The great American road trip is full of some expected stops–New Orleans, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas–so why not stay somewhere unexpected? Across the country, creative camping sites are popping up with repurposed trailers, hot spring pools, historic sites and even a safari. Laura Lee Jurgens shares 10 of America’s best camping sites.
Shady Dell, Brisbee, Arizona
Two vintage loving folks, Justin and Jen, run the Shady Dell. The pair runs an inspiring campsite consisting of restored aluminum travel trailers, each one with a different theme. You can stay in some such as the Chris Craft Yacht, which is an actual restored boat complete with champagne in the fridge or the Tiki Bus for those seeking something a bit more tropical. The “Polynesian Palace” even has its own hand-carved outrigger bar, so there’s no need to worry about driving home after having a few too many.
Hicksville Trailer Palace and Artist Retreat, Joshua Tree, California
Next to Joshua Tree is a hidden retreat for the big kid in all of us. The Hicksville Trailer Palace and Artist Retreat has an outdoor solar-powered shower, a BB gun/bow and arrow shooting range, pool, AstroTurf, table tennis, and much more. So keeping yourself entertained in the middle of the desert won’t be a problem here. The hot tub on the roof of the main house also has a view of the desert night sky that is unbelievable.
Lion Country Safari KOA, Loxahatchee, Florida
In southeast Florida you can get as close to Africa as possible without leaving the country. Offering cabins, tents, and RV sites, Lion Country Safari KOA lets you spend the night at a full-service campsite only to be awoken by a lion’s roar. On top of their safari and wildlife preserve they also have an entertainment park where you can ride a Ferris wheel, play on a paddle boat, and hit up a petting zoo.
The Laughing Heart Lodge, Hot Springs, North Carolina
A hostel located on the Appalachian Trail with private rooms and bunk rooms, the Laughing Heart Lodge was originally built in 1892 and since then has had extensive renovations done. With more than 8 acres of land the Lodge has hot springs, and specializes in healing therapies with acupuncture, homeopathy, therapeutic massage, and chiropractic care.
Spencer Spit State Park, Lopez Island, Washington
With a postcard setting on Washington’s Lopez Island, Spencer Spit State Park sits on the northeast corner of the island and encloses a picturesque lagoon. The 138-acre state park includes seven walk-in campsites right on the beach. So not only are you sleeping under the stars but you get to wake up to the water. Water and restrooms are there, but no showers! So make sure you’re comfortable being your true self with your travel companion. A very popular campsite, reservations are available up to 9 months in advance.
Mystic Hot Springs, Monroe, Utah
In the desert of Utah there is a campsite for the soul. The Mystic Hot Springs located on this property come out of the ground at 168 degrees Fahrenheit, and there are eight bathtubs built into the rocks and two concrete pools filled with these healing waters for your soaking enjoyment. The springs are rich in calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Accommodations include camping or even renting one of the cabins in Pioneer Village, most of which are from the 1800s.
The Resort at Paws Up, Greenough, Montana
If the idea of getting back to nature makes you want to take a nap then the Resort at Paws Up might be the place for you. Definitely on the glamorous end of camping, all the rates include transfers to and from the airport as well as luxury cabins, homes, tents, and all meals. While “glamping” (glam camping) you can indulge in spa treatments, horseback riding, fly-fishing, and many other activities.
Gallo Campground, Chaco Culture National Historic Site, McKinley, New Mexico
Around three hours outside of Albuquerque are the remains of a great civilization. Evidence of these people can be seen with remnants of commerce, irrigation, and buildings that are all constructed around solar and cardinal directions. The ancient buildings constructed by the Pueblo people are still standing from 850 A.D. If you want to spend the night here, you need to come prepared though as supplies aren’t available in Gallo Campground, and being in the desert without shade it gets more than toasty. The campsite is still used by native descendants as a sacred and religious place.
Garden Key Campground, Dry Tortugas National Park, Key West, Florida
Located in the Keys on the Gulf of Mexico, Garden Key Campground, Dry Tortugas National Park in the only at sea National Park in the states. It encourages its guests to sleep on the beach, snorkel, scuba dive, and saltwater fish. The campsite is only accessible by seaplane, boat, or ferry. And talk about cost effective it at only three dollars a night it is suitable for even the most budgeted traveler. Located close by is Fort Jefferson, which was built during the Civil War and at one time housed thousands of soldiers and prisoners.
Big Bone Lick State Park, Union, Kentucky
Big Bone Lick State Park is not the most normal name for a campsite. Turns out this spot in Kentucky is known as the “Birthplace of American Vertebrae Paleontology” and it was the site for many fossils and big bones found by the Europeans in the 1700s. Present today you can visit the giants of yesteryear in the onsite museum or be mesmerized by the herds of buffalo and sulfur springs.
For more driving destinations and road trip ideas, check out:
- Great Gadgets for Road Trips: GPS, Phones, Satellite Radio
- How to Save on City Driving
- Speeding Tickets out of State
- Summer Driving Tips
By Laura Lee Jurgens for PeterGreenberg.com