage, IN. A 15 minutes drive from the national park, the Lake Shore Camp Resort is convenient for those coming from Chicago, as it sits just of I-94. Here you’ll get access to free WiFi, a nice picnic area, laundry facilities, and a game room.

Lake Shore Camp Resort can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 40′ in length.

Woodland Village Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $40/night with discounts for longer stays.
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here or call (219) 762-6578
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Woodland Village Campground is located just 15-minutes south of the Indiana Dunes. This site is a bit smaller than some of the other options in the area and get great reviews for the friendly staff. The campground has plenty of amenities including WiFi, laundry facilities, a small camp store, and over the air TV.

The site is well set-up for those traveling in a RV as all of the sites have full electric and water hookups.

Sand Creek Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $30 – $90/night depending on hookups.
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Call (219) 926-7482
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Sand Creek Campground is located south of the Indiana Dunes and is only a 15 minute drive from the national park. Sand Creek offers campsites that can accommodate large RVs with full hookups as well as a few campsites that are tent only.

Amenities include a swimming pool, WiFi, and laundry facilities.

Michigan City Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $40 – $55/night depending on hookups.
Capacity: Prices based on 4 people/campsite. Additional people $5/night.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Michigan City Campground is located in, you guess it, Michigan City, IN. The campground is very well located for those interested in visiting Indiana Dunes National Park as the campground is only a 10 minute drive from the park. The campground has tons of options to suit all camping styles including sites with full hookups, sites that can accommodate full size RVs, and tent camping only sites.

Amenities at the Michigan City Campground include a swimming pool, playground, WiFi access, laundry facilities, and a small camp store.

Car camping sites near the Indiana Dunes

If you’re after car camping sites near Indiana Dunes National Park you’ll have at least one good option. In addition to the campground listed below, car camping is permitted at all of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above. Keep reading below to see what your best bet is for car camping near the Indiana Dunes.

Tent near the Indiana Dunes

 

Sunset Hill Farm Campground

Number of sites: 6 campsites.
Fee: $15/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: No.
Reservations: Recommended. Call 219-465-3586 to make a reservation.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Sunset Hill Farm Campground is located south of Indiana Dunes National Park in Valparaiso, IN. From here, it is an approximate 25 minutes drive to the national park. Sunset Hill is perfect for those looking to camp in their tent, as no RVs are permitted. The campsites are more rustic and are all walk-in only. Each campsite has a fire pit and picnic table as well as access to basic toilets. There is no trash service at Sunset Hill, so you’ll need to pack out your own trash.

There is no potable water at Sunset Hill Farm Campground, so plan to bring all that you’ll need.

Free camping near the Indiana Dunes

Unlike many national parks, Indiana Dunes is not located near other public land. This limits your options for free camping near Indiana Dunes National Park as there is no BLM, Forest Service, or other public land that allows dispersed camping in close proximity.

However, there is always the possibility of spending the night in a Walmart parking lot!

While certainly not the most glamourous, the Walmart in Michigan City, IN does allow overnight parking. You’ll need to stay in your car/RV (no tents), but at least you’ll have a place to park overnight!

Check out the reviews on FreeCampsites.net for more information.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Indiana Dunes 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!

Waves on Lake Michigan

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The Complete Guide to Camping in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is one of America’s most unique national parks. Located in southeastern California, the park covers nearly 800,000 acres and includes two distinct deserts: the Mojave Desert…

Joshua Tree National Park is one of America’s most unique national parks. Located in southeastern California, the park covers nearly 800,000 acres and includes two distinct deserts: the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. These beautiful desert landscapes provide the stunning backdrop for the park’s namesake Joshua treeWe think the best way to experience everything Joshua Tree has to offer is to spend a few nights sleeping under the stars (which are spectacular by the way!) in your tent or RV and experiencing this incredible environment firsthand.

Joshua Tree National Park and the surrounding areas have plentiful options for camping. From the nine campgrounds located within the national park, tons options for backcountry camping, and nearby campgrounds ranging from RV sites to dispersed camping on BLM lands you’ll be spoiled for options.

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

Sunset in Joshua Tree

Enjoying the stunning sunsets in just one reason to camp in Joshua Tree National Park.

 

In this Post

Joshua Tree National Park Campgrounds

There are nine established campgrounds within Joshua Tree National Park. The majority of these are located in the north-west portion of the park with the Cottonwood Springs Campground the lone exception located in the south of the park. These campgrounds are all accessed via one of the three entrance stations to Joshua Tree, located on the west, north, and south of the national park.

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

Map of campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park

Campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

Campgrounds in Joshua Tree are generally open year round, although they are sometimes closed during the hottest days of the summer. Peak season for camping in Joshua Tree is from October – May, when temperatures are more moderate. Keep reading to learn more about reserving your campground in Joshua National Park.

Reservations & Permits for Joshua Tree National Park Camping

Six of the campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park require advance reservations during the peak camping season from the end of August through the first part of June. This includes Indian Cove, Black Rock, Cottonwood, Jumbo Rocks, Ryan and Sheep Pass Campgrounds. Note that the Ryan Campground recently transitioned to a reservation system during the peak season.

The remaining campgrounds of White Tank, Belle, and Hidden Valley do not accept reservations and are available on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the year.

Camping in the park is very popular during the peak season, so we highly recommend making a reservation 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!

Campground in Joshua Tree National Park

Expect campgrounds in Joshua Tree to be full during peak season.

 

During the summer off-season from May-September all of the campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The exception to this are the group campsites located at Indian Cove, Cottonwood, and Sheep Pass which require reservations year round. Keep in mind that campgrounds can close during the hottest weather of the summer and many of the campgrounds operate under reduced capacity, so you can expect that there will be fewer campsites available.

To make a reservation for the campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park you’ll need to visit the Recreation.gov website, which manages campground reservations for the National Park Service.

Reservations for Joshua Tree National Park Campgrounds can be made here via Recreation.gov

For those planning to explore Joshua Tree National Park by foot there are countless opportunities for backcountry camping in the park. There is no permit or reservation required for backpacking in Joshua Tree, but you are required to register any overnight visit at one of the 13 backcountry registration boards in the park. This ensure the NPS and park rangers know who is in the backcountry at any given time. Learn more about backcountry camping in Joshua Tree in this section.

What to bring on your Joshua Tree National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Joshua Tree 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 Joshua Tree:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for whipping up campsite classics.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun in Joshua Tree can get intense! You won’t find much shade in the park, so we recommend bringing a portable shade structure to create your own!
  • Portable water container – Extremely useful for campgrounds without a water source, these portable water containers are a life saver.
  • Cooler – The temperatures make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Joshua Tree National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • Joshua Tree Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Joshua Tree. We like this guide to all 62 National Parks from Moon Guides.

Car camping sites

There are nine unique campgrounds for those looking to car camp in Joshua Tree 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 Joshua Tree. Details for all nine campgrounds are below.

Belle Campground

Number of Sites: 18 sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes. No hookups available.
More Information
Reservations: First-come, first-served

Campsite at the Belle Campground in Joshua Tree.

Belle Campground, Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS.

The Belle Campground has only 18 campsites, making it ideal for those looking for a quieter experience in Joshua Tree. The campground is located a short drive from the north entrance to the national park and is recommended for its tremendous star gazing. It is located adjacent to the California Hiking and Riding Trail so makes a great place to spend the night before exploring this beautiful trail.

The campground does not accept reservations, so it is a great option if you end up planning a camping trip in Joshua Tree but aren’t able to secure a campsite in advance. The majority of the campsites here can only accommodate a few tents, but there are several that would be suitable for RVs up to 35′.

There is no running water at the Belle Campground so be sure to bring all the water that you’ll need for your stay with you. The campground does have trash and recycling facilities and drop toilets. The campsites all feature a picnic table, fire ring, and grill.

Night sky from the Belle campground

The Belle Campground is the perfect place to take in the stunning night sky in Joshua Tree.

 

Black Rock Campground

Number of Sites: 99 sites, include 20 equestrian sites
Fee: $25/night
RVs: Yes, up to 35′. No hookups available, but potable water and a dump station are available.
More Information
Reservations: Required during peak season and for equestrian sites. First-come, first-served during off-season
Click Here to Reserve

A tent in Black Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park

Black Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe

 

The Black Rock Campground is one of the larger campgrounds in Joshua Tree and is easily accessed given its located just on the edge of the national park. Located only a few miles from the town Yucca Valley, CA in the northwest corner of the park, Black Rock Campground is perfect for those looking for convenience and ease of access. Black Rock Campground has multiple hiking trails that leave directly from the campground including the California Hiking and Riding Trail, High View Trail, and Warren Peak.

Reservations are required at the Black Rock Campground during the peak season from the end of August through the beginning of June. Outside of this season the campsites are first-come, first-served with the exception of the 20 equestrian sites which require a reservation year round. The campsites accommodate tents as well as RVs up to 35′. A bonus for RV campers is that there is potable water and a dump station nearby.

