The 10 Best National Parks for Camping And Hiking

National parks are not just patches of land preserved for their scenic beauty or historical significance; they are sanctuaries where the soul meets the serenity of nature.

For camping and hiking enthusiasts like myself, these parks offer an escape into a world where time slows down, and the hustle of city life becomes a distant memory.

This guide isn’t just a list; it’s a collection of my personal experiences and an exploration of the best national parks that promise diverse and unforgettable outdoor experiences.

Discover Top National Parks for Camping and Hiking Enthusiasts

  • Yosemite National Park: Experience stunning landscapes in California.
  • Grand Canyon National Park: Explore the iconic views in Arizona.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Discover nature’s beauty in North Carolina and Tennessee.

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is more than just a national park; it’s a beacon for adventurers and nature lovers.

The towering cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome have not only challenged climbers over the years but have also provided a stunning backdrop for campers in the valley.

Yosemite’s vast wilderness, encompassing over 750,000 acres, is home to more than 800 miles of trails, making it a paradise for hikers of all skill levels.

Insider Tip: For a unique experience, hike the Mist Trail during the spring when the waterfalls are at their peak. The spray from the falls provides a refreshing respite from the climb.

Camping in Yosemite is an experience like no other, offering a chance to sleep under a tapestry of stars surrounded by ancient sequoias.

But remember, reservations are a must during peak season, as sites fill up quickly.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The 10 Best National Parks for Camping

The Grand Canyon, with its awe-inspiring vistas, offers more than just a picturesque view; it invites hikers and campers to immerse themselves in its depths.

Whether you’re trekking down to the Colorado River or setting up camp on the North Rim, the Grand Canyon offers a unique blend of challenges and tranquility.

Hike in Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon National Park

The Rim-to-Rim hike is a bucket-list journey, but its not for the faint of heart. Covering 24 miles and significant elevation changes, it provides an unparalleled sense of achievement upon completion.

Camping here requires preparation and respect for the park’s rules to ensure the preservation of this natural wonder.

The North Rim Campground provides a quieter, more secluded experience, while the South Rim is more accessible but also more crowded.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

The 10 Best National Parks for Camping

The Great Smoky Mountains offer a diverse biosphere, with old-growth forests and a rich history reflected in the preserved log cabins and homesteads within its boundaries.

The park’s 800 miles of trails cater to casual walkers and serious backpackers alike, offering breathtaking views, especially in the fall when the foliage turns into a fiery palette of colors.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Camping in the Smokies can range from backcountry sites to fully equipped campgrounds.

My personal favorite is the Cades Cove Campground for its stunning valley views and abundant wildlife.

Insider Tip: Dont miss the synchronous firefly display in early summer. It’s a natural phenomenon that turns the night into a glittering spectacle.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

The 10 Best National Parks for Camping

Rocky Mountain National Park is a high-altitude haven for hikers seeking breathtaking vistas and challenging hikes.

The park’s 415 square miles are laced with trails that lead to serene lakes, alpine forests, and rugged peaks.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park

The Trail Ridge Road, offering views from elevations over 12,000 feet, is a must-drive for any visitor.

The park’s diverse ecosystems support a wide array of wildlife, from elk to mountain lions, providing a thrilling backdrop for campers.

Moraine Park Campground offers spectacular views and is an ideal base for exploring the park.

Zion National Park, Utah

The 10 Best National Parks for Camping

Zion National Park is a sanctuary of towering sandstone cliffs and narrow canyons.

Hiking the Narrows, where the Virgin River has carved a deep gorge in the desert, is an experience unlike any other, requiring visitors to wade or swim through parts of the canyon.

Young woman wearing backpack is looking at the view on the trail to Angel's Landing in Zion National park in Utah, USA. Female on a hiking trail in Zion National Park in Usa.
Zion National Park

Camping in Zion, particularly at the Watchman Campground, offers stunning views of the surrounding cliffs, with easy access to the parks shuttle service.

The unique geography of Zion makes it a place where each hike offers a different perspective on the landscapes beauty.

Olympic National Park, Washington

The 10 Best National Parks for Camping

Olympic National Park is a testament to the diversity of the American landscape, encompassing rugged coastlines, alpine mountains, and temperate rainforests.

The Hoh Rain Forest, with its moss-laden trees and fern-covered floor, seems like something out of a fairytale, offering serene hikes amidst ancient groves.

Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park Washington
Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park Washington

The park’s variety extends to its camping experiences, from the solitude of backcountry sites to the coastal campgrounds that provide the sound of crashing waves as a nighttime lullaby.

The Deer Park Campground, though more challenging to reach, rewards campers with spectacular mountain views and starry skies.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The 10 Best National Parks for Camping

Grand Teton National Park is often overshadowed by its northern neighbor, Yellowstone, but it holds its own with dramatic peaks and pristine lakes.

