1. Haena Beach Park (Hawaii)
If you like to unzip your tent and step out into the sand, pitching camp around Kauai
is bargain bliss — county parks charge out-of-state campers just $3 a night. Haena Beach Park
, at the edge of the famous Na Pali coast, offers forest access and panoramic views of the ocean, though swimmers and snorkelers are advised to stroll down to safer waters at nearby Tunnels Beach. Anahola Beach Park
has a shallow offshore reef that buffers the surf, making it the island's safest year-round swimming beach.
2. Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska)
It might not be what comes to most people's minds when they think of waterfront camping, but the 12 walk-in wilderness campsites at Exit Glacier
are indeed in the shadow of a pretty massive body of water — it's just in ice form. The site of the first recorded crossing of the Harding Icefield, Exit Glacier is still on the move; you can walk to its terminus when water levels are low, but watch out for falling chunks! The Exit Glacier area also contains a dramatic day hike in the Harding Icefield Trail
. Those who prefer their water wet can kayak
3. Gold Bluffs Beach Campground (California)
Right on the Humboldt County coast, within an old-growth forest of coastal redwoods, western hemlock and Douglas fir, Gold Bluffs Beach Campground
is a special spot indeed. Surrounding Prairie Creek Redwood State Park
is a sanctuary for the big trees that offers plenty of hiking trails; 10 miles of sandy shoreline for beach combing; a dense understory of flowers, ferns and lichens to explore in Fern Canyon; and bird- and whale-watching opportunities. Keep an eye out for Roosevelt elk, deer, bobcats and mountain lions.
4. Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park (Oregon)
With pink rhododendrons blooming in the spring, huckleberries and blackberries ripe for the picking in the fall, and direct access to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
from designated campsites in winter, Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park
bills itself as a "camp for all seasons." About halfway up the Oregon shoreline on Highway 101, the coastal rain forest park boasts two freshwater lakes, Cleawox and Woahink, and two miles of sand dunes to explore on the way to the ocean. Visitors can entertain themselves with swimming, canoeing, fishing and other water sports — even scuba diving — in the lakes, or by sandboarding on the dunes. History buffs should keep an eye out for the stonework along park roads and the lodge and terrace on Cleawox Lake — all were built by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.
5. Salmon River Campground (Idaho)
With a picturesque location on the Salmon River
, Salmon River Campground
is located in the mixed lodgepole pine and meadow/sagebrush environment of Sawtooth National Forest
, just five miles northeast of the Rocky Mountain town of Stanley
. The Sawtooth Mountains tower over the area, which offers biking, rafting, fishing on high mountain lakes, horseback riding and hiking trails, as well as skiing and snowmobiling in the winter.