After a long winter, one of the best ways to get back outside is to go on a spring camping trip. But, if your favorite campsite isn't quite ready yet, or you're simply looking for new options on where to pitch your tent, we have eight great destinations that are perfect for that first outdoor escape of the season or just soaking up some warmer weather after a very long and cold winter.
Enchanted Rock State Park (Texas)
Camping in the heat of the summer in Texas isn't always the most comfortable experience, but the spring is still a great time to head outdoors and reconnect with nature. One of the best places to spend a few nights in the backcountry is at Enchanted Rock State Park, home to one of the largest granite batholiths in the entire U.S. The park is worth visiting just for the views from the top of the giant rock slab itself, but there are excellent hiking trails that circumnavigate the granite dome that are worth a walk too.
Wander further into the backcountry and you'll not only leave the crowds behind, but discover some remote and quiet campsites as well. There you'll get the chance to experience Texas Hill Country in all of its glory and sleep under a massive sky filled with countless stars.
Yosemite National Park (California)
Let's face it, Yosemite National Park is a great destination all year round, but there are a couple of reasons why it is especially fantastic in the spring. For starters, the large crowds that arrive in the park during the summer months haven't begun to trickle in just yet, so the campsites are often peaceful and quiet. On top of that, the spring thaw allows Yosemite's famous waterfalls to swell to epic proportions, making them even more spectacular than they are throughout much of the rest of the year. As if that wasn't reason enough to visit in the spring, when the dogwood trees blossom the Yosemite Valley is an even more spectacular sight to behold. Just be sure to book your campsite in advance and don't be afraid to wander out of the valley. You might find some hidden gems that you didn't even know existed.
Oh Be Joyful Campgrounds (Colorado)
After a long winter, the warm spring temperatures bring new life to the mountains of Colorado, which have plenty of amazing campsites sprinkled throughout the state. One of the best however, is the Oh Be Joyful Campground located just outside of Crested Butte. The site sits beside the Slate River and features utterly spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, not to mention some of the best fishing Colorado has to offer. Those who are looking to stretch their legs a bit will find wonderful hiking as well, with the spring bloom bringing amazing colors to this alpine setting.
In the summer months this is a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike, but in the spring it is relatively quiet and peaceful. Just be sure to bring a warm sleeping bag, as the Colorado nights can still be a bit chilly even into late May and early-June.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee/North Carolina)
Home to more than 1500 different flowering plants, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an incredible place to be in the spring, when many of those species go into full bloom. The park comes alive with color and fragrant smells as the warmer temperatures usher in a change of season. Traditionally, this is the most visited national park in the U.S., and in the summer it can become quite crowded at times despite its massive size. But during the spring it is still relatively quiet and campsites are easy to obtain. Go before June however, as by then many of the flowers have gone dormant for the year and the larger crowds start to arrive en masse, turning the once-peaceful backcountry into a busy hive of activity.
Death Valley National Park (California)
Death Valley National Park is another destination that you wouldn't dare go camping in during the summer, when temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But during the spring it is pleasantly warm there, offering a nice respite from the chill of the fading winter. The park is seldom very busy, even during the peak travel season, which means solitude is plentiful throughout the year.
If you happen to be in Death Valley during a spring rainstorm, you might even be lucky enough to witness the park's fabled wildflower "super-bloom," during which thousands of flowering plants sprout from the ground, creating a multicolored sea across the landscape. It is a sight that is spectacular to behold, although it is also fleeting. The fragile flora doesn't last long in the intense warmth found within the park and many of the blooms peak and disappear within just a day or two.
Iron Gate Campgrounds (New Mexico)
Located just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico at an altitude above 9000 feet, the Iron Gate Campgrounds are nestled in between the aspen and the pine trees, making it a sheltered place to set up camp. It serves as a gateway to the Pecos Wilderness, which is an excellent place for both hiking and horseback riding throughout the warmer months of the year. Both the wilderness, and the campsite itself, come alive with wildflowers in the spring, adding to the elegant beauty of the place. Backpackers and campers will also find themselves enthralled with the clear, open skies overhead which make for great stargazing after sunset.
Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)
Another national park that tends to get awfully crowded during the summer months, Bryce Canyon is nevertheless a fantastic destination in the spring time. The breathtaking — almost otherworldly — landscapes found within the park include towering rock spires carved from the reddish sandstone and miles of trails that interconnect throughout the canyon itself.
When it comes to camping, there are options for both tents and RVs, although for our money the backcountry sites are the best for those looking for some seclusion. During the spring, Bryce is known for having warm days and cool nights, so bring a cozy sleeping bag and enjoy having the park to yourself.
Cape Lookout National Seashore (North Carolina)
Those looking for a completely different kind of camping experience will want to add Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina to their list of places to visit. The park gives travelers an opportunity to camp right on the beach, which is quite lovely all year round, but especially so in the spring.
There are absolutely no designated campgrounds on the National Seashore, which means you're free to set-up camp anywhere you choose. Visitors aren't even required to have a permit, which makes this a great spot for a list minute getaway or impromptu visit. By the time summer arrives, the beach can get extremely crowded at times, but in the spring it is generally relaxed and open. No matter when you go however, you'll have to share the beach with the famous wild horses that roam the cape, giving the place a unique feeling that is all its own.
With spring in the air, just about any campsite is a good place to get outside and set up your tent. Shake off the winter blues, soak up some sun, and enjoy the season to the fullest.