0fcb7fd2 636d 4fdd a5fb 2b5df2735e09 1 - The Best Places to Set Up Camp in the US

The Best Places to Set Up Camp in the US

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Hey fellow campervan travelers! I wanted to share some of our favorite spots I’ve discovered on the open road over the years.

Living in a van sure does open your world to new adventures. Being free to wander wherever the sights take you is just about the best way to truly experience this big, beautiful country. And with so much gorgeous scenery across the states, it’s hard to go wrong wherever the wind may blow you.

Of course, safety comes first whether you’re parked for the night or on the move. I always check the forecast, look out for wildlife, and pack myself an emergency kit just in case. The Leave No Trace principles are also a must – we want to respect these lands that bring us such joy.

Crater Lake Rim View - The Best Places to Set Up Camp in the US

Northern Region

A few regions really stand out for vanlife beauty. Up in the Pacific Northwest, you’ve got it all – misty beaches, lush forests, mountain lake views that’ll take your breath away. Oregon’s Crater Lake is a stunning spot if you can snag a campsite along the rim. Further north, the coastal towns of Washington are true gems, from hiking rainforests to whale-watching adventures. And you really can’t beat exploring Glacier or Denali National Parks from the comfort of your rolling home.

Where to camp in the Northern Region

  1. Oregon: Crater Lake National Park
    • Description: Known for its stunning, deep-blue volcanic lake.
    • What people say: Visitors rave about the clean facilities and the breathtaking views.
  2. Oregon: Cannon Beach
    • Description: Coastal camping near the iconic Haystack Rock.
    • What people say: Campers love the proximity to the beach and the serene atmosphere.
  3. Oregon: Mount Hood National Forest
    • Description: Offers camping spots with beautiful views of Mount Hood.
    • What people say: Many reviewers appreciate the well-maintained campgrounds and hiking trails.
  4. Oregon: Silver Falls State Park
    • Description: Known for its “Trail of Ten Falls.”
    • What people say: Users praise the clean facilities and variety of hiking opportunities.
  5. Alaska: Denali National Park
    • Description: Offers views of North America’s tallest peak, Mt. McKinley.
    • What people say:: Visitors appreciate the unspoiled wilderness and wildlife sightings.
  6. Alaska: Kenai Fjords National Park
    • Description: Known for its glaciers and fjords.
    • What people say:: Campers rave about the opportunities for kayaking and wildlife viewing.
  7. Alaska: Chugach State Park
    • Description: Offers camping spots near Anchorage with beautiful mountain views.
    • What people say:: Users like the close proximity to the city and the excellent hiking trails.
  8. Alaska: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
    • Description: The largest national park in the U.S., known for its mountain ranges.
    • What people say:: Reviewers love the remoteness and opportunities for backcountry camping.
  9. Washington: Olympic National Park
    • Description: Known for its diverse ecosystems, from rainforests to mountains.
    • What people say: Campers love the variety of landscapes and activities available.
  10. Washington: Mount Rainier National Park
    • Description: Offers camping spots around the iconic Mt. Rainier.
    • What people say: Users frequently mention the beautiful wildflower meadows and well-maintained campsites.
  11. Washington: San Juan Islands
    • Description: Offers camping on various islands accessible by ferry.
    • What people say: The ocean views and opportunities for kayaking are often praised.
  12. Washington: Leavenworth
    • Description: Known for its Bavarian-styled village and nearby campgrounds.
    • What people say: Reviewers like the festive atmosphere and various outdoor activities like rafting and hiking.
  13. Washington: Newhalem Campground (North Cascades)
    • Description: Located near the Skagit River, this campground offers easy access to hiking trails.
    • Reviews: Campers love the shaded sites and proximity to visitor centers.
  14. Washington: Sol Duc Campground (Olympic National Park)
    • Description: Known for its famous hot springs and access to Sol Duc Falls.
    • Reviews: Reviewers often mention the relaxing atmosphere and beautiful forest surroundings.
  15. British Columbia: Green Point Campground (Vancouver Island – Canada)
    • Description: Situated in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, it offers ocean views and beach access.
    • Reviews: Visitors appreciate the sunset views and the sound of crashing waves.
  16. Washington: Colonial Creek Campground (North Cascades)
    • Description: Located on the shores of Diablo Lake, this campground offers water activities.
    • Reviews: Campers enjoy kayaking and the stunning turquoise color of the lake.
  17. Washington: Kalaloch Campground (Olympic National Park)
    • Description: Offers cliffside views of the Pacific Ocean.
    • Reviews: Reviewers talk about the amazing ocean views and opportunities for beachcombing.
  18. British Columbia: Bella Pacifica Campground (Vancouver Island – Canada)
    • Description: Located in Tofino, it offers beachfront camping.
    • Reviews: Campers enjoy the surf and the proximity to local shops.
  19. Washington: Hozomeen Campground (North Cascades)
    • Description: A remote campground near the Canadian border, offering a wilderness experience.
    • Reviews: Visitors appreciate the solitude and stargazing opportunities.
  20. Washington: Heart O’ the Hills Campground (Olympic National Park)
    • Description: Located in a lush, old-growth forest with access to hiking trails.
    • Reviews: Campers frequently mention the feeling of being in a fairy-tale forest.
  21. British Columbia: Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park (Vancouver Island – Canada)
    • Description: Known for its sandy beach and tidal flats.
    • Reviews: Visitors often talk about birdwatching and tidal pool exploration.
  22. British Columbia: Living Forest Oceanside Campground (Vancouver Island – Canada)
    • Description: Offers a mix of ocean, river, and forest views.
    • Reviews: Campers love the diverse range of views and family-friendly atmosphere.

