Ideal Camping Spots (for All Types of Outdoor Activities) to Visit This Fall

For active adventurers, now is the time to pitch a tent and get outdoors. The crowds have dwindled, kids are back at school, campsites are easier to get … and the trees and leaves unleash their majestic autumnal colors.

And no matter what activities you’re into, it’s time to get out amongst the fiery colored foliage with these superb camping spots around the U.S.

For Rock Climbers: Red River Gorge, Kentucky

If you’re into exposure, get to the gorge. Photo: Courtesy of @mkwildphoto

“The Red” has lured many climbers to flock with a plethora of ropes to Kentucky, staying at Miguel’s Pizza – the cult-classic climbers’ lodging. Picture seven miles of hard sandstone, offering more than 400 routes (both trad and sport), spanning from 20 feet to over 200 feet and ranging in difficulty from 5.2 to 5.14a.

Autumn is the best time to go, to benefit from the cool and dry weather, as this time of year offers climbs amidst splashes of burning leaf color, dotted with shimmering streams, waterfalls and wildflowers. Miguel’s Pizza is the affordable local hub for climbers, offering gear storage, $1 showers (for 5 minutes of hot water) and a “climbers only” campground out back. Plus, you can shoot hoops on rest days, or try out bouldering problems on assembled furniture in the front in the evenings.

For Hikers and Trail Runners: McKenzie River, Oregon

Spectacular scenery for a stroll. Photo: Courtesy of Mary Ann Whitney-Hall

Traverse this territory on foot following the 26.5 mile-long McKenzie River Trail. Trot beside tumbling waterfalls that gush down fluted slopes, pristine glassy lakes, pools fed by underwater lava tubes and thick ancient forest fringed by emerald ferns.

Stay at the McKenzie Bridge Campground which blends into the surrounding forest, with riverfront access for all camp spots. (Time stretches here.)

Not only can you trail run or hike, you can also bike the route too. Just be careful of the volcanic rock underfoot – it can get slick and slippery in these damp autumnal days.

For Canoeists: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Northern Minnesota

Take a paddle back in time in the wilderness of boundary waters. Photo: Courtesy of @schriste

This could be as wild as it gets for waterways. Picture over one million acres (1.1 million to be exact) of wilderness with 1,200 canoe routes and 2,200 designated campsites, stretched out 150 miles along the border with Canada. It personifies a picture-perfect place to float alongside the fall foliage.

The rugged cliffs, carved by ancient glaciers (where sabre-tooth cats and wooly mammoths once prowled and plodded), flank an astounding network of lakes and streams. Aboard a canoe, you’ll have countless options to explore, in a landscape that seems to be plucked magically intact from an age gone by.

Fall is the time to visit: you’ll get to enjoy a more remote, isolated experience as the visitor numbers are much less than summer. Water temperatures drop (swimming is reserved in fall for the hardcore), but if you can keep the canoe upright, paddling is possible right up until the ice forms. For safety reasons, more caution should be taken as water approaches freezing.

The “leave-no-trace” principles are strongly encouraged to retain this space as enchanting (and unimpaired) backcountry.

For Surfers: San Elijo State Beach, California

Off-shore winds in fall and a campground right in front of the surf? Hello, San Elijo. Photo: Courtesy of @withpennyk

This time of year produces plenty of waves as the beach breaks in San Diego County turn on with the WNW and S/SW swell. Combined with the Santa Ana winds, off-shore days are typical for San Diego’s waves as winter draws in. Plus, camping at San Elijo State Beach gives unrivaled proximity to many different swell directions.

It’s a super spot for surfers, right on the ocean, with a range of breaks in walking distance (Cardiff Reef or Pipes) and in prime proximity to Encinitas – and hence, Swamis. And San Diego has fall colors, too – you’ve just got to get up early opting for a sunrise (or sunset) session to see shades of ruby reds and blood orange streak across the horizon.

For Cyclists: White Mountains, New Hampshire

Peddle through this leaf-peeping panorama. Photo: Courtesy of @PriyaChoudhry

The satisfying crunch of cycling through crisp autumn leaves, the wind that whistles as you peddle through the caprices of fall weather and the dazzling coat of colors on the leaves. Now is the time for the Cotton Valley Rail-Trail. This 12-mile trip along the old railroad (at the foot of the White Mountains) passes along the lakes of Wentworth, Winnipesaukee and Crescent. Ride along the tracks, under densely canopied fall foliage, but beware of slippery rails when crossing as the route switches across the railway tracks a few times.

Bike 72 miles around all of Lake Winnipesaukee if you’re itching for a longer stretch. Sojourn in Wolfeboro campground and keep an eye out for black bears and bobcats.

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