Top 10 beginner campgrounds

Thomas J. Story Top 10 beginner campgrounds
These campsites will turn even the most doubtful campers into true believers.

California

Fallen Leaf Campground, Lake Tahoe

Set between Lake Tahoe and smaller, mellower Fallen Leaf Lake, the campground makes it easy to enjoy swimming in and boating on both bodies of water. Beginners who feel iffy about sleeping on the ground can rent yurts with platforms and electric lights. You’ll find hot showers and a general store. Showers, grocery, fishing, yurts/tent cabins/cabins; from $32; open May 16–Oct 12; recreation.gov.

Howard Creek Campground, Westport–Union Landing State Beach

This blufftop campground on the Mendocino coast may be better suited for trailers than for tent camping: There’s a steady wind off the ocean and not much privacy. But the view of the King Range meeting the Pacific will wow any first-time camper: It’s as spectacular as any in California. $25; no reservations; fishing and vault toilets; parks.ca.gov.

Main Campground, Samuel P. Taylor State Park

Sun-washed meadows, regal stands of coast redwoods shading quiet Lagunitas Creek—this West Marin park showcases Northern California camping at its loveliest. And it’s a great place for beginning campers. The mostly paved Cross Marin Trail makes for easy hiking and biking, and civilization is close enough that when you realize you’ve forgotten eggs, a store is only a 15-minute drive away. Two cautions: Sites can be hard to book on weekends, and the drought may limit water use—check to see if you need to bring water. Fishing; $35; $8 park entry; parks.ca.gov.

North Beach Campground, Pismo Beach State Park

Set behind Pismo Beach’s white sand dunes, this grassy camp supplies wind protection plus hot showers. From most sites, a two-minute walk leads to the waves. The wide beach is ideal for beachcombers, while surfers, kayakers, and anglers ply their pursuits in the water. The restaurants of downtown Pismo Beach, 1 mile away, provide dinner options. In winter, thousands of monarch butterflies roost in the eucalyptus trees. Fishing; $35; slostateparks.com.

Idaho

Huckleberry Tent and Breakfast, Clark Fork

Yes, this one-of-a-kind resort near Sandpoint qualifies as camping: Canvas and screen are the only materials separating you from the great outdoors, there’s no electricity, and a privy serves as your necessary room. But these three tent cabins come with quilt-covered bedsteads and wood-burning stoves. You’ll cook your own camp-style dinner over propane burners in the screened outdoor kitchen, but in the morning, campers are served a hot breakfast featuring the property’s garden-grown produce. $135; open early May–Oct 31; primitive toilets, fishing, showers, and yurts/tent cabins/cabins; huckleberrytentandbreakfast.com.

New Mexico

Sundial Springs, Gila National Forest

Steaming hot springs make this privately run campground northwest of Silver City feel as sumptuous as any spa. Ten RV and two tent sites overlook the San Francisco River, and campers enjoy access to two rock-lined mineral pools. Reserve one (from $20) for a private soak and views across hills where bighorn sheep are known to roam. Showers, fishing, yurts/tent cabins/cabins, and RV/ trailer hookup; from $15; no children under 12; sundialsprings.com.

Oregon

Silver Falls Campground, Silver Falls State Park

Some of the waterfalls at this Cascade Mountains park, including 177-foot South Falls, drop from overhangs so large that hiking trails actually pass behind the splashing water. That’s just one of the cool things about Oregon’s largest state park, 25 miles east of Salem. Whether you come for mountain biking, strolling by huge western hemlock and lush sword ferns, cooling off in a Silver Creek swimming hole, or warming up by the fireplace in the 1930s stone lodge, you always have a hot shower to come home to. And even Fido can run (a bit) free: There’s an off-leash area for dogs. Showers, fishing, yurts/tent cabins/cabins, and RV/ trailer hookup; from $19; $5/day park fee; oregonstateparks.org.

Utah

Goblin Valley Campground, Goblin Valley State Park

Roughing it is de rigueur in Utah’s rugged canyon lands (where even outhouses can seem like luxuries), but Goblin Valley, west of Moab, is the Ritz-Carlton of the desert. These 24 sites pamper campers with showers and with shade. Two yurts have wooden floors and bunk beds—even swamp coolers offering relief from summer heat. All sites enjoy views of eroded pinnacles and mushroom-shaped rocks; tenters should nab sites 10 through 12, which are tops for seclusion and scenery. showers and yurts/tent cabins/cabins; from $20; $8 park entry; stateparks.utah.gov.

Washington

South End Campground, Moran State Park

All five campgrounds in Moran State Park—on Orcas Island in the San Juans—are set among skyscraping evergreens and sit steps away from swimming, paddleboating, fishing, and 38 miles of hiking trails. But it’s the 17 sites of the park’s South End Campground that have all the creature comforts (showers, real toilets) without the crowds—and you can pitch your tent on the edge of a private beach along sapphire Cascade Lake. Showers and fishing; from $23; $10/day park fee; parks.wa.gov/547/moran.

Wyoming

Lizard Creek Campground, Grand Teton National Park

Delightfully off the radar for most park visitors, this privately run lakeside campground gives campers the chance to enjoy stunning mountain views without the crowds that clog other parts of the park. Some of its 60 sites sit near the edge of Jackson Lake, with views of the jagged Tetons. Pines separate tents and trailers (the prettiest spots are designated a generator-free zone). And the nearby marina and restaurants increase your dining options. Fishing; $22; $25 park entry; no reservations; open Jun 13–Sep 1; signalmountainlodge.com.

Unless noted, these 10 campgrounds have potable water and flush toilets.

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