Black Rock does receive some negative reviews for noise, but this tends to come with the larger sites in any national park.

Joshua Tree hiking trail

There are tons of hiking trails that leave from the Black Rock Campground.

 

Cottonwood Campground

Number of Sites: 62 sites, including 3 group sites (15 – 25 people depending on site)
Fee: $25/night for individual sites, $40/night for group sites
RVs: Yes, up to 35′. No hookups available, but potable water and a dump station are available.
More Information
Reservations: Required during peak season and for group sites. First-come, first-served during off-season.
Click Here to Reserve Individual sites
Click Here to Reserve Group sites

Cottonwood Campground in Joshua Tree National Park

Cottonwood Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Kurt Moses.

 

The Cottonwood Campground is perfect for those looking to explore the southern section of Joshua Tree National Park. The campground is convenient for those coming from I-10 or any of the towns south of the park and is a just a short drive from the southern entrance station. Cottonwood is the perfect jumping off point for visiting the Lost Palms Oasis, as the trail leaves from the campground.

Reservations are required at the Cottonwood Campground during the peak season from the end of August through the beginning of June. Outside of this season the campsites are first-come, first-served with the exception of the 3 group sites which require a reservation year round. The campsites accommodate tents as well as RVs up to 35′. There is potable water and a dump station at the campground, a big convenience in the dry desert!

Cottonwood Campground also has a beautiful amphitheater where you can check out a ranger presentation and learn a bit more about Joshua Tree.

Palm tree in Lost Palm Oasis Joshua Tree

A visit to Lost Palms Oasis is highly recommended for those staying at the Cottonwood Campground. Photo credit NPS/Robb Hannawacker.

 

Hidden Valley Campground

Number of Sites: 44 sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes, up to 25′. No hookups available.
More Information
Reservations: First-come, first-served

Camper van at the Hidden Valley Campground in Joshua Tree

Hidden Valley Campground is perfect for tents and small camper vans. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe.

 

The Hidden Valley Campground is located in the heart of Joshua Tree National Park. The campground is on the smaller side with 44 campsites, all of which are available on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the year. The campground is located near the Hidden Valley Nature Trail as well as several popular climbing spots in Joshua Tree.

The campsites at Hidden Valley are smaller than what you’ll find at many of the other campgrounds in Joshua Tree. This is great for car campers as you’ll feel a bit more secluded, but it does limit the size of RVs that can be accommodated to 25′. It is important to note that there is not potable water at the Hidden Valley Campground so you’ll need to plan on bringing all the water you’ll need with you.

Sunset in Hidden Valley

Exploring Hidden Valley in Joshua Tree is a highlight for many. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe.

 

Indian Cove Campground

Number of Sites: 101 sites, including 13 group sites (15 – 60 people depending on site)
Fee: $25/night for individual sites, $35 – $50/night for group sites
RVs: Yes, up to 35′ for the majority of sites. No hookups available.
More Information
Reservations: Required during peak season and for group sites. First-come, first-served during off-season.
Click Here to Reserve Individual sites
Click Here to Reserve Group sites

Tents at the Indian Cove Campground

The Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Lian Law.

 

The Indian Cove Campground is located in the northern section of Joshua Tree National Park and just a short drive from either Joshua Tree Village or Twentynine Palms. Indian Cove is located along a dead end road within the park, just north of the famous Wonderland of Rocks and also near the Boy Scout Trail. The campground is perfect for climbers, with tons of pitches near the campsite to explore. 

Reservations are required for all the campsites at Indian Cove during peak-season in Joshua Tree, and are always required for the 13 group sites. Outside of the peak season, individual campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The sites accommodate tents and RVs up to 35′. The group sites at Indian Cove can accommodate between 15 – 60 people depending on the site, so are a great option for those looking for camping options for a larger group in Joshua Tree.

There is no water available at the campground, so plan to bring in what you plan to use. The campsites all provide picnic tables and fire rings and the campground features pit toilets.

Keep an eye out for the elusive Desert Tortoise when staying at the Indian Cove Campground as they are known to frequent the area!

Wonderland of Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park.

Wonderland of Rocks, Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Brad Sutton.

 

Jumbo Rocks Campground

Number of Sites: 124 sites
Fee: $20/night
RVs: Yes, up to 35′. No hookups available.
More Information
Reservations: Required during peak season. First-come, first-served during off-season.
Click Here to Reserve

Tent in the Jumbo Rocks Campground

Jumbo Rocks Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe.

 

Centrally located to many of Joshua Tree’s main attractions, the Jumbo Rocks Campground is one of the most popular in the park. Situated along the main road through Joshua Tree and just south of Twentynine Palms, Jumbo Rocks provides for a quintessential Joshua Tree camping experience. The campground is nestled within an iconic Joshua Tree landscape of beautiful boulders, Joshua Trees, and stunning desert surroundings.

During peak season from late-August to early-June reservations are required for the Jumbo Rocks Campground. As with the other campgrounds within Joshua Tree, the sites are first-come, first-served outside of this timeframe. Jumbo Rocks campsites feature picnic tables and fire grates and all have access to vault toilets. There is no potable water available at the campground, so be sure to bring what you plan to use.

Many reviews note that mice can sometimes be a nuisance at Jumbo Rocks, so be sure you’ve securely stored your food and cleaned up after any meals.

Criss Cross Rock in Joshua Tree

Classic Joshua Tree rock formations near the Jumbo Rocks Campground. Photo credit NPS/Robb Hannawacker.

 

Ryan Campground

Number of Sites: 32 sites, including 4 equestrian and 3 bicycle campsites.
Fee: $20/night
RVs: Yes. No hookups available.
More Information
Reservations: Required during peak season. First-come, first-served during off-season.
Click Here to Reserve

Ryan Campground

Ryan Campground, Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe.

 

The Ryan Campground is one of the smaller campground in Joshua Tree National Park with just 32 campsites. The campground is very well located with easy access to several excellent hiking trails from the campground. This includes the California Riding and Hiking Trail and the Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail, as well as access to some excellent climbing spots.

The Ryan Campground has recently transitioned from being available on a first-come, first-served system throughout the year to now requiring a reservation during the peak season from the end of August to first part of June. The four equestrian sites at the Ryan Campground require a reservation year round.

The campsites at the Ryan Campground all feature picnic tables, fire rings, and grills. There is not a water source at the campground, so be sure to bring all that you’ll need. 

California Riding and Hiking Trail

Access to the California Riding and Hiking Trail from the Ryan Campground. Photo credit NPS/Brad Sutton.

 

Sheep Pass Group Campground

Number of Sites: 6 group sites (20 -25 people per site)
Fee: $50/night
RVs: Not permitted.
More Information
Reservations: Required.
Click Here to Reserve

Tents at the Sheep Pass campground

Sheep Pass Campground is perfect for larger groups. Photo credit NPS.

 

Perfect for larger groups, the Sheep Pass Campground is centrally located in Joshua Tree National Park. The campground has 6 sites and can accommodate groups size of between 20-25 people depending on the site. Reservations are required for the campsites year-round and can be made through Recreation.gov. An excellent hiking trail leaves directly from the campground and climbs to the top of Ryan Mountain.

The campsites all feature fire pits, grills, and picnic tables. RVs are not allowed at Sheep Pass, so if you’re planning a group camping trip with an RV you’ll need to check out one of the other group sites in Joshua Tree. The campground does not have potable water, so be sure to bring what you need. 

Ryan Mountain trail sign

The hike to the top of Ryan Mountain leaves directly from the Sheep Pass Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

White Tank Campground

Number of Sites: 15 sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes, max 25′ length. No hookups available.
More Information
Reservations: First-come, first-served

Sign for the White Tank Campground

The White Tank Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe.

 

The smallest campground in Joshua Tree National Park, White Tank Campground is located along Pinto Basin Road south of Twentynine Palms, CA. The campground provides excellent access to the Arch Rock Trail and California Riding and Hiking Trail.

White Tank Campground is available on a first-come, first-served basis throughout the year. This makes it a great option for a last minute camping trip in Joshua Tree. RVs are welcome at White Tank, although the maximum length is 25′ and there are no hookups available.

As with many of the campsites in Joshua Tree, White Tank does not have any potable water available. However, campsites do feature picnic tables, fire grates, and basic grills. The White Tank Campground is also a great location for stargazing, so be sure to bring those telescopes!

Arch Rock Trail sign

The Arch Rock Trail starts in the White Tank Campground. Photo credit NPS.

 

Backcountry camping in Joshua Tree National Park

For those looking to get off the beaten path, backcountry camping in Joshua Tree National Park is the perfect adventure. The nearly 800,000 acres in Joshua Tree National Park provide countless opportunities for backpacking and backcounty camping, provided you follow the national park guidelines and are prepared for this unique environment. Learn everything you need to know to plan a backpacking trip in Joshua Tree National Park below.

