When the weather heats up, many of us start daydreaming about a week away from home to recharge and unwind. International travel might be a top contender at first thought. It’s exciting to explore a new region and culture. Travel is generally regarded as good for us. But unfortunately, it’s often really bad for the environment.
According to a study that was released in May by Nature Climate Change, global tourism has become a “carbon intensive consumption category.” This means that it’s contributing to rising carbon footprints worldwide in a big way. Between 2009 and 2013 alone the carbon footprint of travel rose 15%. The study took into account the impact of flying, as well as hotel stays, car travel, and travel-related activities and products, too.
Camping, on the other hand, is a way to recharge and explore a new place, with a much smaller carbon footprint than international travel, as long as you camp responsibly.
And good news! You don’t have to fly outside of the U.S. to discover a new culture or a landscape that’s totally different than the one you call home. This is a big country with so much variety. You might be surprised at the diversity you can find on a camping vacation close to home.
Fly Less Camp More
There camping destinations in the U.S. that feel like international travel, giving you the exact sense of newness and discovery that you might be looking for by purchasing a plane ticket. Camping instead of traveling internationally will reduce your carbon footprint by skipping the flight, driving less, cooking your own food, controlling the products you use to reduce waste, and connecting with nature to remind ourselves why all of this is so important.
With all of that in mind, here are 15 U.S. camping destinations that will make you feel as if you are visiting another country.
1. Germany in Washington
Leavenworth, Washington boasts charming Bavarian architecture and an abundance of German cuisine, without international travel prices. The surrounding Cascade Mountains and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest contribute to the alpine atmosphere, making it stand out as a top contender among U.S. camping destinations. Just outside of town, you can stay in the wilderness at the Bridge Creek Campground. The Dyrt Ranger, Megan W. says that she loved the close proximity to Icicle Creek, nearby bouldering opportunities, and the privacy this campground provided.
2. Australia in Utah
Full of open road, red rock landscapes, and desert flora, Southern Utah gives visitors a similar environmental aesthetic that you might encounter on an international travel trip to the Australian Outback. Camping near the Green River adds to this alluring atmosphere. The Desert Garden Campground inside Arches National Park is an ideal spot to soak up the views. You’ll be able to enjoy nearby sandstone formations and close proximity to the small town of Moab. The Dyrt camper Laekin R. said this campground made her feel like she was even further than Australia, “as if you are on another planet.”
3. Greece in Florida
A warm marine climate and and contrasting shades of deep blues in the ocean and golden sands and architecture bring millions of visitors to Greece each year. These same characteristics make Florida one of our favorite east coast camping destinations.
Caladesi Island State Park is a boat-in camping spot, offering clear beaches and plenty of nearby fishing. Within an hour, you can also reach Tarpon Springs, where you will find a quaint downtown area that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Tarpon Springs is also known as the sponge capital of the world, and reputed for it’s vast array of fish in the local waters. The Dyrt Ranger Elliott B. said that he enjoyed staying at Caladesi Island State Park. “The beach is really nice and the trails are interesting, we brought my kayak and went through the mangrove kayak trail which was pretty fun.”
4. Japan in Oregon
White snow capped mountains, lush green forests, and misty rain can all accurately describe regions in both Oregon and Japan. Both of these areas are scenic and culturally unique, which is exactly what draws travelers from far and wide. Mt. Hood National Forest is one of the most popular camping destinations in Oregon and the U.S. at large. For incredible views of Mt. Hood and easy access to the culture that the cities of Portland and Hood River offer, the Trillium Lake Campground is a great choice. The Dyrt Camper Eric L. said that he enjoyed the location, which is situated deep in an old growth forest, as well as the access it provided to local trails and fishing.
5. Switzerland in Colorado
The San Juan Mountains wind their way through Colorado, passing through unique mountain towns like Telluride and Ouray. The area is slowly becoming an international travel destination of its own, earning a reputation as the Swiss Alps of the United States. The Amphitheater Campground offers views of the surrounding mountains, and is conveniently located just outside of Ouray. Surrounding Ouray and Telluride there are a variety of camping destinations to choose from, but Amphitheater is a top contender for its views and hiking trails. The Dyrt camper Thomas H. also recommends checking out the nearby small town of Silverton to find some additional hiking nearby.
6. Spain in Florida
St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States. It was founded by the Spanish in 1565, and a lot of that Spanish flair can still be found within the city. This includes the ruins of Castilla de San Marcus, which is still open for daily tours. Nearby, you can camp at Anastasia State Park. This campground features ocean side campsites, just a short drive from downtown St. Augustine. The Dyrt camper Christy C. said that there is plenty to do in the area, including exploring the city. The campground also features canoe and kayak rentals nearby, and there are paved paths for biking.
