When summer ends, it’s not too late for camping. In fact, autumn is one of the most underrated times of the year to pack the car, hit the road, and pitch a tent. The season’s milder temperatures and fewer crowds give you an even better chance of snagging the perfect campsite. Here are seven places across the West to set up camp and sleep outside.
Bothe Napa Valley State Park, California
In the heart of wine country, camping in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park offers a contrasting experience to the wine tasting and vineyard tours the area is most known for. Trade the tasting room for dense forest, dirt trails, and the cool waters of Ritchey Creek, all just minutes from Calistoga’s best wineries. Camping is spread out among 50 sites, with group, RV, tent, and hike-in sites available. If glamping is more your speed, the park also offers lodging in five fully restored historic cabins and 10 yurts. Even though fall is typically less crowded than summer, it's a good idea to make reservations online through Reserve California and call the park to check current conditions and rules before you go.
Kirk Creek Campground, California
Wake up to the sound of waves crashing on the beach at Kirk Creek Campground, just 30 miles south of Big Sur on the Cabrillo Highway. Out of the 40 campsites located on an open bluff, 13 have a clear view overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Only two are first come, first served, while the others can be reserved online in advance. This area is one of the busiest on the list, but campers can get lucky in fall when the weather cools off. For an alternative to the beach, explore the Vicente Flat Trail that starts across Highway 1. The 10.9-mile out and back hike climbs for 2,500 feet, but you only have to walk a few miles to get panoramic views.
Pinnacles Campground, California
Fall is peak season in Pinnacles National Park, when the brutally hot temperatures finally dip into the 60s and 70s. Spend several days enjoying the park—from California condor sightings to talus caves expeditions—by staying overnight at Pinnacles Campground, which has 134 reservable sites. Access the campground from Highway 25 on the east side, heading toward Bear Gulch. Oak trees provide shade on warmer days, and amenities include coin-operated showers, potable water, RV hookups, barbecue pits (only to be used when fires are allowed), and an unheated swimming pool that’s open through the end of September. In autumn, the cottonwoods and evergreens show off their golden and amber foliage.