It’s hot. It’s muggy. You want to enjoy the outdoors, but the weather is so oppressive you find yourself staying inside, lulled to complacency by air conditioning and digital screens. But if you have access to an RV, van, or a tent, you can take yourself somewhere better. But, where can you go to actually enjoy the outdoors in the summer? Check out this list of cool camping destinations to see where to escape the summer heat.
When looking for a cool summertime retreat, you have four main options: Camp by the water, camp at a higher altitude, go north, or stay in the shade. Here are highly-rated campgrounds in each category. While this list is far from comprehensive, it might inspire you to find something similar within your travel range.
RV Parks and Campgrounds Near Water
There’s nothing more refreshing than jumping in an ocean, lake, or river on a hot summer day—aside from hopping in a resort pool. From waterfront RV parks on ocean shores to Corps of Engineers campgrounds on inland lakes, there’s almost always a waterfront option in your region. Even the tiniest creek can provide a lot of relief on a hot summer day.
Waterfront campgrounds have built-in recreation, meaning you can enjoy a full vacation without leaving the park. Plus, if you can’t find camping near a natural waterway, any pool will do. If you are traveling with kids, look for a park with an on-site waterpark. Or, for adults, look for plush cabanas and swim-up bars for a taste of the tropics. Take along or rent kayaks or inner tubes, and hit the water.
Where to Camp:
- Camp Fimfo in New Braunfels, Texas: This campground is a double hitter, offering a fun waterpark as well as access to the floatable Guadalupe River.
- Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in Santa Rosa, Florida: Located near Destin, Florida, this state park’s private beach gives you a break from the crowds on the Emerald Coast.
- Assateague State Park in Berlin, Maryland: Take your pick from the ocean beaches or bay beaches and watch for the famed wild ponies.
- Lighthouse Point Campground in Sandusky, Ohio: If you’re traveling with tweens or teens, check out this park adjacent to Cedar Point Amusement Park and Lake Erie, plus there’s a water park.
- Asheville East KOA in Asheville, North Carolina: The Swannanoa River runs through the campground. Hop on a raft or inner tube at one end of the park and float to the other end.
High Altitude RV Parks and Campgrounds
Many states have mountains and hills, which cool significantly as the elevation rises. Whether you go to New York’s Catskills, Colorado’s Rockies, or Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks, you should find reasonable temperatures and cool breezes—you may even find remnants of the winter snow.
If you’re planning to camp at an elevation above 8,000 feet, make sure to allow yourself time to adjust—or else you could develop altitude sickness. Try staying a night or two at a campground at a mid-way point in elevation, or plan to take it easy on your first day at the campground. And be sure to drink a lot of water.
Where to Camp:
- Mueller State Park in Divide, Colorado: At 9,219 feet in elevation, these campsites practically touch the sky. Admire views of Pikes Peak from the park.
- Mount Pisgah Campground in Canton, North Carolina: Bask in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains at this campground located off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Colter Bay RV Park in Moran, Wyoming: At 6,791 feet in elevation, this park is a great home base for adventures in Grand Teton National Park. Plus, you can hang out at Jackson Lake, which is on the edge of the park.
- Tuolumne Meadows Campground in Yosemite National Park, California: Stay cool while visiting Yosemite at this campground, located at 8,562 feet in elevation.
RV Parks and Campgrounds in the Northern U.S.
If you’re mobile enough to change latitudes, do so. The Northern U.S. is generally cooler than the South. Summer is a lovely time to visit New England, the Great Lakes region, Idaho, Montana, or the Pacific Northwest. Even if you can’t get to a far-off destination, just going to the next state north of your own may feel cooler, especially if there’s less humidity.
Where to Camp:
- Schoodic Woods Campground in Winter Harbor, Maine: Review after review uses “beautiful” to describe this campground in Acadia National Park.
- LaPine State Park in La Pine, Oregon: The natural waterslides and river access are an extra bonus at this beloved Oregon state park.
- Rafter J Bar Ranch in Hill City, South Dakota: Located in the Black Hills near Mount Rushmore, this shady campground stays cool in the summer.
- Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Indiana: Reap the double benefits of a northern location with water nearby.
- Salt Creek Recreation Area in Port Angeles, Washington: Tiered sites overlook the Strait of Juan De Fuca, and you have access to Olympic National Park.
Shady RV Parks and Campgrounds
Forested campgrounds are your best friend in the summer. No matter what region you’re located in, you’re likely to find a shaded campground within a day’s drive. From the coastal redwoods to the ponderosa pines in South Dakota’s Black Hills to the live oaks of the South, the U.S. has some awe-inspiring trees.
When looking for shade, national parks, national forests, and state parks are a good starting point since many have preserved the trees as part of the natural environments. However, many private parks also have good coverage. Check out campsite photos on Campendium to see whether campsites are shady or in wide-open sun. When in doubt, call the park and ask which spots are shadiest.
Where to Camp:
- Jedediah Smith Campground in Crescent City, California: You can camp under old-growth redwoods and then take a swim in Smith River.
- Townsend-Great Smokies KOA in Townsend, Tennessee: Located on the quiet side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this verdant campground has river access for extra relief.
- Skidaway Island State Park in Savannah, Georgia: Named the Best State Park Campground of 2021 by Campendium users, this park provides you some relief from the Southern heat with campsites under moss-covered live oaks.
- Rancho Sedona RV Park in Sedona, Arizona: This lush campground is an unexpected find amid the red rocks of Sedona, thanks to Oak Creek, which runs through the park.