View Full Version : Tell me where to camp
It suddenly appears I'm going to have a month off in July, and I want to go camping out west. I'd like recommendations on where.
Now let me explain what I want in a camping vacation:
1) I haven't been camping for years, and I know my limitations; real wilderness camping is beyond me. At the same time I don't want to be in a campground with 500 other people. The whole point of camping is to close your eyes, hear only nature, and at least pretend you're in the wilderness. A nice half-hour to an hour's hike away from my truck is about right.
2) Nearby stuff to do; I'll be there two weeks or so and I'll only bring a dozen books, so a place where I can head out for day hikes or join a river-rafting trip or go see a historic site would be great.
3) Mountainy and not too hot. Arizona in July is out.
4) Strong preference for a National park or forest. Never camped in one.
So that's it. Any suggestions? Yellowstone is my first thought, but from what I can see the options are either big campgrounds or else "backcountry" camping, which sounds like you have to head ten miles off the road.
05-01-2005, 02:04 AM
Several of Yellowstone's campgrounds are of modest size. The one's with which I'm familiar are not "a half hour from your truck"; they were drive-in campgrounds. However, they were not overrun with people (at least, during the week), had limited facilities, and had "grizzlies sighted" signs on the registration billboard.
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My recommendation would be Flathead National Forest (http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/flathead/), southwest of Glacier National Park (http://www.nps.gov/glac/home.htm) (my personal favorite), outside Kalispell, MT. You may not want to (or be able to afford) camping in Glacier Park, itself, but along the shores of Hungry Horse Reservoir there is a lot of rugged camping. You can set up next to your vehicle, but you won't have much company.
Buy the National Parks Pass (http://www.nps.gov/fees_passes.htm) for $50, plus the $15 Golden Eagle sticker. They give you unlimited access to any park or forest in the NPS system. (If you are going to be there for two weeks, you'll make back the $65 on entrance fees in just a few days.)
Camp along Hungry Horse Reservoir (http://www.recreation.gov/detail.cfm?ID=135), then make day trips into Glacier, hiking from Logan's Pass to Hidden Lake or other areas without the congestion of the Glacier campgrounds. Kalispell is only a half hour or so to the west. It is not very large, but it qualifies as a city in those regions and offers a full range of groceries, camping supplies, and auto repair. Hungry Horse Reservoir is on the North Branch Flathead River, overhung by tall ridges, and is accessible from the town of Hungry Horse on US-2. Hungry Horse is about 10 miles South and West of West Glacier and about 17 miles North and East of Kalispell. The reservoir dam is about 8 miles South and East of the town of Hungry Horse and the reservoir extends 30+ miles South and East from the dam. (From the dam, the shoreline roads are unimproved.)
Additional information on Flathead National Forest (http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/flathead/rec/myweb/welcome.htm) and its campgrounds (932kb .pdf) (http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/flathead/rec/myweb/campgr_map_chart_05_link.pdf):The main camping season on the Flathead National Forest is Memorial Day through Labor Day. While camping at one of the 34 camping areas provides varied accommodations and access, camping throughout the Forest is allowed and can give a one-of-kind camping experience. If you plan on camping away from a designated campsite, please research that area beforehand and follow all posted rules and regulations during your stay.
Thanks Tom, that looks great -- If I can pitch a tent next to my car and still not hear anyone around, that'd be great. My only camping experience is in New Jersey, and while the Pine Barrens can be kinda remote, most campsites are either crowded or else ones you have to walk to.
Hungry Horse looks great -- Glacier is definitely one of the places I wanted to go to.
05-01-2005, 01:13 PM
Colorado is a camper's paradise. You can find great places to go almost anywhere in the state. And you can of course, camp in Rocky Mountain National Park.
If you camp in the backcountry out here, please buy a Backcountry Pass (available at most sporting goods stores, costs like, $5 bucks...it lets people know where you went, and if you need to be rescued it's paid for out of the fund instead of out of your pocket).
This website has some information you might find of use:
05-01-2005, 01:30 PM
Just about anywhere west of the Wind River mountains in Wyoming.
Even in Teton and Yellowstone parks you can park and walk to designated camping areas within a couple miles or less of the road. I've done this several times in the past and never had to share with anyone else.
New Fork lake, close to Pinedale would probably suit you to a tee. Drive right in to the lake and there's about a gillion any-length-you-want hikes and you can camp anywhere you want once away from the designated camping area.
From Pinedale you can go up into the Wind Rivers to about 9,000 feet and hike and camp all you want. This is worth the drive whether you camp or not!!!
The Green River lakes on the north end of the Wind River mountains are knock-your-socks-off breath taking.
Along the Green River, Flaming Gorge, the Uinta mountains you're just about guarenteed proximity to the road, privacy, GREAT FISHING, and some incredible scenery.
05-01-2005, 02:49 PM
I'm not much of a camper, but my brother is an avid white water rafter and loves the outdoors. He strongly suggests Oregon. It will fit the mountains and not too hot.
05-01-2005, 10:39 PM
Glacier National Park
05-01-2005, 10:52 PM
Toulumne Meadows in Yosemite is rather nice - it's about an hour out of the Valley, so you can drive down there to go to the Village or go rafting, etc. then head back up if you want to. It is quite deserted compared to the hustle and bustle of the Valley in the summertime.
If you go down to the Valley, I suggest the pizzeria and bar in Curry Village. The pizza is very very good, and the bar there is tended quite well (by my husband's cousin and the other bartenders that he's trained - the whole crew makes a most excellent Pina Colada).
Several good suggestions, thanks. I'll be looking into all of these.
