2022’s Best States for Camping

Silhouette of four people sitting on a bench made of logs and watching fire together beside camp and tents in the night. On the background starry sky, Milky way, mountains and luminous town. Rear view

With fresh air, nature’s music, and fire-roasted food, few things are more relaxing than a camping trip with your favorite folks. 

Many states offer a variety of camping environments — from mountains to deserts to waterfront views. But where you pitch your tent (or park your RV) can make or break your night under the stars. 

To mark the start of camping season, Lawn Love ranked 2022’s Best States for Camping. 

We looked for states with plenty of high-quality campgrounds and easy access to state parks, national parks, and trails. Safety and affordability levels also influenced the ranking. 

Check out our ranking below to find your next camping destination.

In this article

  1. State rankings
  2. Mapping it out: Key insights
  3. Ranger’s compass: Expert takes and tips
  4. Behind the ranking
  5. Final thoughts: Where to park your tent (or RV)

State rankings

See how each state fared in our ranking:

Infographic showing the best and worst states for camping

Mapping it out: Key insights

West is best

The West Coast is home to some of the country’s most majestic camping experiences, with plenty of high-quality parks, trails, and gear for trekking through the incredible landscape. 

Start in California, which landed far ahead of the other states, bringing home the gold with the highest camping Access and Quality. Whatever interests you, the Golden State has it — from traipsing through the Mojave Desert to hiking the redwood forests to surfing the coast. 

Work your way up through temperate rainforests, high deserts, and beaches in the Pacific Northwest. Washington (No. 2) nabs silver overall, which makes perfect sense for a place that’s called The Evergreen State. Oregon rounds out the top 10.

Be sure to save up for your camping trip out West: These states are known for high costs. 

Local tips

  • California: Skip the crowds and stress of getting a reservation for Yosemite by visiting Joshua Tree National Park instead. This park is perfect for rock climbing, stargazing, and spotting wild animals. 

Wide-open spaces

Go big or go home in our two largest states by land area, Alaska (No. 12) and Texas (No. 7). The Lone Star State pulled ahead in Supplies and Safety, but both states fared well in Access. 

There’s plenty of room to stretch out in Alaska’s vast landscape. This state has the highest total acreage of state and national parks with 35.8 million acres, nearly five times as big as that of the next state, California. 

Meanwhile, our smallest states fared poorly, with Rhode Island (No. 46) and Delaware (No. 47) hitting rock bottom in our list. Despite lacking in parks and campsites, the few camping opportunities in Rhode Island ranked high in Quality (No. 5). 

Local tips

  • Alaska: It might be a little hard to get to, but a trip to Denali National Park earns its spot on our bucket list. 

Making a splash

Campsites with water access often allow recreational activities like fishing, kayaking, and surfing. No wonder so many wet and waterside states like Minnesota (No. 3), Michigan (No. 4), and Florida (No. 5) landed in our top 10.

Minnesota, known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” has high-quality camping with little risk to your safety and plenty of access to the supplies you need. Michigan and Florida landed at the top, thanks to affordable camping and easy access to supplies. 

Local tips

  • Minnesota: Take a boat across the water, and hike into the backcountry for a rugged camping trip in Voyageurs National Park
  • Michigan: Camp by four of the Great Lakes, or in a campground near any of the state’s thousands of other lakes and ponds. 
  • Florida: Wake up to the sound of waves crashing on the beach, and spend your day snorkeling at Bahia Honda State Park.

Disenchanting destinations

Some states have camping destinations that are so iconic they draw millions of visitors from across the world, like the Grand Canyon in Arizona (No. 28) and Zion National Park in Utah (No. 31). Yellowstone stretches across Idaho (No. 27), Montana (No. 22), and Wyoming (No. 36). 

So why do these states trail behind others like Ohio (No. 6) with less renowned parks?  

Lower-quality campgrounds and, in some instances, unaffordable rates are what brought these states’ rankings down. Despite lacking internationally acclaimed parks, Ohio’s camping Quality (No. 7), safety levels, affordability, and accessibility brought the Buckeye State to the top.

Local tips

Ranger’s compass: Expert takes and tips

Smokey the Bear has been teaching you about forest safety since 1944, but it’s always a good idea to brush up on your camping knowledge before embarking on a trip. We reached out to some experts to share their camping advice. Read on to gain their insights ahead of your next excursion.

