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Camping with rocks

A houseboat on Lake Powell in Utah, beached below a huge arched cliff.
A houseboat on Lake Powell in Utah, beached below a huge arched cliff.
Photo by Janda Raker

Camping with rocks has always attracted humans in the Americas. The Plains Indians often camped in rocky areas and even used large rocks to pile around the bases of their teepees to hold them down against the wind. The Incas first camped in and then built their spectacular city of Machu Picchu amid high rocky terrain in Peru. The Vikings landed on a rock-bound shore and built summer camps and later houses and communal buildings on what is now known as Newfoundland in northeastern Canada, at L’Anse aux Meadows, and farther north at what they called Helluland, “the land of flat stones.” The Portuguese chose to land and camp near Sugar Loaf Mountain (Pao de Azucar) in Guanabera Bay off the Atlantic coast, where they then founded what is now the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro. The Pilgrims came ashore at Plymouth Rock to create their first camp in the southeast coast of what was to become Massachusetts. Now many modern campers head for a rocky coast, canyon, or hillside to camp, and, while there, pick up a few stones to decorate the coffee table at home. Others spend time in natural areas where they even find public space from which they can take larger rocks for landscaping their yards.

Devils Tower, a huge stone monolith in northeastern Wyoming, with excellent camping nearby.
Wikimedia Commons

But avid fans of rocks look for campsites with big rock formations. The east coast of the United States, especially the northern portion, boasts outstanding rocky shores. But the western part of the U.S. is rockier than the eastern, because of the younger formations caused by the rise of the Rocky Mountains. So throughout the West are national parks and monuments, state parks, and national forest camps that abound with rocks, from small stones to boulders, from house-sized rocks to huge chasms of rock to giant monoliths.

Some favorite places to camp among or near rocks in the United States include these: Acadia National Park and commercial campgrounds in nearby Bar Harbor, Maine, on the Atlantic coast; Bryce Canyon National Park, east of U.S. Hwy. 89 in southern Utah; Chaco Culture National Historical Park, south of Bloomfield, New Mexico, off Hwy. 550; City of Rocks State Park, north of Deming, in southwestern New Mexico; Devils Tower National Monument in northeastern Wyoming; Grand Canyon National Park in northwestern Arizona; Joshua Tree National Park, in southern California near Twentynine Palms; the shorelines of Lake Powell in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in northern Arizona and southern Utah and Wahweap Campground and RV Park at the launch site and marina in northern Arizona near Page; Mesa Verde National Park near Durango, in southwestern Colorado; many of the state parks that comprise the west coast of Oregon; Palo Duro Canyon State Park, south of Amarillo, Texas; Red Rock Canyon State Park, just off I-40 in western Oklahoma; and Vedawoo, a recreation area of Medicine Bow National Forest, north of I-80, between Cheyenne and Laramie, in southeastern Wyoming. (Click the highlighted locations for websites with more information. And see pictures of the areas in the slide show.)

If these are not enough and you want to find other places to camp with rocks, just google "campgrounds with rocks." You’ll find plenty more to enjoy!