Top 10 Campgrounds in National Forests 


This was a difficult ranking because there are thousands of campgrounds in the 155 National Forests and we tend to prefer dispersed camping (since we don’t love campfire smoke).  That said, we have stayed in a quite a few U.S. Forest Service campgrounds (especially in 2020-21) all across the country: this top 10 list represents 10 different states +6 others in the Honorable Mentions!  Click here to see all our Top 10 Lists, including four that cover camping in National Parks.

10. Chattahoochee (Georgia)

Hickey Gap Campground offers free streamside campsites near the start of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail at Springer Mountain

9. San Isabel (Colorado)

Turquoise Lake Recreation Area has beautiful mountain views just outside historic Leadville

8. Jefferson (Virginia)

We stayed in a mountaintop campground in Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area before hiking a section of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail inhabited by wild ponies (who like to bite)

7. Humboldt (Nevada)

It is impressive how many campsites they jammed onto the mountainside next to stunning Angel Lake, plus check out the campgrounds in pretty Lamoille Canyon

6. Allegheny (Pennsylvania)

Aptly-named Hearts Content has a large campground across the road from an old-growth forest of white pines and eastern hemlocks

5. Siuslaw (Oregon)

Elk Creek Campground is only one option with access to coastal Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

4. Coconino (Arizona)

Lockett Meadow Campground is special place, as are the coveted campsites in Oak Creek Canyon on scenic Highway 89A

3. Ocala (Florida)

Crystal clear natural springs attract swimmers and campers to Juniper Springs, Silver Glen, Salt Springs, and Alexander Springs Recreation Areas (reservation recommended)

2. Beaverhead (Montana)

Potosi Campground is free and only a short hike from Upper Potosi Hot Springs

…and finally our #1 campground in a National Forest:

1. Los Padres (California)

Incredibly scenic Kirk Creek Campground sits atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur

Honorable Mentions

Cache (Utah)

Although the campgrounds are located right along Highway 89, we suspect the Logan River drowns out the road noise

Tongass (Alaska)

This scenic spot just outside Wrangell would rank higher, but it is more of a designated campsite than a campground

Homochitto (Mississippi)

Maybe we are partial to Clear Springs Campground because we arrived in the dark after fleeing a fire in Kisatchie National Forest, plus it had showers

Hiawatha (Michigan)

Hovey Lake Campground is free, but it only has four campsites; it would be fun to boat to a campground in Grand Island National Recreation Area

Finger Lakes (New York)

We spent a quiet night in Blueberry Patch Campground on a forested ridgeline between two of the Finger Lakes

Mt. Hood (Oregon)

Located east of Portland, Lost Lake Campground has to have one of the best views in the country

Nebraska (Nebraska)

Pine plantations are a nice break from the sandhill prairies surrounding Bessey Recreation Complex, as well as Steer Creek Campground in Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest

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