Do you dream of gorging on gooey s'mores next to a crackling campfire? Sleeping beneath a canopy of twinkling constellations? You're not alone. Camping is more popular than ever, and it's not just because of pandemic fears and forced lockdowns limiting vacation destinations (OK, that may be part of it).
In 2018, well before the coronavirus conjured thoughts of anything but cold beer, more than 78 million U.S. households pitched their tents — a new all-time high. Why? In part because millennials and Gen-Xers are getting serious about their nature fix.
All cities were not created equal for outdoor-loving camping enthusiasts, no matter what age. If you have a box — or garage — full of camping gear, you may want to bump these 10 cities to the top of your where-to-live (or at least visit) list.
Wondering what it takes to make the cut as one of America's best cities for camping? Access. We looked at the number of campgrounds per density (how many square miles of land area in the city). Our top spots feature the most campgrounds per square mile.
Ready to see which cities made the cut for prime camping access?
There's more to this NorCal city than cable cars and tech headquarters. From the Golden Gate National Recreation Area to Muir Woods, you'll find iconic camping opportunities in the City by the Bay. So, what can you expect when you camp here? How about towering redwoods, oceanside camping and views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Pro tip: Pack your camera.
As one of the most expensive cities in America, San Francisco is known for sticker shock when it comes to rent prices. Here's what $600,000 in annual rent will get you. A bit on the high side for your budget? Realistically, you can expect to pay around $4,472 in monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment. But hey, aren't those views worth it?
Located across the Columbia River from Oregon, this Washington city is actually the biggest suburb of Portland. While Vancouver is the fourth largest city in Washington State, you'll get the best of both worlds here. Beyond proximity to Portland, you'll also have easy access to rivers, foothills and the towering Cascade Range — not to mention endless backcountry wilderness and all the camping you can handle.
Did we mention the rain? OK, there's a lot of it, but that's a small price to pay for the glorious scenery. Just be sure to pack your rain tarp. If the gray skies don't scare you away, you can expect to pay around $1,586 in rent every month.
A suburb of San Diego, this SoCal city boasts a mild Mediterranean climate that's ideal for camping. Located just seven miles from the beach and 20 miles from the Mexico border, Vista lives up to its name with its picturesque hills. As for camping, you'll find diverse opportunities here.
Want to pitch your tent on the beach next to the Pacific Ocean? No problem. Packing your rod and reel for a little freshwater fishing? Vista's got you covered. Whether you plan to bring your surfboard or hiking boots, you'll find a campsite that suits your mood.
Living seven miles inland from the sea will save you a little on rent — compared to nearby San Diego or Los Angeles. A one-bedroom in Vista costs around $2,016 per month.
Located between El Paso and Fort Worth, this West Texas oil town has some quirky claims to fame. First, there's Jack Ben Rabbit, the world's largest jackrabbit (statue) coming in at eight feet tall. Then, you've got the Stonehenge replica at The University of Texas of the Permian Basin. Finally, there's the Odessa Meteor Crater, which speaks for itself. And let's not forget "Friday Night Lights," the TV show inspired by a movie, inspired by a book that was inspired by the Permian High School football team.
Oh, the camping? Beyond loads of RV parks, expect quirky and cool with a little bit of Wild West. Think outdoor adventure with a Texas twist. Beyond fishing and paddling, you'll find sand dunes you can surf and a one-and-three-quarter-acre pool.
Located less than 10 minutes east of Reno, Sparks is located along the Truckee River in the tranquil Truckee Meadow. North Lake Tahoe is less than an hour south, while Marina Park offers fun on the water a little closer to home. In addition to ample opportunities for outdoor adventure (even scuba diving), you'll also find a casino — or three.
Whether you're looking for some fun on the water, want to pitch a tent beneath some towering evergreens or just surround yourself with the Sierra Mountains, you'll find ample camping opportunities here.
Want to extend your stay for, like, forever? Settling down in more permanent digs will set you back around $1,418 per month.
Located just inland from Monterey Bay, Salinas is best known as the home of John Steinbeck, who set many of his stories right here in Salinas and the surrounding areas. Pay your respects at the National Steinbeck Center or retrace Doc's steps from Cannery Row in nearby Monterey.
The nickname “Salad Bowl of the World" gives you a little idea about what you can expect in Salinas. In a word, agriculture. And also, camping. From mountain peaks to ATV parks, Salinas has a wide variety of places to pitch your tent.
As far as rent prices here, expect to pay around $1,534 per month to rent a one-bedroom.
With a tagline like “Montana's Trailhead," Billings doesn't mess around when it comes to outdoor adventure. From six nearby mountain ranges to Yellowstone River and its dramatic sandstone Rimrocks, Big Sky Country delivers. And let's not forget the rock paintings at Pictograph Cave State Park or Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument where Lieutenant Colonel Custer died.
Montana's biggest city is close to endless hikes, bike trails, skiing and, of course, campsites. You can expect to stumble upon a campground about every five miles in these parts. Want to settle in to explore every last one of them? Set your monthly rental budget at around $1,018.
Surprised to see Hollywood among the best cities for camping? Forget about Tinseltown, this Hollywood is on the opposite side of the country — the only city down South to break the top 10. How far South? Nearly all the way, baby. Located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood is less than an hour from the Everglades and just a bit further from the Florida Keys.
Whether you choose to cozy up next to the coast or brave the Everglades, you'll find a campground around every four-and-a-half square miles. Just don't expect a bargain in the housing department. Living by these famous beaches will cost you around $1,657 per month.
Located just east of Phoenix, Mesa offers a historic slice of the American West. Explore Native American culture, or pay tribute to the city's prospecting past. Surrounded by the Sonoran Desert, you'll be steps away from the Tonto National Forest and the Salt River, where wild horses still roam — and are often peeped by kayakers and paddle boarders.
So yes, this is a very special place when it comes to camping. Get your fill of hiking, mountain biking, boating, horseback riding and, of course, epic stargazing. The dramatic desert landscape is hard to beat with its iconic saguaro cacti, red rocks and those unbeatable desert sunsets.
Ready to make Mesa your jumping-off point for exploring the Southwest? Budget around $1,067 to rent a one-bedroom apartment.
SoCal living in Ventura means you're only an hour and a half from L.A., half-hour south of Santa Barbara and a mere 20 minutes from charming Ojai. Oh, and did we mention that Ventura bellies up to the Pacific Ocean? And then there's the weather — which hovers somewhere in the 70s nearly year-round with minimal rainfall.
Whether you want to set up camp in the Ventura foothills or throw your sleeping bag on the sand after hitting the surf, this city's got you covered. The country's best city for camping also happens to be the jumping-off point for Channel Islands National Park, which means you're just a ferry ride from epic remote camping and outdoor adventure.
If you want to trade in your tent stakes for a permanent foundation, you can expect to pay around $2,071 per month in rent.
Not ready to settle out West? Check out our top 50 cities for camping for some prime spots in every region.
|Rank||City||State||Population||Campground Density (Land Area / Number of Campgrounds)|
To determine the best cities for camping, we looked at all cities in the country with more than 100,000 people according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2018 estimates and then used a database of 8 million commercially licensed business listings to find the number of campgrounds in each area.
We ranked each city by its per density calculation, based on total land area. Locations with the lowest campground per square miles were considered to be the best cities for camping in our quantitative report.
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com's multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments. Data was pulled in July 2020 and goes back for one year. We use a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.