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Exciting Shoulder Season Camping Destinations

It’s that time of year again! There’s a shift in the temperature, the sun is setting a litter earlier, and the leaves are beginning to turn from their vibrant green to a rich autumn color. For many RVers and campers this change in the season, and the back-to-school grind, ignites this longing inside for evenings around the campfire, cool weather hikes, and s’mores.

Whether you’re looking for a seasonal spot to explore over fall break or a shorter weekend getaway, there are epic destinations located all over the US to scratch that camping itch! Here are a few of our favorites:

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park BridgeImage: Shutterstock

If you’re in the eastern United States, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a great area to explore. While this is the most visited National Park in the US, the crowds tend to begin thinning out in September making fall the perfect time to plan a visit. Great Smoky Mountain National Park is within driving distance of several eastern US cities, which makes it doable if you only have a weekend to get away.

This park is situated on the border of east Tennessee and western North Carolina and offers beautiful hikes, history, and scenery. When visiting this park be sure to check out Newfoundland Gap for epic views, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature trail where you can find historic log cabins as well as spot a black bear or two, and Cades Cove with countless waterfalls off this loop.

If you have a little more time on your hands, you can even begin or end your drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway when visiting the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. One more thing to do while you’re visiting is hike seventy-one miles of the famed Appalachian Trail. Make it a point to add part of that trail to your bucket list!

Good Sam Campgrounds Nearby

Twin Creek RV Resort Riveredge RV Park & Cabin Rentals Pine Mountain RV Park

Grayton Beach State Park — Florida

Grayton Beach State ParkImage: Lindsay Lane

Wanting to hold onto one last bit of summer? There’s no shame in that! The gulf coast on the Florida panhandle offers the perfect warmer, fall getaway spot. The gulf coast summer crowds are typically gone at this point, which leaves the Florida beaches open for those seeking that one last summer feeling trip.

Grayston State Park offers both RV sites and cabins and nearly 2000 acres of untouched land, which is almost unheard of in this stretch of beaches. Besides some of the most beautiful water in the continental US, you’ll find white sand dunes, abundant coastal wildlife, trails to hike, and even one of many dune lakes located along scenic highway 30A.

You can rent kayaks and paddle boards onsite to enjoy the lake or the ocean. Plus, this park features a manmade reef that offers snorkeling and the opportunity to see amazing sea life! While visiting, make the short drive into Seaside to visit the food trucks for dinner and to check out the cute little beach town where The Truman Show was filmed.

Good Sam Campgrounds Nearby

Camping on the Gulf 30A Luxury RV Resort Geronimo RV Park

Zion National Park

Zion National ParkImage: Lindsay Lane

Known as the Disney World of national parks for the crowds and its size, Zion National Park is an incredible spot to visit. Fall camping season is the perfect time to go to avoid those busy crowds! Late September and early October not only offer small crowds but also days that are still warm enough to enjoy hiking through the water of The Narrows, and cool enough to hike the iconic Angels Landing.

RV camping is located within the park, or right outside the national park gates in the town of Springdale. It’s recommended that you utilize the shuttle system in this park so be prepared for that. Or, if you own an e-bike this park is the perfect place to enjoy a bike ride without car-populated roads.

If you’re pressed for time make sure to hike The Narrows trail to at least Wall Street, Angels Landing to at least Scout Lookout, and Emerald Ponds. These 3 trails will deliver a great experience while visiting this park.

Good Sam Campgrounds Nearby

WillowWind RV Park Zion River Resort RV Park & Campground Sand Hollow RV Resort

Custer State Park — South Dakota

Custer State ParkImage: Lindsay Lane

The fact that Custer State Park remains a state park is a mystery. Although those who are aware of this lesser-known gem say it’s for good reason. The state park status causes this spot to be less crowded simply because most people have never heard of it.

Visiting in September is a perfect time to enjoy the water of Sylvan lake. The boulders and rocks found in and around this lake provide a picturesque backdrop for paddle boarding, kayaking, spending the day along the shore, and swimming. You’ll want more than one day in this park so you can hike some of the unique trails like the Cathedral Spires trail and Sunday Gulch trail. Take the time to drive Needles highway for some of the most unique views in the US.

RV resorts and camping are located within this park and right outside, in the town of Custer. This quaint town offers a historic, walkable downtown with one of the best burger places in the country — Black Hills Burger and Bun Co! If you have a little extra time in this area make the drive over to Badlands National Park for a true two birds, one stone experience.

Good Sam Campgrounds Nearby

Heartland RV Park & Cabins Beaver Lake Campground Rafter J Bar Ranch Camping Resort

More Shoulder Season Camping Destinations

Buffalos grazing at Hayden Valley, Yellowstone, National Park, Wyoming, USAImage from Getty

A few other shoulder season camping spots perfect for exploring in the fall are:

Yellowstone National Park — enjoy fewer people and beautiful fall foliage. Rocky Mountain National Park — changing leaves and snowy mountain tops. Big Bend National Park — fall brings the perfect temperature to enjoy the Rio Grande river. Acadia National Park — vivid colors, plus the earliest sunrise in the US.

Heading to any of these destinations during the fall camping season provides a chance to see these beautiful spots with fewer crowds, cooler temperatures, and one last chance to soak in the outdoors before the cold, dreary winter months set in. Now the biggest question you have to answer is how will you choose where to go?

Have you visited any of these destinations during the shoulder season? Tell us about it in the comments below.


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