How do I even begin to list my favorite places to camp? Well, more importantly...how do I even remember the places I've camped to even compile a list?
The good news about blogging and now, Instagram is that you can look back and remember places you've been. Now the kiddos must be thinking, how can I forget? Well, just wait... give it time... so... what was I saying? Anyway, yes...a list...
As with my favorite places list, this is all subjective and I am sure I may have left out a few places by forgetting or just by keeping it a secret. How does a campsite become a favorite? It's a feeling I have at the time of arrival and throughout the stay. Top things that make me enjoy a camp are courteous neighbors, no neighbors, dog friendly, view friendly, and bonus points for it being free, having water, showers and reception. The recipe is tricky and varies at each place. What is important to me in a camp might not be that important to you. In no particular order, here are some of my favorites:
I've been here twice in six years and both times was pleasant. The second time (Feb, 2015), I had the park to myself. Just me and a herd of cows that walked by in the morning. The nights are dark, the stars are bright and the sound is deafening. You are camping on the edge without a guardrail or an assigned platform. It's just you and the view. There are around 10 sites with benches and campfire rings, but I believe you can camp on the edge further down the road. $10 with vault toilets.
As with most places I am listing here, I stumbled on this one by accident. I was touring Natural Bridges National Park. When their 10 site campground was full, I kept moving on highway 12 to find another spot. I drove for quite a ways looking into other areas in Glen Canyon but when I stumbled upon this primitive camp, I knew it was the one. You can park anywhere (be careful of drop offs) you can drive. I had this area all to myself and it was one of the most amazing camps I've ever had. I believe it was 5 or 10 dollars with vault toilets.
Here's a site that's right on the bluff in Big Sur. For $25 a night, you have a private ocean view. Most of the campsites have an ocean view since they are stacked. If you know you will be going, I would suggest making reservations in advance, since it usually fills up fast. There is a walkway to the water but depending on the weather and conditions, it may or may not be open. Also, there is no reception so prepare for that. It's a nice getaway with an ocean view for $25. Pit toilets. Oh yeah, if you want to keep your food be sure to pack it up or the raccoons will be happy to pack it up for you.
One of the few places where you can camp so close to the water in the National Park. I believe it was $10. In the summer, it fills up fast. I was lucky to get a spot when the northern Kalaloch camp was full. It's a self serve station where you grab a slip, find a spot, pay and put your slip on the board. During busy times, you will see people standing (or lurking) around the board around 11:00am at checkout waiting for someone to leave. Listening to the waves as you fall asleep has to be one of my favorite things in the world.
Driving your van on the ferry to Friday Harbor from Anacortes is half the fun. I went without a reservation in August (I do not recommend) and was lucky enough to get a spot. It fills up fast and I am sure it's already booked as I type this but you never know. I usually never make reservations and have only been turned down a handful of times in 8 years. It was raining when I was there so that could have helped me to secure a spot. The sunsets are amazing and overall, the island is something to see.
Max loved it here. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and pay over $30 for an amazing spot. The beaches along Florida's panhandle are simply amazing. The sand squeaks as you walk in it and you have miles and miles of white sand to explore. Dogs are not allowed on the beach at the state park, but you can find areas along the shore where they are welcome. Max loved the beaches here.
This is the closest state park to key west and trust me, it's popular. I was lucky to grab a spot by showing up early the same day and waiting in the lobby for the ranger to come in at 11am to grant me a spot. However, you can avoid the "please let me get a spot, I beg of you, please..." method and book online. If you want to splurge and pitch your tent right on the water (picture shown above), fork over $80 to stay at Boyd's. Yes, it was the most expensive spot I've ever had in my life but waking up in a tent as if you're floating on water...well, it was pretty amazing. Both Bahia Honda and Boyd's have showers. Bahia is $38.50. Oh yeah, the trip is not complete until you eat a key lime pie slice dipped in chocolate on a stick. You're welcome.
There is nothing like the feeling of driving on sand. At first, I was a little nervous since campy is so heavy and the last thing I want is to be stuck in the sand. It's like you are floating on air. On top to that great feeling, you can camp on the beach. For $8 or less, there is a dedicated campground or if you dare, you can stay overnight right on the sand. It gets windy so be sure to check the weather before you go. You know, to avoid any hurricanes and stuff like that. Just so you know, there's a reason why all the homes in the area are built on stilts.
I've stayed here a few times for good reason. It's only $10, miles of beach to yourself, dogs are allowed and it's right at the gateway to the Redwoods. There are only a few sites and it's pretty much a parking lot but you can't beat the price for the area. Once you head north, camping will cost $35 at the state and national parks. Don't get me wrong, those are beautiful and a must see but this camp is a good place to stop and get a nice sunset walk in and sleep before you head up the coast. Max loves running for miles here.
Well, it looks like I was lucky a year or so ago when I stayed here. I just looked online and you now need to make a reservation prior to even showing up. I went in the winter and was able to get a walk in site so that's always an option. Anyway, you really can't get a bad spot at this campsite. For $20, you will wake up to miles and miles of beautiful rock formations. So many hikes and arches to explore. If you can't get a camping spot here, there are sites along the river in Moab. Sometimes those fill up so maybe your best bet is to reserve a room at motel 6 just in case. Or, you can go during the off season and have the park to yourself.
Amazing views for miles and you can literally walk for miles in the dunes directly from your campsite. Max and I went in the winter so you can imagine it was pretty cold but I would recommend going when it's on the cooler sand for both your feet and your dog's paws. Unlike White Sands in New Mexico, this sand will get HOT. You can't go wrong with any site at this campground. All have amazing views. No showers, but flush toilets. $20.
Do yourself a favor and get out of the casinos and take a short drive to Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park. The park is beautiful with red rocks as far as the eyes can see. Max and I have been here a few times when the weather was cool (highly recommend) to their off season of the summer months (only for those who like to suffer). The good news is that there is drinking water and showers. Every campsite is roomy with hikes and places to explore right from your leased patch of land.
Well there you have it! My top 10... I mean 11 favorite campsites. Did you see I went to 11?
Of course I have to give you a disclaimer that this is in no way the ONLY campsites to enjoy or that are great. As with my favorite places, it's just a list that came to me from the top of my head as I write it. I am sure after I click, "publish" I will think of another. I will just have to keep updating it. Now go out and make some reservations if you want a guaranteed spot! Where is your favorite spot?