Fall 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:
Santa Paula, Calif.
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
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, Tenn.
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
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, Texas
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.
By Cheryl Brody