One of the popular posts here on CampingBlogger is Find Great Campsites Online, where I talk about using online resources like Reserve America and Recreation.Gov for locating campgrounds in a particular area. Finding that perfect campground is only half the battle, though. It is just as important to locate the best camping spots within the campground, too.
What makes a good camping spot?
Your particular camping situation will dictate what makes one camping spot better than another. If you are tent camping for longer than a weekend, you will probably want to be located in close proximity to a drinking water source. If you are camping in an RV, however, you probably have plenty of drinking water and even your own bathroom, so the location of these facilities is not nearly as important.
Another consideration, particularly for family camping, is a camping spots location on the road system within the campground. Popular campgrounds, particularly those that are located around major tourist areas like national parks, offroad recreational areas and beach communities, can have a great deal of traffic in and out of the campground.
Fortunately, the major reservation sites provide basic maps of the campgrounds that show the locations of the various facilities, greatly increasing your odds of choosing a good one. For non-reserveable campgrounds, the USFS and BLM sites usually offer similar information, but not nearly the level of detail that the two reservation sites offer.
Finding good camping spots
This is a screenshot of the Whitney Portal campground in California’s Inyo National Forest on the east side of the Sierra Mountains. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, which is the first thing that I look for in a campground! Since I have three small children, I like to look at the probable traffic patterns within the campground so that I can narrow my search to camping spots that are off of any major thoroughfares.
Once I have established where the major traffic patterns are likely to be, I’ll zoom-in on the map and try to weigh the pros and cons of the various campsite areas within the campground. In this campground, I would immediately throw-out area #2, as those sites back-up to the major road. I’d probably discount area #3 also, since two of the sites are close to the bathroom, and a bathroom symbol with no drinking water probably means a pit toilet – even worse. The sites in area #3 further away from the bathroom sit across from other camping spots, which is also not ideal.
Area #’s 1 and 4 look pretty attractive. If I were tent camping and thought that I’d be needing to replenish my water supply during our stay, I’d certainly be interested in reserving one of camping spots in area #4 along the creek, due to their closer proximity to the drinking water. Packing 40 pounds of water back to area #1 could get old really fast! If I was in an RV, however, or if water was not a concern, area #1 would probably be my first choice. It is well away from the rest of the camping spots, tucked into its own small loop, and backs-up to the creek.
Spending a little extra time choosing the best campsite can help make a great camping trip even better. Fortunately, today’s online resources make finding the best camping spots an easier task than it has been in the past. What are the things that you look for in choosing a particular campsite?