Camping laws in the Northern Region

  • Oregon: Camping is generally permitted in state parks, national forests, and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
  • Alaska: Alaska’s state lands, national parks, and national forests often permit dispersed camping, unless otherwise posted.
  • Washington (North Cascades and Olympic National Park): Camping is generally allowed in designated campgrounds, with some sites requiring reservations. Backcountry camping often requires a permit. Fire restrictions may apply depending on the season.
  • British Columbia (Vancouver Island): Camping is usually allowed in provincial parks and private campgrounds. Reservations are highly recommended during peak season. Fires may be restricted, and wildlife guidelines must be followed.
  • Additionally, some private property owners make camping spaces available through services such as Hipcamp.
torrey pines 1 - The Best Places to Set Up Camp in the US


California is home to some of the most iconic and vibrant cities in the United States, making it an ideal place for those looking to experience Vanlife. The sunny city of Los Angeles has something for everyone, from world-famous theme parks such as Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood to stunning beaches along its coastline. For a more relaxed atmosphere, head up north to San Francisco, where you can explore historical neighborhoods like Chinatown or take a ferry ride across the bay. If you’re looking for a beach getaway, then San Diego should be your destination! This beautiful coastal city offers plenty of opportunities for surfing and sunbathing on its sandy shores while providing access to natural wonders like La Jolla Cove and Torrey Pines State Park. No matter which Californian city you choose, living in a van here will surely provide an unforgettable adventure full of fun activities!

  1. Yosemite National Park
    • Description: Known for its iconic granite cliffs and diverse ecosystems.
    • Reviews: Campers frequently mention the awe-inspiring landscapes and well-maintained facilities.
  2. Joshua Tree National Park
    • Description: Famous for its surreal landscapes and unique Joshua Trees.
    • Reviews: Reviewers rave about the clear night skies for stargazing and the challenging hiking trails.
  3. Big Sur
    • Description: Offers coastal camping along the scenic Highway 1.
    • Reviews: Campers love the incredible ocean views and proximity to hiking trails.
  4. Lake Tahoe
    • Description: Known for its clear, freshwater lake surrounded by mountains.
    • Reviews: Users often praise the variety of water activities and the stunning scenery.
  5. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
    • Description: Home to some of the world’s largest trees.
    • Reviews: Visitors appreciate the towering sequoias and the variety of hiking opportunities.

Camping laws in California

Camping is allowed in a variety of settings, from state parks to national forests. Some places require reservations and permits, especially in the more popular parks like Yosemite. Always adhere to Leave No Trace principles and local fire restrictions.

Midwest Region

The Midwest region of the United States offers some of the most pristine natural scenery for those looking to experience the Vanlife. Michigan is home to stunning lakes and rivers perfect for fishing, canoeing and kayaking. If you combine these hobbies, it’s also one of the best places for kayak fishing. The Upper Peninsula also offers access to stunning views of Lake Superior, which can be enjoyed from a variety of scenic hikes or drives throughout the area. Minnesota’s abundance of forests and state parks provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor exploration, while its vibrant cities offer cultural attractions such as museums, art galleries and music venues. Illinois offers a range of natural wonders from the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois to Chicago, where you can explore world-class architecture and a thriving food scene! Whichever Midwest destination you choose, living in a van here is sure not to disappoint!


