So you are sitting down to plan your next camping trip. First, you need to decide on the dates.
But when is it the best time to go camping?
Well, that depends on a lot of factors. But don’t worry, because today you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to decide when to go camping.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
When Is the Best Time to Go Camping?
There are no exact dates when the camping season starts and ends. But most campgrounds open between April and May and stay open till late September.
Of course, there are many campgrounds that are open year round. And that’s not just in places with little seasonal variation.
Keep in mind that, while the camping season lasts from spring to fall, that doesn’t mean that good weather will follow you wherever you go. Well, if you’re visiting the Smoky Mountains, for instance, then that actually is the best time to go there.
But if you’re going somewhere where extreme heat is characteristic for this time of the year, then you might not want to stick to the “official” camping season.
Instead, those places are much more enjoyable between November to April, as temperatures are mild and pleasant.
State and National Park Camping Season
Like campgrounds, most state and national parks open between April and May and close in early October.
But of course, that’s not an imperative, and there are many places around the country that are open for up to 12 months.
The reason why this period between spring and fall is called the “camping season” is that the majority of state and national parks throughout the country are best enjoyed during this time of the year.
Some of the best camping activities, like kayaking and swimming, are ideal for this time of the year.
And let’s be fair, some of the best scenery can be seen during the camping season. I mean – flowering fields in the spring and colorful foliage in the fall. Need I say more?
The summer months are the busiest time of the year for state and national parks. That’s mostly because the kids are out of school so most families take their vacation during this period.
We also can’t forget about the two holidays that most people spend enjoying outdoor activities – Memorial Day and Labor Day. Both students and working adults get days off during these holidays, so naturally, they spend it at the nearest state or national park.
How to Avoid Crowds During Camping Season
If you’re not a fan of crowds, don’t worry. There are a few tricks you can use to avoid large groups of people during the camping season.
A Flexible Schedule
First and foremost, keep your schedule flexible.
Sure, the weather might be the best at the place you want to go at the beginning of July, but that’s also one of the busiest times of year to go camping.
Go During the Week
Most people work or go to school during the week, so the only time they can go out in the wilderness is during the weekend.
Naturally, the best way to avoid the crowd is to go camping between Monday and Thursday
Go to Less Popular State and National Parks
But they’re also certainly almost always packed with people.
Try going to some less visited places – there are tons of them, and all are just as beautiful.
Camp for Free on National Forest or BLM Land
Camping off the grid is, hands down, the best way to avoid crowds.
Unless a place is designated as a “non-camping zone,” you can set up a tent out there.
Camping During Each Season
The age-old question – when is the best time to go camping? I’ll let you decide for yourself, but I’ll share with you some pros and cons for each
|No insects||Requires appropriate gear (tent, sleeping bags, insulated mattress pads, etc.)|
|Fewer crowds||Many campgrounds and parks are closed|
|No heat||Limited services in gateway towns|
|Low season means low expenses|
|Warm days, cool nights||Possibility of rain|
|Fewer insects||Limited facilities on campgrounds|
|Beautiful scenery||Can still be really cold|
|Low season means low expenses|
|Warm nights||Days can get really hot|
|Suitable for water activities||Lots of insects|
|Meteor showers during August||Peak of camping season (busy)|
|Campgrounds and parks are open|
|Fewer insects||Rapidly changing weather|
|Fall foliage||Can be very cold at night|
|Low season means less expensive|
|Warm days and chill nights|
Wherever (and whenever) you’re going, you’re going to need an adequate tent for the type of weather you’ll be camping in.
During the sprint to fall camping season when it’s not too hot or too cold, a three-season tent is what you need.
Ideally, you should have a double-walled tent with a removable rainfly. In case it rains, you’re guaranteed to stay dry. And then if it’s warm enough at night, you can take off the rainfly to enjoy the night sky and the breeze.
But if you are going winter camping, or expect any type of cold weather, you will want to get a 4-season tent.
Best Time To Go Camping by State
Arguably the best time to go camping in Alabama is in the spring. The weather is warm, but bugs and humidity aren’t quite there yet.
Consider visiting Alaska between late May and early September, when the temperatures are above 50 and the days are still long.
