If you just want to get out of the city and into the wilderness, it can be a bit challenging to figure out where to go. Especially if you live near the Rocky Mountains — there are so many places available.
Different Places to Camp
Where you go will depend on what you’ll be camping in. A tent will give you more options than a motor home, simply because you can go anywhere with a tent. Assuming you have a tent and you can carry everything on your back, these are the high-level options.
Established Campgrounds with Amenities
The names of these campgrounds often include the word “park” or “resort,” and they usually have a website featuring photos and online reservation capabilities.
|Reservations||The most difficult to get
Make reservations months to a year in advance to get the best spots
|Cost||Between $20/night and $100/night|
|Pros||You will have water, sewer, and electric hookups for RVs
Amenities include plumbed restrooms, showers, Wi-Fi, cable TV, and laundry
Usually include activities for the kids and attractions are nearby
|Cons||The most expensive option
Strict quiet hours
Lots of fellow campers
Usually not very natural
National and State Park Campgrounds
You can usually make reservations for these campgrounds (visit ReserveAmerica.com for most of them). They are almost always in locations reserved for public use, so they often are the only options for developed campgrounds in that area.
|Reservations||Usually difficult to get
Make reservations six months in advance
|Cost||Between $10/night and $30/night|
|Pros||There are many campgrounds with hookups
Locations are usually in the wilderness
Often the only way to camp in public lands with a large RV
|Cons||Many do not have hookups, or only electricity
Many do not have plumbing, and only pit toilets
Difficult to get a spot sometimes
Established Camping in National Forests or BLM Lands
The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have reserved campgrounds without amenities, usually in the wilderness. This is as close to nature as you can get while still having a campsite with clear boundaries.
|Reservations||Rarely accepted, usually first come, first served
Fees usually required each night, honor system
|Cost||Between free and $20/night|
|Pros||Many campgrounds are quiet, with lots of trees and space between sites
Usually includes h a picnic table and campfire ring
Often next to scenic lakes and mountains
Rarely near a town
|Cons||Rarely have hookups or plumbing
Pit toilets are often not very clean or modern
Often far from the nearest town
Though there are some dispersed campsites that are flat and easy enough to get into for a big motor home, most are not suitable for a large RV. This is as remote and close to nature as you can get with a trailer or camper.
First come, first served
Little planning required other than the area you want to camp in
|Cons||Sometimes difficult to get a good spot, especially on holiday weekends
No hookups or amenities, rarely even a pit toilet nearby
You leave your vehicle behind and pack everything on your back to get to these places. Some are a short walk from your car, while others take days to reach. This is also known as backpacking.
First come, first served
|Pros||You can set up your tent and sleep anywhere on public lands
You can be miles away from the nearest person, town, or noise
|Cons||You have to depend only on yourself, and if you have troubles there is no one to help you
You can only bring what you can carry
There are no fire rings or picnic tables
There are no amenities, including pit toilets
How to Choose
With all of these options, how do you figure out where to go? If you have a motor home, choose a campground where you can make a reservation or where you know the spots are large, level, and don’t have any low-hanging tree branches. Choose a location, and then find a campground. If you are not booking very far in advance, you may need to widen your area search until you find one you like.
If you have a tent and you are willing to walk with your camping gear, figure out how remote you want to be. If you camp near other people, there will be help if you need it but you won’t have as much privacy. If you want to “car camp” so you can bring camp chairs and all of your gear, find dispersed camping or a campground on public lands.
No matter what you choose, take comfort in the fact that there are very few bad choices. A bad time camping is almost always due to be unprepared, usually because of the weather (rain, no shade in the hot sun, etc.) or temperature (not having enough clothes or fire starters to keep warm). If you are prepared, you’ll have a good time.