12 Once-in-a-Lifetime Camping Sites

A dozen spectacular sites perfect for outdoor exploration. Thanks to Travel & Leisure for the inspiration and Getty Images for the stunning photos – Ned

Lake District

Hot, humid summer days are finally behind us, and crisp, mild autumn weather has breezed in to take its place. There’s no better time than now to dig out your tent, lace-up your hiking boots, and get a little wild.

Whether you’re a fearless adventurer seeking a scenic climb or a novice outdoorsman eager to convene with nature, these 12 camping destinations—from the sanctified shores of Japan to the obsidian paths winding across Hawaii and Iceland—will change your life.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Camping, Bowman Lake, Glacier NP, MT

More than 700 miles of trails wind through Montana’s crystalline lakes, jagged mountain peaks, and ancient glaciers. Go now, before they vanish altogether.  Novice campers should pitch a tent on the water’s edge in the RV-free Kinta Lake Campground, while backcountry campers should seek wild alpine meadows.

Canyonlands, Bryce, and Zion, Utah

camping

This grand slam region has no shortage of diverse and dazzling landscapes. Lesser-known Canyonlands is punctuated by enormous sandstone spires, and offers both campsites as well as camping-at-large options for travelers who prefer to rest in the privacy of their own…canyon.

Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

camping

For the most staggering views of the 750,000-year-old volcano Haleakala, camp at Holua or Paliku, and arrive at the crater’s edge just before sunrise. While winding through the black-sand switchbacks, look out for the ahinahina: an alien-like silversword that grows between 7,000 and 10,000 feet. Hike the moderate, four mile Pipiwai Trail through the rainforest (bamboo and banyans) to the base of the 400-foot-tall Waimoku Falls.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

camping

The Teton Range is one of America’s best-loved destinations for hiking and camping. Temperatures begin to drop in November—negative 63 °F is the record low—so plan your trip soon. Camp alongside the Snake River, which carves its way through Jackson Hole valley.

Laugavegur, Iceland

camping

Before snow descends upon the kaleidoscopic rhyolite mountains, book a hut or a tent in the camp city (wild camping is not permitted here), Landmannalaugur. Pros advise hiking from north to south, which takes you across lava fields, wildflower-speckled meadows, steaming geothermal vents, and finally, to the twin glaciers Eyjafjallajökull and Mydralsjökull.  Along the way, you’ll be dazzled by the mountains streaked with turquoise, orange, and cyan.

Miyajima, Japan

camping

Best known as the “Island of the Gods,” Miyajima is laced with hikes (you’ll want to summit sacred Mt. Misen), though nature-lovers will prefer the Omoto Route, which passes enormous rock formations, Fui and Iwaya Taishi, and is surrounded by century-old fir trees. Well-kept campsites and modest cabins are your best bet.

High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

camping

Morocco’s most iconic range is a bucket-list camping destination for adventurous travelers. Pass through isolated Berber villages and trek from hot desert to snow-capped peaks. You can follow ancient mule paths, though guides in this area are highly recommended. Many will employ the use of a camel to help you carry your load: bed down in the grasslands beneath Jebel M’goun, a mountain far more quiet than Jebel Toubkal.

Valle de Cocora, Colombia

camping

Beneath the shadows of the Andes and the towering Quindío wax palms—the world’s tallest palms, which can reach 200-feet in height— found exclusively in this sliver of Colombia, is the Zona de Camping. This campsite (tents and sleeping bags can be provided upon request) is the perfect launch pad for horseback rides and rigorous hikes through the mountains. Take the loop trail to Acaime, a dazzling hummingbird reserve, or hire a jeep to bring you into the nearby mountain town, Salento.

Tierra del Fuego, Chile

camping

Patagonia is an explorer’s dream. Take a cross-border journey from Argentina to Chile via Radman (the only overland option) and set up camp along one of the glacial lakes Blanco or Ofhidro. Beavers are common in this area, as are condors. Linger in the mossy Fuegian forests.

Mahai Campsite, Royal Natal National Park, South Africa

camping

Tucked up against the Northern Drakensburg mountains, this campsite is an ideal base for hiking and mountain biking through the Royal Natal National Park. The famed Amphitheater-style mountain formation boasts enormous water cascades: ascend to the highest peak by tracing the route of the Mahai river. You’ll pass Sentinel Caves and scale a near-vertical chain ladder.

Main Range, Kosciuszko National Park, Australia

camping

Whether you fill your days with strenuous mountain hikes (pass over the country’s highest peaks and watch snowdrifts across the shale ridges) or fishing in the glacial lakes, make sure to spend an evening admiring the stars as they rise over Victoria.

Acadia National Park, Maine

camping

Get your lay of the land by scaling Cadillac Mountain, a 1,530 promontory over the Eastern Seaboard, and set up camp on Isle au Haut (thick woods and lean-to-shelters) or the month-old Schoodic Woods Campground on the mainland. Bikers will appreciate the virtually untouched network of trails.

 

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