8 of the Best Urban Campsites in America
Who says you can't camp in (or near) big cities?
Sometimes you want to sleep under the stars, but you don’t want to spend your whole weekend driving hours away or hunting for the most remote wilderness campsite. The solution? Urban camping. It’s entirely possible to find scenic, quiet places where you can get away and pitch a tent without actually going that far from the city. If you're camping near…
Bear Creek Lake Park
Colorado’s Front Range has plenty of great spots to camp, but most of them require driving at least an hour or two from Denver. Not Bear Creek Lake Park (from $25), in Lakewood, which is a mere 20 minutes from the state capital, just off Highway 470. Catch a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater, a mile away; mountain-bike Lair o’ the Bear, seven miles away; or paddleboard or kayak in Big Soda Lake, steps from your spot. The campground has 47 sites, two yurts, and three cabins.
Red Rock Canyon Campground
The Bureau of Land Management operates a single campground in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (from $20), which is 30 minutes west of the Las Vegas Strip. Nearby you’ll find legendary rock climbing on sandstone cliffs and miles of hiking trails through desert landscapes. Even though it’s so close to the flashing lights of Sin City, the place has stellar stargazing, and the Las Vegas Astronomical Society leads star parties and full-moon hikes. The place is closed during the heat of summer but open September 1 through June 1.
Drive north over the Golden Gate Bridge and you can pitch a tent at Kirby Cove (from $30) in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. To reach your campsite, walk a mile down a steep path to a bluff overlooking the ocean with awesome views of the city. The old-growth redwoods of Muir Woods are nearby, as is all that downtown San Francisco has to offer. But with only five campsites, you’ll need to book way ahead (or check for last-minute cancelations).
Glamping Saint Louis
Sleep in a safari-style tent or vintage Airstream, or pitch your own tent at Glamping St. Louis, located at the River Island Marina on the Mississippi River, minutes from downtown Saint Louis. Bring your paddleboard, or borrow a canoe to ply the river or a pond on the property. There’s also a boat ramp to launch fishing or pontoon vessels. Campfire and s’mores fixings come provided. Glamping from $125; tent sites from $40
New York City
It’s not exactly camping—you’ll be treated to down comforters, rain showers, and chef-prepared meals—but you can sleep in a tent on Governors Island, thanks to Collective Retreats, which opened a posh glamping outpost (from $150) on this historic island in 2018. Hop on a ferry for an eight-minute ride from Lower Manhattan to get there. No need to bring any gear—you’re provided everything from Turkish towels to BBQ and campfire supplies. Get around the island on a rented cruiser bike.
Petit Jean State Park
Arkansas’s first state park—about an hour from Little Rock—is still one of its best. At Petit Jean State Park, you can bring your own tent (campsites start at $22), stay in one of ten rustic Civilian Conservation Corps–built cabins or 23 more full-service cabins, or opt for a yurt (from $55), with some camping essentials included. The park has more than 20 miles of hiking trails, plus kayaks and canoes for rent at Lake Bailey. Come for the butterfly spotting, the trek to 95-foot-tall Cedar Falls, or the stunning view of Cedar Creek Canyon from the historic Mather Lodge.
Blue Hills Reservation
Just 13 miles south of downtown, Blue Hills Reservation is an 8,500-acre park that’s a prime hiking and mountain-biking spot for Bostonians, with 125 miles of trails. If you want to camp here, book a spot through the Appalachian Mountain Club, which manages two campsites and 20 no-frills cabins (campsites from $45 a night; cabins from $200 a week) on the shores of the scenic Ponkapoag Pond. The cabins have bunk beds and wood-burning stoves but no running water or electricity.
You’ll find plenty of places to roll out your sleeping bag outside of this metro area, but if you want to camp in the city proper, options are limited. Which is why Camp Long, five miles from downtown, feels like such a treasure. This 68-acre park in West Seattle has ten rustic cabins (from $50) that you can rent for the night, a group firepit, a 25-foot granite wall for rock-climbing lessons, and several miles of hiking trails through old-growth forest.