Even if you’re not a well-seasoned camper, these unique camping destinations are bound to change your mind and get you on the campfires-and-s’mores bandwagon in no time. From treehouse getaways to beach camping trips where wild horses roam, these off-the-beaten-path camping destinations go beyond expectations and are fun for the whole family.
We’ve combed through all the coolest places in the United States to pitch your tent. Or you can rent a luxury yurt and try glamping if that’s more your thing. Enjoy the great outdoors, connect with nature, and try something new. It’s all possible when you choose to embark on a journey to one of these uniquely exciting camping spots.
1. Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas
Feeling lucky? Then, skip Vegas, and head to Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds, the nation’s only “keep what you find” diamond site. Visitors are invited to explore more than 37 acres of plowed fields that are actually eroded surface from the world’s eighth largest diamond-bearing volcanic crater. You can rent equipment for mining and explore interactive exhibits at the park visitor center that show you exactly how to find the treasures. And if you find a diamond – you get to keep it.
To get inspired, check out some famous finds that were actually uncovered by park visitors during their stay, including a 40.23 carat beauty that bears the distinction of being the biggest diamond ever found in the United States.
2. Conestoga Ranch, Utah
Whether you opt for one of the luxurious grand tents, keep it rustic in the traditional tent, or choose to camp in a re-created 19th century Conestoga wagon, there’s no camping experience quite like Conestoga Ranch. Situated on a private island overlooking the beautiful Bear Lake in Utah, this gorgeous resort isn’t quite roughing it. But it still offers all the fun camping activities you need, including hiking, lake recreation, and mountain biking.
3. Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland
Beach and camping: Does it get any better than that? Assateague Island is located off the coast of Maryland and Virginia. And it features all the gorgeous sights you’d expect to see on the edge of the ocean: idyllic coastline, sand dunes, coastal bays, and even hiking trails. One thing that’s totally unexpected? The resident wild horses, who roam freely on the island. Camping is permitted year-round on the Maryland side.
4. Ingalls Homestead, South Dakota
Live life like a pioneer, and channel your inner Laura Ingalls Wilder when you stay at Ingalls Homestead in South Dakota. For just $60 per night, you can even stay in a covered wagon that’s been hooked up with electricity and modern conveniences but still lets you imagine what life was like for one of literature’s best-loved heroines. While you’re there, you can also participate in themed activities, such as making a corn-cob doll and experiencing life in a one-room schoolhouse.
5. Out ‘n’ About Treehouse Treesort, Oregon
Fulfill your childhood dreams of living among the trees at the unique treetop haven known as Out ‘n’ About Treehouse Treesort. Situated in Oregon on 36 private acres and adjacent to Siskiyou National Forest land, this family resort lets you live out fantasies of soaring through the treetops on 1 mile of zip lines or on the giant Tarzan swing. At this utopia, no one locks their doors, and everyone lives in harmony.
6. El Cosmico, Texas
When you think out-of-the-box camping experience, think El Cosmico. At this quirky nomadic hotel and campground in Marfa, Texas, you can choose to stay in renovated vintage trailers, safari and scout tents, Sioux-style teepees, a Mongolian yurt, or ordinary tent campsites.
The property features communal spaces to hang out and relax your worries away, including a hammock grove, an outdoor kitchen and dining area, a community lounge and mercantile, an outdoor stage, and a reading room. Rent a bike to explore downtown Marfa, or check out one of the many cultural events staged throughout the year.
7. Treebones Resort, California
Who says camping has to be roughing it? A stay at Treebones Resort in Big Sur, California, is downright luxurious, with stunning ocean views and beach hiking, state-of-the-art yurt accommodations, fine dining, yoga, seasonal whale watching, and more. Discover the magic of glamping, and delight even the fussiest traveler when you experience this one-of-a-kind destination.
8. Mystic Hot Springs, Utah
Live the hippie life — at least for a weekend. Mystic Hot Springs in Utah was founded by an artist who was traveling to a Grateful Dead show in Las Vegas. It mimics ’60s-era commune living at its finest. Relax in the natural hot springs, enjoy music festivals, get a water massage, and sleep in a painted school bus. And of course, check out typical camping activities, such as hiking and fishing, too.
9. Malaekahana Beach Campground, Hawaii
Hotels in Hawaii are pricey. But you can forego the astronomical resort fees in favor of a campsite at Malaekahana Beach Campground for as little as $9.41 per night. Enjoy the beauty of the Aloha State, and participate in activities, such as surfing, paddle boarding, bike riding, kayaking, or just lounging on the white sand beach. Bring your own tent or vehicle for your stay, or rent a little hut or four-guest plantation suite or 20-guest pavilion. Enjoy the best of what Oahu has to offer.
10. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
If you’ve ever dreamed of camping inside a sleeping volcano this is your chance. Fed by a combination of snow and rain, Crater Lake in Oregon is the deepest, purest lake in the United States and the ninth deepest in the entire world. There are two camp destinations at this national park: the Mazama Campground and the Lost Creek Campground. Just be sure to bring your camera because the views are absolutely indescribable.
11. Joshua Tree National Park, California
Camping in the desert? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of water. At California’s Joshua Tree National Park, you can get up close and personal with some intriguing wildlife and plant species at the intersection of two desert ecosystems: the Mojave and the Colorado. Choose from nine different campgrounds, or forge your own trail when you go backcountry camping (permit required).
12. Bruneau Dunes State Park Observatory, Idaho
If you’re interested in astronomy, then you don’t want to miss out on camping at Bruneau Dunes State Park Observatory in Idaho, the largest public astronomical observatory in the state. Take stargazing to the next level when you view planets, nebulas, or even galaxies through the telescope.
There are also observatory tours, solar viewing, and more. During the day, enjoy fishing, hiking, swimming, and other typical camping activities among the impressive sand dunes.
13. Nine Quarter Circle Ranch, Montana
Camping doesn’t always have to be sleeping on the ground. At Nine Quarter Circle Ranch in Montana, you can experience life on a bona fide dude ranch. Try authentic pioneer living just like it was in the Wild West of 100 years ago. Located close to Yellowstone National Park, you’ll find plenty to do here, including hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and relaxing in rustic cabins. Saddle up, and enjoy.
14. Devils Tower KOA, Wyoming
Rated the best campground between Chicago and Yellowstone, this unique spot also happens to be the place where Steven Spielberg’s legendary film Close Encounters of the Third Kind was filmed. And it even hosts a nightly screening. Although we can’t guarantee any supernatural occurrences during your stay at this Wyoming park, you will be sure to enjoy the full-service restaurant, heated pools, and spectacular views of Devils Tower.
15. Falling Waters Nantahala, North Carolina
Recharge your batteries at Falling Waters Nantahala, a picturesque camping destination just 20 minutes from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Enjoy rafting, zip line canopy tours, biking, fishing, hiking, and tons of other quintessential camping activities. You can opt to camp, or for a more deluxe experience rent one of the available yurts with private decks, queen-sized beds, and domed skylights, so you can gaze at the stars.