7 Best National Forests for Spring Camping

Mar 3, 2023 | Campgrounds

7 Best National Forests for Spring Camping

With lower prices, fewer crowds, and fresh greenery, spring months are perfect for camping adventures. Here are seven national forests where you can embrace this underappreciated season.

By Madeleine Balestrier

Campfire Lodgings in Pisgah National Forest. | Photo: Stephanie

Why wait to go camping in the summer when you can experience the underrated beauty of spring? 

Spring is an extraordinary time to explore vast wildernesses. As the snow melts and the sun shines, wildflowers erupt, leaves grow green, waterfalls gush, and wildlife awakes. Camping in the spring also means fewer crowds, lower prices, more availability, fewer insects, and peace and quiet. 

Related 7 Epic National Forest Boondocking Locations

Here are some of the best national forests for spring camping in the U.S.  

A row of RVs stands at the edge of a wooded area
Sugar Hill Fire Tower in Finger Lakes National Forest. | Photo: LetsJustGoRV

1. Finger Lakes National Forest, New York

Did you know Finger Lakes National Forest is the only national forest in New York? The more than 16,000 acres of forest, open land, and roaming wildlife are situated on a ridge between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes. The best time to visit Finger Lakes National Forest is in the spring. The spring is a birdwatching and fishing haven in the New York wilderness. It’s also home to Watkins Glen State Park, with gorges and 19 cascading waterfalls. 

Visit Finger Lakes National Forest in May as campgrounds and parks open before the summer crowds and heat inundate the area. 

Where to Camp 

2. Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina

With more than 500,000 acres, Pisgah National Forest is a sprawling wilderness. Exploring the hardwood forest you’ll find waterfalls, rushing whitewater rivers, looming mountains, and miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. It’s also known for two of the first designated wildernesses in the Eastern United States: Shining Rock and Linville Gorge. 

Related The Most Popular National Forests in the U.S. for Camping

Like the leaves in fall, the blooming spring flowers in Pisgah National Forest are worth the trip. Hike Pink Beds Trail, where pink flowers awaken along a mountain bog in late May and early June. March is ideal for daffodils, irises, and buttercups, while April is for dogwood, trillium, redwoods, and tulips. 

Pisgah National Forest is also conveniently located near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Asheville, North Carolina. Plus, there’s no shortage of camping options. 

Where to Camp 

A Rockwood brand travel trailer sits beneath a leafy tree
Spearfish City Campground in Black Hills National Forest. | Photo: Pleepleus

3. Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota

Black Hills National Forest comprises nearly 1.25 million acres with pine tree forests that rise above the surrounding prairie. The contrast of color between the prairie makes the hills appear black. This national forest stretches between South Dakota and Wyoming. It’s home to Mount Rushmore, extensive cave systems, waterfalls, mountain goats, and open prairies. 

Related The Best Camping in Black Hills National Forest

Visit Black Hills National Forest in April, May, or early June to capture animals grazing amongst the new greenery or find a crag and rock climb. Although a magical and underappreciated time to visit Black Hills National Forest, the weather in the spring can be rainy with temperatures in the mid-50s to mid-70s. 

Beat the crowds and pay offseason prices when you camp in Black Hills National Forest during the spring months. “During the offseason (November 1 to April 30), it’s $10 per night,” according to a Campendium review on Spearfish City Campground. 

Where to Camp

An RV camper overlooks a mountain range in the distance
Lakeview Gunnison Campground in Gunnison National Forest. | Photo: Sermonator

4. Gunnison National Forest, Colorado

At the center of Southwest Colorado is Gunnison National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service area spreads across more than 1.6 million acres of public and private land, a playground built on expansive forests, valleys, and mountains.

Gunnison National Forest is a mecca for mountain biking, trail running, fishing, rafting, learning about Native American history, and scenic drives. It’s also a central point to access the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Grand Mesa National Forest, Uncompahgre National Forest, and mountain towns such as Crested Butte. 

Related Know These Important New Camping Rules in Crested Butte

The best time to camp in Gunnison National Forest is in the spring before temperatures skyrocket in June, July, and August. 

Where to Camp

An RV stands backed up to a large canyon overlook
Wedge Overlook Dispersed Camping in Manti-La Sal National Forest. | Photo: RV Chickadee

5. Manti-La Sal National Forest, Utah

The La Sal and Abajo mountain ranges and the Wasatch Plateau come together to create the Manti-La Sal National Forest in Central and Southeastern Utah.

While the mountains create a beautiful landscape and draw people to the area to climb, hike, and mountain bike, the Wasatch Plateau invites camping, hunting, fishing, and off-roading trails, including Skyline Drive and Arapeen Off-Highway Vehicle Trail System. 

Related 7 Overlanding Routes With Campgrounds Nearby

Visit Manti-La National Forest in the spring and experience places like Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef national parks before the crowds and heat set in. In Moab, Utah, the average temperature in July is 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Spring in Manti-La Sal National Forest is ideal for exploring and dispersed camping. 

Where to Camp 

A large RV with multiple slide outs is parked next to a wide tree
Ward Mountain Dispersed Camping in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. | Photo: Russell Nesbitt

6. Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Nevada

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest is the largest national forest in the lower 48 states. With nearly 6.3 million acres, there’s a lot to explore across most of the state of Nevada and parts of Eastern California. It’s so massive that its 18 designated wilderness areas are spread out and non-contiguous. 

It also includes three of Nevada’s five highest peaks: Mount Moriah, Mount Jefferson, and Mount Charleston all stand tall over these wilderness areas and forests. Among the peaks are opportunities for uninterrupted stargazing, backpacking to remote hot springs, mountain biking single-track trails, and camping in rugged areas. 

Related The Best RV Campgrounds for Stargazing Adventures

Since Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest comprises a large portion of Nevada, there’s convenient access from Reno and Las Vegas for recreation all year. Like the deserts of Utah, escape to Nevada in the spring before the heat becomes unbearable. 

Where to Camp

An RV parked between several towering trees with a large body of water in the distance
Tillicum Beach Campground in Siuslaw National Forest. | Photo: Campendium

7. Siuslaw National Forest, Oregon

If the Oregon Coast is on your bucket list, then chances are so is Siuslaw National Forest. This U.S. Forest Service land is a perfect way to capture the beautiful state of Oregon. From the Pacific Ocean and the Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area to old-growth forests and four major rivers, there is something to explore for every camper. 

Beyond hiking, boating, backpacking, camping, and wildlife viewing, roam coastal towns like Florence, Newport, and Coos Bay for a taste of the Beaver State. 

Related 5 State Park Campgrounds in the Pacific Northwest Worthy of a Detour

If you visit Siuslaw National Forest in the spring, hike Marys Peak, the highest point in the Oregon Coast Range. On a bluebird day, you can see the Cascades to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. In the spring, the meadows along the hike explode in color and refreshing scents. 

Where to Camp

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