The Best Places to Camp in Midwest National Parks
Camping in a national park might conjure up images of distant mountain ranges, but the Midwest has more than its fair share of national parks with rugged, remote landscapes to satisfy adventurous spirits. Head to one of the region's many camper-friendly national parks to explore by day and sleep under a star-strewn sky by night. Here are a few of our favorites, with options for tent camping and RV camping, plus accessible sites and more.
Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota
Set against the crystal clear waters of northern Minnesota lakes, Voyageurs National Park is made up of 218,000 acres of pristine green and blue views. By day, visitors of all ages and abilities can explore the park's scalloped shorelines, splash in the wetlands and discover hidden waterfalls. Camping is a special event — all sites within the park are accessible only by watercraft and require a permit. They come equipped with picnic tables, a tent area and gear lockers. For those who'd rather not rough it, RVs and car campers can post up at several private and public campsites in the surrounding towns.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
South Dakota's rugged wilderness stretches 244,000 acres across Badlands National Park. The park's unique layered rock formations are reminiscent of science fiction landscapes, made up of rich fossil beds that rise and fall in muted pinks and oranges. May, June and September are the best months to camp in the Badlands, when the weather is dry and moderate. The park offers two campgrounds, both open year-round. For the backcountry (and zero-cost) experience, hit up Sage Creek Campground; meanwhile, Cedar Pass Campground offers running water and electricity and costs $22 per night.
Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Wild Northwoods forest meets rocky coastline at Isle Royale National Park, located entirely on an archipelago island on Lake Superior. Getting there is part of the adventure. Access to the park requires a ferry or taking a seaplane, making it one of the least-visited in the country, in a good way. Visitors can revel in the true meaning of the word remote, exploring over 150 miles of trails and a whopping 36 campgrounds. Each has its perks, but Three Mile Campground—a quiet, scenic group of sites and showers on the west side of the island—is a visitor favorite.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Each year, visitors flock to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to experience a wealth of beauty. The park and its famed pictured rocks stretch for miles across Lake Superior's shoreline in a prismatic display of mineral stain towering up to 200 feet above the water. The park offers three rustic drive-in campgrounds: Little Beaver Lake (8 sites), Hurricane River (21 sites) and Twelvemile Beach (36 sites). Campsites are equipped with a picnic table, fire ring and tent pad, along with vault toilets and well water. All campsites require a reservation and cost $25 per night.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
The "perfect freedom" Theodore Roosevelt felt in 1883 when he first visited North Dakota to hunt bison fueled his passion for preservation. With its wide-open spaces, sweeping vistas and wild horses, Theodore Roosevelt National Park still looks a lot like it did when Roosevelt visited. Hike and horseback ride during the day, then retire to one of the park's two campgrounds for some of the best stargazing in the country. Cottonwood Campground is located inside the park's South Unit, while Juniper Campground is in the North Unit. Both offer sites suitable for tents and RVs, but no hookups.
Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota
Wind Cave National Park is an intricate underground system made up of over 150 miles of passages, lakes and calcite boxwork formations that resemble honeycombs. It's the first cave to be designated a national park anywhere in the world; it's also recognized as the world's densest cave system. Above ground, the park includes the largest remaining natural mixed-grass prairie in the United States where visitors can hike, explore and say hello to local wildlife. The only campground within the park, Elk Mountain Campground, is open year-round. Sites are first-come, first-served, and drinking water and flush restrooms are available in the summer months.
Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana
For a weekend getaway near Chicago with a more rugged view of Lake Michigan's shoreline, pack up the car and head to Indiana Dunes National Park. The park's famed dunes aren't the only place to play — you'll discover wetlands, prairies, beaches and ancient forests spread over 2,000 acres of varied terrain (and more than 70 miles of hiking trails too). RV camping is a favorite here (because who wants to pitch a tent on a sandy beach?). Visitors like Dunewood Campground, Indiana Dunes State Park Campground, Lakeshore Camp Resort, Sand Creek Campground.