Backcountry camping in Joshua Tree National Park

Be sure you are prepared before venturing into the Joshua Tree backcountry.

 

Backcountry Camping Registration

The first thing you must know when planning a backcountry trip in Joshua Tree is that you’ll need to register your trip at one of the 13 backcountry boards located throughout the national park. 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. Check out the list and map below for locations of the 13 backcountry registration boards in Joshua Tree.

Backcountry registration boards are located at:

  • Black Rock Canyon
  • Cottonwood Spring
  • Covington
  • Geology Tour
  • Indian Cove
  • Juniper Flats
  • Keys West
  • North Entrance
  • Pine City
  • Pleasant Valley
  • Porcupine Wash
  • Turkey Flats
  • Twin Tanks

These locations are shown on the map below (click to enlarge):

Map of backcountry camping registration boards in Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree National Park has 13 backcountry registration boards. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

Each of the 13 registration boards provide access to different trails and parts of the park. Be sure to check out the NPS website here to get a sense of the different trails that each registration board has access to. In addition, you are welcome to leave your car overnight at the registration boards.

Backpacking trails in Joshua Tree National Park

As you’re planning your backcountry camping trip in Joshua Tree you’ll want to spend some time thinking about which trail you’ll plan on hiking and your planned route. While there are countless options, two of the most popular trails are listed and described below:

California Riding and Hiking Trail
The California Riding and Hiking Trail is an approximately 37-mile trail that crosses a huge swath of Joshua Tree National Park. The trail is typically completed over 2 – 4 days starting in the west at the Blackrock Campground and finishing at the north park entrance.

The route is a point-to-point hike meaning you’ll have to shuttle a car between the start and finish to ensure you have transportation back to where you started. One of the big perks of the California Riding and Hiking Trail is how often it visits campgrounds and crosses park roads. This makes it easy to cache water along the trail, which you’ll definitely want to do.

Check out this excellent guide from Hikingguy.com for detailed information.

Boy Scout Trail/Willow Hole Trail
The Boy Scout Trail is an approximate 8 mile hiking trail that connects from just north of the Indian Cove Campground to Park Boulevard adjacent to the Quail Spring Picnic Area in the south. The hike can be extended into an overnight backpacking trip by taking the Willow Hole Trail, a 2.2 mile out and back to Willow Hole.

Backpacking site in Joshua Tree

 

Where to camp in the Joshua Tree Backcountry

Unlike many other national parks, there are no designed backcountry campsites in Joshua Tree National Park. Rather, backpackers are asked to camp on durable surfaces, camp away from other groups, camp an adequate distance from roads, and not camp in day-use only areas. The full list of regulations is below:

  • Do not camp within 1 mile of a park road
  • Do not camp within 500 ft. of a trail or water source
  • Do not camp in day-use only areas (these will be marked)
  • Camp at least 1 mile from any trailheads
  • Limit your group size to the smallest possible.

In practice, this means you should seek out a secluded campsite that is on a durable surface. Rocks and sandy washes make perfect backcountry campsites in Joshua Tree. Please be very careful not to camp or hike on the ‘living soil’ in Joshua Tree. This can be recognized by the dark crust that forms on top of the soil and should be avoided to help protect this sensitive ecosystem.

Joshua Trees in front of mountain landscape.

 

Caching food and water in the Joshua Tree backcountry

Given the lack of water in this fragile desert environment, backcountry campers are permitted to cache food and water in the Joshua Tree backcountry. Caching simply means that you’ll store a supply of food or water somewhere along your planned route. This is incredibly important as you won’t be able to carry all of the water you’re likely to need. Plan on at least 3 liters of water per person per day for backpacking trips in Joshua Tree. Here are a few tips for caching food and water:

  • Plan out your route and caching locations ahead of time
  • Contact the NPS to get a sense of where a good caching location may be for your preferred route
  • Mark your cache with your name, trip dates, and contact information
  • Caches can be left for up to 14 days

You’ll want to store your cache somewhere that is out of the way, but still easy for you to find. We highly recommend utilizing a GPS app on your phone, such as Gaia GPS, in order to record a waypoint for the location of your cache.

Backcountry water cache

Caching water is essential for any backpacking trip in Joshua Tree National Park.

 

Joshua Tree National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Joshua Tree National Park. First a few basics:

  • The Maximum group size for individual campsites is six people, three tents, and two vehicles. Note that not all campsites can accommodate this many people/cars.
  • Do not attach any type of rope to the vegetation in Joshua Tree. This means no camping hammocks!
  • You are not permitted to camp in Joshua Tree for more than 30 days/year. Of these, only 14 days may be within the peak season from late-September to early-June.

Fires

Fires are generally permitted at the nine developed campgrounds within Joshua Tree National Park. 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.

Do not gather any wood from the national park!

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

Campfire in Joshua Tree National Park.

 

Wildlife

A highlight for many visits to Joshua Tree is the chance to encounter some of the incredible wildlife that calls the park home. The 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 Joshua Tree:

  • Ground squirrels: This is mammal you are most likely to encounter on a camping trip in Joshua Tree. Be sure to securely store all food, especially in the backcountry to limit your impact.
  • Snakes: Joshua Tree 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. For backcountry campers you’re biggest danger is twisting an ankle in a snake hole or burrow!
  • Birds: Joshua Tree National Park has a very active population of birds. Keep an eye out for the iconic roadrunner!

Learn more about the wildlife in Joshua Tree here.

A roadrunner in Joshua Tree National Park

A roadrunner in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo credit NPS/Hannah Schwalbe.

 

Pets

Joshua Tree National Park strikes a nice balance when it comes to bringing pets along on your trip. Pets are permitted at all of the developed campgrounds throughout the park, but are not allowed in the backcountry or on any hiking trails. 

If you do plan on bringing you pet with you, 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

Given the hot desert environment it is important to take proper precautions when bringing a pet to Joshua Tree. This includes bringing plenty of water for them and ensuring their paws do not get burned on the hot ground.

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

 

Where to get supplies

Stocking up on camping supplies before your trip to Joshua Tree is an important part of trip planning. 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 several towns near all of the Joshua Tree National park entrances, making it easy to get supplies prior to your camping trip. Check out your options below:

  • North Entrance
    • Twentynine Palms: Twentynine Palms serves as the northern gateway to Joshua Tree National Park. It is a short drive from the North Entrance station and provides easy access to the Belle, Jumbo Rocks, White Tank, and Indian Cove campgrounds.  Twentynine Palms has most of the essentials you’ll need to stock up for your camping trip including a grocery store, liquor store, and gas station. The nearest outdoor store is in Joshua Tree Village.
  • West Entrance
    • Joshua Tree Village: Joshua Tree Village is located a few miles north of the West Entrance Station. From here you’ll have easy access to Hidden Valley, Ryan, and Sheep Pass campgrounds. Joshua Tree has a small health food store, gas station, and an outdoor shop. For more services you’ll want to head to Yucca Valley.
    • Yucca Valley: West of Joshua Tree Village, Yucca Valley is the largest town on the north side of Joshua Tree National Park. You’ll travel through Yucca Valley to reach the Black Rock Campground. Yucca Valley has multiple grocery stores and gas stations.
  • South Entrance
    • Indio, CA: Located a 30 minute drive from the Cottonwood Entrance Station on the south side of Joshua Tree National Park, Indio has tons of services. Here you’ll find everything you’ll need to stock up for a camping trip in Joshua Tree including grocery stores, gas stations, and outdoor stores.

Palm trees in Indio, California.

 

Camping near Joshua Tree National Park

Spending a few nights camping in Joshua Tree National Park is an experience not to be missed. However, the popularity of of camping in Joshua Tree means it is possible that you won’t be able to find a campground within the national park. Don’t let that deter you, though, as there are plenty of camping options outside of Joshua Tree National Park. Check out your best bets 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:

RV campgrounds near Joshua Tree National Park

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Joshua Tree National Park. Most of the RV campgrounds are located in the Palm Springs area, which provides convenient access to the national park. There is also a good option on the northern side of Joshua Tree for those looking for a great RV campground. Learn more below.

RV parked near Joshua Tree

 

Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $30 – $60/night
Capacity: Sites accommodate up to 8 people
RVs: Yes, up to 90′.
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA is located just north of Palm Springs in Desert Hot Springs, CA. This large site is well located for a visit to Joshua Tree and approximately 50 minutes from both the southern and western entrance stations. Here, you’ll find all the amenities that are typical of a KOA including a pool, dog park, mini golf, playground, and fitness room.

The Palm Springs/Joshua Tree KOA can also accommodate RVs up to 90′ in length, so nearly every camper should fit just fine.

 

Palm Springs RV Resort

Number of sites: 401
Fee: $50 – $80/night depending on season
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Palms Springs RV Resort is located just off of I-10 in Palm Desert, CA. This is an excellent location for those looking to explore the southern section of Joshua Tree National Park as the campground is only 30 minutes from the southern entrance station.

