Camping is one of the most affordable ways to vacation. According to Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro, you can do it in a tent, trailer, recreational vehicle or even at a hotel (yes, there are four- and five-star hotels in some of the national parks). Camp on your own terms at some of the best locations in the United States:

1. Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland

This barrier island, covered in 37 miles of sandy beaches, salt marshes and forests, is located off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia. Adding to the charm is a community of wild horses that roams the island.

Campground reservations are recommended for peak-season camping: April 15-Oct. 15. Camping is allowed only on the Maryland side of the island.

2. Yosemite National Park, California


First protected in 1864, Yosemite offers visitors the opportunity to explore waterfalls, valleys, meadows and forests of sequoias within the park’s 1,200 square miles of vast wilderness.

There are 13 campgrounds throughout the park—four are open year-round, and the rest are open during peak season. Some are more rugged than others.

3. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Between rugged rock formations lie grass prairies and even fossils. The park also provides spectacular stargazing opportunities and an astronomy festival in August.


The Cedar Pass and Sage Creek campgrounds are open year-round, with stays limited to 14 days. Sage Creek Campground is more primitive.

4. Arches National Park, Utah

The park features more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches; a late-19th-century log cabin that belonged to disabled Civil War veteran John Wesley Wolfe; and a variety of easy, moderate and challenging trails. If visitors know where to look, they can even view prehistoric rock art.


The Devils Garden Campground is located 18 miles from the park entrance and is open year-round.

5. Big Bend National Park, Texas

The Rio Grande River runs straight through the park. Visitors can take rafting, canoeing and kayaking trips, or hike one of many trails covering desert, mountain and river terrain.


The National Park Service operates three developed front-country campgrounds: Chisos Basin, Cottonweed and Rio Grande Village. Visitors can stay for a maximum of 14 consecutive nights.

6. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Nearly 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year. Visitors can hike trails, ride a mule to Phantom Ranch or take a rafting trip along part of the 277 miles of the Colorado River running through the park.


There are three campgrounds, two of which are located near the South Rim and are available for reservations. The other is closer to the less-accessible North Rim and is only open May 15-Oct. 15.

7. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

People have inhabited the area since the Paleo Indians in prehistoric times, and more than 70 structures remain. Visitors can explore ridges of forest that border North Carolina and Tennessee and catch glimpses of the smokelike fog that hangs over the mountains from evaporating rain.


The park offers several types of campsites: backcountry for backpackers, front country for camping near the car, group campgrounds for groups of eight or more, and horse camps that offer hitch racks for horses and primitive camping facilities.

8. Acadia National Park, Maine

Located on Mount Desert Island, the park contains Cadillac Mountain—the tallest mountain along the North Atlantic coast of the United States. During certain times of the year, it is the first place to see the sunrise.


There are three campgrounds: Blackwoods, Seawall and Duck Harbor. Blackwoods is open year-round.

9. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

The park is home to 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and visitors can attempt the 8-mile hike to Old Rag Mountain, explore wooded hollows, discover one of the park’s many waterfalls or take a drive on the 105-mile Skyline Drive (the only public road through the park) that covers the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains before joining the Blue Ridge Parkway connecting Shenandoah to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


The four park campgrounds are open in the spring, summer and fall. Camping is not permitted on the grounds when they are closed.

10. Olympic National Park, Washington

The park contains three different ecosystems, including a rain forest (one of three in the Western Hemisphere). Visitors can hike to La Push to see whales off the coast or Ruby Beach to see mountains, glaciers and rain forests from the shoreline.


The park boasts 16 front-country campgrounds, some more primitive than others. Some are weather-dependent, some are open during peak season and some are year-round.

11. Ozark-St. Francis National Forests, Arkansas

The forests cover 1.2 million acres, and visitors can explore the tallest mountain in the state or an underground cave or see the mighty Mississippi River from the shoreline.


The parks offer everything from RV to tent camping at their 23 campgrounds. Primitive camping is allowed almost anywhere in the forests.

For more on African Americans embracing the outdoors, check out these other articles at The Root:

Yes, We Camp, and if You Don’t, Here’s What You’re Missing

Career Spotlight: Park Ranger Shelton Johnson on Why Spending Time Outdoors Is About Civil Rights


Nicole L. Cvetnic is The Root’s multimedia editor and producer.

Nicole L. Cvetnic is The Root’s multimedia editor and producer.