Summer doesn't have to be cancelled. Though you may not be able to do some of your typical seasonal activities, there are ways to safely enjoy a few requisite pleasures of this time of year — and that includes sleeping under the stars, toasting s'mores over a campfire, and going on scenic nature hikes. While travel is limited or restricted in some parts of the world, you may still be able to do all of the aforementioned at the country's best places to go camping this summer.
Before delving into the list, it's important to note that your first step should be staying on top of your state's current restrictions and recommendations for travel. If flying is not advised — or if you're not quite comfortable hopping on a plane just yet — limit your options to a place you can easily access by road trip.
In terms of national parks, you'll also want to do your research by checking out the National Park Service's latest info on openings and closings. Currently, about 2/3 parks are open for various activities, including camping. However, many have some newer, stricter limitations, such as closed public bathrooms and visitors centers, mandatory permits or reservations, and limited parking availability on site.
And if you are able to camp or visit one of the open destinations — which currently includes Badlands, Big Bend, Bighorn Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Mount Rainier, and Padre Island, among a ton of others — the NPS and the CDC have some recommendations to make your trip as safe as possible. They suggest "recreating responsibly" by planning ahead, minimizing your risk (not doing any high risk activities), keeping a safe distance from others, and abiding by "if you brought it, take it with you." It's also advised that you camp only with your family or those you've been isolating with, wear a mask, and limit your exposure to public facilities.
Of course, it should be noted that "roughing it" isn't for everyone, which is why some of the most ideal locations to visit are also those with great glamping options as well (think nature pods, yurts, and glamorous tents). With those factors in mind, luxury travel advisor and Passport to Friday blogger Chelsea Martin narrowed down the list to a few locales that bring the scenic views, opportunities for outdoor activities, and places to get the luxe treatment — if that's what you're into. Find all her suggestions ahead.
Zion National Park, Utah
Recently Zion opened up some (albeit limited) options for camping, but if you're looking for a fancier place to lay your head that's still close enough to drive into the park for the day, consider Virgin, Utah, where Under Canvas has some stunning accommodations. "[Under Canvas Zion] is a safari-style glamping destination located on 196 acres of remote desert terrain," explains Martin. "Truly an idyllic social distancing getaway, its 66 glampsite rooms and suites are spread out across the desert village — each with their own wood-burning stove, real beds, organic bath products, and some with their own hot showers. Camp amenities include on-site dining, complimentary camp activities, beach volleyball court, and of course what would glamping be without a fire pit and s’mores?"
Also nearby is the team behind Amangiri's latest venture, Camp Sarika, in Canyon Point, Utah. "The camp is comprised of 10 individual canvas-topped pavilions (each with their own private plunge pool) set amidst 600 acres of desert landscape near five national parks and the Navajo Nation Reservation, yet still boasts the luxury amenities of a resort including a restaurant and pool area," Martin adds.
Texas Hill Country, Texas
Hill Country consists of the Southern-Central part of the state, which is populated with rugged hills. There are a few state parks in the area, including Avalon, Blanco, and Garner, but also a few glamping destinations if you're looking for a bit of luxury. "Set in the heart of Texas Hill Country on 15 acres in Dripping Springs, Lucky Arrow Retreat has all the bells and whistles to make for a relaxing getaway," shares Martin. Accommodations here include cabin clusters, porch houses, yurts, and a large ranch house (all complete with air conditioning!). In light of COVID-19, Lucky Arrow is also offering contactless check-in/out as well carefully monitoring of all their employees for symptoms, and thorough and frequent cleaning (especially communal areas) using EPA-approved products.
In Wimberly, Texas you can stay at Collective Retreats, which overlooks Montesino Ranch in the heart of Texas Hill Country. "Collective Retreats offers a glamping-esque retreat with accommodations housed in luxury tents," says Martin. "Enjoy activities like horseback riding and outdoor adventures, and nearby wineries, art galleries, and musical venues." As a safety measure, the retreat is offering takeout dining options, breakfast delivery, and outdoor-only, limited seating dining for dinner as well as the use of disposable dishes. And anyone looking to stay here should note that community events are currently suspended.
A bit further northwest, Marfa offers one of the most beloved camping destinations for the artsy set, El Cosmico. Though Martin admits it's a little less on the "luxe" side than the aforementioned, El Cosmico is a funky, bohemian-style village with airstream trailers, yurts, tents and tepees for you to hunker down and get a clear view of the star-studded sky. Those hoping to camp here are advised to isolate for 10 to 14 days prior to your visit, wear a mask, and respect social distancing. In order to give you the complete Marfa experience, El Cosmico has also coordinated with local restaurants to have meals and groceries delivered. In terms of activities, Big Bend State Park is only about an hour and a half away.
Big Sur, California
Though many national parks in California have yet to re-open, Big Sur's Pfeiffer State Park recently began accepting reservations on their campgrounds — albeit with public indoor facilities closed and very limited parking (hiking or walking in is recommended). Face coverings are mandatory and hikers should be aware that some trails are one-way only.
Looking for a little upgrade? Ventana, which offers super glamorous tents, is set tore-open July 15th and has already begun accepting reservations.