The campground is large, with over 400 campsites that can accommodate RVs of all lengths. Here you’ll get access to a pool, WiFi, a playground, dog park, and much more.

 

Twentynine Palms RV Resort

Number of sites: 168
Fee: $47/night
Capacity: Max of 5 people per site
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Twentynine Palms RV Resort is well located just a short drive from the northern entrance station to Joshua Tree. Every site at Twentynine Palms features electricity, water, and sewer hookups. The campground has tons of amenties as well, including a pool, fitness room, and small shop selling camping supplies.

Highly recommended!

 

Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $30 – $50/night depending on hookup size
Capacity: Price is for two adults. Additional guests are $10/night
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Joshua Tree Lake RV & Campground is one of the closest RV campgrounds to the national park located just 20 minutes from the western entrance station in Joshua Tree Village. This independently run campground gets great review for its location and small pond. You won’t find the same amenities here as you’ll get at the other options (no pool!), but you will get a quieter site with tremendous views.

 

Little Pioneertown RV Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: Call to inquire. (760) 362-2163
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Little Pioneertown RV Campground is located north of Joshua Tree National Park in Yucca Valley, CA. From here, you’re only a 20 minute drive from the western entrance station making this a great option for those interested in exploring the northern section of the park.

All sites at this campground feature electricity, water, and sewer hookups although you won’t find the same amenities as some of the other RV campgrounds listed above.

Car camping sites near Joshua Tree National Park

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Joshua Tree 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 Joshua Tree.

Car camping near Joshua Tree

There are plenty of options for car camping near Joshua Tree National Park.

 

Mt. San Jacinto State Park State Park

Number of Sites: Idyllwild (28 sites) and Stone Creek (44 sites)
Fee: Varies, but plan on between $15 – $45/night depending on the campground and hookups.
Capacity: 8 people per campsite.
RVs: Yes.
Reservations: Required. Visit website here. 
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

Mt. San Jacinto State Park is located to the west of Palm Springs and between 1 – 1.5 hours from Joshua Tree National Park. Here, you’ll find two developed campgrounds perfect for pitching your tent. The Mt. Jacinto area stands in stark contrast to the desert landscape of Joshua Tree. Here you’ll be immersed in a high altitude mountain environment surrounded by pine trees.

The two developed campgrounds in Mt. San Jacinto State Park, Idyllwild and Stone Creek, both can accommodate tents and small RVs up to 24′. While not as close to Joshua Tree National Park as some of the other RV parks in the area, you’ll find a more basic campground that has a wilderness feel.

Dispersed campsites near Joshua Tree National Park

Your final option for camping near Joshua Tree National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite on adjacent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land located both north and south of the national park. This land is overseen by the BLM 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.

A free dispersed campsite on BLM land north of Joshua Tree National Park.

Free dispersed camping is available near Joshua Tree National Park on BLM land.

 

The two camping areas below are both overseen by the Barstow Field Office of the BLM, so be sure to contact them with any questions.

North Joshua Tree Dispersed Camping

Located a short drive from the western entrance to Joshua Tree, the BLM land located north of the national park is a popular free campground near Joshua Tree National Park. The camping area is between Joshua Tree Village and Twentynine Palms, giving you access to plenty of services in these two towns.

To get to this area you’ll take Highway 62 (the Twentynine Palms highway) to Sunfair Road. Turn north on Sunfair Rd and continue to Two Mile Road. Turn east here and continue until the road ends. Click here for directions.

The camping area is located on a dry lake bed and there is plenty of space to accommodate all campers. Given that this is not an established campsite, there is no water available and fires are not allowed. Please be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles when camping here.

As always, Freecampsites.net also has good information on the North Joshua Tree Dispersed camping area.

South Joshua Tree Dispersed Camping

The dispersed camping area located on the south side of Joshua Tree National Park is located just off of Cottonwood Springs Road. This location couldn’t be better if you’re looking to explore the southern section of the park, as you’re mere minutes from the Cottonwood entrance station. The campsites are located just north of I-10, giving you easy access to Indio for supplies.

To get here, take I-10 to Cottonwood Springs Road and head north towards Joshua Tree National Park. After approximately 1 mile of driving along Cottonwood Springs Road you’ll begin to see campsites located to the west. Click here for directions.

There is no water available here and the campsites do not have any services. Check out the Freecampsites.net description for more information.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Joshua Tree 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 Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park is a true hidden gem. Tucked away in the central heart of California, Pinnacles is home to a variety of rugged landscapes and stunning rock formations. Although…

Pinnacles National Park is a true hidden gem. Tucked away in the central heart of California, Pinnacles is home to a variety of rugged landscapes and stunning rock formations. Although it is one of the country’s youngest National Parks, Pinnacles’ history goes back many millions of years to a time when numerous volcanoes formed the spires, caves, and canyons that make it such a unique and beautiful place.

Many nature lovers will agree that exploring wild places like Pinnacles National Park is best experienced on a camping trip. There’s no better way to bring closure to a day in the outdoors than a night under the stars. Since camping options are limited and Pinnacles is still an off-the-beaten-track destination, it can be challenging to find good information on camping in Pinnacles National Park. That’s why we created this comprehensive guide so you can spend less time planning and more time in the great outdoors. Enjoy!

Wild flowers bloom along the Rim Trail in Pinnacles National Park.
Wildflowers bloom along the Rim Trail in Pinnacles National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Cindy Martinez.

In This Post:

Camping Inside Pinnacles National Park

When it comes to camping inside Pinnacles 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 Pinnacles Campground, and those looking for more remote dispersed camping have a few good options nearby.

Pinnacles National Park Camping Map
Pinnacles Campground is located on the more developed East side of the park.

Pinnacles Campground

# of sites: 134

Type: Tent, RV, Group, Glamping

Fees: $35 (Standard tent), $45 (RV w/electric), $75-$110 (group) $119 (glamping cabin)

Located near the Visitor’s Center on the East side of the park, Pinnacles Campground offers a range of camping options. There are numerous tent pitches (many with good shade, 6 people max per site), RV sites with electric hookups, glamping cabins, and group sites that can accommodate up to 20 people.

There is a handy campground store on the premises that offers basic food and supplies. A shuttle runs from the campground to the Bear Gulch Nature Center and nearby trailheads.

Looking towards Pinnacles Campground and Bear Gulch.
Looking towards Pinnacles Campground and Bear Gulch. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Amenities:

  • Fire ring
  • Picnic tables
  • Food storage box
  • Flushing toilets
  • Hot showers ($0.50/3 minutes)
  • Wifi
  • Swimming pool
  • General store

Reservations

Due to the limited camping options at Pinnacles, reservations are recommended during the peak wildflower season (March-May), on weekends, and during holidays. Additionally, it is advisable to book in advance if you are wanting an RV site (only 20 total), glamping cabin (6 total), or group site (14 total). Group sites can be booked up to 12 months in advance, while all other sites can be booked up to 6 months in advance.

Reservations can be made at recreation.gov or by calling (877) 444-6777

What to bring on your Pinnacles National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Pinnacles 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 Pinnacles National Park:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect for whipping up classic campsite dinners.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun in this part of California can get intense! You won’t find much shade at the campground, 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 essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Pinnacles National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • Pinnacles Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Pinnacles. We like this hiking guide from Falcon Guides.

Pets

Pets are allowed on the paved areas of the campground and must be kept on a leash. You cannot bring your pet on any of the trails in Pinnacles National Park.

Fires

Fires are permitted inside designated fire rings, depending on the time of year. During times of high fire danger, campfires and smoking are prohibited throughout the park (including inside the campground), although propane cooking stoves are typically allowed. Information on current conditions and fire bans can be found on this website.

Wildlife

Pinnacles National Park is a renowned habitat for the critically endangered California Condor. There is a viewing area with telescopes at the Pinnacles Campground; your best chance of seeing one of these beautiful giants is during their evening feeding time. More commonly seen in the campground are racoons, squirrels, and numerous smaller birds, such as the scrub jay. It is imperative that visitors not feed the wildlife, and be sure to keep all of your food inside your car or in the box provided at your campsite.

A California Condor at Pinnacles National Park.
A California Condor spotted in Pinnacles National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Kurt Moses.

Campgrounds Near Pinnacles National Park

Despite the limited options for camping within the boundaries of Pinnacles National Park, there are plenty of good campgrounds in the surrounding area. For easy access to the East side of the park, the towns of Hollister and King City are each about 30 miles and 40 minutes’ drive away. The west side of the park is more remote, requiring about an hour’s drive (38 miles) from the nearest town of Soledad.

