Lakeside Camping in our National Parks

The leaves are beginning to change color, layering the ground with vibrant leaves and warm feelings of hot tea, a snuggly blanket and this innate desire to sit by the campfire. I’ll leave it up for debate, but personally, there’s nothing better than the aforementioned and a lakeside camping view so remote that it shuts out the light pollution of our normal lives, leaving us alone with the night sky to contemplate our inner thoughts and reflect on the natural wonders around us.  Now that’s what I call paradise…

For those of you who have those desires, we’ve compiled a list of lakeside camping destinations that won’t disappoint! Many of these destinations are on the west coast or the midwest and there’s no wonder why. Much of the north and midwest lands are covered by vast mountain ranges, expansive plains and pockets of joy (i.e. the lakes and springs fit for a travel brochure)!

Peruse these destinations and we’ll do our part to give you as much lakeside camping relevant information as possible, so all you have to do is pack the car and #FindYourPark :)

Cheers to the approach of another fall season… we hope you fill these months with adventure, new resolutions and an increasing love for our national parks and the hidden gems they have to offer!

Mono Lake, Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area
Location: Near the town of Lee Vining, CA on Highway 395 and 15 miles east of Yosemite National Park
Best travel times: Fall/Winter

  • Dispersed camping - *some areas restricted (including South Tufa, Navy Beach, Old Marina, and County Park)
  • Exposed lakebed camping - *requires permit
  • Island camping (September-March) - *requires permit
  • Campfire camping - *requires permit
  • 16 campgrounds in total: 1 RV campground, camping fee ranges from $8 - $20.
  • Free permits can be acquired at the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center


  • Cross-country skiing, Boating, Swimming, Hiking, Photography, Fishing
  • Interpretive Programs: Bird walks, Tufa walks, etc.


  • Parking
  • Restrooms
  • Drinking Water

For more info visit:

Lake McDonald, MT

Location: In Flathead County, MT 6.5 miles southwest of Glacier National Park
Best travel times: Fall/Summer

  • Apgar:
    • 194 camping sites (RV’s permitted)
    • Amenities: Potable water, Restrooms, Amphitheater, Visitor center, gift shops, camp store, casual restaurant. Horseback ride reservations, boat rentals, a shuttle service available.
    • Fee: $20/night, no reservation needed
    • Campground Map:
  • Avalanche:
    • Open June - September
    • 87 camping sites (RV’s permitted)
    • Amenities: Potable water, Restrooms, Amphitheater
    • Highlights: Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake Trail
    • Fee: $20/night, no reservation needed
    • Campground Map:
  • Fish Creek
    • Open June - September
    • 178 camping sites (RV’s permitted)
    • Amenities: Potable water, Restrooms, Showers, Disposal station, Amphitheater
    • Highlights: Rocky Point Trail, Camas Road
    • Fee: $23/night, reservation required
  • Sprague Creek
    • Open May - September
    • 25 camping sites (RV’s not permitted)
    • Amenities: Potable water, restrooms, picnic area, camp store, restaurant, gift shop, tour buses, boat tours, and horse rides
    • Highlights: Lake McDonald Lodge, unobstructed lake view
    • Fee: $20/night, no reservation needed


Great Salt Lake, UT

Location: Spanning across five counties, lending its name to Salt Lake City, the lake is 76 miles south of Golden Spike National Historic Site.
Best travel times: Spring/Autumn/Winter

  • Spiral Jetty
    • You’ll need some water, since no restrooms or water source is available and pack food depending on your stay since there are no places nearby to stop. Last stop for gas is at Corrine, UT. Using 4WD is preferable.
    • Amenities: Open parking, Pets allowed, absolute silence and isolation!
    • Fee: none, no reservation needed
    • Campground Map:
  • Antelope Island Campground
    • Highlights: Frary Peak (2.5 mile hike), Frary Graze Site Interpretive Trail (.42 mile hike), Mountain View (11.4 mile hike), South Island Trail (4 mile hike), Beacon Knob (0.4 mile hike/photo attraction), White Rock Loop (1.1 mile hike), Gravel Pit Trailhead (1.84 mile hike), Bone Road Trail (2.7 mile hike), Buffalo Point (0.43 mile hike/photo attraction),
    • Bridger Bay Campground
      • 26 campgrounds (RV’s permitted), small parties (8 or less) preferable
      • Amenities: Water is available at Bridger Bay Beach, the Dump Station, and the Visitor Center, Pit toilets only, Dogs allowed, Fires allowed (in pits only)
      • Fee: $15 (first night), $12 (subsequent nights), $13 for second vehicle
    • White Rock Bay Campground
      • 20 campgrounds (RV’s permitted), medium sized parties (16 or less)
      • Amenities: Water is available at Bridger Bay Beach, the Dump Station, and the Visitor Center, Pit toilets only, Dogs allowed, Fires allowed (in pits only)
      • Fee: $30 (first night), $24 (subsequent nights), $13 for third vehicle
    • Other options: Lakeside Group Campsite, Ladyfinger Campground
  • Map:

