America's 10 Best Campgrounds for Families

Janeen Christoff, May 20, 2015
Fares from Washington DC:

    What better way to experience some of the country's most iconic destinations and hidden gems than to camp in their midst? At these 10 family-friendly campgrounds, you'll find natural beauty and a bounty of modern amenities to entertain and immerse your entire clan in the splendor of our national treasures.

    Assateague Island National Seashore Campground (Berlin, Maryland)

    The standout experience at Assateague Island National Seashore Campground is seeing the wild running horses on the beach—and, if you're lucky, playing in the waves. But the fact that you're camping within earshot of those crashing waves isn't a bad thing, either. Pitch your tent right in the sand or park your RV along the seashore. In addition to watching the horses, you can also kayak, go crabbing, bird watch, enjoy a sightseeing cruise, hunt, and bike.

    There's a lot of interaction with the horses, so you'll need to mind your food and personal items. Assateague Island National Seashore Campground is also a dry campground, so there are no hookups and only cold showers. There's plenty of room, though, with more than 300 available campsites. Sites closer to the ocean have fewer bugs but less interaction with the horses.

    Related: 10 Campgrounds for an Unforgettable Summer Vacation

    Big Sur Campground & Cabins (Big Sur, California)

    One of the most iconic road trips in the world, the stretch of Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Monterey Bay, is a feast for the eyes. Stunning cliff faces drop into a surging sea, and there's something new to take your breath away around every corner. What there isn't is an abundance of accommodations—and that's why camping is among the best ways to experience Big Sur.

    There are a number of state parks with campgrounds in the Big Sur area, some of them among the most beautiful in the world. But for families, the Big Sur Campground & Cabins can't be beat. Nestled among the redwoods along a small river, these campsites and cabins offer all of the amenities you need: flush toilets, free showers, tubing on the river (when it's warm), proximity to the coast, and a fabulous playground for the kids.

    Boston Harbor Islands (Boston, Massachusetts)

    This could be one of Boston's best-kept secrets. Rustic camping is available on four of Boston's Harbor Islands (Peddocks, Bumpkin, Grape, and Lovells), all of which are within sight of downtown Boston. To reach the islands, you must come by private boat or ferry service and bring everything with you.

    There are no showers and you're required to have at least one gallon of water per person, per day—a small price to pay considering you will be able to watch the sunrise over Boston Harbor from your campsite. Reservations are required, and public ferry services are available at Long Wharf Boston and Hingham Shipyard in Hingham.

    Enota Mountain Retreat (Hiawassee, Georgia)

    Enota Mountain Retreat pretty much has it all for those looking for a relaxing getaway with the kids. (Oxymoron? Maybe, but not at Enota.) It has a spa and wellness retreat, cabins, a motel, and an organic farm. For the kids, there's wildlife, an organic garden, trout ponds, swimming, biking, and hiking—that is if you can pry them off the giant trampolines.

    Family tent camping is located along the stream, sites featuring fire rings. It's close to the children's playground, the bathrooms, and the outdoor kitchen. There's also an adults-only campground. Enota Mountain Retreat is open year-round, and reservations are recommended.

    Related: 10 Great Outdoor Adventures for Families

    Eugene T. Mahoney State Park (Ashland, Nebraska)

    Sprawled next to the Platte River, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park is a winner for its year-round fun. Visit for the tobogganing in the wintertime and return for some splashy fun in the aquatic park during the summer. Adding to the good times are paddle boats, playgrounds, and a wave pool; not to mention more classic pursuits like fishing, hiking, hunting, and boating.

    Eugene T. Mahoney State Park has 149 campsites with hookups, along with cabins and group sites. There are convenient showers and bathrooms as well as coin-operated laundry. Reservations can be made up to a year in advance.

    Ingalls Homestead (De Smet, South Dakota)

    Ready to live like Laura Ingalls Wilder? The Ingalls Homestead, a large farm in the middle of a prairie, brings the Little House on the Prairie books and television show to life. You can even stay in a covered wagon (which the kids will want to do, so book in advance). It is indeed where Pa Ingalls set claim to his quarter section of land in 1880, and about which Laura Ingalls wrote many of her books. There are ponies and horses, covered wagon rides, pioneering activities, and more.

    Tent and RV camping is available in addition to a bunkhouse and the aforementioned covered wagon stays. Large covered wagons offer a double bed, two small single roll-out mats, and an additional roll-out mat. Small wagons have a double bed and one roll-out mat. There are showers, bathrooms, and an underground storm shelter on site.

    Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Michigan)

    For the diversity of scenery alone, camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is priceless. Twelvemile Beach Campground is one of the larger campgrounds in the area, offering 36 sites right next to the 15-mile stretch of the Pictured Rocks. It's located on a plateau above the beach with stairs for access to the shoreline.

    The two-mile White Birch Interpretive Trail begins and ends at the campground and the North Country Scenic Trail runs through it. Within the park itself, activities include bicycling, boating, hiking, fishing, hunting, swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Visits to Au Sable lighthouse and Miner's Castle, plus taking a sunset boat cruise are a must.

    Peak seasons are July and August and campsites are first come, first served, so arrive early in the a.m. to snag a spot.

    Related: Unforgettable Places to Sleep in National Parks

    Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park at Birchwood Acres (Woodbridge, New York)

    Nestled at the base of the Catskill Mountains, Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park at Birchwood Acres offers shaded hookup sites, a variety of cabins, and even RV rentals for those who don't have their own. (The one thing it does lack? A tented camping area.) In addition to a new water zone, Birchwood Acres is home to a playground, a jumping pillow (which has to be seen to be believed), the Yogi Bear Theatre, arts and crafts, dances, bingo, and fishing.

    Yosemite National Park, White Wolf Campground (Yosemite, California)

    There are a number of options for camping in Yosemite, but White Wolf Campground is a perpetual favorite. The campground is located at an elevation of 8,000 feet and set in a forest near a meadow with trails to Lukens and Harden lakes. It is also close to White Wolf Lodge, good for delicious meals, ice cream for the kiddos, and cold beer for the adults.

    There's no backpacking required to reach White Wolf Campground, but it is first come, first serve only, so arrive early. (If you have a choice of site, I recommend the outer ring for the nicest and most private campsites.) There are also tented cabins at White Wolf Lodge for a less rustic experience. As with all of Yosemite, these cabins book far in advance. Campsites are open July to early September.

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    Read the original story: America's 10 Best Campgrounds for Families by Janeen Christoff, who is a contributor to SmarterTravel.

    (Photo: Family Setting up Tent via Shutterstock)