One of the beautiful things about camping is that you can pitch a tent in some amazing locations! To kick off the summer camping season, we went on the hunt for the most scenic and remote campsites in North America that would get us away from civilization and technology.
We were not disappointed. Here are some of the top picks that wound up on our bucket list.
Gunnison National Forest, Colorado
There are just 30 designated campsites in this 1.6 million acre national forest, but dispersed camping is permitted. 3,000 miles of trails wind through evergreen forests, around lakes, and across open meadows to give you stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. The designated campsites are scattered around the forest, offering a variety of views from lakeside to mountainside.
Gunnison might not offer the most remote campsites, but it made the list for its breathtaking views and varied scenery. Because dispersed camping is permitted year-round, it’s easy to escape the crowds and find a slice of solitude with a view of the Rockies.
While you’re there, be sure to check out Black Canyon. It is a steep gorge with a gorgeous view of the Painted Wall—Colorado’s highest cliff.
Sahale Glacier Camp, Washington
Enjoy a night nestled among the stunning North Cascade peaks at Sahale Glacier Camp. To get there, you’ll have to navigate a fairly strenuous 6-mile hike with over 4,000 feet of elevation gain. You’ll climb out of the lush, ancient maple forest along the Cascade River and seemingly to the top of the world.
The views aren’t just at the top! Every direction you look seems to offer a postcard-worthy view. The hike itself leads you past Doubtful Lake, where many hikers stop for a dip in the cool mountain water. Beautiful wildflowers bloom in springtime and wild blueberries line the trail in September.
There are no trees, so the campsites are very exposed. Rock rings surround each campsite for a little protection from the wind. Be sure to secure your tent well, as the weather and winds are fairly unpredictable. Then, sit back and enjoy the views in every direction. If the clouds stay away, sunsets and sunrises are sights to behold!
A backcountry permit is required for camping, available on a first-come basis. Be sure to arrive early to claim a coveted permit. The lower trails are very popular in the spring and summer, drawing large crowds of day-hikers, but many don’t venture to the top.
Royal Arch, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
The Royal Arch is the Grand Canyon’s largest natural bridge. Because it was carved by water it’s technically a bridge, not an arch. The 34.6-mile Royal Arch Loop is perhaps the most rugged and isolated established South Rim hike in the Grand Canyon—it’s not for the faint of heart or novice hiker.
It covers 6,200 feet of elevation gain and the heat, exposure, and sparse trail demand the respect of everyone. If you do the full trail loop, there’s a short rappel section and you’ll need to bring your own 40-foot rope and harness.
There is a beautiful natural spring with good drinking water under the arch. Water sources are few and far between on this loop, so be prepared to filter, drink, and store as much water as possible at every single potable water source.
Getting to this remote campsite under the Royal Arch is half the adventure. There may be easier ways to see the Grand Canyon but this is definitely more memorable and by far less traveled. While all the masses crowd the edges, you’ll be thousands of feet below, enjoying a different perspective of this natural wonder.
A permit is required for camping under the arch but you can apply up to 4 months in advance.
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliff National Monument, Arizona and Utah
112,500 acres of beautiful desert and intriguing history await exploration at Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliff National Monument. Situated on the northern border of Arizona and reaching into Utah, this area promises beautiful scenery, solitude, and one of the longest and deepest slot canyons in the world (Buckskin Gulch).
There are some parts of the trek through Buckskin Gulch that are so narrow you’ll have to take your pack off and squeeze through sideways. Quicksand is another hazard you should be aware of.
Ancient pictographs, petroglyphs, and granaries tell the stories of ancestral Puebloan people who used to call this area home between AD 200 and AD 1200. Paria is a Paiute word that means “muddy water”.
Speaking of muddy water, you will get wet backpacking in Paria Canyon. The trail takes you across and through the river countless times. For this reason, you should avoid Paria altogether during the “monsoon season” from late June to mid September. Even if it’s not raining in Paria Canyon, rain miles upriver can cause flash floods in the narrow canyons.
There’s no trail; you just hike through the canyon crisscrossing the Paria River or walking right down the middle of the river where it fills the whole canyon. For the most part, the river is only ankle or calf deep, occasionally rising to waist-deep.
The Bureau of Land Management issues just 20 entry permits per day for Paria. This is to protect the area from over-use and preserve the solitude. You will likely see very few other people during your trip, especially if you go very early or very late in the season.
Regardless of its challenging terrain, limited permits, and other obstacles, Paria Canyon offers beautiful, picture-worthy views and peaceful solitude. You’ll be amazed by the red rock walls, huge natural amphitheaters, arches, and hanging gardens where the few springs in the canyon offer fresh water. There is so much to see and explore along this trek.
Titcomb Basin, Wind River Range Wyoming
This is perhaps one of the most stunning parts of the Wind River Range. Granite cliffs tower above the tree line and hold several beautiful lakes. The trails pass through beautiful meadows, woods, past lakes and across valleys. There are a number of overlooks along the way that treat you to spectacular panoramic views.
The Titcomb Basin is a long, alpine valley over 10,500 feet above sea level. It is just below the Continental Divide and high peaks flank three sides of the basin, creating a sort of horseshoe valley. The trail is windy but the views are incredible in nearly every direction.
The crowds tend to stay near Seneca Lake about nine miles into the hike. To get away and find the remote campsites you’ll need to venture further up the trail.
When you find the perfect spot to pitch your tent, be sure to settle in and enjoy the sunset then wake up late in the night to take in the night sky. Many backpackers report amazing views of the Milky Way and other celestial wonders.
If you like, bring a fishing rod to try catching some rainbow trout and other fish for dinner at Island Lake or one of the other small glacial ponds, streams, and lakes in the area.
The best times to visit the Titcomb Basin are late July through September. Depending on the snowpack, trails may not open until August. Be prepared for cool, alpine air and common afternoon showers and thunderstorms. Because of the elevation, there is a chance for snow year-round.
Do you have a favorite remote campsite you like to visit? Or do you have a remote destination on your bucket list? Share in the comments!