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Backpacker Magazine – October 2007

America's Best Campsites

Whether you are after fishing holes or skinny-dipping, Backpacker tracked down the best campsites in the country

by: Kelly Bastone

Best Beach, John Cornforth
Best Beach, John Cornforth
Best Swimming Hole, Michael Gadomski
Best Swimming Hole, Michael Gadomski
Best Sunset, Paige Falk
Best Sunset, Paige Falk

Runner-up
East Fork Toklat River, Denali National Park, AK
nps.gov.dena

Best Sunset
Guitar Lake, John Muir Trail, CA
fs.fed.us/r5/inyo

Runner-up
Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, AZ
fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona/cabeza

Best Waterfall
Fall Creek Falls, Sipsey Wilderness, AL
sipseywilderness.org

Runner-up
Thunder River Falls, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
nps.gov/grca

Best Edibles
Long Island, Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, WA
fws.gov/willapa

Runner-up
Moxie Bald Lean-to, Appalachian Trail, ME
matc.org

Best Sweat Equity
Sunlight Lake, Weminuche Wilderness, CO
fs.fed.us/r2/sanjuan

Runner-up
Carter Notch Hut, Wildcat Mountains, NH
amc-nh.org

Best Climbers' Playground
Continental Divide–Taylor Glacier, Rocky Mtn. NP, CO
nps.gov/romo

Runner-up
Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, WY
fs.fed.us/btnf

Best Access to Draft Beer
North Country Trail, MI
northcountrytrail.org

Runner-up
Rolston Rest Shelter, Long Trail, near Killington, VT
This woodland nest above Sherburne Pass sits a scant 2 miles from the tap handles of McGrath's Irish Pub, located at the Inn at Long Trail on US 4 (802-775-7181). Tip back a Long Trail Ale at the first bar to serve these local suds, then return to Rolston Rest via the Sherburne Pass Trail, an LT spur that passes through the pub's parking lot. greenmountainclub.org

Best Southern Hollow
Gunstock Hollow, Ozark Trail, MO
Follow the Middle Fork of the OT as it drops a few hundred feet into Gunstock, and you'll be swallowed by wooded hillsides that seal you off from civilization. Mature oaks, hickories, and pines muffle all sound save the gurgling of a small, unnamed creek, which seems like the only thing stirring in this secluded hideaway. Camp near the stream's foot-high rock ledges, among ferns that crowd around the many tiny springs seeping up throughout the hollow. (573) 438-5427; ozarktrail.com

Runner-up
Pigeon Roost Hollow, Blood Mountain Wilderness, GA
Bed down under high hemlocks in the Appalachians' most forgotten fold. From Woody Gap, hike the AT north 3 miles to Miller Gap, then south 2 miles on Dockery Lake Trail; camp just beyond the creek, on a grassy patch fenced in by hillsides. (706) 745-6928; fs.fed.us/conf

Best North Woods
Unnamed island, Lac La Croix, Boundary Waters, MN
Some folks would drop a paycheck for such luxe amenities. There's a private, arcing, white-sand beach where you can land three canoes and still have space to shuffle gear, swim, or cast a line. Your tent hides among old-growth red and white pines, near a bluff where the fire ring is positioned 15 feet above the water and 30 feet from trees, making it bug-free in a light breeze. There are pine tables for cooking and westward views that afford extended daylight, not to mention center-row vistas of the sun dipping into La Croix. With luck, add a wolf's howl and a glimpse of the Northern Lights. All it takes is a two-day paddle north from Moose River (entry point 16). 15T 0573976E 5345539N, NAD 27; $10/day, plus deposit. 877-550-6777; bwcaw.org

Runner-up
Davis Pond, Baxter State Park, ME
This waterside lean-to is a 2-day trek from either Russell or Chimney Ponds, but once there you'll savor the unparalleled solitude of Maine's wildest woods. Katahdin fills the patch of sky exposed above the site's placid pond. (207) 723-5140; bwcbaxterstateparkauthority.com

Prettiest Valley
Overmountain Shelter, Appalachian Trail, TN
The AT offers innumerable valley vistas along its 2,175-mile ridgeline route. But the one guaranteed to make thru-hikers wax poetic is the view from Overmountain, just east of the trail at Yellow Mountain Gap. Claim your spot in the posy-filled meadow surrounding the shelter, a big red barn perched at 4,682 feet overlooking the Roaring Creek Valley. What makes this dale so lovely is the way its forested mountainsides slope down in perfect symmetry to a verdant valley floor unmarred by development–for now. Proposals are afoot to cover the hillsides with vacation homes, so hike here soon to relish this beauty while it's still relatively wild. (304) 535-6331; hikejmt.com

Best Lullaby
Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, NH/ME
One loon's cry is arresting enough. Camp along Umbagog, which stretches from New Hampshire into Maine, and the chorus of haunting calls at twilight will stop you mid-s'more. Home to one of New England's largest loon populations, this 10-mile-long lake and refuge contains an abundance of the kinds of pine-fringed coves favored by the solitude-loving birds. Pitch your tent at site R14, on an island in Sunday Cove, and canoe out onto silken waters come evening for a soul-stirring serenade. Water access only; $5/site. (603) 271-3628; fws.gov/refuges

Runner-up
Cotham Pond, Ozark Trail, MO
Ditch the iPod; the OT's Between the Rivers section plays its own score. Western chorus frogs sing the night away in spring with a cree-ee-ee-eek; in summer, bullfrogs issue deep burps and ribbets. The jam session ends before dawn, but intermission is brief: Songbirds greet the sun with more refined melodies. (573) 325-4233; ozarktrail.com

Best Fishing Hole
Beatty's Cabin, Pecos River, NM
You can combat-cast elbow-to-elbow with other anglers in the lower, auto-accessible stretches of this river. Or you can hike north into the Pecos Wilderness, where this world-class trout habitat carries Wild and Scenic designation–meaning it's reachable only by trail. From Jack's Creek Campground, trek 8 miles to Beatty Flats and camp at the quiet north end of the mesa-rimmed meadow. Come morning, float a hare's ear or your favorite dry fly past the wily browns. Here at 9,600 feet, 10-inch trout are considered big, but they're scrappy fighters. Pack a day's worth of extra food, because once you're there, you won't want to decamp–guaranteed. (505) 757-6121; fs.fed.us/r3/sfe

Runner-up
Puffer Pond, Siamese Ponds Wilderness, NY

Feisty brook trout await at this quiet Adirondack backwoods lake. Hike 6 miles west from Old Farm Clearing trailhead and camp at the Puffer Pond lean-to, then cast at jewel-hued trout till dark. adk.org




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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Sarah
Feb 16, 2012

With the Zone Camping Pass, you should never have trouble finding the best camping site no matter the time of the year or circumstance. It offers flexibility, and can save serious campers thousands of dollars every year.
www.zonecampingpass.com

Michael
Sep 12, 2010

Agree with UT_Dutchman. Black Balsam is a great spot.

UT_Dutchman
Sep 11, 2008

Well maybe the best ridgline in the west is in CO, but the best in the east is not in GA it is in NC of off the Blue Ridge Parkway; Black Balsam at or above 5000 ft. is made up of all balds and saddles for over five miles that end with spectacular white school bus size granite protruding out of the top of the ridge. One of the trails to enjoy this hike is the Art Loeb Trail.

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