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:

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

Campgrounds Near Hollister, California

Hollister Hills SVRA

For those looking for a more rustic option near Hollister, the Hollister Hills State Vehicle Recreation Area offers basic camping options in several campgrounds on the 6,800-acre site. Keep in mind that this is a recreation area for 4WD vehicles and ATVs, so don’t expect it to be particularly quiet.

# of Sites: Varies by campground. (There are 7 campgrounds and 2 remote sites total)

Type: Tents, RVs (no hookups)

Fees: $10/night

Amenities:

  • Flushing toilets
  • Showers (not available at all campgrounds)
  • Water
  • Firepit
  • Picnic tables

Fires: Yes, but seasonal restrictions may apply.

Pets: Yes

Reservations: N/A. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Get there early, as it fills up most weekends.

Hollister Hills SVRA Website

Camping in Hollister California
Car camping+fire pits=Gourmet dinners!

San Benito RV and Camping Resort

Located 14 miles south of Hollister, this is one of the closest camping options to Pinnacles National Park (about a 25-minute drive). The San Benito RV and Camping Resort is a big, busy, well-appointed RV park that doesn’t permit tent camping.

# of Sites: 596

Type: RV, Cabins

Fees: RV sites ($68/night and up), Cabins ($130/night-$300/night)

Amenities:

  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • Clubhouse with Wifi
  • Pool/Hot tub
  • Playground
  • Laundry
  • Water

Fires: In barbeques only.

Pets: Allowed for RV camping, but not inside cabins.

Reservations: Recommended for busy weekends. Reservations can be made HERE.

San Benito RV and Camping Resort Website

Camping near Hollister California rock climbing
Camping in Hollister gives you close proximity to some of the most popular climbing routes in Pinnacles National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Kurt Moses.

Campgrounds Near King City, California

San Lorenzo County Park

Conveniently located near the center of King City, San Lorenzo County Park offers a wide variety of campsite types in a shady campground with good facilities.

# of Sites: 100

Type: RV, Tent, Group

Fees: Full Hook-Up ($45/night) Water/Electric or Water-Only ($40/night)

Amenities

  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • Water
  • Barbeques
  • Picnic tables
  • Laundry
  • Internet kiosk
  • Putting green

Fires: Barbeques only.

Pets: Yes (must be kept on leash), additional fee required.

Reservations: Recommended for busy holidays and weekends. Reservations can be made HERE.

San Lorenzo County Park Camping Website

Camping in King City California, Pinnacles National Park
Many of the best trails in Pinnacles National Park are less than an hour’s drive from San Lorenzo County Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Kurt Moses.

Campgrounds Near Soledad, California

Arroyo Seco Campground

Nestled on a wooded hillside near two small lakes and a river, this rustic campground offers a good option for campers who want to appreciate their natural surroundings. There are some spots that can accommodate smaller RVs, but no hookups are available.

# of Sites: 33

Fees: $30/night

Amenities:

  • Toilets (some flush, some vault)
  • Drinking water
  • Showers (coin-operated)
  • Picnic table
  • Firepit with grill

Fires: Yes, but seasonal restrictions may apply.

Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.

Reservations: Recommended. This is a small campground that gets heavy use throughout the year. Reservations can be made HERE.

Arroyo Seco Campground Website

Camping near the west entrance to Pinnacles National Park.
Camping near Soledad, CA gives you easy access to the West entrance of Pinnacles National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Kurt Moses.

Yanks RV Resort

Yanks RV Resort is well-positioned for easy access to either the western or eastern entrance to Pinnacles National Park. This is an RV-only campground and tents are not permitted.

# of Sites: 79

Fees: $51-71/night

Amenities:

  • Full hook-ups
  • Wifi & cable TV
  • Picnic tables
  • Barbeques
  • Pool/hot tub
  • Toilets
  • Showers
  • Dog park
  • Propane filling station
  • Laundry
  • Store
  • Fitness center

Fires: Yes

Pets: Yes, except for pitbulls, rottweilers, & dobermans.

Reservations: Recommended for busy holidays and weekends. Reservations can be made HERE.

Yanks RV Resort Website

Pinnacles National Park Camping Caves
Exploring the caves in Pinnacles National Park. Photo courtesy of NPS/Kurt Moses.

Dispersed Camping Near Pinnacles National Park

There are a couple of good options for dispersed camping near Pinnacles National Park. The Laguna Mountain BLM area is the closest option to the park, requiring a roughly 50-minute drive to reach the East entrance. The Condon Peak BLM area is just a bit further, about one hour’s drive from Pinnacles National Park’s East entrance. While these camping options may be a bit further than some of the other campgrounds in the area, they provide an affordable and private alternative to the busier RV parks.

Laguna Mountain BLM Recreation Area

There are plenty of secluded spots to be found off any of the roads in the Laguna Mountain area (be sure to read and follow the camping regulations on the website). Stargazers will enjoy the dark night skies here, and hikers should make a short detour to check out one of the waterfalls in the area. Keep in mind that there are no restrooms, water, or trash facilities for dispersed campers. There are also two primitive campgrounds with level spaces to accommodate RV’s, although there are no hook-ups.

# of Sites: Varies

Fees: Free

Amenities:

  • None in dispersed spots
  • Campgrounds have vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables

Fires: Seasonal Restrictions may apply

Pets: Yes

Reservations: Not available. Get there early on weekends to find a good spot.

Laguna Mountain BLM Website

Dispersed camping near Pinnacles National Park
Dispersed camping allows you to enjoy the peace and solitude of the outdoors.

Condon Peak BLM Recreation Area

Condon Peak Recreation Area is another good option for dispersed camping near Pinnacles National Park, although there are a few drawbacks to consider. There is a $5 vehicle permit required for both camping and day use, and Condon Peak is a bit further from Pinnacles than Laguna Mountain. Additionally, the area is quite busy during the summer hunting season. That being said, there are many good dispersed spots and a primitive campground suitable for tents and RVs.

# of Sites: Varies

Fees: $5 vehicle permit (good for one week and must be purchased on recreation.gov)

Amenities:

  • None in dispersed spots
  • Campgrounds have vault toilets, fire rings, and picnic tables

Fires: Seasonal Restrictions may apply

Pets: Yes

Reservations: Not available. Get there early on summer weekends to find a good spot.

Condon Peak BLM Website

Camping near Pinnacles National Park, Balconies Trail

Conclusion

There’s no shortage of activities to enjoy in Pinnacles National Park. You can watch for the endangered California Condor and other birds of prey, explore the fabulous network of hiking trails, choose from excellent climbing routes suited for a range of ability levels and styles, or venture into one of the incredible talus caves (no special experience or equipment required!) Your next adventure is waiting, and it all starts with the perfect basecamp. Happy camping!

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The Complete Guide to Camping in Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park, located in western Virginia, is one of America’s most iconic National Parks. The Blue Ridge mountains create a stunning backdrop for the incredible Skyline Drive, a 105-mile…

Shenandoah National Park, located in western Virginia, is one of America’s most iconic National Parks. The Blue Ridge mountains create a stunning backdrop for the incredible Skyline Drive, a 105-mile roadway that runs through Shenandoah National Park. We think the best way to experience everything that Shenandoah has to offer is to spend a few nights in your tent or RV where you’ll experience this beautiful part of the country first hand.

Shenandoah National Park and the surrounding areas have plenty of options for camping from the five campgrounds located within the park to an abundance of backcountry camping options and plenty of nearby campgrounds only a short drive from the National Park.

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

Sunset in Shenandoah National Park.

Enjoying a stunning sunset from your tent in Shenandoah National Park is an experience not to be missed!

 

In this Post

 

Shenandoah National Park Campgrounds

The first step in planning your perfect camping trip in Shenandoah is to first understand a bit about the geography of the park. Shenandoah National Park is over 105 miles long, but quite narrow across. Skyline Drive runs the length or the park and is used to access the majority of campgrounds and trailheads within the park.

As such, most destinations within Shenandoah will have their location given by the mile marker they are located at along Skyline Drive. The mile markers begin at the northern entrance station at Front Royal (mile 0) and finish at mile 105 at the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station located at the southern end of the park.

Tunnel along Skyline Drive

Skyline Drive runs the length of Shenandoah National Park.

 

In between these two points you’ll have several options for camping within Shenandoah National Park. The five campgrounds within the national park provide plenty of options for everything from RV camping to secluded car camping, while over 500 miles of hiking trails provide endless opportunities for the adventurous to enjoy backcountry camping in Shenandoah.

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

Map of campsites at Shenandoah National Park

Campground options in Shenandoah National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. (Click to enlarge)

 

All of the campgrounds within Shenandoah National Park are open seasonally beginning in the late-Spring through the late-Fall. This typically means that you can expect campgrounds to open in late-April or early-May and stay open through the end of October or early-November.

You can check the opening and closing dates for all the campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park here. 

Reservations & Permits

Reservations for campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park are only required for the Dundo Group Campground. However, we highly recommend making reservations for any of the campgrounds you hope to stay at during the peak summer season, and especially on weekends. The exception to this is the Lewis Mountain Campground, which does not accept reservations.

