From Georgia To Washington, Five Wild Campgrounds The Crowds Haven't Found

Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Jumbo Rocks

You may look at the implausible locations of the many massive, oddly shaped boulders in this desert park and conclude that a giant just started randomly dropping things. It's a wonderfully strange landscape sutted with cactus-filled valleys intersected by jagged, waterless mountains. Steer clear of Joshua Tree's partylike climbing scene by camping at Jumbo Rocks, where it appears the giant was especially careless. Excellent bouldering is right outside your tent, but due to its location and a lack of facilities (bring your own water), there's little camp chaos. And since Jumbo Rocks sits at 4,400 feet, the highest elevation of the park's campgrounds, it's even a couple of degrees cooler that the crowded spots below.

Pedal your mountain bike out into the desert on the park's many 4WD roads (no bikes are allowed on hiking trails). The Geology Tour Road just west of Jumbo Rocks campground, leads 5.4 miles south to Squaw Tank.

Location: Southern California, approximately 140 miles east of Los Angeles
Season: Prime time is spring and fall; summer temperatures reach triple digits and winter lows dip below freezing.
Facilities: Pit toilets, no water, 125 tent/RV sites.
Fee: $10 per vehicle entrance fee; $5 per night (no reservations accepted)
Contact: (760) 367-5500; www.nps.gov/jotr

Glacier National Park, MT
Kintla Lake

You'll probably stumble on more grizzly sign than human signs at this isolated campground. Located in the park's northwest corner, Glacier's smallest and most out-of-the-way site offers a wilderness camping experience from the comfort of your car. Nestled between the razorback, snow-capped ridges of the Boundary Mountains and 10,000-foot high Kintla Peak, the alpine lake is a haven for quiet paddling and fishing amid classic Glacier scenery. If you start to feel lonely, drive 30 to 40 miles south to the park's more crowded main attractions, Lake McDonald and Logan Pass.

From your campsite, paddle the narrow, 12-mile Kintla Lake for wildlife viewing and access to hiking routes. No motors allowed. For canoe and kayak rental, contact Glacier Park Boat Company in Kalispell at (406) 257-2426; www.glacierparkboats.com.

Location: In the northwest corner of the park, 15 miles north of Polebridge via the North Fork Road
Season: Mid-May through mid-September
Facilities: Vault toilets, no drinking water, 13 tent sites
Fee: $20 per vehicle entrance fee; $12 per night (no reservations accepted)
Contact: (406) 888-7800; www.nps.gov/glac

Olympic National Park, WA

If you're going to spend a week---never mind all of eternity---in this corner of the Pacific Northwest, the beach is the place to be. Olympic's 60 miles of protected wilderness coastline form the longest such stretch in the Lower 48, with rocky headlands and sea-sprayed bluffs jutting between sandy strips. Tucked away in an old-growth fir forest on the Quillaute River, this quiet campground abuts the wild Pacific shoreline. Your site is close to the Hoh rainforest and river rafting, and an easy 1-mile walk from beaches where seals bask in the sun.

Gorge on a birder's all-you-can-watch buffet at the park's north end. Pick up a bird list from a ranger at the nearby Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and hike the 1.5 mile Hurricane Hll Trail.

Location: In northwestern Washington, 14 miles west of Forks on Mora Road, via WA 110
Season: Open year-round, but winter can be wet and cold
Facilities: Water, toilets, 94 tent/RV sites
Fee: $10 per night (no reservations accepted)
Contact: (360)374-5460; www.nps.gov/olym

Crawford Notch State Park, NH
Dry River

Overshadowed---literally and figuratively---by the blustery behemoth Mt. Washington, Crawford Notch is often treated as a mere pit stop on the more glorious journey to bagging New Hampshire's tallest peak. But high pointing is only one of the many reasons to make this forested campground your temporary home. From your campsite, you are minutes away from Arethusa Falls, the highest in the state; world-class rock climbing at Frankenstein Cliffs; and a wealth of beautiful and challenging White Mountain Hikes.

Crawford Notch is home to many of New Hampshire's most dramatic waterfalls. Hike to Coliseum Falls, Flume Cascade, or 150-foot-high Arethusa Falls (via a 2-mile hike from the trailhead of US 302).

Location: In White Mountain National Forest, north of Concord, NH, off I-93
Season: Mid-May to mid-October
Facilities: Water, toilets, showers, 31 tent/RV sites
Fee: $13 per night for two adults; each additional adult: $6.50, up to a maximum of five. For reservations, call (603) 271-3628; www.nhstateparks.org
Contact: (603) 374-2272; www.nhparks.state.nh.us

Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA
Sea Camp

Want to camp with ghosts of the rich and famous? You can on Cumberland Island, where hiking paths lead to the former vacation compounds of Carnegies and Rockefellers. Some of the island is still privately owned, but there's plenty of public land where you'll find a secluded beach campsite. The national seashore's 36,415 acres include dune fields, maritime forest, salt marshes, and tidal creeks. All can be explored through a 50-mile network of trails, but you'll want to spend time relaxing at your campsite, too; you'll be visited by only shore birds, endangered sea turtles, armadillos, and wild horses. Sea Camp is nestled in an inviting grove of live oaks next to large dunes fronting the ocean. Getting here requires a 45-minute ferry ride and carrying your gear a half mile from the dock. As befits a place with such an exclusive past, visitation is limited to 300 people per day, so crowds are blessedly sparse.

Tour Plum Orchard Mansion, a Georgian Revival-style manor built for Thomas and Lucy Carnegie's son in 1898. The mansion is on the island's north end and is accessible from Sea Camp via the Main Road hiking trail or by ferry. Tours are offered the second and fourth Sundays of every month.

Location: Southeast Georgia; board ferry at St. Mary's, GA, off I-95, approximately 50 miles north of Jacksonville, FL
Season: Year-round, though prime time is spring and fall
Facilities: Water, toilets, cold showers, 16 tent-only sites; there are no stores on the island---bring all supplies for the trip
Fee: $4 per person per day; reservations required (912) 882-4335. The ferry runs Monday through Friday, 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.; $12.50; reservations recommended, (888) 817-3421; Contact: (912) 882-4336; www.nps.gov/cuis

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