The Ten Best National Parks for a Car Camping Trip & Road Trips
Apr 19, 2022
Whether you’re planning a road trip with your family or simply want to embark on a solo adventure, there are amazing opportunities available in our U.S. National Parks. Before embarking on your national park road trip, it’s important to be aware of car camping regulations at each park. Some National Parks are quite remote, meaning that they aren’t suitable for car camping. To prepare for your car camping trip, here are our top 10 National Park recommendations.
Car Camping Top Destinations
As the name implies, car camping refers to individuals who drive up to campsite and camp right out of their vehicles. Car camping is accessible to beginners and advanced outdoor enthusiasts, especially for people carrying a lot of items. Car campers have more freedom to bring items that aren’t possible to bring on a backpacking trip or survivalist adventure.
The United States is home to some of the country’s most beautiful natural wonders, including our National Parks. Since 1916, the National Park Service has made it its mission to protect and preserve important natural landscapes within the United States. Car campers have an amazing opportunity to explore these fantastic places and spend several days in the wilderness.
1. Grand Teton National Park - Wyoming
These vast, magnificent peaks are nicknamed the “mountains of imagination.” With over 200 miles of trails and peaks rising up to 7,000 feet above the Jackson Hole valley, there’s nothing but mountains as far as the eye can see. Most campgrounds at Grand Teton National Park allow for car camping. We recommend Signal Mountain campground for hikers and a fantastic view of Mount Moran.
2. Joshua Tree National Park - California
Joshua Tree National Park is a fascinating area where two different desert ecosystems collide, the Colorado and the Mojave. With a large variety of wildlife, heavy patches of rain, and strong winds, Joshua Tree comes with a night sky view that’s every camper’s dream. A great spot for car camping in Joshua Tree National Park is the Jumbo Rock Campsite along with other campsites just outside of the park.
3. Yosemite National Park - California
As one of the country’s oldest and most popular national parks, this gigantic valley is surrounded by 747,956 acres of designated wilderness. Yosemite is particularly known for its majestic waterfalls along with its surrounding granite cliffs and giant sequoia trees. It continues to be a widely studied area for geology, glaciology, and hydrology. We recommend the lower pines campground for car camping, but make sure to plan ahead - reservations fill up quickly in Yosemite!
4. Grand Canyon National Park - Arizona
Considered by many to be an essential national park visit, the Grand Canyon is a mile deep crevice with the Colorado river running through it. Located in Northwestern Arizona on the Colorado Plateau, the Grand Canyon takes up 1,218,375 acres. It continues to be one of the most researched geological landscapes in the world. For car campers, the most centralized and convenient spot is the Mather Campground at the South Rim.
5. Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Tennessee and North Carolina
America’s most visited National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains are also home to the most biodiverse ecosystem in the National Park system. This means that the park is home to an extremely rich variety of wildlife, fungi, and plants in one singular area. A beautiful and well rounded ecosystem along the Appalachian Mountains, they provide the perfect location for car campers. We highly recommend the Cades Cove campground for people interested in having access to flush toilets and potable water.
6. Acadia National Park - Maine
Nicknamed the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast,” Acadia is a well rounded National Park with a little bit of everything: hiking trails, historic motor roads, and carriage roads. Known for its coastal beauty, Acadia offers visitors mountains, streams, lakes, forests, and wetlands. Birdwatchers may particularly like this park’s high population of several avian species. For a great view and easy access to hiking trails, we recommend the Blackwood Campground for car campers.
7. Rocky Mountain National Park - Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park features an alpine world of perseverance and survival. With the highest peak ranging up to 14,000 feet above sea level, you’ll experience a stark change from the lush plant life of the lower elevations to the harsh alpine tundra of the Rockies. Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most extreme landscapes in the country, but the lower valley has a lot to offer for car campers. For a stunning view of the famous Long’s Peak, we recommend the Moraine Park campground.
8. Olympic National Park - Washington
For people interested in something a little different, visit Olympic National Park. Known for its extremely diverse ecosystem, this unique park sets itself apart from the rest due to its temperate rainforest. Great for people who like a little bit of everything, Olympic also offers visitors the Pacific coast line and stunning mountains. For a campground right in the heart of the temperate rainforest, the Koh Campground is our recommendation.
9. Glacier National Park - Montana and British Columbia, Canada
Glacier National Park is famous for its architectural marvel, the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and its natural trademark - Glaciers. Otherwise known as the “Crown of the Continent,” Glacier is a hiker’s dream destination with over 700 miles of trails along with an abundance of alpine meadows, mountains, lakes, and forests. We recommend the Fish Creek campground for car campers in Glacier.
10. Zion National Park - Utah
As Utah’s first National Park, Zion makes up the scenic canyon areas of the Southwestern portions of the state. The landscape features 2,000 foot Navajo Sandstone cliffs along with a wide range of springs, seeps, and waterfalls. Zion National Park has an elevation change of 5,000 feet with a very diverse range of wildlife species and habitats. For car campers interested in a conveniently located campsite with a view, we recommend the Watchman Campground.