The Best Camping Sites to Visit (and What to Eat Once You're There)
Ah, camping. We’ve already discussed its more glamorous sister glamping, but some weekends call for roasting marshmallows over a fire, sleeping in a cramped tent, and singing Kumbaya. Staying at a campsite gives you time to interact with nature and enjoy the little things in life that don’t revolve around electricity. Speaking of which, since all you’ll have with you is a fire for cooking, you have to get creative with your meals. (PS: Whoever said camping wasn’t for foodies didn’t know what to pack.)
Since no one wants to eat hot dogs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this is where you need to get a little creative. Every campsite is different—some are for beachgoers, others for hiking connoisseurs, and some for adventurous families. Below, we’ve chosen the top eats we’d specifically bring to each of our favorite camping destinations. Scroll through for the ultimate food to eat at any kind of camping site.
CRATER LAKE, OREGON
Crater Lake in Southern Oregon—deemed the deepest lake in America—is more than just a little impressive. Its rich blue waters are almost comparable to those on the Amalfi Coast (yes, we just said that), but it’s the crater caused by a collapsed volcano that’s the sight to see here… and pretty much why everyone flocks to these campgrounds. (Although, also be sure to take in field after field of gorgeous marigolds in the summer.)
What to pack: Even if you visit in June, the park’s elevation means the temps can drop pretty quickly, so pack a dried lentil-and-barley soup mix. All you need is some water, olive oil, and a pot to cook up a hearty batch in an hour.
PINE GROVE FURNACE STATE PARK, PENNSYLVANIA
This breathtaking reserve is located at the very tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains, near what they call South Mountain. It gets its moniker from the furnace remaining from when the park was an iron furnace community. Perhaps the most popular activity there is hiking part of the Appalachian Trail (the whole thing stretches from Georgia to Maine). If you want a slightly more luxurious stay, forgo sleeping in a tent for the historic Paymasters Cabin (just note you’ll need to reserve it for at least a week at a time during the summer).
What to pack: If you’re not going to be exploring the Appalachian Trail, chances are you’ll be biking or hiking one of the other five-plus popular trails. Chomp on something nourishing like a vegan chocolate and banana granola bar from Oatbox (you can actually subscribe to get a month’s worth of breakfast if you’d like).
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA
There’s nothing quite like wandering among the gigantic sequoia tree groves in Southern Sierra Nevada—some of the trees reach up to a whopping 8000 feet tall. Although there are several groves, sneak away on a two-mile hike to Muir Grove, where you’ll be able to get a bit more solitude. Plus, you won’t really be roughing it, with picnic tables and fire grills at every campsite.
What to pack: Satisfy your sweet tooth with some prepackaged caramel popcorn that’s actually not bad for you. Plus, the bear-proof storage at all the campsites will keep (non-human) paws off your treats.
LUDINGTON STATE PARK, MICHIGAN
For those taking a family vacation, this popular state park located between Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan has a little something for everyone. (Speaking of popular, there are more than 300 different campsites to choose from.) The area is most recognized for its sand dunes and marshlands and even boasts a scenic outdoor amphitheater. In addition to hiking, paddleboarding, swimming, fishing, and biking, you can take the little ones on a tour of the Big Sable Point Lighthouse.
What to pack: When it comes to serving dinner, you need something the whole family will enjoy. March Pantry’s Dry Farmed Tomatoes serve as a delicious pasta sauce that will please both adults and kids.
LAKE MCCONAUGHY, NEBRASKA
If you love water, you’re in for a real treat at Lake McConaughy. This rare gem of a camping area on Nebraska’s largest reserve (also known as “Big Mac”) is home to several white sandy beaches great for boating, swimming, and even scuba diving. If you ever tire of the beach, engage in some bird watching—the area is one of the top spots in the U.S. for this activity.
What to pack: Since most campers fish for their food, you’ll need something to accompany your day’s catch for dinner. Bring along some kale wraps to make fish tacos (and this way, you’re also getting in your veggies).
Be sure to tell us which campground you want to visit first in the comments! Up next: things to do on your next American road trip.