Where are all the good campsites?

posted Jul 23, 2016, 10:24 PM by Paul Wagner
We get this question a lot:  Where should I camp when I get to _______?

We don't know.  Every person who hikes likes different things in a campsite.  We prefer sites that are isolated and relatively unused,  Others prefer those with constructed stone furniture and built in fireplaces.  (We almost never make a fire in the backcountry.  We've only done it twice in the last ten years.)  We know some people who really prefer to camp on open granite slabs.  Others like wooded sites.

And sometimes we get the impression that people are afraid they won't find a place to camp at all, which is silly.  All you need is a flat spot about 3x6 feet and you can sleep.  What else do you need?  Make that 5x7 for a couple.

Yes, it's nice if there is water near at hand--but many of the "established" campsites are legally too close to water to be used.  And we often choose to be farther away from the water, both to be legal, and to avoid the higher concentrations of mosquitoes that thrive in lakes.  After carrying a pack all day, it's not hard to carry a couple of bottles of water for a 1/4 of a mile or more. 

Hiking destinations are not like hotels, with a certain number of bookable rooms, some with ocean views, some without.  In fact, the backcountry is full of really nice places to camp.  Some by lakes, some by rivers, some on top of ridges or mountains.  We've done all of them. 

We've also chosen to camp below a lake on the outlet stream, because there were too many people at the lake.  And we had our little slice of heaven all to ourselves.

We've chosen to camp on a ridge above the lake to avoid mosquitoes, and heard the campers on the lake complain about how bad they were. 

We've camped in Death Valley where there was no water within ten miles, and loved it.  We've set our tent up in the sun, and then napped by taking our Z-rests under a nearby tree for shade.  And loved it.   We've walked by one lake because we didn't like the look of it, only to return after seeing the next lake on the trail--and ended up with one of our favorite campsites of all time. 

Don't sweat the campsite thing.  There are lots of places for you.  And part of the fun of backpacking is finding one that is just right for you.