As local communities continue to update Covid-19 regulations, local destinations for outdoor recreation may be closed. Please visit official websites for the latest information.

Thawing Out: 10 Camping Destinations for an Early Spring Getaway

Head south or out west for some early spring camping.

By Trent Jonas

Thawing Out: 10 Camping Destinations for an Early Spring Getaway

Spring weather has arrived and that means it's time to dig the camping gear out of the storage closet and get ready for a new season. While you can smell summer in the air, springtime weather can be unpredictable throughout many areas of the United States. In some places, temperatures remain chilly. In others, the conditions are rainy more times than not. If you're looking for a place to escape to with warmth and perfect early spring conditions, heading a little farther south and west is the key. From Texas' national parks to the deserts of Nevada, here are our favorite early spring camping destinations. 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX

Tucked into the rugged west Texas landscape, where it meets the New Mexico border, Guadalupe Mountains National Park boasts a combination of mild spring temperatures and a stunning desert landscape. There are two developed campgrounds in the park—Pine Springs and Dog Canyon—and backcountry camping is available throughout the park with a permit. If you choose a developed site, you may want to lean more toward Pine Spring in the early spring, as Dog Canyon’s elevation could mean cooler temperatures.

Everglades National Park, FL

Spring break in Florida? Of course—but not THAT Florida. Head to Everglades National Park for sun, surf, and a whole lot of nature with far fewer people. The Flamingo Campground is practically oceanfront, while the Long Pine Key Campground offers excellent access to hiking trails into the park’s signature wetlands terrain. There are also plenty of backcountry camping opportunities, including beach sites and elevated platforms accessible only by canoe, kayak or other small watercraft.  

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Dead Horse Point State Park, Moab, UT

Sharing the same Colorado River landscape as Canyonlands National Park—and within minutes of Arches National Park—Dead Horse Point State Park is a less-trafficked alternative that offers access to both. The areas high temperatures average in the 60s and 70s during March and April, making it a perfect place for an early spring getaway. But bring warm clothes and sleeping bags—the desert nights can still dip below freezing at this time of year. 

Hot Springs National Park, AR

Although Hot Springs National Park tends to be a little more about history than nature, it still makes for an awesome early spring adventure. There is one campground in the park—Gulpha Gorge—which offers access to hiking trails through park’s natural areas. If you’d like to venture a little farther afield, head into the nearby Ouachita National Forest for a deeper dive into the region’s stunning natural beauty.

Gila National Forest, NM

Western New Mexico’s Gila National Forest offers both mild daytime temperatures in the spring and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure, including hiking, fishing, mountain biking, and stargazing. In fact, one of the forest’s many developed camping areas—the Cosmic Campground International Dark Sky Sanctuary—is entirely devoted to those who want nothing more than to sleep under the stars. There are also plenty of backcountry camping opportunities for those who seek solitude in the woods.

Death Valley National Park, CA/NV

Given its hellish summertime temperatures, Death Valley National Park, which straddles the California-Nevada border, is a popular early-spring destination. So, plan ahead if you hope to reserve a site in one its developed campgrounds. On the other hand, it’s also the largest national park in the Lower 48, so you could grab a backcountry permit, walk into the desert, and avoid the crowd.

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Pinnacles National Park, CA

If you’re looking for a more-modern camping experience in the midst of rugged beauty, head toward Pinnacles National Park, just inland from California’s Monterey Bay. The park offers one developed campground but does not allow dispersed or backcountry camping. And once you see the park’s landscape and the habitat it affords endangered California condors, you’ll understand why. So, spend your days on the trail and your nights in an amenity-filled campground.

Mammoth Cave National Park, KY

Early spring temperatures frequently reach into the 60s at Mammoth Cave National Park, which is home to the world’s longest known cave system and many square miles of rugged, forested hills. Stay at one of the park’s three developed campgrounds. However, you may prefer to tighten your hiking boots—or grab a paddle—and head to one of the park’s backcountry sites, which are only accessible by hiking, horseback, or paddling several miles. 

F.D. Roosevelt State Park, GA

With spring temperatures that frequently reach into the 70s, F.D. Roosevelt State Park and the Pine Mountain trail have much to offer early-season campers. Stay at one of the park’s many campgrounds or hike into one of its backcountry sites. You’re sure to find plenty of adventure in Georgia’s largest state park.

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

One of the country’s most visited national parks tends to be a little less crowded but just as magical in the early spring, when the weather’s a little cooler (daytime temps in the 50s and 60s) and everything is starting to come back to life. Stay at one of the park’s four developed campgrounds, or make your own adventure in the park’s vast backcountry. 

As local communities continue to update Covid-19 regulations, local destinations for outdoor recreation may be closed. Please visit official websites for the latest information.

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