In many states, camping season doesn’t really kick off until early summer, when temperatures are balmy and the sunshine is plentiful.
But if you can weather a little cold and rain, experts say spring is a great time to strike out into the wild. Not only will parks be blissfully free of other campers, they’ll be filled with seasonal delights, like wildflowers and newborn animals.
“Spring [is] the season when nature is reborn,” says Michael Gast, vice president of communications at Kampgrounds of America (KOA). “[It] is the antidote to cabin fever.”
With the help of KOA, which has hundreds of campgrounds spread across North America, we’ve compiled a list of four great spring camping destinations to inspire your next trip.
North Carolina/Tennessee: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
This reserve, set in the misty peaks of the southern Appalachians, is stunning in the spring, when it’s filled with blossoming plants, fast-moving rivers and baby animals. (The Smokies, as they are lovingly known, are home to an estimated 80,000 species of flora and fauna.) In late April, the reserve hosts a Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, a six-decade-old tradition that sheds light on the natural history of America’s most-visited national park. “This park…is a wonderland in the spring,” says Gast.
California: Wine Country
If you’re looking for a more refined camping vacation, this grape-filled swath of northern California is for you. In the spring, temperatures are pleasant, local vineyards are lush and the region’s picturesque hills are dotted with wildflowers. KOA has a campsite just north of San Francisco; from there it’s only a few miles to some of the most famous wine-growing regions in the Americas, including Napa and Sonoma.
Oregon: Central Coast
This 60-mile stretch of coastline is one of the most scenic in the Pacific Northwest. Flecked with rugged, sandy beaches, mountains that tumble into the ocean and a stunning array of hiking trails, it has become a mecca for outdoor lovers. If that’s not enough, campers can spend the day watching whales or touring historic lighthouses. The weather can be cool and damp in the spring, but you should have your pick of the dozens of campsites in the area.
South Dakota: Mount Rushmore/Black Hills
The rock-hewn faces of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln are without question South Dakota’s biggest draw. But the area surrounding Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills National Forest, is worth a visit by itself. The reserve’s mountains and grasslands are home to several iconic animals, like buffalo, bighorn sheep and bald eagles. “The timbered hills are great in the spring, and it’s a good time to visit to avoid the summer crowds,” says Gast.
Before hitting the road, download the GEICO Mobile app so you have all your driving resources, like Digital ID Cards for proof of insurance and access to Emergency Road Service, at your fingertips. To help make trip planning easier, visit koa.com for tips on camping gear, recipes and more.