    Russell Lake, OR
    Location: About 86 miles south of Mt. Hood National Forest and north of Willamette National Forest.
    Best travel time: Spring, Summer Autumn
    Highlights: Breitenbush Trailhead (3 mile hike), South Breitenbush Trailhead (3 mile hike), Mount Jefferson (scenic view), Whitewater Creek Crossing (water source), Scouts Lake, Bear Lake, Pacific Crest Trail (intersects with Breitenbush Trail) and Russell Lake after 4 miles.

    Camping: Open in May 2016! Reservations are needed for designated campsites only. There are a limited amount of reservations but all are within 250 feet of the lakes. Wilderness and Recreation passes are required for certain trailheads, but are usually self-serving.
    Fee: $6-$9 per reservation

    Bear Lake, MN
    Location: 77 miles south of Superior National Forest
    Best travel time: Fall, Winter
    Highlights: Taconite State Trail (4.4 miles), Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway (18.6 miles), Mesabi Trail (21.1 miles), Alborn Pengilly Railroad Trail (24.1 miles)

    • 27 campsites total (RV’s permitted)
    • Amenities: Fire pit, cleared area, picnic tables, vault toilets, garbage disposal, drinking water, lake access, swimming, dock, fishing, snowmobile trail, pets allowed
    • Fee: $14 daily camping, first-come first-serve policy. Phone reservations can be made by calling 866-857-2757 (TTY: 952-936-4008) between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily November through March, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily April through October.

    Sawtooth Lake, ID
    Location: 30 miles north of Sawtooth National Forest
    Best travel time: Summer, Fall, Autumn
    Highlights: Alpine Lake, Mount Regan, Alpine Peak, Iron Creek Trailhead
    Note: Stop in Stanley, ID for all your necessities before heading to your campsite

    • Iron Creek Campground
      • 9 campsites total (RV’s permitted)
      • Amenities: Drinking water, vault toilets, hiking, picnic tables, fire rings.
      • Fees: $13/day, first-come first-serve policy, no reservations needed
    • Dispersed Camping Options available:
      • Self-issued permits required for camping outside designated campgrounds, wilderness permits needed for groups of 8 or more.
      • Amenities: Dogs allowed, campfires allowed (but gas stoves are preferable), lake access.

    Granite Springs Reservoir, WY
    Location: 78 miles southeast of Medicine Bow National Forest
    Best travel time: Summer, Fall
    Highlights: Laramie Mountains, Crystal Reservoir, North Crow Reservoir, Hynds Lodge.

    • Curt Gowdy State Park
      • 13 campgrounds total (RV’s permitted), cabins and yurts are also available (prices vary)
      • Amenities: Visitor Center, restrooms, shower house, lake access, hiking trails, mountain bike trails, Salmon/Trout fishing spots,
      • Fees: $10-$17/day, depending on your state of residence

    Cracker Lake, MT
    Location: 15 miles southeast of Glacier National Park, MT
    Best travel time:
    Highlights: Swiftcurrent Pass Trail, Grinnell Glacier Trail, Apikuni Falls, Swiftcurrent Lake Nature Trail, Iceberg Lake Trail
    Camping: You’ll need to take a 12 mile to get there located by East Glacier Park at the Many Glacier Hotel parking lot, but it’s well worth it… we promise!

    • Campgrounds nearby:
      • Many Glacier, St. Mary, Rising Sun
      • Fees: $10-$23/day, first-come first-serve policy
      • No pets allowed, campfires allowed in fire pits only

    A few other options to look into:

    • Lower Crystal Lake, CO - 50 miles south of Arapaho National Forest
    • Todd Lake, OR - 20 miles west of Bend, OR
    • Mirror Lake, OR - 8 miles southwest of Mt. Hood National Forest, OR
    • Thomas Lakes, CO - 31 miles southwest of White River National Forest, CO

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