  1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
    • Description: Known for its massive sand dunes on Lake Michigan’s coast.
    • Reviews: Campers frequently mention the unique landscapes and the stunning sunsets over the lake.
  2. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
    • Description: Offers cliffside camping on the shore of Lake Superior.
    • Reviews: Users praise the colorful cliffs and the hiking opportunities along the lakeshore.
  3. Tahquamenon Falls State Park
    • Description: Home to one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi.
    • Reviews: Visitors appreciate the peaceful environment and the beautiful falls.
  4. Isle Royale National Park
    • Description: A rugged island park in Lake Superior, accessible only by boat or seaplane.
    • Reviews: Reviewers love the solitude and opportunities for backcountry camping.
  5. Hartwick Pines State Park
    • Description: Offers camping among old-growth pine forests.
    • Reviews: Campers often mention the educational logging museum and well-kept trails.

Lake Superior

  1. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin)
    • Description: Known for its sea caves and clear waters.
    • Reviews: Reviewers praise the kayaking opportunities and unique geological formations.
  2. Grand Marais (Minnesota)
    • Description: A harbor village offering camping by Lake Superior.
    • Reviews: Visitors love the quaint atmosphere and easy access to the lake.
  3. Porcupine Mountains (Michigan)
    • Description: Offers lakefront camping and hiking in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
    • Reviews: Campers enjoy the wilderness setting and numerous hiking trails.


  1. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
    • Description: Offers backcountry camping and canoeing opportunities.
    • Reviews: Users often talk about the peaceful experience and opportunities for wildlife viewing.
  2. Itasca State Park
    • Description: Home to the headwaters of the Mississippi River.
    • Reviews: Visitors love the educational aspects and natural beauty of the park.


  1. Starved Rock State Park
    • Description: Known for its sandstone canyons and seasonal waterfalls.
    • Reviews: Reviewers mention the well-maintained trails and the variety of landscapes.
  2. Shawnee National Forest
    • Description: Offers diverse landscapes including forests, wetlands, and rocky hills.
    • Reviews: Campers appreciate the flexibility of backcountry camping and the numerous hiking trails.

Camping laws in the Midwest region

  • Michigan: Camping is allowed in state parks, national forests, and some local parks. Reservations and permits may be required.
  • Lake Superior: Regulations can differ depending on whether you’re in Michigan, Minnesota, or Wisconsin. Always check local laws.
  • Minnesota: State parks, national forests, and some county parks allow camping. A State Park Vehicle Permit is usually required.
  • Illinois: Camping is typically allowed in state parks and national forests. Permits and reservations are often necessary.

Southeast Region

The Southeast region of the United States offers a wealth of opportunities for those looking to experience the van lifestyle. Florida, Louisiana and Georgia are all popular destinations for vanlife enthusiasts due to their diverse landscapes, vibrant cities and wide range of attractions.

In Florida, you’ll find stunning beaches along the coastline and plenty of outdoor activities such as kayaking in the Everglades or lounging on the white-sand beaches of Sanibel Island. The nightlife here is also top-class, with many clubs and bars staying open late and offering great music and entertainment.

Louisiana is known for its Creole culture and the unique cuisine found only in this part of the country. Here you’ll find delicious gumbo served in almost every restaurant while exploring iconic cities such as New Orleans, where you can stroll through the French Quarter or visit one of its many jazz clubs.

Head over to Georgia, which offers access to stunning national parks such as Okefenokee Swamp Park, where visitors can canoe or kayak through miles of swampland while taking in breathtaking views along the shoreline. For something a little more urban, check out Atlanta – home to world-class museums, art galleries, and an incredible food scene perfect for indulging in during your vanlife adventure!

