Written by Rose Morrison
Camping is an excellent way to connect with your surroundings and bond with your loved ones. There are myriad benefits to spending time in the great outdoors, so it’s no wonder so many people are looking to camp on vacation.
Unique campgrounds across the country offer scenic views, hiking trails and other outdoor activities. Here are some of the best locations off the beaten path to secure a camping spot and experience something unique.
Buffalo National River, Arkansas
The Buffalo National River flows through four counties in Northern Arkansas and is home to many camping spots off the beaten path. You can float the river on a multi-day trip and set up camp on the banks. No matter where you end up, you’ll be surrounded by surreal beauty — bluffs, wildlife, breathtaking hills and valleys.
Reserve a cabin, campsite or RV site in Ponca, Harriet, Pruitt or St. Joe. Yellville, Arkansas, is a tiny town farther north nestled in the heart of Ozarks, offering gorgeous places to camp.
Smithgall Woods State Park, Georgia
Smithgall Woods State Park is known for its fishing opportunities in Dukes Creek, which runs right through the park and is a haven for anglers. This park is near Helen, Georgia, and home to wildlife like bears, deer and wild turkeys.
This hidden gem offers a trail only for cottage guests that leads to cascading waterfalls and gold mine remnants at Dukes Creek Falls. You can’t take vehicles on the park's roads, making this an ideal retreat for peace and quiet.
Loyalsock State Forest, Pennsylvania
Loyalsock State Forest offers cabins and cottages to rent or you can camp for free. There are four camping areas to choose from that are conveniently close to hiking trails. Hikers will adore this park, with 114,552 acres to explore. The “Endless Mountains” in this forest contain ponds, waterfalls and rock formations you won’t want to miss.
World’s End State Park is nearby, offering even more breathtaking beauty. You must acquire a free permit if you stay at a campsite for more than one night.
Hoop Lake, Utah
Hoop Lake, Utah, is a hidden gem alternative to the ever-bustling Mirror Lake. It doesn’t often get the credit it deserves since it’s so close to a popular camping destination. However, Hoop Lake is excellent for RVs or school buses turned campers — a type A small school bus would be perfect for a romantic getaway.
Hoop Lake’s campground is on the Wyoming side of the lake, with hiking trails and beautiful water views. You can explore the lake’s campsites and enjoy fishing, horseback riding, boating and rock climbing.
McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Arizona
This hidden gem resides on the outskirts of Phoenix. While it isn’t hidden, many people don’t know how beautiful it is to camp there. The 360° sunrise and sunset views on the mountain ranges make pitching a tent here one of the most romantic camping experiences. Groups can stay in one of three campgrounds for dry camping.
You can ride or hike the trails on a bike for over 50 miles. Additionally, you could participate in water sports like scuba diving, swimming, boating and fishing.
Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia
Spruce Knob Campground is nestled west of Spruce Knob — the highest point in West Virginia. It’s a quiet campground off the beaten path that few people visit. Consider going fishing in the 25-acre lake, which is frequently filled with trout by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
Campsites are conveniently located and affordable, starting at $16 for single or $28 for double occupancy a night. There are 27 campsites and 30 RV sites available.
Big Cedar Lodge, Missouri
Big Cedar Lodge is in the small town of Ridgedale, Missouri, making it well off the beaten path. This resort overlooks Table Rock Lake in the heart of the Ozarks, and the accommodations will immerse you in the forest and connect you with nature.
The private log cabins are luxurious with private balconies and tubs, making them the perfect place for romance. You can go off-grid and book a glamping unit or camp cabin at Long Creek Marina. RV sites are also available.
The Hideaway Retreat, Florida
The Hideaway Retreat in Navarre, Florida, won fourth place in the 2022 Campspot Awards. This spot is hidden under the oak trees lining the grounds of this lovely retreat. Pitch a tent or hook up your RV in this vintage boutique campground.
There are 50 RV sites, 10 places to pitch a tent, a cottage with five bedrooms and a 1958 vintage camper. You can fish and enjoy privacy at the “Hidden Beach” at this gorgeous hidden gem between Pensacola and Destin, Florida.
North Cascades National Park, Washington
North Cascades National Park is a hidden gem amongst top competitors like Yosemite, Sequoia and Yellowstone. This area has gorgeous alpine secluded locations. Just shy of three hours from Seattle, the North Cascades have wildlife viewing opportunities like grizzly bear sightings, jagged mountain peaks and forested valleys.
You can hike the trails through the scenic peaks and valleys and even stay overnight while backpacking with backcountry options. Camp settings range from different campgrounds and amenities, like lakeside boat-in camping and trail access.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland
Though this gem is in both Virginia and Maryland, you can only camp on the Maryland side of the campgrounds. Here, you’ll find 37 miles of beaches with prime spots to view wild horses — where else can you do that? Home to the Atlantic flyway, numerous bird species are around for you to admire. You can visit the Assateague Lighthouse, lounge on the sandy beaches and camp on the ocean and bay sides of the island.
Book a campsite up to six months in advance. While this is a hidden gem, the weekends fill up at an alarming rate — typically the first day they’re available.
