You'll thank us in a few months
Our favorite outdoor playgrounds are big, empty, and easy on the eyes. But they can be tough to enjoy when you’re surrounded by other gawkers. To find those out-of-the-way places where you can still bask in the natural majesty on your own or with a few friends, the solution is simple: plan ahead. These seven superstar campsites are all but guaranteed to fill up between now and the start of summer.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Big Sur, California
Reservations for campsites at Big Sur fill up months in advance. You can book a site up to six months ahead of time—so do it now to ensure a spot in August or September. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has more than 1,000 acres of old-growth redwood, access to hundreds of miles of hiking trails, and gorgeous views of the rocky coastline. If you can, score a riverfront site along the Big Sur River. From $35; reserve a site.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Every campground in Grand Canyon gets busy, especially the North Rim Campground, thanks to its stunning views of the canyon and ideal North Rim location. The campground is open from mid-May until mid-October, and its 90 campsites fill up fast. Sites 11, 14, 15, 16, and 18 have the best views and get booked the quickest. You’ll have access to hiking trails and a small general store right from camp. From $18; reserve a site.
Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kauai
You’ll need a permit to camp overnight on the Napali Coast, and they often sell out months beforehand. To reach the campsites at Kalalau, you’ll hike along the entire 11-mile Kalalau Trail, a ruggedly beautiful route popular with honeymooners and backpackers. You’ll walk past waterfalls, rocky cliffs, and mango trees, and end at a remote beach accessible only by foot or boat. From $20; reserve a site.
Acadia National Park, Maine
You can book campsites at Blackwoods, one of three campgrounds within Acadia National Park, up to six months in advance. And you should: there are no walk-in sites—everything is by reservation. The campground is open year-round and offers more primitive camping in the winter, but obviously summer is the most popular time to visit. The exceedingly charming town of Bar Harbor is a short shuttle bus ride away, and the ocean is a ten-minute stroll away. From $30; reserve a site.
Yosemite National Park, California
Drive over Tioga Pass from the east side of the Sierra Nevada to reach Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows campground. Half the sites are available for early reservation; the other half are first come, first served. Camp here for the world-renowned rock climbing and hiking—and to get away from the busloads of crowds near Yosemite Valley, 55 miles away. You’ll have easy access to plenty of longer trails, plus a five-mile round-trip trail to Elizabeth Lake that starts at the campground and makes for a nice day outing. From $26; reserve a site.
Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Mazama is one of two campgrounds in Crater Lake National Park. Located just seven miles from the crater’s rim, Mazama has more than 200 sites that can be reserved from July through September (in June, all sites are sold on a walk-in basis). Spend your nights here and your days hiking along the Pacific Crest Trail, fishing for rainbow trout in Crater Lake, or road biking the 33-mile paved road around the crater. From $22; reserve a site.
Glacier National Park, Montana
Situated on the less-crowded east side of Glacier National Park, Many Glacier is a popular base camp for the start of some classic backpacking trips and day hikes, like Grinnell Lake and Iceberg Lake. Forty-one of the campground’s 103 sites can be reserved in advance. You’ll sleep under the stars nestled in a forest of lodgepole pine just east of the Continental Divide. Bonus: there’s no cell service at the campground, so you can’t work even if you want to. From $23; reserve a site.