To make a reservation for the Mathews Arm, Big Meadows, Loft Mountain, or Dundo Group Campgrounds you’ll need to visit the Recreation.gov website, which manages campground reservations for the National Park Service.

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

It is important to know that even if you don’t have a reservation in peak season you can still find a campground in Shenandoah. All of the campgrounds within the national park (with the exception of the Dundo Group Campground) have a small number of first come, first served campsites available. These can be a lifesaver when you plan a last minute camping trip to Shenandoah!

Shenandoah National Park camping

You’ll be glad to made a reservation if you’re hoping to camp in peak season in Shenandoah.

 

For those who are exploring the vast trail network and plan to spend a night (or two) at a backcountry campsite in Shenandoah National Park you’ll need to get obtain a backcountry permit. The permit is free and can be obtained at one of the self-registration stations located throughout the park or through the Shenandoah’s online permit system.

Online Permits for backcountry camping in Shenandoah National Park can be obtained here. 

What to bring on your Shenandoah National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Shenandoah 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 Shenandoah, 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!
  • Shenandoah National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • Shenandoah Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Shenandoah. We like this hiking guide from Falcon Guides.

Car camping sites in Shenandoah National Park

There are five options for those looking to car camp in Shenandoah National Park. These campgrounds are spread throughout the park and give plenty of options for those looking to explore different areas of Shenandoah. Details for all five campgrounds are below.

Mathews Arm Campground (mile 22.1)

Number of Sites: 161 individual (up to 6 people) and 3 group sites (up to 25 people)
Mile marker: 22.1
Fee: $15/night for individual sites, $50/night for group sites
RVs: Yes. No electric or water hookups available.
More Information
Click Here to Reserve

The Mathews Arm Campground is the most northern campground in Shenandoah National Park, just 22.1 miles from the Front Royal Entrance Station. This is a great place to spend the night before visiting Overall Run Falls, as the campground is short distance from the main trail leading to this spectacular waterfall.

Matthews Arms has 161 individual campsites which can accommodate up to 6 people and two cars in addition to three group sites, which can accommodate up to 25 people each. The campground has a significant number of campsites that are first-come, first-first served, making this a great option for those without reservations.

View a map of the Mathews Arm Campground here. 

The campground has five public restrooms, plenty of potable water spigots, utility sinks for cleaning up, and an RV dump station. The Traces Trail can be accessed directly from the campground, making for a lovely walk directly from your campsite.

Mountain view in Shenandoah National Park

Mathews Arm Campground makes a perfect jumping off point for exploring Shenandoah. Photo credit NPS/N. Lewis

 

Big Meadows Campground (mile 51.2)

Number of Sites: 222 individual (up to 6 people) and 2 group sites (up to 15 people)
Mile marker: 51.2
Fee: $20/night for individual sites, $45/night for group sites
RVs: Yes. There is a dump station, but no electric or water hookups available.
More Information
Click Here to Reserve

Sign for Big Meadows campground in Shenandoah National Park

 

The Big Meadows Campground is centrally located in Shenandoah National Park, and is located at mile marker 51.2. The campground is well situated and makes for a perfect place to camp before visiting Dark Hollow Falls, Lewis Falls, or the Fisher’s Gap overlook. The Appalachian Trail pass just north of the campground, so you can expect to see a few through hikers!

Big Meadows has 222 individual campsites and 2 group sites, which can accommodate up to 15 people. Most of the campgrounds at Big Meadows require a reservation, although there are still several that are always available on a first-come, first served basis. Big Meadows Campground also has a number of ‘walk-in’ campsites where you’ll park your car and then carry your camping gear to your site. These offer a bit more privacy and are a great option for those looking for more solitude and a true wilderness experience.

View a map of the Big Meadows Campground here. 

The campground has nine restrooms, plenty of water spigots, showers, laundry, firewood for sale, and an ice machine. There is also a dump station for those traveling in an RV.

Dark Hollow Falls in Shenandoah National Park

Dark Hollow Falls is a short distance from the Big Meadows Campground. Photo credit NPS/N. Lewis

 

Lewis Mountain Campground (mile 57.5)

Number of Sites: 30 individual sites
Mile marker: 57.5
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes. No dump station, water or electric hookups available.
More Information
No reservations accepted

Lewis Mountain Campground is the smallest campground in Shenandoah National Park, and is located just off the Appalachian Trail at mile marker 57.5. The campground is well located for those looking to do a bit of hiking on the AT, hiking to South River Falls, or visiting the ruins of the Upper Pocosin Mission.

View a map of the Lewis Mountain Campground here. 

Lewis Mountain Campground only has 30 campsites, and they are spaced relatively close together. This can cause the campground to feel a bit noisy and crowded despite its small size. Facilities include restrooms, water spigots, showers, firewood for sale, and an ice machine. There is no dump station available for RVs.

Loft Mountain Campground (mile 79.5)

Number of Sites: 207 individual sites
Mile marker: 79.5
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes. There is a dump station, but no electric or water hookups available.
More Information
Click Here to Reserve

The Loft Mountain Campground is perennially a favorite among campers in Shenandoah National Park. Although one of the largest in the park many of the campsites feel very private and the views looking out over the Blue Ridge Mountains are truly spectacular! The site is located at mile marker 79.5, making it a great option for those coming from the southern entrance station at Rockfish Gap.

View a map of the Loft Mountain Campground here. 

Loft Mountain features 207 campsites, most of which are available on a first-come, first served basis. The campground has five restrooms, which can feel a bit crowded given the size of the campground, plenty of water spigots, showers, and a camp store selling essentials. The edges of the campground feature several tent only campsites which are a good option to get a bit more privacy. Nearby hikes include the Blackrock Summit hike and Doyles River Falls.

Loft Mountain makes the perfect campground if you plan on visiting Doyles River Falls. Photo credit NPS.

 

Given the popularity of the Loft Mountain Campground, reservations are recommended during peak summer weekends. If you don’t have a reservation be sure to arrive as early as possible to give yourself the best change to secure a campsite.

Dundo Group Campground (mile 83.7)

Number of Sites: 3 group sites (up to 20 people)
Mile marker: 83.7
Fee: $45/night
RVs: Not permitted.
More Information
Click Here to Reserve

The Dundo Group Campground in Shenandoah National Park is exclusively for groups, with each of the three campsites accommodating between 7-20 people. Although a group campground, the fact that there are only three campsites makes this a pleasant place to spend the night. The campground is located at mile 83.7 and is close to many of the highlights of the southern section of Shenandoah such as Blackrock Summit and Sawmill Run Overlook.

View a map of the Dundo Group Campground here. 

Given that there are only three campsites and the Dundo Group Campground, all sites must be reserved in advance.

It is also important to note that there are no RVs allowed at Dundo, so if you’re traveling in your RV you’ll need to camp at one of the other campgrounds in Shenandoah.

Fire pit at a campground in Shenandoah National Park

 

Backcountry campsites in Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is a backcountry campers dream. The park features over 500 miles of trails that wind their way throughout this stunning landscape and provide countless options for your perfect backpacking trip. However, there are some rules and regulations you’ll need to keep in mind as you plan your backcountry camping trip in Shenandoah National Park, outlined below.

Hiking trail in Shenandoah National Park

Backcountry camping is an incredible way to experience Shenandoah National Park.

 

Backcountry Camping Permits

All backcountry campers in Shenandoah National Park are required to obtain a free permit before starting their trip. This can be done at one of the eight self-registration stations conveniently located throughout the park. You can also obtain a permit through the National Park Service’s online permit system for Shenandoah, accessible here.

Regardless of where you obtain your permit you’ll need to have the following details:

  • Trip leader name and contact information
  • Itinerary including planned stopping points for each day
  • Number of people in your group
  • Number of nights at each campsite
  • Planned start and finish date

Where to camp in the Shenandoah backcountry

Unlike many National Parks, Shenandoah does not have designated backcountry campsites. Rather, the NPS recommends that backcountry hikers camp at obvious campsites which have been developed by previous users. These should be fairly obvious on the trail as you’ll generally be able to see where tents have been placed, logs arranged for seating, etc.

Regardless of where you decide to pitch your tent you’ll need to be at least 1/4 mile from the nearest road,  and avoid close proximity to water sources, other campers, structures, and trails.

You can view all of the backcountry campsite regulations for Shenandoah National Park here.

In addition to mapping out a successful itinerary it is imperative to carry a detailed map and know how to navigate utilizing a map and compass. We highly recommend bringing a copy of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Topo Map for Shenandoah National Park on any backpacking trip in Shenandoah.

Additionally, trekkers need to be prepared to treat their own water. We recommend bringing a small, packable filter like the Sawyer Squeeze.

River in the Shenandoah backcountry

Be sure to treat the water in Shenandoah National Park.

