When most people think of the best camping locations in America their mind immediately goes to either Colorado for its high mountains and snow-swept views, or Utah for a rough and rugged backcountry adventure. While it’s true that the eastern half of the US isn’t as famous as the West, it presents a far more accessible camping experience with a fraction of the crowds and offers stunning views running from the Appalachians to the Atlantic Ocean.
Mathews Arm, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Mathews Arm Campground is located near the north end of Shenandoah NP and is the trailhead to the Overall Run Falls which is the tallest waterfall in the park. Fall is the most popular time to visit and it brings with it the biggest crowds but also the most spectacular scenery and views of the Shenandoah Valley and Massanutten Mountain(2,922 ft). There are 200 sites at Mathews Arm and flush toilets, drinking water, and group sites are available.
- Directions: located at mile marker 22.1 on Skyline Drive.
- Fees: $15, $7.50 with senior discount
- Dates Open: May 6th though September 30th
Wild Camping by Spruce Knob Mountain, West Virginia
Spruce Knob (4,863 ft.) is part of the Monongahela National Forest in central West Virginia. Two free primitive campgrounds are available in the area around the mountain: Seneca Shadows Campground and Big Bend Campground. Both contain picnic tables and chemical toilets; bring your own water and supplies.
Alternatively, roadside camping is possible and there are numerous established pull-offs along the unmaintained Public Road 104.
- Directions: take Highway 28 to Public Road 112 and follow the signs for Spruce Knob summit.
- Fees: free for both primitive and the campground
- Dates Open: free sites open year round, – campground seasonal
Trough Creek State Park, Pennsylvania
Located on the shores of Raystown Lake, the Trough Creek Campground is part of a 550 acre state park that follows a deep gorge down from nearby Terrance Mountain. There are numerous hiking trails throughout the park and fishing, boating, and hunting are allowed with a permit.
The private and spacious 30-site campground offers excellent privacy between sites and amenities include drinking water, restrooms, and RV hookups for your Fretz RV. Cabins are available for groups but be sure to book ahead.
- Directions: take Highway 26 to PA Rt. 994, turn left on road T370.
- Fees: starting at $15
- Dates Open: year-round
Ocracoke Campground, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina
Cape Hatteras is a very popular both as a fishing destination and as a tourist attraction for the windy dunes and views of the famous lighthouses. Ocracoke Campground is near the southern edge point of the island chain and has 120 sites which offers drinking water, flush toilets, and shower facilities. Reservations highly recommended during peak times.
- Directions: reachable by ferry from Cedar Island to the south or Highway 12 from Kill Devil Hills.
- Fees: $23
- Dates Open: May 25th through end of October
The high season for the Smoky Mountain runs from May through September and many campgrounds may be full so it’s advisable to book in advanced. In the Cape Hatteras region camping is only allowed at the 4 designated campgrounds but there are both paid and free sites in the Croatan National Forest to the southwest.