7. Costa Rica in California
Lush coastal vistas and ample sunshine are ideal for any vacation. Similar to what you might expect when booking an international travel trip to Costa Rica, the Kirk Creek Campground in California offers pristine oceanside camping, with trails that wind through rich foliage and beaches. This campsite stands out from other nearby camping destinations, offering campers incredible sunrise and sunset views that you can take in from the comfort of your tent. The Dyrt camper Michal S. said that “Hours at this site will melt away months of civilization stress.”
8. New Foundland in Maine
New Foundland is a large province in Canada, which is also geographically close to Maine. This close proximity means that you can get the best of what New Foundland has to offer in one of Maine’s top camping destinations. The Blackwoods Campground inside Acadia National Park features a lighthouse, dramatic ocean cliff vistas, and plenty of woodland forest to explore. The Dyrt camper SwitchbackKids said that hiking the Precipice Trail and walking to Wonderland Point were some of the highlights here. You can even be one of the first in the U.S. to take in the sunrise each day. The nearby town of Bar Harbor is the first city on the east coast that gets to see the sun rise.
9. England in Virginia
Miles of rolling green hillsides surrounded by dense forest can be found in both the English countryside and Virginia. The Big Meadows campground inside Shenandoah National Park is full of wildflowers in the spring and meandering hiking trails throughout. Along with roaming the meadows and hilltops during the day, The Dyrt Ranger Elliott B. said that the big meadow near the campground is ideal for getting a good view of the night sky. Be sure to bring a blanket and maybe even a telescope.
10. Chile in Arizona
Like the Atacama Desert in Chile, Arizona features beautiful expanses of desert bursting with vibrant colors. An international travel hotspot in its own right, Havasu Falls is a literal desert oasis and a must-see among Arizona’s camping destinations. This area is located inside Grand Canyon National Park, where you will find plenty red rock, hot desert and, more surprisingly, some cool blue water. Be aware, however, that there’s been an influx of visitors since social media turned this quiet, Native American territory into a tourist destination. Havasu Falls permits are now extremely difficult to obtain. And those who do land one should be aware that they are guests on the land of the Havasupai people
11. Scotland in Montana
The arid and mountainous Highlands in Scotland feature plenty of hiking and the hope of spotting Nessie in Loch Ness. The Big Arm State Park campground in Northern Montana might not have Nessie, but there are highland lochs, like Flathead Lake, and moors to explore. Big Arm State Park is conveniently located between the cities of Kalispell and Missoula. The Dyrt Ranger Justin S. also noted that, “There are a few yurts here, which is where we stayed since some are ADA accessible. Campsites are among the trees and at least half of them are right along the lake.”
12. Brazil in Texas
Warm beaches bordering cool water provide an idyllic international travel locale for a break from the day-to-day demands of life. Throw in a fruity tropical drink and it gets even better. You can find this in Brazil, and you can also find it in Texas along the Gulf Coast’s camping destinations. Mustang Island State Park is bordered by both the ocean and the bay, giving you plenty of space to enjoy the water and beach. The Dyrt Ranger Kim B. writes, “Overall it’s nature focused, so plan to spend time here just chilling and relaxing with wildlife.”
13. Norway in Vermont
A winter wonderland comes to life in Norway during the colder months. You can cozy up at home, or travel outside to cross country ski and snowshoe in the falling snow. When summer rolls around, you can look forward to hues of green and blue in the surrounding woodland forest and nearby lakes. You can also find all of this at Brighton State Park in Vermont. Here, you will have access to year-round camping on the shores of both Spectacle Pond and Island Pond. “The Dyrt camper Jordon S. said that “Campsites are private and the place is often not busy affording extra privacy.”
14. Peru in New Mexico
Peru’s mountains are iconic. This is true amongst mountain climbers and those of us who simply appreciate their beauty. The rough jagged shapes of many of the peaks in this region can also be found in the Organ Mountains of New Mexico near the Mexican border. At the Aguirre Spring Campground, you can look forward to an incredible view of this range, as well as easy access to miles through the Chihuahuan Desert and nearby White Sand National Monument to explore. This is one of New Mexico’s camping destinations that you won’t want to skip. The Dyrt Ranger, Amanda P. agreed that “The Organ Mountains are breathtaking.”
15. Holland in Michigan
Tulips, windmills, and a lot of water are environmental and cultural elements that international travelers enjoy in Holland. Similar Norwegian charm can be found amongst several of Michigan’s camping destinations. Located on the shores of Lake Macatawa, a subsidiary of Lake Michigan, Holland State Park features lakeside camping and an iconic red lighthouse. This camping destination is also located just across the lake from the town of Holland, where a huge annual tulip festival, Tulip Time, takes place each May.
The Dyrt camper Nancy W. said “We loved the fact that this campground was so close to water and the nice paved path for walking and hiking trails in the main part of the campground. Within 50 yards from our site we could be walking along Lake Macatawa or along the sandy shores of Lake Michigan.”