The Best Campsites Within an Hour’s Drive of Major U.S. Cities

From New York to San Francisco, these urban-adjacent spots will get you out of the city and into nature fast.

Tall trees and grassy field, with distant view of Golden Gate Bridge

One of the best views of San Francisco is from the Kirby Cove Campground.

Photo by Stephan Soesbe

Hoping to escape the hustle and bustle of city life with a restful weekend in the great outdoors, but don’t want to spend all day traveling? You don’t need a full tank of gas (or in some cases, even a car) for a sleep-under-the-stars getaway at these campgrounds, which feel blissfully remote despite being located relatively close to 10 major U.S. cities. Simply prime your sense of adventure, pack up your overnight gear, download a helpful hiking app, and hit the road—oh, and don’t forget the s’mores.

Since many of these popular sites can book up quickly, we’ve also provided a few alternatives, just in case.

New York: Beaver Pond Campground

  • Distance from the city: 47 miles

Located in woodsy Harriman State Park, about an hour’s drive north of the city, Beaver Pond Campground has 117 tent sites available from mid-April to mid-October. Book up to nine months in advance to ensure you snag a site adjacent to Lake Welch, which offers ample opportunities for swimming, fishing, and boating. Beaver Pond is also a great launch point for other area attractions like the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site—where you can visit a living history Revolutionary War military camp—and the hiking trails in Bear Mountain State Park.

Booked up?

For a luxury glamping experience with skyline views just an eight-minute ferry ride from Manhattan, check out Collective Governors Island. While other public transit–accessible sites like Gateway National Recreation Area’s Floyd Bennett Field and Camp Gateway on Staten Island are currently closed, check and the National Park Service for updates.

Two cyclists on a shady path between water and trees

Camp at Tinicum Park outside of Philadelphia to explore the area’s extensive trail system.

Courtesy of Visit Bucks County

Philadelphia: Tinicum Park

  • Distance from the city: 55 miles

In-the-know Philly residents seek bliss at the tiny, but pretty, campground tucked inside small, scenic Tinicum Park, a grassy retreat wedged between the Delaware River and Delaware Canal. A portion of the popular 165-mile multi-use D&L Trail runs near the campground, and parkgoers will also find historic structures, a disc golf course, and a polo field (matches are held Saturdays from mid-May through October) elsewhere in the park.

Booked up?

Visit Hopewell Furnace Historic Site en route to French Creek State Park campground, or cross the Delaware to rent a cabin or stay at a car-accessible campground in New Jersey’s Wharton State Forest.

Chicago: Camp Bullfrog Lake

  • Distance from the city: 22 miles

The leafy, lake-studded Palos Preserves boast nearly 50 miles of recreation trails that help Windy City hikers, cyclists, and equestrians unwind. Camp Bullfrog Lake is the perfect base camp for exploring this 15,000-acre oasis; snag a waterfront campsite in warmer months or cozy up inside one of three heated cabins once the mercury drops. An on-site store, summertime activity schedule, and lending library that includes backpacks and binoculars make this an especially attractive option for families.

Booked up?

Nearby Camp Sullivan features a classic red barn outfitted with a climbing wall for adventure-seekers. Or head north to sunbathe and camp on Lake Michigan’s shoreline at Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park.

A modern, two-story wood cabin in Lake Houston Wilderness Park

Lake Houston Wilderness Park has campsites and cabins, so it’s easy to find the experience that works for you.

Courtesy of Lake Houston

Houston: Lake Houston Wilderness Park

  • Distance from the city: 34 miles

Lake Houston Wilderness Park is actually located north of its namesake, but there is a (small) lake here, and it’s lined with spacious, Instagram-worthy cabins perfect for a weekend getaway. Glampers and tent campers alike will find peace and quiet kayaking along tranquil Peach Creek or enjoying the sylvan surrounds on foot or horse or by bicycle. Beware summer heat and humidity; fall and springtime offer more moderate temperatures.

Booked up?

Camp near alligators, armadillos, and an assortment of birds at Brazos Bend State Park. Further north, sites at Stephen F. Austin State Park are near a quiet stretch of the Brazos River.

Nashville: J. Percy Priest Lake

  • Distance from the city: 16 miles

Massive J. Percy Priest Lake is so close to Nashville, you could run back for a quick barbecue fix, but city life still feels a world away. Three secluded campgrounds, open spring through fall, dot the shoreline; Seven Points features spacious sites and a sandy swimming beach. Craving a more adventurous experience? Paddle out to any of the 11 islands with room for dispersed (outside of a designated site) camping—these are first come, first served, so launch early on summer weekends.

Booked up?