The best time of the year to enjoy the desert landscape is during the fall. The temperatures are in their low 60s throughout the entire state.
The months of August, September and October bring the steadiest weather in the state, so they’re an ideal time to go camping here.
California can get really hot during summer. But the so-called shoulder season (April to May and September to October) are the best time, weather-wise, to visit this state.
With such a high altitude, it’s not surprising to find snow in Colorado even in May. But if you go there between late June and mid-September, you can expect to find really enjoyable weather.
Summer doesn’t get too hot in Connecticut, so the peak time to go camping is anywhere from late April to early October.
While springs can be quite rainy, summers in Delaware can be rather humid. Fall in this state is perfect, as temperatures are in the 70s on average. Still, that’s not considered to be peak season, so you’ll also avoid crowds if you go during the fall.
The best time to go camping in Florida is from October to March. During winter, the weather is mild and dry, which is ideal for outdoor activities.
Georgia has beautiful weather during spring and fall. Summers can get quite hot and can get quite humid, especially in the coastal area. Mountains are usually about 8 degrees colder than the coast.
Ideally, you want to camp in Hawaii in either April, May, September or October. Summer is hurricane season while the winter can be quite rainy.
The best time to camp in southern Idaho is during May, when the weather is mild both day and night. In the mountains, it’s best to go between mid-June and mid-September.
Late summer to early fall is optimal for camping throughout the Illinois. The days aren’t too warm, but nights are dropping enough to wear a hoodie.
Fall in Indiana is perfect. The weather is mild, the scenery is gorgeous and, most importantly, there aren’t as many bugs.
Summers in Iowa are hot and humid, so the only way you should consider camping during this time is if it’s by the lake, so that you can jump in to cool off. Otherwise, it’s best to go during the spring or fall.
Ideal time to camp in this state is between late April and early October. Even though summers can get humid in Kansas, the temperatures are rather pleasant.
Springs in Kentucky are warm, but can be quite rainy. Summers are too hot. For camping, it’s best to go between September and November, which are the driest months. During fall, days are pleasant with temperatures averaging 80s, while the nights don’t go lower than 40 degrees.
Louisiana is best enjoyed in spring, when the temperatures are above 70 degrees during the day. Nights are mild and dry, which makes sleeping in a tent rather comfortable.
Fall is, hands down, the best time to go camping in Maine. The days are nice and breezy, perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities. And of course, the fall foliage is some of the best you can see in the States.
Maryland has four distinct seasons, so the best time for camping is in late spring or early fall. From October to April the weather is too unstable for a casual camping trip.
While the temperatures aren’t excessively high in summer, the weather can get quite humid. That’s why it’s best to go camping in Massachusetts in spring or early fall.
May, June, September and early October are the best months in terms of daily temperature in this state. Summers are great if you plan on enjoying water activities, but they’re also the crowdest.
Fall is arguably the best time to go camping in Minnesota, as the weather is warm and there aren’t as many bugs. Summers aren’t too hot, but mosquitoes are wild between June and July. August, on the other hand, is the worst month in terms of humidity.
Summer is the time of the year to avoid when it comes to camping in Mississippi. This is especially true if you’re close to the shore, as it’s frequently hit by hurricanes. The best time to camp is between October and March, as the weather is mild and relatively dry.
While summer can get quite hot in Missouri, fall is rather dry and with temperatures in the 70s. Spring is really warm in this state, but can be quite rainy from March to May.
The best time to go camping in Montana is between June and August, as the weather doesn’t get too hot. Another alternative is to go during October, as fall foliage is simply too beautiful to miss, and the weather isn’t too cool yet. September can be quite rainy.
Arguably the best time to go camping in Nebraska is between early September and late October. With only an occasional drizzle, the temperature sits comfortably around 70 degrees.
Summers can be too hot to enjoy being out in the wilderness of Nevada. Instead, go camping between March and May or September and October, when the crowds are fewer and the temperatures go above 60 and below 80.
Perfect time to camp in this state is either between April and June or September and October. The weather is ideal, with temperatures around 60 degrees and relatively dry weather.
April, May, September and October are the best months for camping in New Jersey. The weather is nice, and they’re considered off-season, so you can expect fewer crowds and lower prices.
