2023’s Best States for Camping

Few things are more relaxing than a night under the stars while camping with your favorite folks. 

Which states offer the best spots for a rustic retreat?

To kick off the start of camping season, Lawn Love ranked 2023’s Best States for Camping in America.

We compared the 50 states based on 25 metrics, such as campsite access, acreage, and trails. We also considered safety, supplies, camper satisfaction, and affordability.

Map out your camping bucket list with our rankings below.

In this article

State rankings

See how each state fared in our ranking:

Mapping it out: Key insights

West Coast adventures

California hikes to first place for the second year in a row, while Washington state trails just behind at No. 2. Both states scored high in Access, Quality, and Supplies, but the Golden State gives campers the most space for a night off the beaten path. 

Stay safe if you camp in these two states: They lack phone coverage and have high rates of park deaths. California holds the record for the most park deaths between 2010 and 2020 at 300 — 151 more than the next state, Arizona. Always check the weather before venturing out, and bring enough water to last your journey.

Many beautiful camping opportunities exist in Oregon (No. 21). Unfortunately, the Beaver State lags behind its Pacific Coast neighbors at No. 49 in Affordability and with the third-worst average consumer rating for campgrounds.

Wide-open spaces

Texas (No. 3) is a big state full of diverse camping opportunities.

The Lone Star State claims the second-highest number of campgrounds, campsites, and camping supply stores. There’s plenty of room to roam with a high total acreage of campgrounds (No. 4) and state and national parks (No. 6). 

Cowpokes and campers can sleep comfortably under starry skies, with abundant sites with access to water (No. 2) and toilet facilities (No. 4). 

Trailing behind

America is full of bountiful camping opportunities, with unique spots in every state.

Less populated states like West Virginia (No. 41), Wyoming (No. 42), Rhode Island (No. 49), Delaware (No. 44), and South Dakota (No. 45) land at the bottom alongside North Dakota in last place. 

These states aren’t necessarily bad for camping. In fact, with lower populations, you might even have less competition and a better chance of scoring a peaceful campsite. Their low rankings are due to a lack of camping locations, attractions, amenities, and supplies compared with the more populated, higher-ranking states. 

Wyoming stands out with the third-highest total campground, state, and national park acreage. Delaware has the biggest share of highly rated campgrounds, while North Dakota boasts the best average consumer rating of campgrounds and Safety record.

Mountainous vs. beachfront escapes

Elevated experiences

Many mountainous states climb to the top, offering breathtaking views for hikers and campers alike. 

From the Adirondacks and Catskills in New York (No. 5) to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado (No. 6) to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee (No. 12), many supreme camping states are home to iconic hiking destinations. Additionally, nine out of the 14 states that encompass the Appalachian Trail landed in the top half of our ranking.

New York, Colorado, and Tennessee provide ample campgrounds, trails, and campsite activities to keep visitors busy. 

Seaside scenery

Some of the best states for camping also reel in sublime opportunities for fishing

Oceanside states like Florida (No. 4) and North Carolina (No. 9) bob at the top along with water-ful Michigan (No. 7) and Minnesota (No. 10). 

Florida floats to No. 1 in the Supplies rank, thanks to the highest number of RV rental offers. North Carolina, Michigan, and Florida each have top camping Access overall, with The Sunshine State landing at No. 2 in that category. Minnesota is among the most affordable states for camping and swims to No. 2 in Safety.

Ranger’s compass: Expert takes and tips

Smokey the Bear has been teaching Americans 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 turned to a panel of experts to share their camping insights and advice. Read below to prepare for your next excursion. 

  1. What are your top three tips for staying safe overnight in the wilderness?
  1. What are three essentials for every camping trip?
  1. What is one thing campers should research before heading out for their trip? 
  1. What should you do if you’re approached by a predator such as a bear or a coyote?
  1. What’s your favorite campfire recipe?
  1. 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

For each of the 50 states, we gathered publicly available data on the factors listed in the table below. 

We then grouped those factors into five categories: Access, Quality, Supplies, Safety, and Affordability.

Next, we calculated weighted scores for each state in each category. 

Finally, we averaged the scores for each state across all categories.

The state that earned the highest average score was ranked “Best” (No. 1), while the state with the lowest was ranked “Worst” (No. 50). (Note: The “Worst” among individual factors may not be 50 due to ties among states.)

Sources

AllTrails, America’s State Parks, Bass Pro Shops, Best Neighborhood, Cabela’s, Campendium, Camping World, Dicks Sporting Goods, Field & Stream, HipCamp, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, National Park Service, Outforia, Playground Equipment, REI, Roadtrippers, RVshare, and Scheels

Local tips

With 7.2 million first-time campers hitting the trails in 2022, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make camping reservations. If you thought snagging Taylor Swift tickets was difficult, try camping in Yellowstone or Zion, where sites are fully booked throughout the year. 

Follow these tips to get ahead on campsite reservations, and explore the slideshow below to find inspiration for your next camping trip. 

A tree twists on an overlook of a mountain range during golden hour at Joshua Tree
California: It might be hard to book a site at Yosemite, but have no fear — The Golden State is full of top-tier camping destinations. From seaside escapes at Channel Islands National Park to waterfalls and redwoods at Big Basin Redwoods State Park to the sand dunes in Joshua Tree, California has a mega variety of environments to roam. 

Check online for national park closures, and stay on top of state park status updates and reservations following the recent winter storm.

Photo Credit: faungg’s photos | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
An overlooking view of Eunice Lake, Mount Rainier, and a sea of evergreen trees
Washington: Camp near meadows of wildflowers and an active stratovolcano at Mount Rainier National Park. Explore valleys, waterfalls, and more than 300 glaciers at North Cascades National Park. Another icon, Olympic National Park, offers abundant wilderness, with diverse landscapes including temperate rainforests, breathtaking coastlines, and icy mountains. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Miske | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0
The Saint Elena canyon towers over the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park
Texas: Sleep under the stars at Big Bend National Park, which is a designated International Dark Sky Park. Camp on the beach at Padre Island National Seashore, or float around the Texas Hill Country at Guadalupe River State Park.

Photo Credit: G. Lamar | Flickr | CC BY 2.0
Palm trees sway in the breeze along the coastline at Bahia Honda State Park
Florida: Wake up with a fresh sea breeze when you camp at Bahia Honda State Park. Ocala is more than a destination for campers who also love horses. Canoe, bike, or hike through the stunning Ocala National Forest.

Photo Credit: ArminFlickr | Flickr | CC BY 2.0
A colorful forest full of fall foliage reflects in a lake in the Adirondacks
New York: The wilderness and fresh air in Upstate New York have attracted campers for ages. Roll out your sleeping bag on a mountain in the Adirondacks or Catskills. You can also rent a cabin and go kayaking on the Finger Lakes or along two of the Great Lakes, Erie and Ontario.

Photo Credit: sagesolar | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Planning a cross-country camping trip? Hire a local Lawn Love crew to handle your lawn care needs while you’re exploring the great outdoors. 

Happy camping!

Main photo credit: Shutterstock

Sav Maive

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