Are you ready to finally stop hibernating and reconnect with nature? Are you itching to get out of the house already?
Science says you should because even a mere walk in the park can calm the mind while changing the way the brain works to improve mental health. Studies have shown that people who spend time in nature cope better with stress, feel happier and have more self-esteem.
Do more than spend a few hours in your favorite park in the city; take a week-long vacation, set up a tent in the wilderness and spend your time relaxing, swimming in lakes and listening to birds singing.
The places on the following list, in no particular order, made the cut because of their majestic views, crowds, proximity to populated areas, endless activities, and peace and quiet.
Dry Tortugas National Park is on almost every list of places to go camping. You can access it by ferry from the coast of Key West. If you’re looking for primitive camping destinations, the seven charming islands in the relatively small park are the places to be. Bringing everything you need, even water, may be a little annoying, but the views, lush marine life, the island’s Civil War-era Fort Jefferson, and untouched beaches are worth it.
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Camp out in Boya Lake Provincial Park if you’re all about taking amazing photos. The lakes are gorgeous and perfect for swimming. Warm up by a campfire afterwards. Try something new and go canoeing. The hiking trails in the park are worth exploring. Keep your eyes open for the animals around; they may be behind you.
All 50 sites in Arches' campground, Devils Garden, are usually reserved in advance during the busy season, which is March through October, according to NPS. There are no showers and you have to bring your own wood or charcoal for the grills. But the views of this red rock wonderland, which makes for one of the best road trips in the country, and the range of activities among the thousands of natural stone arches are worth every bit of inconvenience. Hiking, rafting, mountain biking (here's why you should try it), rock climbing (you should master these skills) are a few options.
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Wyalusing Hardwood Forest, one of the state’s oldest parks, occupies the steep sides and top of a ridge just east of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers and contains four major southern forest types illustrating John Curtis’ classic concept of a vegetation continuum. The wooded bluffs rise more than 400 feet above the Wisconsin River. You can camp 500 feet above it. The 2,628 acre park is ideal for fishing, boating, bicycling and picnicking (The 10 Best U.S. Cities for Boaters).
If you’re afraid of leaving the busy urban life for an isolated camping trip, consider James Island County Park. It’s perfect for people who want to relax on a beach somewhere but be close enough to the chaos of the city because the campsite is not too far away from Charleston. There are more than 120 campsites along the Stono River marsh.
Run or walk along the unspoiled coast. The West Coast Trail is the ultimate hiker’s challenge. It follows the one-time survival route of unlucky shipwreck victims through old-growth forests. You’ll pass wide-open beaches and cross suspension bridges spanning rivers and streams. Green Point marks the lone campground along its length. The campsites sit on a ledge above the beach.
Those of who are in a mood for a more rural experience should pitch a tent in White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. The hiking trails are rocky and somewhat challenging. Consider going in the fall if you really want stunning photos – red, yellow and orange will be all around you. If you want to go to a developed campsite, you have to make a reservation.
Campgrounds are open from April through December. You will be close to the Appalachian Trail, which is one of the most beautiful in the entire world. Hiking through the forest is a breathtaking experience. If you manage to hike the whole trail, which is about 2,185 miles, you will be one of a few compared to how many try to complete it.
Camping in the Grand Canyon National Park doesn’t really need justification. The North Rim is less crowded but harder to access. The South Rim is open year-round. Backcountry hiking, for which you need a permit, is very popular. White water rafting in the raging Colorado river is perhaps one of the most famous activities.
Want to live on the edge? Visit a place recreated each day by ocean wind and waves, according to NPS. Life on Assateague Island has adapted to an existence on the move. Explore sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime forests and coastal bays. Rest, relax, recreate and enjoy some time on the edge of the continent. Camping is available only in the Maryland district of Assateague Island.
On summer nights, families select prime viewing spots on the cool grass and open meadows around the campground and observe the nightly celestial performances of shooting stars, wandering satellites and far away galaxies, according to Oregon State Parks. Windsurfing is a popular activity.
Shutterstock/ Joey Santini
Imagine relaxing just off the Icefields Parkway with more than 6,500 in elevation? It’s amazing. This is one of the highest places in the country where you can go camping and you have to set a tent. Most people actually go because they want to see the Athabasca Glacier, surrounded by 11,000-foot peaks covered in snow. Hiking and wildlife watching are among the favorites.