Top 10 National Parks with Designated Backcountry Campsites

We love backpacking and America’s National Parks are some of the most scenic places for it.  We previously posted our Top 10 National Park Service units that allow dispersed backpack camping, so this is our corollary list.  These are some of our favorite spots to spend a night in the backcountry.  They nearly all require permits (some take reservations), so check the regulations before you go.  Remember to practice Leave No Trace principles, as not all of these backcountry campsites offer toilets.

10. Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)

Campsites are mostly in the forest and not very scenic, but there is a great trail system connecting them.

9. Canyonlands National Park (Utah)

Backcountry permits are expensive and hard to get in the lottery, which indicates they are worth it.

8. Isle Royale National Park (Michigan)

Backpacking is the main attraction to this large island surrounded by Lake Superior; come prepared for bugs.

7. Big Bend National Park (Texas)

There are multiple ecosystems to explore from the Rio Grande and the Chihuahuan Desert all the way up to the pine forest.

6. North Cascades National Park (Washington)

Expect to gain (and lose) elevation on the trails in this mountainous wilderness park.

5. White Sands National Park (New Mexico)

With no campground, this is the only way to spend the night in America’s newest National Park.

4. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Wisconsin)

A sea kayak is recommended to access the island campsites dispersed in Lake Superior.

3. Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

While the campgrounds are full all summer, you can typically get a walk-in permit to backpack.

2. Everglades National Park (Florida)

Paddle your way to spend the night atop a chickee and you will never forget the experience.

…and finally our #1 park with designated backcountry campsites!

1. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (Alaska)

Climbing the Golden Stairs up the Chilkoot Trail is a bucket list-worthy endeavor.

Honorable Mentions

Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

There are many boat-in campsites on the lakes and also the 28-mile Kab-Ash Trail on the mainland.

Glacier National Park (Montana)

Most trails gain significant elevation, but that is not a problem if you camp on the shores of Lake McDonald.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park (Texas)

The steep hike up to Guadalupe Peak is popular, but much of this park is not as well-traveled.

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