Old Hickory Lake on the dammed Cumberland River offers waterside fun at two campgrounds. For a more arboreal experience, Cedars of Lebanon State Park boasts campsites among fragrant red cedar glades.

A camper van on the edge of an expansive lake, with hills in background

Beat the heat in Phoenix and camp waterside at Lake Pleasant Regional Park.

Photo by Roger Siljander/Shutterstock

Phoenix: Lake Pleasant Regional Park

  • Distance from the city: 41 miles

In warmer months (which are plenty here), Phoenix residents make tracks to Lake Pleasant Regional Park to cool down in its large reservoir. Join them at one of two developed campgrounds or a primitive (no facilities) site. Note that if water levels are high, as is typical in the spring and summer, primitive sites might be closed. In the morning or evening, when temperatures become more tolerable, hit the Wild Burro Trail; herds of its namesake mammal roam the park.

Booked up?

Rent a boat to reach Bagley Flat Campground on Saguaro Lake. On a cooler day, camp (or decamp to a cabin) near the rugged Superstition Mountains at Lost Dutchman State Park.

Portland, OR: Oxbow Regional Park

  • Distance from the city: 25 miles

Oxbow Regional Park is overlooked by most visitors in favor of the more famous Columbia River Gorge, but this park, in a stand of old-growth forest within the Sandy River Gorge, is a local favorite. Its campground sits at a bend in the river, making it prime territory for anglers, swimmers, and rafters alike. Although most of the sites are available year-round, high season runs May through September; visit in fall to watch salmon spawn.

Booked up?

Chase waterfalls near the campground at Ainsworth State Park, or stay at Champoeg State Heritage Area; whether you’re camping or sleeping in a cabin or yurt at the latter destination, pack a corkscrew because it’s within sipping distance of Willamette Valley wineries.

White pelicans on a lake with snow-capped mountains in the background

Denver’s Cherry Creek State Park is also a popular place for bird-watching.

Photo by Dr. Alan Lipkin/Shutterstock

Denver: Cherry Creek State Park

  • Distance from the city: 15 miles

Rocky Mountain National Park is only about 70 miles from Denver, but Cherry Creek State Park, just southeast of downtown, offers mountain views and lakeside recreation for a fraction of the drive. Paddle its namesake reservoir, sling arrows at an archery range, play with Fido in a 107-acre off-leash zone, or watch model airplanes soar above a mini airfield. Reserve sites well ahead for summertime visits and pack a shade structure—and perhaps earplugs since the nearby interstate can be noisy.

Booked up?

Go to Chatfield State Park’s reservoir-adjacent campground for more mountain views, or camp post-concert at Bear Creek Lake Regional Park’s Indian Paintbrush Campground near the famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

San Francisco: Kirby Cove Campground

  • Distance from the city: 7 miles

Enjoy one of the Bay Area’s most iconic sights at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s Kirby Cove Campground (pictured at top), located at the foot of the craggy Marin Headlands. Its five sites, available March through November, are highly coveted for their front-row views of the Golden Gate Bridge. (Reservations open three months in advance and book up almost immediately, so be quick to click or look for last-minute cancellations.) If you’re lucky enough to snag one, bring plenty of layers, all the water you’ll need, and earplugs—foghorns start droning once the mist rolls in.

Booked up?

Few people know that you can actually camp inside city limits at the Presidio’s Rob Hill Campground. Locals also flock to several campgrounds dotted around Mount Diablo State Park and Mount Tamalpais for weekend retreats. Haypress Campground is also located in the Marin Headlands, a few miles north of Kirby Cove, though reservations can be difficult to get.

Seabirds atop a big rock with waves crashing against the left side

Fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves at Leo Carillo State Park in Los Angeles.

Photo by David G. Hayes/Shutterstock

Los Angeles: Leo Carrillo State Park

  • Distance from the city: 43 miles

Angelenos rejoiced when Leo Carrillo State Park reopened after the devastating Woolsey Fire. They also began snapping up campsites immediately (so book yours six months out). The lure? Sleeping within earshot of the Pacific. At low tide, walk a short distance from your campsite to the beach to view craggy sea caves and tide pools flush with marine life. Visit in late spring to look for gray whales during their northward migration—or come anytime to watch sea lions and dolphins frolic in the waves.

Booked up?

Head inland to Malibu Creek State Park for climbing and camping at a former Hollywood movie ranch, or trade sea breezes for mountain air at the Crystal Lake Recreation Area in Angeles National Forest.

This story was originally published in July 2019. It was updated on April 3, 2024, to include current information.

Shawnté Salabert is a perpetually curious professional word wrangler who enjoys writing about natural spaces and the people who are inspired by, connected to, use, impact, and protect them. Her byline has appeared in such publications as Outside, Condé Nast Traveler, and Sierra.
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