5 Unconventional (And Epic) Camping Trips

zip-lining through forestFall months are ideal for an outdoor vacation since it affords you the opportunity to take in amazing autumn foliage without the summer crowds. “Parks are generally less crowded, especially during the week,” says Michael Gast, spokesman for Kampgrounds of America, a system of more than 486 family-run locations in North America. Consider planning a camping trip that maximizes the coming cool days and cooler, bug-free evenings, starting with the following choices:


Ventura Ranch

Santa Paula, Calif.

Open Year-Round

Lemon orchards surround this campsite, located 40 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. (Hello, natural aromatherapy!) Stay in stylish-yet-authentic tipis, which the owner commissioned from the set designer of Dances with Wolves. Luxury tents are set on patio decking with the option of queen-size beds, full-size futons or bunk beds, so you don’t have to sleep on the ground. Two zip lines and a creek traverse the property—the latter perfect for wading and catching frogs with the whole family.

Tent from $38/night
Glamour tent (tipi) from $149/night
RV from $59/night


Livingston/Paradise Valley

Livingston, Mont.

Open May 1–October 15

Autumn, with its golden colors, is a gorgeous time to visit Yellowstone National Park, located just 40 miles from this campground. Plus, fall is elk mating season, and the massive mammals are wont to be very vocal. Their high-pitched bugle—or mating call—is a cross between a lifeguard whistle and a horn instrument (listen for yourself here). The Yellowstone River runs right outside the cabins, and you have fly-fishing access.

Tent from $30/night
RV from $55/night


Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg

Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Open Year-Round

This campground—which is celebrating its 50th anniversary—is located at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North America’s most popular national park. There are more than 800 miles of hiking trails, so you can take a different route every day while searching for white-tailed deer. It’s also less than a mile away from Dollywood’s Splash Country, a water park owned by Dolly Parton. Fun fact: The campsite’s owner went to high school with the famous Country crooner, and she might share her yearbook pictures if you ask nicely.

Tent from $40/night
RV from $65/night


Cape Hatteras

Rodanthe, N.C.

Open Year-Round

Located right on the beaches of the Atlantic, south of Rodanthe Pier, this campsite allows you to take advantage of the great fishing the tides have to offer. If you’re looking for a low-key activity, the Outer Banks are known for shelling (the strangely compelling pastime of searching for the most perfect shells in the sand). If you’re feeling adventurous, sign up for kiteboarding lessons.

Tent from $78/night
RV from $98/night


South Padre Island

South Padre Island, Texas

Open Year-Round

When you think of camping, you probably don’t envision palm trees, but in South Padre Island, the two go hand in hand. Surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, the area has a Caribbean feel to it—with its turquoise water and tons of water-themed attractions such as fishing trips, boat rides and dining on a deck that hangs over the bay. The campsite used to be the municipal water facility for the island, so for extra bragging rights, stay in one of the two converted water tank condos.

Tent from $53/night
RV from $52/night


Planning a camping excursion this fall? Check out these 6 top tips for planning the perfect camping trip.

If you’re driving to any of these campsites, get a fast, free auto insurance or RV insurance quote from GEICO before you hit the road.

By Cheryl Brody

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  1. phillip apel says

    can’t believe a tent spot cost more per night than a RV spot, we have stayed at a few KOA’s and never saw anything like what you are advertising on this page on south padre island

  2. Malcolm and Vicki Sharp says

    I also should mention, that we own an old model of a Pleasureway Campervan, 20′ long, which will see us out.

  3. Malcolm and Vicki Sharp says

    I have read all these descriptions of the campgrounds with future thoughts in mind, BUT won’t be staying at any of them as the cost for RV’s is outrageous. So are the costs for tenting.
    NOT affordable for young families I should think and certainly not for Seniors on fixed incomes. I can’t believe the cost of running a campground could warrant these fees for each site.

  4. John J Thomas says

    I have to disagree with you on the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg Park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
    This park is NOT aligned with the quality known for KOA Parks. We have stayed in KOA’s all over the USA and we have stayed at the KOA in Pigeon Forge but will never again stay there! It is a joke of a park, the sites are dangerously close, they advertise “‘pull-thru” sites and what they tell you is to drive through the site behind your site and dodge the pipes and sewer hook-ups and if someone is in that site behind you, then you have to back into your site. While there I watched the coach on my right drive over a park style bbq grill to get into his site and on my left, a coach came in late at night and had I not yelled he would have ran into our slide-outs on left side and coach side. He got out and cursed saying that they lied to him telling him it was a pull-thru site, just like they told me and charged me and the guy both pull-thru rates. The people in the office are the rudest people I have ever had to deal with, they talk and act like they are from New York or New Jersey and every thing you ask, they have a rude reply back. The guy who was on a golf cart who “SUPPOSED TO” help you, rides fast to the site and puts his arm out and points then speeds away without offering any help in getting into the tiny sites. Someone from KOA should go there in a big class A coach and see what it is really like, NOT a quality KOA Park by no means!!!!