  1. What are your top three tips for staying safe overnight in the wilderness?
  2. What are three essentials for every camping trip?
  3. What is one thing campers should research before heading out for their trip?
  4. What should you do if you’re approached by a predator such as a bear or a coyote?
  5. What’s your favorite campfire recipe?
  6. What are two ways to cut costs for planning an affordable camping trip?
Holly J. Bean, PhD, LCPC, CTRS
EHSS/RLS Director of Recreation and Leisure Studies
A. Scott Rood
Assistant Professor, Hospitality & Tourism Management, Co-founder and Journal Administrator – Journal of Tourism Insights
Guy deBrun
Lecturer, Hart School
Matthew H. Ebbott
Senior Lecturer, Recreation & Outdoor Education and the Environment & Sustainability program Director, Wilderness Opportunities at Western
Holly J. Bean, PhD, LCPC, CTRS
EHSS/RLS Director of Recreation and Leisure Studies
University of Southern Main

What are your top three tips for staying safe overnight in the wilderness?

As the Director of Recreation and Leisure Studies at the University of Southern Maine and the instructor for Outdoor Recreation, this topic is near and dear to my heart.

1. Remaining safe is crucial in any outdoor activity, and specifically for camping in the wilderness. Preparation is the key.

  • Have you mapped out your trail? When mapping out your hike, you will need to understand when you will need to stop for rest breaks and, ultimately, where you are camping.
  • Have you checked the weather? Have you packed appropriately, and are you able to carry your backpack for the length of the journey?
  • Have you let others know your plans (the trail you are taking and the return date)?
  • Do you have the equipment and additional clothing that might be needed?
  • Are you traveling alone or are you going with a trail buddy?
  • Do you have a first aid kit?
  • In essence, are you completely prepared for your journey and have you planned ahead?

2. Stay on the trail.

3. Keep all food items in a food bag that is hung from an obliging tree in the appropriate manner — not in your tent or campsite.

What are three essentials for every camping trip?

First aid kit, fire starter, map, and compass

What is one thing campers should research before heading out for their trip?

The actual terrain they are hiking — yet weather for that time period is just as important.

What should you do if you’re approached by a predator such as a bear or a coyote?

Be prepared. Initially, you will pack bear spray. Always make noise (whistling or singing).

In the case of a black bear that is approaching, one would stand up tall, arms extended.

Never go near bear cubs — a mother bear is usually near.

In the case of a grizzly bear, one would lie in a fetal position.

When approached by a coyote, be loud, face the coyote, and wave your arms. Do not run away — walk away slowly while facing the coyote.

What’s your favorite campfire recipe?

There is something extremely pleasurable about campfire food. You’ve hiked all day and are now ready to set up camp and make your dinner.

Included in your pre-planning is creating a menu, purchasing your meals, and creating as little waste as possible. Under-packing food can have disastrous results and over-packing can add weight to your backpack.

My favorite campfire meal is simple — any freeze-dried meal. I’m not fussy, but I do like simple.

What are two ways to cut costs for planning an affordable camping trip?

Plan ahead. Check out secondhand gear shops. Borrow equipment from friends. Join an outdoor adventure club.

A. Scott Rood
Assistant Professor, Hospitality & Tourism Management, Co-founder and Journal Administrator – Journal of Tourism Insights
Grand Valley State University

What are your top three tips for staying safe overnight in the wilderness?

This has to do with proper preparation.

1. Educate yourself on where you are going.

2. Research the area, and see if there are previous user reviews to guide you.

3. Tell others your plans (where you will be and your timetable).

What are three essentials for every camping trip?

1. Consider proper food to bring.

2. Have appropriate shelter (rain, snow, heat?).

3. Bring protection. This includes flashlights, bear or bug spray, and appropriate clothing.

What is one thing campers should research before heading out for their trip?

How are you going to sleep? Consider what you can bring and test it out first.

What should you do if you’re approached by a predator such as a bear or a coyote?

Don’t run or approach them. Instead, walk slowly away. If necessary, yell, wave your arms, and, if possible, throw something at them.

What’s your favorite campfire recipe?

Hobo pies and sandwiches. These tasty pocket sandwiches can be used to make a variety of sandwiches, including Reubens and paninis, not to mention fruit-filled dessert options.

What are two ways to cut costs for planning an affordable camping trip?

1. Many people save money by renting or borrowing needed equipment.

2. Make a meal plan where everything you need is planned out. Include items that can contribute to multiple meals.

Guy deBrun
Lecturer, Hart School
James Madison University

What are your top three tips for staying safe overnight in the wilderness?

1. Allow adequate travel time. Create a time control plan that considers the distance you need to travel, and add 1 mile for every thousand feet of elevation you need to gain. Divide that by your average rate of travel (usually 2 mph on a trail with a pack).

2. Dress properly. Cotton clothing should be avoided in all but very hot and dry climates. It robs the body of heat because it does not wick moisture and dries slowly.

3. Use good judgment. Know your limits, plan your route (see above), and communicate your plans with someone at home.

What are three essentials for every camping trip?

1. Shelter

2. Appropriate clothing: Plan on wearing a wicking layer (synthetic), insulation layer (wool or fleece), and shell layer (GORE-TEX, or other waterproof fabric).