  1. Florida: Everglades National Park
    • Description: Known for its unique wetland ecosystem.
    • Reviews: Visitors rave about the wildlife viewing, particularly birdwatching and spotting alligators.
  2. Florida: Bahia Honda State Park
    • Description: Offers beachfront camping in the Florida Keys.
    • Reviews: Campers enjoy snorkeling opportunities and the stunning ocean views.
  3. Georgia: Cumberland Island National Seashore
    • Description: Accessible only by ferry, offers remote beach camping.
    • Reviews: Users appreciate the tranquility and opportunities to see wild horses.
  4. Georgia: Amicalola Falls State Park
    • Description: Known for its stunning waterfall and proximity to the Appalachian Trail.
    • Reviews: Reviewers mention the challenging hikes and beautiful scenery.
  5. North Carolina: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    • Description: Offers a range of camping options in the Appalachian Mountains.
    • Reviews: Campers love the diversity of flora and fauna, as well as the hiking trails.
  6. North Carolina: Outer Banks
    • Description: A chain of barrier islands offering beach camping.
    • Reviews: Users enjoy the water activities like kayaking and the unique sand dunes.
  7. Tennessee: Fall Creek Falls State Park
    • Description: Known for its large waterfall and diverse recreational activities.
    • Reviews: Reviewers frequently mention the well-maintained facilities and numerous hiking trails.
  8. Tennessee: Cherokee National Forest
    • Description: Offers camping among the mountains and rivers.
    • Reviews: Campers appreciate the solitude and opportunities for fishing and rafting.

Camping laws in the Southeast region

  • Florida: State parks often require reservations, especially during peak seasons. Wildlife protection laws are strictly enforced.
  • Georgia: Camping is allowed in state parks, wildlife management areas, and some national forests. Reservations are often recommended.
  • North Carolina: Both state parks and national forests offer camping. Some areas require permits and adhere to bear-safe policies.
  • Tennessee: State parks, national forests, and recreational areas all offer camping. Reservations are often advised, and fire regulations should be followed.

Southwest Region

The Southwest region of the United States is a great place for those looking to experience vanlife. Texas, Arizona and New Mexico are all excellent destinations that offer unique opportunities for outdoor exploration and adventure.

In Texas, you can enjoy some of the country’s most stunning natural scenery, from Big Bend National Park, which offers breathtaking views of its rugged desert landscape, to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, where you can explore miles of trails filled with geological wonders such as giant granite boulders. There are also plenty of vibrant cities such as Austin and San Antonio, which offer a range of cultural attractions perfect for vanlifers looking for a break from their travels.

Arizona is known for its incredible scenery, from the red sandstone mesas of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park to the lush forests around Flagstaff – all perfect backdrops for your van life journey! As well as great places to camp, Arizona also offers many exciting activities including hot air balloon rides over the Sonoran Desert or exploring Native American ruins at Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

Let’s not forget New Mexico, where visitors can take in awe-inspiring views on a hike through White Sands National Monument or explore historic sites such as Taos Pueblo, which dates back more than 1,000 years! Whichever destination you choose in this region, life on the road will be an unforgettable experience full of adventure and exploration.

  1. Arizona: Grand Canyon National Park
    • Description: Offers camping near one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
    • Reviews: Campers often mention the breathtaking vistas and the well-maintained campgrounds.
  2. New Mexico: White Sands National Park
    • Description: Known for its surreal white gypsum sand dunes.
    • Reviews: Visitors enjoy the unique landscape and opportunities for sand sledding.
  3. Utah: Zion National Park
    • Description: Famous for its red sandstone cliffs and the narrow Zion Canyon.
    • Reviews: Campers frequently talk about the challenging hikes and stunning scenery.
  4. Nevada: Valley of Fire State Park
    • Description: Offers camping among stunning red sandstone formations.
    • Reviews: Reviewers often mention the striking colors of the rocks and various hiking trails.
  5. Arizona: Sedona
    • Description: Known for its vibrant red rock formations and spiritual vortices.
    • Reviews: Campers love the hiking opportunities and the serene atmosphere.
  6. New Mexico: Carlsbad Caverns National Park
    • Description: Offers camping near more than 119 known caves below the surface.
    • Reviews: Visitors appreciate the underground cave tours and the natural beauty.
  7. Utah: Arches National Park
    • Description: Famous for its more than 2,000 natural stone arches.
    • Reviews: Users frequently talk about the iconic Delicate Arch and other unique formations.
  8. Nevada: Lake Mead National Recreation Area
    • Description: Offers lakeside camping near the Hoover Dam.
    • Reviews: Campers often mention the water activities and the stunning lake views.
  9. Texas: Big Bend National Park
    • Description: Known for its vast, rugged landscapes and the Rio Grande.
    • Reviews: Visitors often discuss the remoteness and the stunning vistas.
  10. Colorado: Great Sand Dunes National Park
    • Description: Offers camping near the tallest sand dunes in North America.
    • Reviews: Campers appreciate the unique sandboarding and sledding opportunities.

Camping laws in the Southwest region

The Southwest Region has a mix of federal lands, state parks, and private campsites. Reservations are highly recommended, especially for popular locations like the Grand Canyon or Zion.

