How to find a car camping site

By Kristen Finley
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As our horizons expand and more time is demanded of us from various angles, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep in touch with our roots. The days we do get off are usually spent recuperating in front of the TV or catching up on responsibilities that were neglected by what we put first.

It doesn’t occur to most that time spent surrounded by trees, without cell phone reception, would be one of the most underestimated ways to regain energy. Too often we are lost in the tail chase we commit ourselves to in order to keep our heads above water.

When done mindfully, car camping can be one of the better and cheaper ways to re-establish balance between the mind and body. In hopes to spark inspiration to get outdoors, here’s a list with some tips to dip some toes into what to expect when looking for a site.

Finding a Site

  1. After deciding to give camping a try, check the National Park Service’s website for local, developed campsites. This means sites with clean, running water; bathrooms nearby; and in close proximity to general stores and accessible attractions. While it may feel like “cheating,” it’s a more forgiving introduction – especially if the family is joining in, too. If an important tool or item is forgotten, a store is nearby. If someone is injured, emergency care is almost always closer (it’s always wise to research the closest hospital regardless of experience level).
    • Note: camping is a skill that is sharpened by experience. Do not expect to see all obstacles or predict all possible scenarios – after all, before we can ride a bike, we need training wheels.
    • Fun fact: it’s perfectly legal to camp anywhere in a National Forest as long as you are 100 feet away from a body of water (this includes creeks, brooks and rivers), and 100 feet from a main road.
  2. Online resources are plentiful. Joining the page of a local off-road group is an undervalued way to connect with those in your area that have mutual interests. Many campers and off-roaders are excited to share spots and trails.
    Ranger stations are another powerful resource. Many rangers are those who grew up in or are very familiar with the area in question, and are happy to share popular spots with those curious.
  3. What’s most important in all this is to be excited to learn and to learn to be excited. Getting a foot in the door and getting familiar with the basics is always the hardest part – but once that’s out of the way, it’s amazing how quickly being a conscientious camper becomes second nature. Be kind, be patient, be open and respect the planet.

Next week, we’ll discuss what to bring on your next camping trip.

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