Indian River, Michigan
Another Campsot Award Winner, Indian River RV Resort won the top camping spot for 2023. It sits on the Inland Waterway between lakes and rivers connecting Crooked Lake to the Indian River.
You can raft down the river, go on a guided ATV tour through the forest or rent a boat to cruise down the river to Mullet or Burt Lakes. Lodging at Indian River ranges from units on the river with a boat slip, to bed and breakfasts with a cabin feel, to campsites and rustic log cabins at Indian River RV Resort.
Solvang, California, is a unique gem off the beaten path about two hours from Los Angeles. If you venture into town, Solvang combines Danish and Spanish influences with Danish-themed buildings and Spanish cathedrals.
Near Solvang, Refugio Campground and Gaviota State Park provide prime camping spots with access to trails, backpacking opportunities and fishing. Refugio Campground offers sightings of dolphins, sea otters, whales and seals.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
Light is limited in Big Bend National Park, making it a dream for star gazing. This park is nestled in the Chihuahuan desert with mountains, desert and large canyons. Three campgrounds offer tent, trailer and RV camping.
Cottonwood Campground is on the banks of the Rio Grande and close to Santa Elena Canyon. Chisos Mountain Lodge has a hotel and cabins for rent near hiking trails, a restaurant, a gift shop and a convenience store. The lodge recommends booking 90–120 days in advance to ensure availability.
Woodstock, Vermont, has prime camping spots, trails, and dozens of outdoor adventures and opportunities. Silver Lake State Park, Gifford Woods State Park, Quechee State Park and Coolidge State Park are all near Woodstock, with camping options and amenities.
All state parks provide tents, lean-to sites and RV options, with Gifford Woods State Park also providing cabins. Camp Plymouth State Park is also nearby — less than 35 minutes from Woodstock — with cottages and group lean-to camping sites that allow horses.
The small seaside town of Camden, Maine, provides a breathtaking location where the mountains coincide with the ocean at Penobscot Bay on the Gulf. Laite Memorial Beach provides paddle boating, kayaking and canoeing opportunities.
Barret’s Cove at Megunticook Lake is a fun place to explore. Lodging in Camden includes vacation rentals like rustic cabins in the woods or on the lake, or you can camp at one of the top ten campgrounds near Camden.
Rocky Neck State Park, Connecticut
Rocky Neck State Park offers soft sandy beaches with picnic areas perfect for watching salt marsh platforms, trains and trail systems. The nearby beach provides swimming, crabbing, fishing, hiking, and camping opportunities.
There are 160 camping sites in wooded and open settings, with rustic cabins also available. Rocky Neck State Park offers a boardwalk and other family-friendly activities on either half-mile-long beach.
DeSoto State Park, Alabama
DeSoto State Park in Northeast Alabama has gorgeous waterfalls and other natural scenery, plus 94 hook-up sites and two backpacking sites off the beaten path. You can take a trailer, RV, pop-up camper or tent.
There are cottages and log cabins to rent that accommodate 4–6 adults on Lookout Mountain. These cabins have open living rooms, kitchens, and a queen-sized sleeper sofa. Enjoy horseback riding, mountain biking, kayaking, swimming, fly fishing and geocaching at this hidden gem.
Trap Pond State Park, Delaware
Trap Pond State Park offers almost nine miles of canoeing, kayaking, boating or paddleboarding trails. Swimming isn’t recommended in Trap Pond, but the fishing is extraordinary. This wetland area is known for catching bass and other warm-water fish. Trap Pond State Park provides water and electricity in its rent and RV sites.
There are year-round waterfront cabins at multiple locations in Deleware, ranging from Trap Pond to Camp Henlopen to other state parks throughout Deleware. From exploring ponds, rivers, fields and streams to hitting the beach, this area in Delaware is a hidden gem with so much to offer.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville, North Carolina, is an underrated unique town growing in popularity that boasts creativity and unwavering beauty. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the view is gorgeous everywhere you look. Venture into town to experience the live music, breweries and a taste of history and culture.
Camping in Asheville has many options, from various local state parks to two national parks within an hour's drive. Visit one of the top 15 campgrounds to get the whole experience of Asheville, with its cascading waterfalls, wilderness and hiking trails. You can stay in a cabin, glamp in geodesic domes or pitch a tent.
Vermilion is one of the best-kept secrets of the U.S. with storybook charm. Lake Erie and the Vermilion River surround this hidden gem — perfect for a romantic getaway. The Vermilion Lighthouse is a gorgeous landmark to visit while sightseeing. Boating, kayaking and swimming opportunities on Lake Erie are another attraction to this area.
Cottages at the Water’s Edge offer unique lake accommodations on the shore of Lake Erie. These quaint cottages will transport you back in time as you spend time on the lake or you can choose to camp out at one of Vermilion’s campgrounds like Riverview RV Park and Marina.
Locations Off the Beaten Path
You can find the country's most epic scenery in the most unlikely places. Allow these hidden gems to inspire you and embark on a new adventure to seek out places few know about. You might find your new favorite spot or stumble upon one of America’s best-kept secrets.