There's something so beautifully simple about camping. No matter where you've set up your tent, you can still enjoy the fresh air and serenity of nature. But if you're looking for something a little more exciting than your trustworthy tent and standard favorite campsite, you can find some pretty crazy camping experiences across the country. Some are utterly luxurious, others are totally remote, and a few are even ridiculously adrenaline-pumping.
It might just be the perfect happy place: a cozy campsite on a secluded island, with plenty of shady trees and the waves lapping at the sand right past your zippered tent door. But your happy place can actually be a reality! Island camping is available at the Saranac Lakes in Adirondack Park. There are hundreds of islands of wildly varying size dotted all throughout the lovely lakes with rustic campsites just waiting for you to set up your tent-- some are even small enough for only one campsite, or the site is tucked away in a cove.
Since you're probably gonna be camping on a smaller island, the amenities are pretty basic: pit privy, fire ring, picnic table, and little else. You'll have to bring in your own water, and be diligent about cleaning up your trash. And there's also the matter of getting to your campsite... peace and quiet doesn't come without a little bit of a trek, you know! You'll have to take a boat out to your location-- kayaks, canoes, and motorboats will all work.
Staying in a treehouse is about as whimsical as it gets. The Mohicans features a few that you can rent out, and as far as treehouses go, they're pretty swanky. I mean, most of the time, treehouses won't have indoor plumbing, but ones at The Mohicans do. A stay here will still give you all of the peaceful, rustic, outdoorsy vibes that you want from a camping trip... but with a proper bed and electricity1
There's camping... and then there's camping Disney-style! You can bring a camper or stay in a cabin, and take advantage of the nightly marshmallow roasts and Disney movie screenings, go for a horseback ride, eat barbecue with your favorite Disney characters, go fishing, try your hand at archery, and, of course, hop a shuttle to the park for a day filled with magic. It's like spending a few days back in your childhood summer camp, but with a Disney twist.
El Cosmico is more than a campsite... it's a community, and an experience. They have vintage trailers and tepees that you can rent if you don't have a tent of your own, but even if those are all booked up and you have to set up your own site, it's still worth it to stay here for the amenities (which include a sweet hammock grove, an outdoor kitchen, quirky events, wood-fired hot tubs for rent, and tons more). Plus, you're close enough to the town of Marfa that you can bike it, and you're really close to the mysterious Marfa Lights viewing area.
Camping on the ground not thrilling enough for you? Good thing there's Kent Mountain Adventure center, where you can learn how to cliff camp... you know, spending the night on the side of a sheer rock wall, hundreds of feet up. The best part is that you don't need any experience to cliff camp-- just guts of steel-- because Kent Mountain Adventure Center will provide you with a guide to make sure that everything is 100% safe and secure. They'll help you set up the portaledge that you'll be sleeping on, and teach you the basics of rappelling and climbing a fixed rope with mechanical ascenders. Once you're done setting everything up, you'll get a chance to enjoy high tea (literally) and relax before squeezing in some more climbing before dinner. You'll be safely in your sleeping bag before nightfall, and you'll get a view of the sun set and the night sky that few have ever experienced. Once the sun comes up again, you'll enjoy some breakfast and head back down to Earth.
For people who absolutely don't want to sacrifice the comforts of a hotel, but want to immerse themselves in the beauty of nature, Glacier Under Canvas is for you! Safari tents and tipis are decked out with rugs, furniture (including beds!), linens, wood-burning stoves, and more. Some even have ensuite bathrooms, couches, and more. Plus they make it easy to book rafting, fishing, biking, and other excursions to explore Glacier National Park.
Pro tip: They have locations near Yellowstone and Moab, if you're looking to explore geothermal weirdness or sandstone arches.
The Free Spirit Spheres near Canada's Qualicum Bay are fully equipped to be totally cozy, and they're also suspended 15 feet in the forest canopy. They were designed and built by one man to help encourage "a state of blissful awareness of an existence outside of the physical body".
While the height on all of them can be adjusted, from resting on the ground to 30 feet or more into the air, they usually hang out around 15 or so feet off the forest floor. Because they're suspended by vertical cables, they sway gently when strong breezes blow through the branches and when people in the sphere move-- but don't worry, they don't move enough to be unsettling. Most are reached by a spiral staircase, making it easy for you to get your luggage up to the spheres.
Treebones is a perfect destination for those who want to experience the natural beauty of Big Sur. They have 16 yurts, all of which feature comfy amenities and stunning views of the ocean and the mountains. However, there are some who argue that staying in a yurt is too easy and takes the fun out of camping. If that's the case for you, don't worry... Treebones has something extra special for the more adventurous outdoor enthusiast: their so-called "human nest". It's pretty much exactly what it sounds like-- branches have been twisted into a hideaway big enough for two people to cuddle up in.
It's slightly off the ground, offers seclusion and privacy, and features breathtaking views, but the nest isn't quite as all-inclusive as the yurts. For example, it's about as waterproof as you'd expect, so if the forecast is predicting rain, you should probably bring a tent to set up nearby, just in case. There's a mattress, but not much else, so you'll have to either cook your own food or be forced to walk through the gorgeous surroundings to their on-site sushi bar or restaurant. It's also not cheap, at $150 a night with a two-night minimum. That being said, it's a camping experience you won't find anywhere else in the world-- and waking up to a brilliant sunrise over the ocean, framed by the door of your nest is totally priceless.
For something with more of a retro-kitsch flair, check into Kate's Lazy Desert. Only six miles from Joshua Tree National Park, they rent out restored Airstream trailers for those looking to camp out. They come with basic amenities (a coffee maker, some utensils, a BBQ grill, etc.) and beds, but the real draw is the picture-perfect decor, done by artists Mayberry-Walker, whose house was used in the B-52's "Love Shack" music video, which should give you a good idea on what the trailers here look like.
Pro tip: Kate's Lazy Meadow is the East Coast outpost of Kate's Lazy Desert. It's even more bigger and more tricked out, and its serene location in the Catskills really gives it a retro resort feel.
Of course, sometimes, all you need is a simple, no-frills camping trip... but whatever your camping preference is, there's no denying the power of spending valuable time in nature!