5 Best National Park Campgrounds for Reconnecting with Nature

These are the best national park campgrounds for sleeping under the stars.
Night sky at a national park campground with many stars and the outline of evergreens against the night sky
(Photo: @skalolaska via Twenty20)

When you imagine a national park vacation, you probably conjure up images of sweeping vistas, exceptional hiking, and scenic drives through some of America’s most stunning natural areas. Those sorts of daytime activities are definitely a huge part of any great national park vacation with kids, but in my opinion the best way to fully immerse yourself is by family camping under the stars and waking up to the sunrise at one of the best national park campgrounds.

Best National Park Campgrounds in the U.S.

From Acadia to Zion, these are my picks for the five best national park campgrounds (plus a bonus national seashore campground) to pitch a tent amidst some of the country’s most beautiful scenery.

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1. Seawall Campground at Acadia National Park, Maine

Sunset with water and coast in Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park (Photo: @christinesmitth via Twenty20)

Though it’s one of the best family vacation spots in the country and beautiful year round, Acadia National Park works best for summer camping. The 45 miles of carriage roads built between 1913 and 1940 entice visitors to hike and bike the woods and shoreline, while rock formations and a coastal fjard (the Atlantic coast’s only one!) offer more great reasons to stay and explore. 

Acadia National Park Campsite Spotlight: Seawall Campground

Only 30 minutes from Bar Harbor, Seawall Campground still feels hundreds of miles from anywhere. There’s both drive-in and walk-in sites at this seasonal campground, so you can decide just how on-your-own you want to be. With friendly rangers, free firewood, and the sound of the ocean waves as your bedtime music, Seawall is an ideal family spot to settle in and explore Acadia.

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The D-loop sites are slightly closer together, but they’re also wooded and private. There are no showers here, but the ocean water is plenty refreshing and you do get clean bathrooms at the campground. If that’s not quite your speed there are hot showers and a store just down the road. Camp sites at this national park campground are reservable up to two months in advance.

2. Fish Creek Campground at Glacier National Park, Montana

Grinnell Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park (Photo: @RLTheis via Twenty20)

If your tween or teen isn’t into vacationing with you, you can lure them to Glacier National Park in Montana with the promise of the most amazing photos. All visitors seem to morph into Ansel Adams proteges in this spectacular national park. Get ready for river and lake views, expansive valley vistas, and of course, witnessing the glaciers doing what they do best… slowly carving a new landscape. With so much to offer, Glacier appeals to virtually every traveler and camper.

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Glacier National Park Campsite Spotlight: Fish Creek Campground

Reservations are recommended when you camp at Glacier National Park because the camping season is short, spanning from May to September, but only three of Glacier’s 13 campgrounds allow reservations. If you’re a planner, Fish Creek Campground is your spot. The C-loop is generator-free, and site 114 puts you right at the trailhead to Lake MacDonald. Many of the B60 sites allow you to fall asleep to the sound of the stream.

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Past campers praise the site’s proximity to the lake and the variety of walking trails. No matter which campsite you choose, you’ll be camping under the majestic pines and will be close to Apgar, where you can rent boats and explore all the West Side attractions.

3. Ozette Campground at Olympic National Park, Washington

Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, Washington
Olympic National Park (Photo: @rsb816 via Twenty20)

The country’s only temperate rain forests—all three of them—are located in Olympic National Park. But Olympic doesn’t just have majestic trees, it also encompasses rugged coastline and glacier-topped mountains. If there is something you want to do in the Great Outdoors, it’s pretty safe to say Olympic National Park will have it. And, if one of your family members is a determined non-camper but you still want the outdoorsy experience, you can find your groove at Olympic’s Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort.

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Olympic National Park Campsite Spotlight: Ozette Campground

With so many great choices, how do you choose an Olympic National Park campground? First off, know that you can’t go wrong. Narrow your options by selecting a type of camping experience—think oceanfront campfires, sleeping under a blanket of deep forest, or waking up to ridgeline views.

If you’re seeking an off-the-beaten-path option, consider Ozette Campground. With only 15 sites, Ozette will be your private Olympic oasis. Arrive mid-week if possible to guarantee a spot (there are no reservations), and enjoy the solitude, expansive views, and manageable hikes through the forest to Ozette River and Ozette Lake. The campground is open year-round, though things get super rustic in winter with no water and only pit toilets.

4. Tuolumne Meadows Campground at Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park sunrise with El Capitan and Half Dome
Yosemite National Park (Photo: @kgsphoto via Twenty20)

While most people think of Yosemite Valley when they think of this breathtaking national park, Yosemite National Park is actually a more than 1,100-square-mile expanse of forests, valleys, meadows, and mountains. Though the valley is, of course, spectacular, national park campgrounds peppered across the area offer vistas, wildflowers, wildlife, hiking, and swimming, plus a blissful break from the crowds. 

Yosemite National Park Campsite Spotlight: Tuolumne Meadows Campground

Families, birders, and hikers are all drawn to the magical Tuolumne Meadows Campground. Though you can’t reserve in advance, it’s worth making your best effort to get a spot at this seasonal national park campground. Once you’re in, you’ll want to stay as long as you can to make the most of your allowed two weeks.

Tuolumne Meadows Campground is undergoing a wholesale renovation and was closed throughout 2022 and 2023, but things are looking good for camping at this national park campground again in 2024, pending the project’s completion.

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With endless hiking trails and riverfront spots flanked by towering redwoods, there’s no lack of opportunity for both adventure and relaxation. All of the sites in Loop A are riverfront. If there are no drive-up spots available, one lesser-known option is to park at the nearby gas station and walk/use scooters to get to one of the backpacking sites—it’s a lot of schlepping, but it can be worth it.

5. South Campground at Zion National Park, Utah

Late afternoon in Zion National Park
Zion National Park (Photo: @marcobertoliphotography via Twenty20)

Descending slender canyons along waterways, called canyoneering, is an up-and-coming sport. If you want to try it, Zion National Park is one of the best places in the country to give it a go. No matter how adventurous you are, though, Zion is worth not only a visit but a stay. Hiking, biking, and simply soaking up nature invite even the most timid travelers. But with water slots galore, you’ll likely want to get more than your feet wet at this amazing national park.

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Zion National Park Campsite Spotlight: South Campground

For families that want immediate access to nature and the ability to easily pop out of the park to restock, the seasonal South Campground is the spot to be. This reservations-only national park campsite is walking distance to the visitor center and park shuttle. With its view of the Watchman, South Campground is perfect for families ready to get out and explore. You’ll want a site with some shade, and site 018 should fit the bill if you can get it.

Bonus: Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland

wild horses on the beach in Assateague Island, Maryland
Assateague Island National Seashore (Photo: @KellyNavarro via Twenty20)

“Wild, wild horses, couldn’t drag me away.” The Rolling Stones must have written this song about Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland. Though not a national park, this national seashore is so exceptional, it earns a honorable mention spot on this list. With hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, crabbing, and ranger tours, a family could easily keep busy for a week in this amazing coastal park. And yes, the wild horses really do roam the beaches.

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Assateague Campsite Spotlight: Oceanside Drive-in Campsite

With both drive-in and walk-in campsites, Oceanside Campground won’t disappoint. Each site has a picnic table, a fire ring, and plenty of space to spread out. Bring your kayak and bike to explore the coastline and trails among the horses and deer that make this park so special. 

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Nina Cohen
Nina Cohen is a teacher, parent, traveler, and writer. She’s lived around the world and is an expert on travel to France, Hawaii, and the Boston-DC corridor.