05-02-2005, 05:00 AM
I just got back from camping today. Beeeautiful. Our tent was positioned so I could see the sea from bed. But I'm in Australia, sorry.
I love going camping and just doing whatever I feel like doing and on my own time. A complete break from reality. And the surf beach near us was one of the best I've ever been too, so clear and so many waves to catch. Perfect long weekend. Ahhh.
05-02-2005, 06:56 AM
Look into "Three Sisters".
There are some places to hike in and put up a tent.
Hmmm . . . The West Village, San Francisco, Provincetown . . . What? Oh. Never mind . . .
Second Oregon. Thanks for the suggestion, but since I'm coming blind, I'm looking for specific locations, not whole states!
And I probably should limit this to "east side of the rockies."
05-02-2005, 09:04 AM
Thanks for the suggestion, but since I'm coming blind, I'm looking for specific locations, not whole states!
That's why I said "Three Sisters".
And I probably should limit this to "east side of the rockies."
Rules out Oregon.
I liked the Badlands a lot. There's a weird, free campground near the (IIRC) west entrance. It's just in a loop at the end of a dirt road. Pretty secluded. No water. No facilities.
05-02-2005, 09:54 AM
Has anyone mentioned Mt. Zion National Park? I was only lucky enought to spend one day there, but I never thought I'd see anything so big that it made the Manhattan Skyline look like Tinker-toys. The trails range from 'easy' to 'Sign this waiver first' and camping options seem to range from purist camping (no water, no elect, carry-in,carry-out)sights to log-cabin rentals with full amenities. Its big enough that the camp sites are no-where near the cabins. (Granted, I had such a great time there, I may be seeing it through rose colored glasses. Perhaps someone more objective could give better details re: Mt. Zion Nat. Park.)
05-02-2005, 10:27 AM
For a June camping trip I recomend the Bighorn Mountains in NE Wyoming. It wouldn't get so chilly at night since it's at a lower elevation than Yellowstone.
05-02-2005, 10:44 AM
We really enjoyed the Badlands, too, although it's probably too hot there in July. In May it was wonderful & not at all crowded - in fact, there were so few people that we actually ended up meeting some. Mt. Rushmore is pretty neat.
05-02-2005, 04:05 PM
It's not quite camping, but Gallatin National Forest in Montana has cabins you can rent for cheap. They have old forest fire lookouts (http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/gallatin/?page=recreation/cabins/bozeman/garnet_mountain) too!. I highly recommend the Round Lake (http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/gallatin/?page=recreation/cabins/gardiner/round_lake) cabin. If you have a very high clearance vehicle (Or your wife's Ford Explorer who's running boards you are willing to completely trash and catch shit for for years afterwards) you can actually drive up to the cabin. But it's a couple mile hike otherwise and it is absolutely amazing. Your backback will be lighter without a tent. The cot's aren't half bad, and you can drive to Cooke City in minutes (the Beartoothe cafe has a garlic burger that I still dream about). If you drive from Red Lodge you can take the Beartooth pass road. (one of the scariest yet most scenic roads known to man) Since you'll have to buy a Yellowstone day pass just to get to Cooke City from Red Lodge, explore the northern portion of Yellowstone on the way there. Maybe even stay there for a day, you don't want to be hiking all alone up to the cabin in the dark. Be nice to your roomate the red squirrell. He doesn't ever come out of the cabinets. Bring a mesh bag and some rope so you can throw the beer you've lugged up into the glacial lake to keep it ice cold. Other lighter weight consumables are also recommended. The stars there are amazing at night.
Avoid the porcupine cabin (http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/gallatin/?page=recreation/cabins/livingston/porcupine) in the Crazies. It's depressing, dirty, and a skunk lives in the crawl space. The west bridger station (http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/gallatin/?page=recreation/cabins/big_timber/west_bridger) is more of a low rolling hill area, but great for grizzly watching during berry season. Battle Ridge (http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/gallatin/?page=recreation/cabins/bozeman/battle_ridge) is okay, but doesn't give you as much of that "away from it all" feeling. I wasn't able to check out any of the cabins in the Bozeman district, but it's in the area near Big Sky ski/golf resort. So there's plenty to do around there.
I'm from Minnesota, so I had two choices while driving out. North Dakota or South Dakota. South Dakota has all the cheesy tourist traps and the famous monuments, so I took it on the way out. If you believe the road trip is half the vacation, stop by and see Rushmore and sitting bull, drive through the badlands, and even though a nagging doubt will haunt you for years to come, drive past the exit to Wall Drug. There really is nothing to see there. Portions of South Dakota have me convinced that they are undergoing a tree eradication program. There are stretches of highway that are completely flat, and there are no trees in sight. We're talking FLAT. And not a single tree. North, south, east, or west. 16 miles to horizon every way.
North Dakota is the way you drive home so you can avoid any distractions. Like curves in the road, or natural beauty.
05-02-2005, 09:58 PM
I'd also recommend Badlands NP; there's a pretty good variety of stuff in that area. In addition to what's already been mentioned, there's also Custer State Park, which is one of the nicer state parks in the nation, set in an area of the Black Hills with spires of granite coming out of the mountains.
There are also Wind Cave NP and Jewel Cave NM nearby, which are two of the longest caves in the world.
I don't know if anyone's mentioned Crazy Horse monument yet. I'm not sure how far along it is (though I'm sure it's nowhere near complete), but that might be worth a look, too.
05-03-2005, 12:27 AM
stop by and see Rushmore and sitting bullI'm pretty sure you meant Crazy Horse, not Sitting Bull. On the other hand, I found Wall Drug, silly as it is, to be more entertaing than Mount Rushmore with its overpriced parking just to look at a mountain that you need binoculars to appreciate.
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