 

Planning your Itinerary

The expansive trail network in Shenandoah can make planning a backcountry camping trip seem a bit overwhelming. If you’re not familiar with the National Park it can be difficult to know how to start even thinking about what a good itinerary might be. Luckily, the National Park Service has put together comprehensive list of backcountry camping itineraries in Shenandoah. Check it out below.

Check out a comprehensive list of backcountry camping itineraries in Shenandoah here. 

Leave No Trace

Given the sensitive ecosystem of Shenandoah National Park it is essential that you practice Leave No Trace principles when backpacking in the National Park. This includes packing out all of your own trash and property disposing of your waste. Fires are not permitted in the backcountry. 

Properly storing your food is also essential as bears and other wildlife are common throughout the National Park. We recommend bringing a bear canister for any trip into the backcountry.

Black bear in Shenandoah.

Be sure to properly store your food when backpacking in Shenandoah!

 

Shenandoah National Park Camping Must Know

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

Campfires in Shenandoah

Fires are generally allowed at each of the five campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park. 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.

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

Campfire in Shenandoah National Park

 

Wildlife

A wide variety of wildlife calls Shenandoah National Park home. For campers in the park there are a few you’ll want to be especially aware of. These include:

  • Black bears: Be sure to properly store your food in either the park provided bear bins or in a bear canister. This is especially important for backcountry campers in Shenandoah.
  • Snakes: Shenandoah is home to a diversity of snake species. Most of these are non-venomous and all of them are likely to try and avoid contact with visitors. However, there are several venomous snakes including timber rattlesnakes in the park. Be aware of your surroundings and always keep an eye out!
  • Birds: The stunning landscapes of Shenandoah make a perfect habitat for several species of birds to thrive. Keep an eye out for the stunning peregrine falcon and the elusive scarlet tanager.

For those camping, you’ll primarily want to be vigilant about keeping food properly stored and keeping a close eye out for snakes.

Bear in Shenandoah National park.

A black bear in Shenandoah. Photo courtesy of NPS.

 

Pets

If you’ve spent much time in National Parks you’ll know that pets are typically not permitted on any of the trails. Shenandoah is one of the few exceptions, and you are welcome to bring your pets along on your Shenandoah National Park camping trip. 

Pets are permitted in all of the campgrounds within the park, as well as on backcountry camping trips. However, there are several trails where pets are not allowed, and the National Park Services lists those here.

If you do plan to bring your pet on a camping trip in Shenandoah, keep these regulations in mind:

  • Pets must be on a leash at all time. This includes at the campgrounds.
  • Please pick up your pet waste. Do not bag it and leave it on the side of the trail.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

Where to get supplies

Given the length of Shenandoah National Park the best place to get camping supplies is highly dependent on where in the park you are camping. Our recommendations for each section are listed below:

  • Northern section (Matthews Arm Campground)
    • Front Royal, Virginia: The northern gateway town to Shenandoah, Front Royal has all the essentials you’ll need to stock up for your camping trip including a grocery store, outdoor store, liquor store, and gas stations.
    • Elkwallow Wayside: This small eatery is located at mile 24.1 on Skyline Drive. You’ll be able to pick up some basic groceries, camping supplies, and even takeout food here.
  • Middle section (Big Meadows Campground, Lewis Mountain Campground)
    • Luray, Virginia: Luray is smaller than some of the other towns near Shenandoah, but you’ll still find a grocery store, gas station, and outdoor store.
    • Big Meadows Wayside: Larger than Elkwallow Wayside, Big Meadows (mile 51.2) stocks basic groceries, camping and hiking supplies, has a small restaurant, and also sells gas and diesel.
  • Southern section (Loft Mountain Campground, Dundo Group Campground)
    • Waynesboro, Virginia: Waynesboro is near the southern entrance to Shenandoah and has gas stations, groceries stores, and an outdoor shop.
    • Loft Mountain Wayside: Similar to the other options in the park, you’ll be able to get simple groceries, some camping essentials, in addition to the small restaurant on site.

 

Big Meadows Wayside in Shenandoah National Park

Big Meadows Wayside is a perfect place to pick up a few essentials for your Shenandoah camping trip. Photo courtesy of NPS.

 

Camping near Shenandoah National Park

Given the popularity and scarcity of options, it is always possible that you won’t be able to find a campground within Shenandoah National Park. However, don’t give up as there are plentiful camping options just outside the National Park boundary! Check out your best options below:

RV campgrounds near Shenandoah National Park

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Shenandoah National Park. The best option for you will depend on which section of the park you’re planning to explore, and we’ve provided RV campgrounds near the northern, central, and southern sections of Shenandoah below.

Twin Rivers Campground – Northern section

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $40 – $45/night depending on electricity hookup size.
Capacity: Prices are for two people. Extra guests are $5/night. Kids 16 and under free
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Required. Visit website here or call (540) 636-6192
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Twin Rivers Campground is located north of Shenandoah in Front Royal, VA. A short drive from the Front Royal Entrance Station, this is the perfect place to camp if you’re looking to explore the northern section of the park. The campground features electricity hookups at every site, and river front access to the Shenandoah River.

Luray KOA Campground – Middle section

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: Varies depending on size of RV and hookups required.
Capacity: No stated limit.
RVs: Yes, up to 70′.
Reservations: Recommended.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The KOA Luray Campground is located just north of the town of Luray, VA. From here, it is an approximate 20 minute drive to the Thornton Gap Entrance Station. The Luray KOA can accommodate RVs up to 70′ in length and provides guests with access to WiFi, a dog park, snack bar, and pool.

Misty Mountain Camp Resort – Southern section

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $70 – $85/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Visit website here.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Misty Mountain Camp Report is located south of Shenandoah National Park in Greenwood, VA. The campground is located just 10 minutes from the Rockfish Gap Entrance Station, providing excellent access to the southern section of Shenandoah. Misty Mountain can accommodate all types of RVs and also has tent sites and cabin rentals. Guests staying at the RV campground get access to tons of amenities including WiFi, a swimming pool, fishing pond, and multiple playgrounds. See their full list of amenities here.

RVs near Shenandoah National Park

There are plenty of RV campgrounds near Shenandoah National Park.

 

Car camping sites near Shenandoah National Park

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Shenandoah 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 Shenandoah.

Car camping near Shenandoah National Park.

Car camping near Shenandoah National Park.

 

Shenandoah River State Park

Number of Sites: 71 sites
Fee: $25 – $46/night depending on hookups and residency. More info here. 
Capacity: 6 people per campsite
RVs: Yes, up to 60′.
Reservations: Recommended. Half of the site are also available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

Shenandoah River State Park is a true gem that offers abundant camping options just outside of the National Park. This campground is perfect for those looking to avoid the feel of an RV park and also gives access to the beautiful Shenandoah River. The campground is open year round and offers sites with electric and water hookups, tent-only sites, restrooms with showers, and each site also features a fire ring.

This is a great campground for those traveling with their family.

Elizabeth Furnace Family Campground

Number of Sites: 35 sites
Fee: $16/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes.
Reservations: All sites are first-come, first served.
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

The Elizabeth Furnace Family Campground is located near the northern entrance to Shenandoah National Park in the adjacent George Washington National Forest. The campground features 35 sites that can accommodate tents and smaller RVs. All of the campsites are first-come, first-served, so be sure to get there early in the day if you’re hoping to snag a spot.

The campground features vault-toilets (flush toilets and showers available during warmer months) and a water source. Alcoholic drinks are prohibited at this family campground.

Dispersed campsites near Shenandoah National Park

Your final option for camping near Shenandoah National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite in the adjacent George Washington National Forest. This national forest is overseen by the Forest Service/BLM 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.

Dispersed camping near Shenandoah National Park

There are some fantastic dispersed campsites just outside of Shenandoah National Park.

 

Crisman Hollow Dispersed Camping

Located to the west of Luray, Crisman Hollow Road (also known as Forest Service Road 724) offers some excellent dispersed camping in George Washington National Forest. Many of the campsites are located along Passage Creek and have fire rings.

The campsites are located near the Scothorn Gap Trail and directions can be found here.

Freecampsites.net also has good information on Crisman Hollow Dispersed Camping.

Slate Lick Fields Dispersed Camping

Located north-west of Harrisonburg, VA the Slate Lick Fields offer great dispersed camping near Shenandoah National Park. The campsites are located along Hog Pen Road and directions can be found here. Keep in mind there is not a good water source here, so you’ll need to bring plenty of drinking water with you.

BLM regulations on dispersed camping allow you to camp for up to 14 days in a 28 day period, so be sure to observe that limit at both of the sites above.

It is especially important to practice Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Shenandoah 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!