The Teton Range, with its jagged peaks, offers some of the best mountaineering in North America, while the valley floors provide peaceful hikes through wildflower meadows.

Grand Teton National Park Hike - Lake in Wyoming - Phelps Lake in Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton National Park Hike – Lake in Wyoming – Phelps Lake in Grand Teton National Park

Camping in Grand Teton is an opportunity to experience the quiet beauty of the American West.

The Jenny Lake Campground is particularly popular for its breathtaking views and proximity to hiking trails.

Acadia National Park, Maine

The 10 Best National Parks for Camping

Acadia National Park, located on the rugged coast of Maine, offers a unique blend of oceanic and forest ecosystems.

The park’s trails range from the challenging Precipice Trail to more leisurely paths that offer stunning ocean views.

Fall Foliage atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park Maine
Fall Foliage atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park Maine

Watching the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, the first place to see dawn in the U.S., is an unforgettable experience.

Camping in Acadia provides a chance to enjoy the quiet solitude of the Maine woods, with the sound of the ocean never far away.

The Blackwoods Campground is a favorite for its easy access to both hiking trails and the park loop road.

Glacier National Park, Montana

The 10 Best National Parks for Camping

Glacier National Park is often referred to as the Crown of the Continent, and it’s easy to see why. Its landscape is carved by glaciers, leaving behind a dramatic terrain of peaks and valleys.

The park’s over 700 miles of trails traverse through this rugged beauty, offering everything from short walks to challenging backcountry adventures.

Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park

Camping in Glacier is a way to truly disconnect and immerse oneself in the wilderness.

The Many Glacier Campground is highly recommended for its stunning scenery and proximity to many of the parks best hikes.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and Montana

The 10 Best National Parks for Camping

Yellowstone, America’s first national park, is a land of geothermal wonders, home to more than half of the worlds geysers.

The parks vast wilderness also offers some of the most spectacular hiking and camping experiences in the country.

From the surreal landscapes around Mammoth Hot Springs to the remote backcountry trails, Yellowstone challenges and awes its visitors.

Yellowstone River and Lower Falls , Yellowstone National Park , Wyoming
Yellowstone River and Lower Falls , Yellowstone National Park , Wyoming

Camping in Yellowstone is an opportunity to experience the wild heart of North America.

The Madison Campground, with its central location, offers easy access to both geyser basins and the serenity of the parks less-visited areas.

Personal Experience at Yosemite National Park, California

An Unforgettable Adventure

During a family trip to Yosemite National Park, my wife and I decided to embark on a challenging hike up Half Dome.

Despite the strenuous climb, the breathtaking views at the summit made every step worth it. As we sat on the edge, overlooking the valley below, a sense of peace washed over us.

Happy hiker visit Yosemite national park in California
Happy hiker visit Yosemite national park in California

Learning to Embrace Nature

During our stay at the park, we also joined a ranger-led program where we learned about the local wildlife and conservation efforts.

Seeing a black bear in its natural habitat was both exhilarating and humbling, reminding us of the importance of preserving these incredible spaces.

Connecting with Fellow Campers

In the evenings, we gathered around the campfire with other campers, sharing stories and experiences. We met people from all walks of life, united by our love for the outdoors.

These connections made our trip even more memorable and taught us the value of community in the wilderness.

This experience at Yosemite National Park not only deepened our appreciation for nature but also created lasting memories that we will cherish forever.


Each of these top 10 national parks offers a unique camping and hiking experience, shaped by the natural beauty and distinct landscapes of the American wilderness.

From the granite cliffs of Yosemite to the geothermal marvels of Yellowstone, these parks provide a canvas for unforgettable adventures and a reminder of the rugged, wild beauty that lies just beyond our city limits.

Camping and hiking in these national parks is not just about the physical journey; it’s a pilgrimage into the heart of nature itself.

It’s where we find our resilience tested, our spirits lifted, and our connection to the earth deepened.

So, pack your gear, respect the wild, and embark on an adventure that will imprint your heart with every step you take on these sacred grounds.

For more detailed guides on camping in specific parks, check out our articles on Acadia National Park Camping, Backpacking in Denali, and Sequoia Campgrounds.

Whether you’re a seasoned backcountry explorer or a family looking for your next vacation destination, these parks offer experiences that cater to every type of outdoor enthusiast.

Avatar photo

Harry Morgan

Harry Morgan is an avid camper and hiker, who shares their invaluable experience and knowledge with us. With a deep passion for exploring the great outdoors, Harry's captivating storytelling and insightful tips will inspire and empower you to embark on your own unforgettable adventures.

More to Explore