Guest Post: The Top Ten Attributes of Great Campgrounds

Enjoying the sunrise in Shenandoah National Park.
There are more campgrounds in the United States than you could possibly hope to count. Lucy for us, they're everywhere! Some of them are terrible, some are passable, and some are good. And then there are those campgrounds that rise above our expectations - the great ones. But what makes a campground great? What is it about the perfect campsite that sets it above the rest? A great campground will offer you plenty in the way of amenities, facilities, services, and enjoyment. But it's even more than just a clean toilet, or nice showers. Below, guest post author Perry Rosenbloom discusses the top ten attributes of truly great campgrounds.

Great Campground Attribute #1 | Adequate Water Sources
No one wants to lug sixty one-gallon jugs of water with them to the campground. All of the packaging is wasteful, and the jugs take up valuable vehicle real estate. One of the most important amenities to look for when choosing a site is the availability of water on the grounds. A good campground will have easily-accessible potable water. A great one will have a hot water option, too, if you’re the type who needs a hot shower while you’re camping.

Great Campground Attribute #2 | Privacy
Campgrounds with all of the amenities we're talking about can get very crowded, because, hey, everyone wants to pitch their tent in the best sites they can. What makes the really great sites even better is the amount of privacy they offer. You may be camping near another group, but with a few strategically planted trees and a staggered plot design, you can experience some form of seclusion and privacy. Some of the best campgrounds are those that space sites far apart.

Ryan Campground in Joshua Tree National Park is easy to find
and navigate, but the desert doesn't allow for much privacy.
Great Campground Attribute #3 | Proximity to Trails
How many trailheads are in the area of the campground? How close are they? These questions matter when you're searching for the great campgrounds of the United States. The best sites will have hiking or biking trails that begin right on the campground property, or at least just a short walk away.

Great Campground Attribute #4 | Activity Variety
Your game plan may focus on hiking trails, but a truly great campground will have plenty of nearby activities to keep you busy and happy. The best will have nearby swimming, fishing, climbing, caving, and maybe even some gaming opportunities. Many campgrounds, particularly those managed by the National Park Service, will also have interpretive programming and opportunities to learn about the flora and fauna of the area. If they do, take advantage.

Great Campground Attribute #5 | Ease of Access
Getting to the campground easily and safely is important. If you’re hauling a trailer, you want to make sure the campground you visit features a navigable drive and has plenty of places to turn around and park. A great campground will be near a navigable, well marked road. There’s nothing worse than rolling in after dark, only to find you’re completely lost.

Great Campground Attribute #6 | Bathroom Facilities
A lot of fee-based campgrounds these days offer restrooms, which is a much more convenient way to heed nature's call than having to create your own space, even if you’re looking at composting pit toilets. Some facilities, however, are more clean and usable than others. Be sure to read reviews to see how other campers felt about the offered commodes. Also, if you’re in a campground with a pit toilet, be sure to abide by all instructions, which will usually request that you refrain from throwing trash in the toilets.

There's a lot of space between sites and plenty of parking
at Watchman Campground in Zion National Park.
Great Campground Attribute #7 | 
Value – Balance between Amenities and Fees
Most private and state-run campgrounds in the U.S. require some sort of entrance fee--sometimes rated per vehicle, sometimes per camper. Of course there are some sites out there that are free, but you'll generally only find most of these attributes at fee-based campgrounds. What makes a campground great, though, is if their fees are reasonably priced.

Great Campground Attribute #8 | Fire Pits
Whether you're building a fire for meal preparation or just as a backdrop for a nighttime conversation, it's a big part of the camping ambiance. Of course you don't need to build a fire on your trip--you can always use a camp stove to cook your meals--but it's nice to have the option to make one if you desire to. Plus, roasting marshmallows over the flame of a camping stove isn’t the same. If you do plan on having a fire, be sure you’re aware of local fire danger ratings and pay attention to campground advice if there’s a particularly high level of danger.

Great Campground Attribute #9 | Shower Amenities
Having a shower handy certainly isn't a necessity, but it makes weekend camping trips with friends and family much more pleasant. Showers also come in handy after a swim in a river or lake or after a long hike or bike ride.

Great Campground Attribute #10 | Availability of Information
You can--and should--do most of your research and planning at home, before the trip even begins, but it's always a bonus if there's an information booth or at least a rack of activity brochures at a campsite. If you haven’t already planned out every day of your camping trip, or the weather refuses to cooperate, access to information and activities is infinitely helpful.

Any attributes Perry left out? Any attributes you don’t think are important for a campground? Leave a comment!

This article was written by Perry Rosenbloom of, where you can find detailed and expert reviews of family camping tents.

Perry spent two summers living and working in Glacier National Park, and now enjoys hiking and camping in Colorado with his wife and dog.


Daniel Beach said…
I think my favorite is privacy. I hate camping onto or right next to someone else. Kinda makes the whole idea of escaping for the weekend pointless! Give me green space!
Katie Levy said…
 I'm with you, Daniel! Privacy is so important. I'd definitely pay more for a campground with sites far apart, and tend to gravitate toward smaller, quieter campgrounds. Though I always try to remember, if there are people around, I haven't had to work hard enough to get there :)
KEEN_Recess_Team said…
Love this post! Great to keep in mind as everyone starts camping this summer. Where are you planning on going this summer? The KEEN Recess Team searching  for the best camping destinations. We'd love to see some of your suggestions up on our map:

You can add locations, photos and a brief description about the campground. 

KEEN Recess Team