Sunset in Shenandoah

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Routeburn Track | Maps & Routes

The Routeburn Track on New Zealand’s South Island is a classic walk with one of the best alpine crossings in this spectacular country. Over the course of three days the…

The Routeburn Track on New Zealand’s South Island is a classic walk with one of the best alpine crossings in this spectacular country. Over the course of three days the route connects Mt. Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park with jaw dropping scenery throughout. A network of Department of Conservation huts and campsites provide accommodation along the tramp and the walk is well served with plentiful transportation options at both ends. This post will give you an introduction to the incredible Routeburn Track by providing in-depth maps, navigational resources, and much more!

In this post

Views from Harris Saddle on the Routeburn Track.

Stunning views from Harris Saddle on the Routeburn Track.

 

Where is the Routeburn Track?

The Routeburn Track is located in the southwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island. The route is accessed from the Routeburn Shelter on the eastern end and The Divide on the west. The Routeburn is typically walked from east to west, beginning at the Routeburn Shelter and finishing at the Divide, although it is possible to walk in the opposite direction as well. In between these two points the track crosses the Harris Saddle, with spectacular views of the surrounding high mountains and verdant valleys.

Map showing the Routeburn Track in New Zealand

The Routeburn Track connects Mt. Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks on New Zealand’s South Island.

 

The nearest town to the traditional starting point of the Routeburn Shelter is Glenorchy, located on the far shores of Lake Wakatipu. Glenorchy is a beautiful place to spend a night before your trek and has a much quieter vibe than nearby Queenstown. You’ll find plenty of transport options to the Routeburn Shelter from either Glenorchy or Queenstown, so deciding between the two is a matter of personal preference.

The Routeburn finishes on its western end at what is known as The Divide, which is little more than a car park with a few restrooms. From here most walkers book onward transportation to Te Anau, just south of the Divide, back to the Queenstown area, or north to Milford Sound for a bit of sightseeing. There are plenty transportation providers who will pick you up at the Divide, but be sure you’ve arranged it ahead of time as buses can be full during peak season. 

Hiking alongside Lake Harris on the Routeburn.

 

Between the start and finish points, the Routeburn Track provides some of the best walking in New Zealand. The highlight is the crossing of the Harris Saddle, with its stunning views of the Hollyford Valley, Lake Harris, and the rugged mountains beyond. However, you’ll also experience beautiful beech forest, high-alpine meadows, and a spectacularly situated trail.

There are four Department of Conservation Huts along the route as well as three campsites, giving you plenty of options for accommodation. Given that the Routeburn Track is one of the most popular Great Walks advance bookings for the the huts and campsites is required.

The route is typically completed in three days with overnight stops at the Routeburn Falls Hut and Lake Mackenzie Hut, both located in spectacular settings. For those interested in camping your best bet for a three day itinerary is to camp at the Routeburn Flats campsite and Lake Mackenzie campsite. Below is the standard itinerary for the Routeburn Track:

  • Stage 1: Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut
  • Stage 2: Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut
  • Stage 3: Lake Mackenzie Hut to The Divide

Routeburn Track Map

Map of the Routeburn Track.

 

In addition to completing the main trail, trampers will have the option to complete a few worthwhile side trips along their trek. The first is the climbing of Conical Hill from the Harris Saddle. If the weather is clear, we highly recommend it as the views are truly outstanding. However, if there is bad weather it is best avoided as conditions at the top can be quite severe.

You’ll also have the opportunity to hike to the top of Key Summit on what will most likely be your last day. This is a shorter hike than Conical Hill, but still boasts stand out views. You can view the trails to the top of Conical Hill and the Key Summit on the maps below.

Map of Conical Hill on the Routeburn Track.

If the weather is pleasant, we highly recommend a hike to the top of Conical Hill from the Harris Saddle.

 

Map of Key Summit on the Routeburn

If you just can’t get enough of the tremendous views on the Routeburn be sure to take a side trip to the top of Key Summit.

 

Interactive Routeburn map

The interactive Routeburn Track map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route.

 

How long is the Routeburn?

The Department of Conservation website lists the Routeburn track as 33 kilometers long. While certainly a very accurate estimate, we measure (via GPS) the Routeburn to be 31.45 kilometers (19.5 miles) from the Routeburn Shelter to The Divide. 

Of course, measuring the exact distance of the walk has very little practical value as you’ll certainly end up walking a bit further than any exact distance we provide. Most walkers will at a minimum want to take a side trip to the top of Conical Hill, weather permitting, which adds an additional 2 kilometers. Add in the 1.7 kilometer round-trip hike to the top of Key Summit and you’ve already walked over 35 kilometers total.   In addition, evening explorations to stretch the legs, countless opportunities to take in view points, and short side trips to trail side lakes will make the distance actually walked vary from person to person.

However, it is still helpful to have an idea of the distances of each stage of the Routeburn Track. The map below shows just that, with the approximate distances of each stage provided. The distances are calculated based on the classic itinerary outlined above.

Map of the Routeburn Track with stage distances shown.

Distances for the traditional three stages of the Routeburn Track.

 

Routeburn Track Elevation Profile

At its heart the Routeburn Track is an alpine crossing as walkers make their way over the Harris Saddle. As discussed above, this takes approximately 31.5 kilometers and gains 2,130 meters. Averaged over the traditional three stages this equates to an average of 710 meters of elevation gain each day. The majority of this elevation gain occurs on the first stage as walkers begin the long ascent towards the Harris Saddle.

Harris Saddle is near the high point of the Routeburn Track and sits at 1,254 meters above sea level. For those who trek to the top of Concial Hill you’ll reach an elevation of 1,515 meters. Since The Divide sits at a slightly higher elevation than the Routeburn Shelter, those walking in the traditional direction will gain a bit more elevation than they lose.

The elevation profile shown below will give you an overview of what each stage of the Routeburn Track in like in terms of total elevation change as well as distance covered. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents one of the Department of Conservation Huts/Campsites along the route.

The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the the stage. For instance, you can see that the stage from the Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut has a lot of elevation gain, while the stage from Lake Mackenzie Hut to The Divide covers quite a bit of distance.

You can use the elevation profile below to help plan your own itinerary for the Routeburn Track, taking into account distance and elevation between any two stopping points.

Elevation profile of the Routeburn Track.

Elevation profile of the Routeburn Track.

 

Which maps should I carry on the Routeburn Track?

As with all the Great Walks, the Routeburn Track is a well marked and easy to follow trail. Given the number of hikers, clear path, and good signage there will be little opportunity to take a wrong turn. However, we always recommend carrying a physical map with you on any backcountry trip. 

The best physical map to bring on the Routeburn is the NewTopo Routeburn/Greenstone-Caples Track map. This map covers the tramp at a 1:40,000 scale and also includes the nearby Greenstone-Caples Track. Given that you are more likely than not to experience at least some rain on your walk, we also recommend bringing a waterproof carrying case like this one.

Beyond just a physical map, we highly recommend all hikers along the Routeburn have some type of GPS navigation on their walk. The Routeburn is notorious for thick fog/cloud cover that can set in on the track, making navigation difficult. A GPS app on your phone can greatly help with this issue, as the signal can typically penetrate the cloud cover to show you where you are on the trail at any given point. Since there is limited to no cell phone service on the Routeburn Track, it is very important to have a good offline mapping app, such as Gaia GPS, to ensure you’ll be able to access your location along the walk.

These apps combined with our Routeburn Track GPS digital download should give you a solid foundation to navigate from while on the tramp.

Stage-by-stage maps for the Routeburn Track

The Routeburn is typically walked over three days, with each stage finishing at a Department of Conservation Hut/Campsite. Maps for the traditional three day Routeburn itinerary are shown below.

Stage 1: Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut

Distance: 9.1 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +800 m / -304 m

Map of Stage 1 of the Routeburn Track from Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut

Stage 1 of the Routeburn Track from the Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls Hut.

 

Stage 2: Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut

Distance: 10.85 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +702 m / -787 m

Map of Stage 2 of the Routeburn Track from Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut

Stage 2 of the Routeburn Track from Routeburn Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut.

 

Stage 3: Lake Mackenzie Hut to The Divide

Distance: 11.49 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +629 m / -996 m

Map of Stage 3 of the Routeburn Track from Lake Mackenzie Hut to The Divide

Stage 3 of the Routeburn Track from Lake Mackenzie Hut to The Divide.

 

Routeburn Track GPS/GPX

If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our Routeburn Track GPX file for only $4.99. When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each stage of the Routeburn Track, way-points for each of the Department of Conservation huts and campsites along the route, and route data for the Conical Hill and Key Summit side trips.

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

Routeburn Track Map

BUY NOW

Apps and offline mapping

As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while walking the Routeburn Track. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you likely won’t have) to display the map. Our How to Navigate on the Tour du Mont Blanc post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. Although written for a different hike, this step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device for the Routeburn.

Have a great Routeburn Adventure!

We hope this post has given you all the information you need to get a basic overview of the Routeburn Track. Let us know your questions or comments below. Happy trails!

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