3. A means for purifying drinking water, such as a chemical treatment or filter

What is one thing campers should research before heading out for their trip?

Average temperatures for the area they are planning a trip to

What should you do if you’re approached by a predator such as a bear or a coyote?

First, know what kind of bear you are dealing with. The protocols are different for black bears and grizzly bears. In either case, carry bear spray and know how to use it.

What’s your favorite campfire recipe?

Your favorite rice with sun-dried tomatoes, cashews, and parmesan cheese

What are two ways to cut costs for planning an affordable camping trip?

1. Avoid expensive and often unappealing pre-packaged dehydrated camping food.

2. The latest outdoor fashions are not necessary to dress safely. Purchase wool and synthetic clothing from a thrift store.

Matthew H. Ebbott
Senior Lecturer, Recreation & Outdoor Education and the Environment & Sustainability program Director, Wilderness Opportunities at Western
Western Colorado University

What are your top three tips for staying safe overnight in the wilderness?

1. Plan ahead and prepare for weather.

2. Get to know the possible hazards — the forest, the mountains, the rivers all have some unique hazards, such as standing dead trees blowing over (“widow makers”) or rocks falling down scree slopes in the mountains.

3. While we sometimes worry about animals, the biggest hazard we can face is other people! Most people in wilderness areas are there for the peace and solitude, but research entry points near large urban centers for safety.

What are three essentials for every camping trip?

  1. Your knowledge: This always comes first. Know as much as you can before you head out.
  2. Your sleeping kit: Sleeping bag, pad, tent, or bivy. Make sure you have the ability to sleep warm and dry.
  3. Water and the means to purify more: It’s easy to bring your water filter and even have a backup, like iodine, in case the filter fails or your UV wand batteries run out.

What is one thing campers should research before heading out for their trip?

The route they want to travel on: Look at the map, and check for the trail (or if it’s pristine and there is no trail, look for travel areas where you won’t have an impact).

Also look for water sources, potential campsites, and evacuation points in case of emergency.

What should you do if you’re approached by a predator such as a bear or a coyote?

Most animals want to avoid humans. It’s only if they’ve been habituated to human food or they are sick or starving that they become dangerous.

If it’s a black bear or coyote, and they’re coming toward you without the fear they should have, make yourself look big by standing up tall and waving your arms. Yell and seem threatening, and even throw rocks at it to get it to run away. If they attack, fight back.

Grizzly bears are a different matter. If you don’t have bear spray, you still want to make noise, but back away slowly. If it charges you, curl up on the ground and protect yourself.

What’s your favorite campfire recipe?

S’mores never fail, but you can get creative with ingredients. Think of adding dark chocolate or Samoa cookies.

What are two ways to cut costs for planning an affordable camping trip?

Find free camping, and make your own food. You don’t need expensive dehydrated backpacking food. You can eat really well and healthy with regular rice or pasta mixes and add lots of veggies (which keep well without refrigeration).

For protein, think of complete meals like beans and rice, cheese, or tuna packets, which are light and easy to pack.

Behind the ranking

We ranked the 50 U.S. states from best to worst (1-50) for camping based on their overall scores (out of 100 points), averaged across the weighted metrics listed below.

Sources

AllTrails, AmericasStateParks.org, Bass Pro Shops, Best Neighborhood, Cabela’s, Camping World, Dicks Sporting Goods, F&S Stores, Hipcamp, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Outforia, PlaygroundEquipment.com, REI, RVshare, and Scheels

Final thoughts: Where to park your tent (or RV)

With gas prices rising, many camping enthusiasts are opting for more local getaways. Instead of planning a faraway excursion, why not plan a camping trip to a nearby national or state park? 

Although these states didn’t make it into our top 10, they are home to some of the country’s most unique camping experiences. Be sure to check their websites for updates, closures, and rules as you plan your next trip.

Maryland

Prefer an ocean view? Camp at Assateague Island National Seashore if you enjoy fishing and wiggling your toes in the sand. You may even encounter some wild horses

Virginia

See just one beautiful section of the 2,185-mile-long Appalachian Trail by stopping in Shenandoah National Park. Take the scenic route on America’s most visited park, the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy some panoramic views. 

Montana

Glacier National Park is full of picturesque forests, mountains, and lakes, and more than 700 miles of trails to explore. 

Arizona

Wake up to an unforgettable view with a camping trip to the Grand Canyon. While it may be one of the most visited parks, there’s plenty of room to stretch your legs — this park is bigger than the state of Rhode Island. 

Wyoming

View stunning vistas at Grand Teton National Park and hike one of the youngest mountain ranges in the world. This park is very popular for birding, and you also may see bison, elk, moose, and other wild animals. 

South Dakota

Explore ancient geologic formations at Badlands National Park, where you also can spot bighorn sheep, prairie dogs, and bison roaming the prairie.

Happy camping!

Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a recent graduate from the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.