This post was produced by Matador for our friends at REI, where it appeared in its original form.

1. Gorges State Park, near Brevard, North Carolina

Gorges SP encompasses some of the steepest and most spectacular river gorges in the Southeast, with trails along the Toxaway and Horsepasture rivers leading to exceptional waterfalls, swimming holes, and diverse wildlife habitat.

There is primitive camping for backpackers in the Frozen Creek Access Area, Raymond Fisher Campground, and the Grassy Ridge Access Area. The “secret spot”: six free sites along the Foothills Trail — first come first serve. Note these are just a short hike from the car, so they’re perfect for young families.

2. Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina

Not gonna lie: Hunting Island can be brutal in terms of biting insects (sand fleas), heat, and humidity during the summer. Over the winter however, it’s an exceptional terrain to explore. With five miles of Carolina coast in its native state, maritime forests stretch all the way to the dunes. There are huge swaths of salt marsh, inlets, and lagoons, and with decent swell, the surf conditions are surprisingly good. There’s also the only publicly accessible lighthouse in the state, and a large campground. Look for sites at the ends of the loops for more primitive-feeling areas to set up your tent.

3. Sinks Canyon, Lander, Wyoming

In the southern edge of the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming, Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River flows through a dramatic class IV-V canyon before disappearing underground in a natural geologic phenomenon called “The Sinks.” This is car camping in about as pristine a setting as you can get, with pinyon-juniper foothills rolling up through coniferous areas to high meadows of aspen.

4. Enchanted Rock, Texas

Enchanted Rock is a classic go-to spot for car camping with quick access to trails and bouldering, as well as primitive options that get you away from the masses. There’s a cool cave passage through the top of the main rock, and good swimming/wading/cool-off opps in Big Sandy Creek. Notably, Enchanted Rock is an International Dark Sky park.

5. Eleven Mile Canyon, Colorado

West of Colorado Springs, Eleven Mile Canyon encompasses both a beautiful class III-IV (V) whitewater stream with easy roadside access, and, further upstream, a huge reservoir with some of the best fishing in the Rockies.

The area sees fairly high traffic, but there is a large camping infrastructure to accommodate it, including sites only accessible by foot or boat where you can get away from the crowds. Eleven Mile is distinctive in the area in that it’s solid granite, making for a different kind of whitewater run and exceptional climbing.

6. Baxter State Park, Maine

One of the few campgrounds in the country that has a truly “traditional camping” feel, many campsites in Baxter SP have been used for almost 100 years. It’s the base camp for hikes up Mt. Katahdin as well as explorations around Daicey Pond and other beautiful lakes and streams. There is a variety of accommodations including bunkhouses, cabins, lean-to shelters, and backcountry tent sites. Early September, as colors are changing, this area is absolutely the most beautiful place in the country.

7. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California

Camping in a redwood forest is mystical. Tucked within a massive canopy of redwood, western hemlock, Sitka spruce, grand and Douglas fir, and with the huge layer of duff over the forest floor, there’s a sense of quiet and peace here. The sounds are dampened. Jedediah Smith is one of the best places to camp — just imagine looking up through the huge branches and the understory of madrone and bigleaf maple.



This post was produced by Matador for our friends at REI, where it appeared in its original form.

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