Best Family Camping Spots in the US

Posted by Fodor's Guest Blogger on May 08, 2012 at 10:16:53 AM EDT | Post a Comment

By Lisa Armstrong

There's something about being outside in nature—cooking s'mores on a campfire, spending days hiking, and snuggling into sleeping bags at night. And, since most camping trips mean an escape from technology, it creates the space for families to truly bond, explore the outdoors, and create lifelong memories. So now that warm weather is on the horizon, it's time to plan a camping escape with the family.

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Hang with Yogi Bear

Catch up with Yogi Bear and his pals at the Jellystone Park of Estes, in between the Colorado Rockies and Roosevelt National Forest. The park offers a number of activities, including mini-golf, movie nights, dances, family-style campfire activities, cookout breakfasts on Saturdays and Sundays, basketball courts, and an outdoor heated pool.

Pick your weekend based on its theme: In June, campers can celebrate at Yogi's birthday party (he doesn't want gifts, just canned goods for the local food bank), while August is Chocolate Lovers Weekend with games like a chocolate slip n' slide. Jellystone Park offers a range of camping options, from no hook up sites for small tents, to full hook up sites that have access to water and electricity.

Insider Tip: Since Jellystone is close to Rocky Mountain National Park, families can hike, explore the edges of Bear Lake, and watch the bighorn sheep there. Kids will also love a trip to Gem Lake, where boulders are perfectly arranged for climbing. During National Park Week and Get Outdoors Day, the park is free to the public.

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Camp Without Pitching a Tent

If you want to camp without struggling with things like pitching a tent, head to El Capitan Canyon, 20 miles north of Santa Barbara, California. The Canyon's safari tents and cedar cabins are fully furnished; tents are built on raised, wooden decks and have queen or double beds, bed linens and towels, screened windows, and electric lamps. Each tent has a picnic table, fire pit, grill, and guests have access to a heated pool.

Families visiting El Capitan Canyon can feed llamas and goats, borrow bikes to cruise along the beach, and go whale watching. During the summer, the Canyon staff organizes story telling and stargazing, movie nights and other activities.

Insider Tip: This spring, El Capitan Canyon opened five adventure yurts, each big enough for a family of four. These spacious yurts have a queen bed, a twin-sized daybed with a second twin trundle bed, night stands, wicker storage baskets under the bed, a small fridge, electric lighting, and a space heater. The yurts also have skylights, so that you can stargaze from bed at night.

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Wilderness and Water

Clay's Park Resort, just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, allows for a range of camping experiences: stream-side primitive camping, full hook-up amenities, and "glamping" in custom canvas cabins with queen beds and bunk beds. Campers can enjoy nature by hiking, kayaking, and fishing in the 20-acre lake, but one of the main attractions is the new Adventure Waterpark. The 10-acre sand-bottom swimming lake features 150-feet water slides, ring swings, zip lines, a barrel roll, water volleyball, and a kid's swimming area.

Insider Tip: The Clay's Park Teen Club offers activities just for teens, including paintballing and camping in the woods. Teen helpers can also assist with activities for younger kids.

Lisa Armstrong has written travel stories for several publications, including National Geographic Traveler, In Style and USA Weekend. You can read more of her work at lisaarmstrong.net or follow her on Twitter at @lisaarmstrong

Photo credits: Jellystone Park courtesy of Flickr/wallyg; El Capitan Canyon courtesy of Flickr/The City Project; Clay's Park Resort courtesy of Clay's Park Resort; Family Camping via Shutterstock

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