Camping In The National Parks? These Trails & Nearby Attractions Are Easy To Reach
This country is full of beautiful parks and wilderness areas. National parks are huge, protected spaces that showcase interesting wildlife, gorgeous natural formations, and sparkling bodies of water. Each park is unique from all the others, and it can be hard to choose where to go and what to do.
Below, we’ve highlighted some of the best national parks to explore. All these parks are large and offer a huge variety of attractions and activities. If you enjoy hiking, walking, or biking, we’ve also provided a few trail recommendations you might enjoy. Read on to start planning your next outdoor adventure!
Yellowstone is one of the largest and most famous national parks in the country. It’s a geological wonder, plus the park is home to all kinds of mountain wildlife.
This is one of the most popular attractions in Yellowstone National Park, and it’s relatively easy to reach. The site is well-signed, and there are plenty of parking spaces, food options, restrooms, and a visitor center in the vicinity.
This attraction is also in Yellowstone National Park. It’s along the main Grand Loop Road between Norris Geyser Basin and Madison Junction, so it’s not hard to reach if you’re already in the park. However, the walk from the parking lot to the paintpots is about a mile and includes a bit of uphill walking.
The geology and mineral deposits within Yellowstone have made it famous around the world. Several pools showcase prismatic shades of blue, green, orange, and yellow.
Old West Ghost Towns
There are a few ghost towns in the general vicinity of Yellowstone National Park, but not directly inside the park. Towns like Virginia City and Nevada City in Montana are about a two-hour drive from the West Entrance of the park. So, these would require a dedicated trip and aren’t quite as easy to access as the park’s natural features.
- Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail: 1.5 miles (out and back)
- Lone Star Geyser Trail: 5.3 miles (out and back)
- Fairy Falls Trail: 4.8 miles (out and back)
- Fossil Forest Trail: 3.5 miles (loop)
The Grand Canyon is a stunning natural formation. From the rugged cliffs to the river far below, it’s a truly unique location. It also has several ties to history and culture, so visitors can learn about its significance in the country.
Desert View Watchtower
This attraction at the South Rim is accessible by car or by shuttle bus from other points along the rim. The tower is approximately a 25-mile drive east of Grand Canyon Village, the main hub of the South Rim, so it’s relatively easy to reach.
This tower was built in 1932, and it was designed to blend with the canyon and the surrounding structures. The watchtower itself is impressive, and it offers a great view of the canyon. Nowadays, it’s a great place to learn about the history of this area and watch artisans create traditional crafts.
Although many people associate the Grand Canyon with dry sand and hot sun, there’s also a thriving river environment to explore. The Colorado River is a highlight of this destination, and there are tons of opportunities for boat tours, rafting, and kayaking.
The Navajo Bridge is actually a little distance from the Grand Canyon. It’s located over the Colorado River in northern Arizona near the town of Page. It’s roughly a 2-hour drive from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. So, while it’s not in the Grand Canyon itself, it’s within reach if you’re willing to do a bit of driving.
- Hermit Trail: 5 miles (out and back)
- Horseshoe Bend: 1 mile (loop)
- Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden Campground: 9 miles (out and back)
Crater Lake is a gorgeous national park in Oregon. This area is ideal for hikers, fishermen, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.
The lake itself is the main attraction of this park. It features some of the deepest, clearest water in the world!
The best way to explore this lake is to take an official boat tour where you can learn from experienced guides. You might even be able to visit the island in the center if you want to go the extra mile.
Scenic Rim Drive
This 33-mile drive circles Crater Lake, giving you access to numerous overlooks and trailheads. It’s an excellent way to see the park’s main attractions. Note that some sections of Rim Drive can be closed due to snow, typically from October to June.
- Cleetwood Cove Trail: 2 miles (out and back)
- Plaikni Falls Trail: 2 miles (out and back)
- Garfield Peak Trail: 3.4 miles (out and back)
- Wizard Island Summit Trail: 2.2 miles (out and back)
Yosemite is a huge national park in California. Rock climbers and hikers love the gorgeous mountains, while wildlife enthusiasts will be thrilled with the huge variety of plants and animals. Waterfalls, lakes, and rivers dot the area as well.
This is the largest sequoia grove in Yosemite National Park and is relatively accessible, but it does involve some walking. You can take a shuttle from the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza to the grove. Keep in mind that the shuttle service and accessibility can change depending on the season. It’s an awe-inspiring experience when you consider that some of these trees are thousands of years old!
Tioga Road Drive
Tioga Road provides access to Yosemite’s high country and a scenic drive across the Sierra Nevada. However, it is generally closed due to snow from around November through late May or June.
It’s about 50 miles long and rises 10,000 feet. With this vantage point, you can see huge swathes of the park!
This waterfall is visible from various places in Yosemite Valley, particularly around El Capitan. It’s famous for the “Firefall” effect that happens in mid- to late-February when the setting sun lights up the waterfall to look like it’s on fire. It almost looks like lava is spilling down the mountainside! Access depends on where exactly you’re trying to view it from, but in general, it’s relatively accessible.
Popular easy trails/hikes
- The Mist Trail: 5.4 miles (out and back)
- Roosevelt Point & Sentinel Dome Loop: 6 miles (loop)
Great Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a beautiful area with rolling hills, leafy trees, and all kinds of history buried in the woods. It’s the perfect destination for campers who want to lose themselves in nature.
If you want to take a glimpse into the past, look no further than Cades Cove. This is one of the most popular areas of the park and is quite accessible. There’s an 11-mile one-way loop road that circles the cove and offers excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing. Historic buildings have also been preserved here, including cabins, churches, a grist mill, and more.
Another popular distinction is the Fontana Lake and Dam, just outside of the park. It’s the perfect place to cool off and enjoy the water. Visitors can swim, fish, or paddle around this lake to their heart’s content. The dam is also a historical site because it was constructed during WWII.
Clingmans Dome and Observation Tower
This is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is accessible via Clingmans Dome Road. However, be prepared for a half-mile steep hike to reach the observation tower from the parking lot. From the tower, you can enjoy panoramic views of the forest.
- Laurel Falls Trail: 2.6 miles (out and back)
- Chimney Tops Trail: 3.8 miles (out and back)
- Cades Cove Nature Trail: 2 miles (loop)
- Grotto Falls Trail: 2.6 miles (out and back)
Find campgrounds, RV-safe direction and more
Visit the NPS website for more information about individual parks, rules, and temporary closures.
For all of your camping and trip planning needs, look no further than RV LIFE Campgrounds and RV LIFE Trip Wizard. Campground Reviews is a trusted source of campground and RV park reviews offered by camping and RV enthusiasts just like you. With its accompanying RV LIFE App, RV Trip Wizard gets you to your camping destinations utilizing RV-friendly routes specific to your RV and travel preferences.
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