Camping holds a warm place in our hearts and we always enjoy it here at Simply Awesome Trips- whether a planned multi-day excursion or a spur of the moment overnight in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which sits just down the road from us.
We have visited many different campgrounds over the years, and overall, most have been just fine. Sometimes it’s not the particular campground that makes it memorable but simply the experience of spending time with your family and sleeping together under the stars.
A few campgrounds, though, really do stand out for us. The thought of them always brings a smile to our face and a gushing endorsement to our lips whenever someone asks us “Is there a good campground around there?”
* Note- This is a list of campgrounds only, not backcountry campsites, of which we have some favorites there too. Another time, another blog.
Basin Campground in Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah
by Amanda Luhn
Sandwiched between Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument, Kodachrome Basin State Park was a fabulous and accidental find on our last trip to southwest Utah. We happened upon it because the campground at Bryce Canyon was full. We may never go back to Bryce.
Basin Campground (one of 2 campgrounds in the park) has lovely secluded campsites, several stunning hiking trails starting steps from the campground, a laundry facility, and unlimited, free hot water for showers. It seemed like every time we turned around, we discovered another cool thing about this campground.
But by far the best aspect of our accidental discovery was the color of the rocks in Kodachrome. The hues changed every hour, especially during sunrise and sunset. We just sat back and enjoyed the show.
Hood Creek Campground at Hyalite Canyon Recreation Area Near Bozeman, Montana
by Amy Ragsdale
Hood Creek Campground, one of three campgrounds in the Hyalite Canyon Recreation Area in Montana, makes me feel like I’m away from it all. It feels completely remote yet it’s only 20 miles from downtown Bozeman. When camping with kids in tow, it can be reassuring to know that we can just pack up at anytime if needed or run to town to purchase the can opener I forgot to pack.
The campground sits on the shore of the Hyalite Reservoir and the sites are spacious and private. You can bring your paddleboards or kayaks (rent them in Bozeman) and enjoy your days playing on the water or hiking one of the many nearby trails like Grotto Falls. The beauty here is simply breathtaking.
Bandy Creek Campground in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, TN and KY
by Amanda Luhn
I love my Smokies but they can get pretty busy, especially during the summer and fall, so sometimes we opt for nearby Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. It’s a wonderful park to explore with kids as it has easy hiking trails, lots of natural arches to ogle, a river to raft, mountain bike trails, and horseback riding. Plus, it has some of the best stargazing in East Tennessee.
Bandy Creek is the biggest campground in Big South Fork and a wonderful place to camp. The tent loop has good-sized sites, really nice bathrooms with hot water showers, a pool, a sand volleyball court, a Ranger Station/Visitor Center nearby, plus several trails leaving right from the campground, including mountain bike trails.
Colonial Creek Campground in North Cascades National Park, WA
by Amanda Luhn
Situated right on the shores of Diablo Lake, Colonial Creek is the campground for people who like to bring their own SUPs or kayaks when they camp. It is a truly amazing view.
North Cascades National Park is one of America’s least visited parks and I have no idea why- it is simply stunning, relatively easy to get to from Seattle, and has a variety of hikes to choose from to suit any ability.
You can choose to camp on the shoreline of Diablo Lake or just across from it when you spend the night in Colonial Creek Campground. Whatever you choose, reserve early online because the people who know about this place, tend to come back again and again.
Elkmont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
by Amy Ragsdale
Perhaps because I have so many memories of camping as young child in the Smokies at Elkmont with my family, it continues to be one of my favorite campgrounds. As an adult now, I still love the background sound of the river, the smell of damp earth mixed with smoke from the campfire, and the shock of the river’s freezing cold water on a hot summer day. It’s a family-oriented campground and I’ve never experienced fellow rowdy campers here.
And to be fair, it’s not a fancy campground and it’s a large one. The campsites don’t have electricity, the bathhouse has no showers (they do have flush toilets), and many of the sites offer little privacy. But over the years, we now know the best sites to reserve so that we can enjoy everything Elkmont has to offer: reading in our hammocks, hiking the nearby Little River Trail, and tubing down the small cascades of the river.
If you don’t feel like cooking over a campstove or miss civilization, you can even take the national park trolley to Gatlinburg to feast like royalty at your restaurant of choice. With so many options, Elkmont remains a perennial family favorite.