By Katie Rosenbrock

S'mores, sleeping bags, barbequing and bug spray are all part of a quintessential camping trip. But maybe even more important than all the gear and goodies you’ll need to create the perfect overnight outdoor adventure, is an ideal location to set up camp.

Our national parks offer access to some of the nation's most scenic and stunning landscapes, which makes each the perfect backdrop for a picturesque camping trip. Not that other campsites across the country aren't worthy of visits from overnight adventurers, but when it comes to a truly memorable camping experience, what could compare to a night spent watching the sunset amidst tremendous rock formations in the California desert? Or waking up to a beachside sunrise shaded by palm trees?

Plus, our national parks are so diverse that each has something to offer for every type of camping personality. Sleep directly under the stars or seek the shelter of a rustic log cabin. Pitch your tent among magnificent mountain ranges or set up sleeping bags on the beach.

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No matter how you prefer to spend your overnight stay in the great outdoors, chances are there’s a national park campground that you’ll find has everything you’re looking for and more.

Last year, we set out to rank the 12 best national park campgrounds in America, and we still stand by our picks on that list. But this year, we wanted to highlight even more spectacular sites so that you can catch an even greater glimpse of some of the best camping spots that the U.S. national park system has to offer.

This round-up was constructed based on suggestions from employees of the National Park Foundation. After all, it is their job to know the parks intimately. These 16 parks offer a wide range of exciting camping adventures, so if your s'more supplies and sleeping bags are packed all that’s left to do is figure out where you’d most like to spend a night under the stars.

Spectacular National Park Campgrounds Slideshow


Manzanita Lake Campground, Lassen Volcanic National Park -- Calif.

As its name conveniently notes, this campground sits next to Manzanita Lake which means campers are presented with plenty of opportunities for swimming, fishing, kayaking and a host of other water sports. With an elevation of 6,000 feet, the grounds are known for featuring cool summertime temperatures. RVs and trailers are welcomed here and the National Park Service says this site is particularly ideal for families.


Sentinel Campground, Kings Canyon National Park-- Calif.

"Sentinel Campground is located in an incredibly beautiful section of the park, nestled along a creek and surrounded by canyon walls,” says Kupper. A camping trip here will set you amidst evergreen tree forests and offer easy access to wide meadow grasslands, several small waterfalls and plenty of popular hiking trails.


Devil's Garden Campground, Arches National Park -- Utah

Located 18 miles from the entrance to Arches National Park, among other scenic surroundings, this campground’s landscape is decorated with natural sandstone arches and fins. The grounds are open year round and offer opportunities for some of the best hikes in the country, but the desert setting is known for hot summers and chilly winters so campers are advised to prepare for the seasons accordingly.


Big Meadows Campground, Shenandoah National Park -- Va.

Ideal for first-time campers who won't want to go without a few amenities, Big Meadows offers visitors a secluded and scenic setting, but within close proximity to major facilities. Also nearby are many of the park’s popular hiking rails and other natural attractions. "Three waterfalls are within walking distance and a meadow with abundant plant growth and wildlife is nearby," says Kupper.


Hosmer Grove Campground, Haleakala National Park— Hawaii

Situated at the 7,000-foot summit level of Haleakalā National Park, this stunning campsite features a self-guided nature trail, which Kupper says makes for a beautiful early-morning hike as the area's native birds begin to awaken. Despite its tropical location, the high elevation of this campground makes for chilly nights (the NPS says that nighttime temperatures can drop as low as 32-degrees F), so campers are encouraged to pack accordingly.


Jumbo Rocks Campground, Joshua Tree National Park -- Calif.

Visitors here can set up camp among the park’s giant granite rock formations and will also find some solitude among its winding access roads. Although this campground sits 1,000 feet higher than some of the parks other sites, summertime temperatures can still reach up to 110-degrees F, which means campers must come prepared with ample food, water and electrolyte supplements. However, Kupper says the site’s extra elevation allows for some of the best views of Southern California’s night skies. Additional attractions here include ample opportunities for rock climbing.


Brooks Camp Campground, Katmai National Park -- Alaska

Part of the quintessential Alaskan scenery, Brooks Camp visitors will easily be able to catch a glimpse of brown bears fishing for and feasting on wild salmon. According to Kupper the campground attracts visitors from around the world who also come to enjoy world-class fishing and immerse themselves in the area's storied past. "It is also a starting point for many backcountry adventures," says Kupper. "Daily bus tours from Brooks Camp provide easy access to the geologic splendor of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, the site of the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century."


Gulpha Gorge Campground, Hot Springs National Park -- Ark.

Nestled between two mountains and next to a creek, the scenic setting of Gulpha Gorge Campgrounds is just one attraction that draws visitors to this Hot Springs National Park campsite. Of course, the biggest draw is the park's natural hot springs, which people have visited to soak, heal and relax in for hundreds of years.


Cinnamon Bay Campground, Virgin Islands National Park -- Virgin Islands

Whether you choose a beachside site or one tucked away between palm trees, this Caribbean campground offers a laid-back camping experience incomparable to any other. Campers can choose to set up a site with their own shelter, rent large canvas tents that come furnished with equipment or book a stay in one of the ground's screened cottages that come fully-equipped with propane grills and electricity. A restaurant and camp store are located nearby.


Signal Mountain Campground, Grand Teton National Park -- Wyo.

Signal Mountain features what Kupper describes as “small and intimate” sites surrounded by spruce and fir trees and with a camp store and basic amenities located close by. Campers in search of outstanding views will appreciate Signal Mountain for its abundance of outstanding mountain and lake views.

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For the complete list of the Spectacular National Park Campgrounds, go to

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