Although I’m a city dweller, I’ve always been drawn to the wide-open spaces and peaceful beauty that can be found in America’s National Park Service sites. Last summer I planned a trip to two US National Parks, and decided to camp out as opposed to staying in a lodge or hotel. Although I was a first time camper in US National Parks it was easy, economical and fun way to experience the parks.
Most US National Park sites offer two types of camping facilities: front- and back-country campsites. A front-country site is in an organized campground within a park, and the site can be accessed by car or RV. Back-country sites are generally out in the wilderness and away from roads and service facilities. As a first time camper, I opted for the safety and convenience of a front-country site.
In retrospect I packed far too much camping equipment for this trip and didn’t use most of it. Again, a typical first time camper mistake! If I had it to do over, I would have focused on just a few essentials in addition to my clothes and food for the week:
There are also some things you should leave at home:
I began my trip by heading to the Badlands National Park, located in South Dakota. Badlands NP offers two separate campgrounds ‚Äì Sage Creek Campground in the northwest part of the park, and Cedar Pass Campground in the southwest part. I chose to stay at the Cedar Pass Campground because it provides additional services that make camping easier. It has running water, flush toilets, paid showers, and covered picnic tables.
Cedar Pass also offered another advantage – a great view of the badlands formations and of the sunrises and sunsets. The colors were absolutely amazing and vibrant. I was able to capture several great photos from right outside my tent.
The other thing I liked about this location is that it was very central to the areas I wanted to visit. Walking and hiking trails were just a few minutes away, meaning that I didn’t have to spend a lot of time getting to the right places to do stuff.
After of a couple exciting and beautiful days in the Badlands, it was time to move toward my ultimate destination: Yellowstone National Park.
For the duration of my stay at Yellowstone, I chose to stay at the Canyon Village Campground. Canyon Village is located close to the Yellowstone River and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and is in the southern part of the Grand Loop. The Village also has many restaurants, a full-service gas station, and multiple shops where you can find souvenirs, supplies and groceries. Campers also have access to showers and washing machines‚ both of which came in handy for me.
The Canyon Village area was an excellent location for me, because I wanted to spend a lot of time exploring the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Its also very easy to get from the Village to the Norris Geyser Basin, Old Faithful, Lake Yellowstone, and many of the other iconic spots in the park. There are other camping sites in the park, but I’d probably end up staying here again if I ever return.
One thing I wasn’t prepared for was the overnight temperatures in Yellowstone. I should have checked the weather forecasts and seasonal temperatures, but I didn’t think about it. On two separate mornings I woke up at 4AM feeling like I’d slept in a deep-freezer. I couldn’t get warm, and ended up sleeping the rest of the morning in my car. Next time I’ll pack a heavier-duty sleeping bag. Have I mentioned first time camper mistakes before?
I had a wonderful trip and learned a lot about camping during my time out west. If I ever get back out that way, I’ll definitely consider camping out again – maybe even in a back-country site this time!
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Good information, thanks! My mom and I keep talking about taking my daughter’s camping, but are intimidated by the getting started process. Thanks for the help. 😀
You bet…I hope this helps you get started with camping, cuz it’s really fun!
This is perfect information for myself. I’l be travelling to the National Park this summer and I was planning to camp there. I already made a note of all these info.
Great, I hope it helps you, and I hope you have a wonderful trip!
I’d love to camp in many national parks so this guide is so helpful! Yellowstone is only bucket list, so this is a great guide! Thanks
This is so helpful, thank you! I will be traveling to Arizona in May, hopefully I will get to put some of these to use!
Oh great – I hope you have a wonderful trip!
Great post and agree with the things to leave at home – still got to practice especially taking less clothes along! Bear spray is new to me but need to look into it before heading camping in US, wouldn’t want a close encounter with one of them 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
Glad you enjoyed it! About the bear spray – the national parks make a big deal of it…you’ll see posters and signs everywhere. If you’re careful and cautious the chance of an encounter is low, but you always want to be prepared!
Camping in national parks is one of the things I often do in Finland. The post should be helpful for the new campers.