Wild Reflection rocky mountains - The Best Places to Set Up Camp in the US

The Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountain region of the United States is a must-visit destination for those looking to experience vanlife. Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming are all excellent destinations that offer unique opportunities for outdoor exploration and adventure.

In Colorado, you can explore its incredible mountain ranges while taking in the breathtaking views from Pikes Peak, or enjoy some of the best skiing in the world at world-renowned resorts like Aspen Snowmass. As well as plenty of places to camp, campers can enjoy exciting activities such as whitewater rafting in Clear Creek Canyon or explore the quaint towns nearby, full of art galleries and breweries – perfect for rest days!

Montana’s countryside offers even more adventure, with Glacier National Park offering spectacular views of jagged peaks along the Going-to-the-Sun Road or a dip in Flathead Lake, perfect for swimming in the hot summer months. There are also plenty of places to explore such as Big Sky Country, where visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as horseback riding through lush meadows or fishing in one of the many rivers and streams.

In Wyoming, where visitors can take advantage of Yellowstone National Park, which offers amazing wildlife sightings among its geothermal features, and Grand Teton National Park, where you can take in breathtaking views while hiking through alpine meadows covered in wildflowers. Whichever destination you choose within this region, life on the road here will be an unforgettable experience full of adventure and exploration!

  1. Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park
    • Description: Known for its alpine lakes, diverse ecosystems, and high peaks.
    • Reviews: Campers often mention the diverse range of hiking trails and the stunning mountain vistas.
  2. Montana: Glacier National Park
    • Description: Offers rugged mountains and pristine lakes.
    • Reviews: Reviewers love the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road and opportunities for wildlife viewing.
  3. Wyoming: Grand Teton National Park
    • Description: Famous for its jagged mountain range and alpine terrain.
    • Reviews: Campers frequently discuss the breathtaking scenery and variety of outdoor activities.
  4. Idaho: Sawtooth National Recreation Area
    • Description: Offers a mix of mountain peaks and crystal-clear lakes.
    • Reviews: Users appreciate the solitude and opportunities for fishing and boating.
  5. Colorado: Maroon Bells
    • Description: Known for some of the most photographed peaks in the United States.
    • Reviews: Campers rave about the reflective lakes and easily accessible hiking trails.
  6. Montana: Yellowstone National Park
    • Description: The first national park in the U.S., known for its geothermal features.
    • Reviews: Visitors often mention Old Faithful and the diverse wildlife, including bison and elk.
  7. Wyoming: Wind River Range
    • Description: Offers remote backcountry camping and hiking.
    • Reviews: Campers enjoy the challenging trails and opportunities for rock climbing.
  8. Idaho: Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness
    • Description: One of the largest wilderness areas in the U.S.
    • Reviews: Users like the rugged, untouched nature and opportunities for whitewater rafting.
  9. Colorado: San Juan National Forest
    • Description: Known for its high-desert terrain and deep forested areas.
    • Reviews: Reviewers often talk about the historical sites and variety of landscapes.
  10. Montana: Beartooth Highway
    • Description: Offers elevated camping sites along one of the most beautiful drives in America.
    • Reviews: Campers often mention the hairpin turns and the breathtaking panoramic views.

Camping laws in the Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains span multiple states, each with its own set of camping laws. Generally, camping is allowed in national parks, state parks, and national forests. Permits are often required for backcountry camping, and fire safety regulations should be strictly followed.

Safety tips

When it comes to vanlife, safety should always be your number one priority. Before you set off, make sure you know and understand the local laws and any potential hazards or risks associated with your destination.

As well as finding a safe place to stay, it’s important to be prepared for bad weather when you’re on the road. Always carry extra supplies such as food, water, blankets, and warm clothing so that you have what you need if conditions change unexpectedly.

Before you set off, you need to understand some of the potential challenges of living on the road. You need to prepare, plan ahead, and make sure all systems are working properly, such as checking tires for proper inflation and having extra supplies in case conditions change unexpectedly. In addition, finding safe places to park overnight should always be a priority when living in a van – especially if you are traveling alone.

Post author:


Founder of NimbleCamper.com, avid traveler and outdoor enthusiast. Car camping and microcamping allows me to keep traveling and exploring with a much greater level of freedom & privacy – to go anywhere and sleep anywhere. I didn’t have 30K to buy a VW Multivan, so found my way to the world of everyday car camping conversions. Here I share my experiences and what I learn.

Check out my thoughts on a balanced life: sensimism.com

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