Optimal time for camping in New Mexico is different depending on where you go. If you’re heading to the mountains, it’s best to go between June and August. For desert areas, mid to late spring as well as early fall are a more suitable time for camping.
Upstate New York is the best in September, when the weather is suitable for a light jacket. If you’re going farther south, you can enjoy mild temperatures up until the middle of October. Summers can be quite warm and humid.
North Carolina has four distinct seasons, so spring and fall are arguably the best months for camping. Nights are chill, but days can get really warm, with temperatures reaching up to 80 degrees.
Summer in North Dakota is great for camping, as the days aren’t too hot, but the nights are mild enough for a pleasant good night’s sleep.
The weather in Ohio is rather stable, so you can plan on going anywhere from late April to early October. The rain might fall no more than 5 days during the spring, and the weather is warm enough to enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities.
Summers in Oklahoma are notoriously hot and humid. Late fall, on the other hand, can get quite cold. The best time to go camping is either in spring or early fall.
Summers in Oregon can be crowded, but that’s because they’re the best for camping. The weather is pleasant and dry, so you can enjoy hiking or kayaking.
Pennsylvania gets quite a bit of rain throughout the year. It’s best to go camping between April and late June, when the temperatures are in their 60s and there’s minimal chance of precipitation.
Whether it’s cool weather, fewer crowds or beautiful fall scenery that you’re after, the best time to go camping in Rhode Island is between September and October.
Summers in South Carolina are both hot and crowded. For camping, the best time of the year is between March and May as well as September and October.
Early spring in South Dakota can be still quite chilly from all the snowfall in the winter. Ideally, you want to go camping during spring and summer, when everything is green and the weather is rather warm.
If you can stand the humidity, consider camping during the summer months. If not, the weather from September to October is not too chill for overnighting in the wild.
Summers in Texas are blazing hot, so camping during this time of the year is not ideal. Spring and even winter are actually the best time to camp in Texas, for both weather and scenery.
The best time to camp in the desert is from mid September to mid December. The nights are rather mild, while the nights aren’t too low either.
Both summer and fall are rather enjoyable in terms of temperature in Vermont. The weather is dry and warm, and the scenery is like straight out of wallpaper.
Fall is definitely the best time to go camping in Virginia. The days are mild and breezy, which is quite refreshing after a hot and humid summer.
Good weather will follow you from July to late September. The summer is dry and enjoyable, but they never get hot and unbearable.
Both spring and fall are great for camping in West Virginia, as the weather is mild and the scenery is out of this world.
If you want to avoid bugs, it’s best to go camping in late summer and early fall. During this time, the temperatures are pleasant and fall foliage is overwhelmingly beautiful.
While summer might be the most popular time to go camping in this state, the weather is definitely better during the fall.
Do you need to make reservations during camping season?
In most cases, you need to make a reservation way in advance during the camping season.
That’s especially true for the summer months, which are the crowdest.
For more popular sites, reservations can be made up to three to six months in advance.
Can you go camping in winter?
You absolutely can. But camping in winter requires proper equipment as well as more planning and preparation.
Staying safe and warm is much harder during winter, so you should practice your survival skills before heading out in the wilderness.
Are campgrounds open in the winter?
While the majority of campgrounds around the country are closed outside of camping season, there are certain locations that are open year-long.
You should check with the campgrounds themselves, but can also search sites like Campendium for more information.
When does camping season end?
There are no official dates for the camping season, but it’s commonly considered to start in May and end in October.
Can you camp when it’s hot out?
You can go camping when it is hot out, but it is not as enjoyable, especially if you have a tent with bad ventilation.
But there are some things you can do to try to stay cool even when camping in the heat. For starters, a tent with great ventilation, bringing extra tarps for shade, and even tent air conditioners can help cool things down.
To Sum Things Up
While late spring to early fall is considered to be the “camping season,” the best time to go camping depends a lot on the location. In some states, summers are warm and dry, in others they are crazy humid and piping hot.
Winters, on the other hand, can be harsh in the mountains but quite enjoyable in coastal areas.
So before you decide on when to go camping, make sure to check out the weather forecast well in advance.