TravelDestinationsNorth America
New Rules of Camping

5 Dreamy Campsites Just Outside Major Cities

Living in a big city doesn't mean you can't spend a weekend outdoors this summer

Lost Dutchman (Photo: Cassell Archinuk)
Lost Dutchman

As the country begins to reopen, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.

According to KOA’s 2019 North American Camping Report, more people are pitching tents closer to home. And that’s even more true now as we navigate state-by-state reopenings from coronavirus shutdowns. Luckily, there are more urban places to camp than you’d think, like these sites—all within 100 miles of big cities.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Harbor Lighthouse Tour
Boston Harbor (Photo: David L. Ryan/Boston Globe/Getty)

Boston Harbor Islands National and State Park

A smattering of 34 islands and peninsulas just off the coast, this park has no shortage of activities, including swimming. We recommend Lovells Island, one of four that offer camping, for its hiking and views of the harbor. Seven primitive sites (from $8) are tucked into the woods and walkable from the beach. While most visitors take the ferry from Boston, those looking for a challenge can kayak an hour to reach the island. Note: the park is currently closed. Check nps.gov for updates.

Phoenix, Arizona

Lost Dutchman State Park

Lost Dutchman has the same dramatic landscape as the region’s Joshua Tree and Saguaro National Parks—think classic Sonoran Desert full of majestic cactus—but without the crowds. Forty miles east of downtown Phoenix, the 320-acre park serves as a well-appointed trailhead for Tonto National Forest. At the RV-friendly campground, choose wisely to get a site with views of the Superstition Mountains (from $25).

Atlanta, Georgia

Panola Mountain
Panola Mountain (Photo: Justin Chan Photography)

Panola Mountain State Park

Atlanta is famous for suburban sprawl, but tucked amid all the chaos is Panola Mountain State Park, a 1,635-acre swath of wilderness 15 minutes east of downtown. You’ll have to hike half a mile to reach five primitive campsites (from $22), which sit next to a pond filled with bream. There are 36 miles of hiking trails and a tree-climbing program that will have you reaching the tops of 100-foot red oaks. Time it right and you can sleep in the canopy during one of the park’s overnight climbs.

Chicago, Illinois

The Vaudeville Urban Farm

Sometimes you don’t even need to leave the city to pitch a tent. A 9,000-square-foot farm tucked into Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood, this offbeat Hipcamp listing has five campsites (from $48). Gather eggs, feed the goats, and use the prime location to explore the city. Run or pedal the 606, an abandoned rail line that’s been converted into a 2.7-mile-long park; kayak along the Chicago River; or take the train to Lake Michigan and run or bike the Lakefront Trail. 

San Francisco, California

Angel Island
Angel Island (Photo: Tom Shedden/Eyeem)

Angel Island State Park

The best view of San Francisco’s skyline is from a tent in the middle of the bay. The 740-acre Angel Island State Park has 12 campsites (from $30). Catch a ferry to reach the island, or kayak to one of two sites accessible from shore. Rent a bike from the Angel Island Company and ride nine miles of car-free roads, or hike the Sunset Trail to the top of 788-foot Mount Livermore for 360-degree views of downtown San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz.

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
Filed To: BostonChicagoSan FranciscoAtlantaPhoenixCampingCar CampingEvergreen
Lead Photo: Cassell Archinuk
More Travel