Camping in the United States
This article is a travel topic
In the United States, campsites are either on government-owned lands, such as national, state, and county parks and forests, or are privately owned.
There is much variation in how you claim a site. Some parks may allow, or even require, reservations to be made in advance. In others, it is first come, first serve. You will usually get a tag to display at your campsite to indicate you have paid for it.
Daily rates for campsites range from zero to $25, depending on location, season, and how many amenities are provided. Grounds often have different rules and rates during popular holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
Who owns Campgrounds
Many of the most scenic campgrounds in the States are on government land. The federal government holds huge areas through agencies such as the Forest Service, Park Service, Department of Agriculture, Army Corps of Engineers, and Bureau of Land Management. States, counties, and cities may also have their own land available.
Many campgrounds, especially those oriented towards Recreational Vehicles, are privately owned. 'RV Parks' specialize in providing services to RVers, and have electrical, water, and waste hookups. There are also some that accommodate tent campers, such as the national chain KOA (Kampgrounds of America).
Types of Campground Sites
Developed and Improved
Most campsites are developed and improved. A site being developed simply means a compacted area for pitching shelter is present, and there may be a ring for wood fires and table. A site is improved when it has access to amenities such as drinkable water, toilets, trash bins, or showers. In bear country, you might also have a bear-proof box for food storage.
Some sites have amenities designed to meet the needs of Recreational Vehicles, such as electrical service. Some even have water and waste hookups at each campsite. For tent campers, some of these places may be just as enjoyable as non-electric sites, while others are about as enjoyable as parking lots.
Sites that aren't accessable by motorized vehicles are considered backpacking sites. You will have to carry in your tent and gear through hiking or horse trails.
Most lands require campers to use designated campsites. However, in some areas dispersed, or backcountry camping is permitted, where any location may be used, subject to a few restrictions. Before planning any trip, the office responsible for oversight of the particular land should be contacted to determine whether a permit is required, and if any special rules must be observed.
Leave-no-trace camping principles must be observed at all times, because unlike developed sites, the land is left vulnerable to damage. If a particular area does become overused, it may be closed off until it is able to recover.
Dispersed camping is possible at National Forests, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas. National Forests can be found nationwide, whereas BLM lands are generally west of the Rockies.
Group and Youth Sites
If you are camping with a large group, it can often be cheaper to get a group site for a lower cost per-person. Some grounds even have sites set aside for youth groups.