Camping is a great way to appreciate the natural world. There’s nothing quite like waking up to the sounds of birds and wind through the trees, rather than the whirring of cars and the droning of A/C units. It’s also a great way to learn about local wildlife — if you know where to camp, that is.
So, where are the best places to camp to learn to appreciate wildlife? Here are five suggestions.
1. Monarch Butterfly Preserves, Mexico
There’s something truly amazing about the Monarch Butterfly. These little insects fly thousands of miles from their homes in the United States and Canada to reserves in Mexico. The butterflies that arrive in Mexico aren’t the same ones that left though — it takes multiple generations to complete a migration, so the butterflies that make it back to Mexico are the descendants, a few of generations removed, from those that left.
Plan a visit to one of these reserves in the spring, and you’ll see millions of monarch butterflies. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity you shouldn’t miss.
2. Rocky Mountain National Park
If you’re interested in learning more about the wildlife native to the Rocky Mountain region, a camping trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park should be on your bucket list. This park is home to elk, sheep, mule deer, moose, coyotes and even a few wolves.
There are plenty of sites where you can just pitch a tent if you’re confident in your camping skills, but if you prefer to be near at least some of the comforts of home, there are plenty of KOA-style campsites close to and in the park. So, you can pitch your tent and go out and adventure during the day and come home to showers and bathrooms within walking distance. Tent camping is the best way to connect you with nature — whether you’re out in the woods or in a campsite that offers some amenities.
3. Everglades National Park, Florida
Yes, we realize camping in high temperatures and humidity might not sound like the best idea, but hear us out. The Everglades National Park, located in Homestead Florida, puts you near some of the most diverse wildlife in the entire state. Alligators — and a few crocodiles — call the park home, in addition to hundreds of bird species, manatees, Florida Panthers, white-tailed deer and more. You might even see a few pythons, though these are an invasive species.
This is one area where you probably should stick to the beaten path for pitching your tent. Otherwise, you might wake up to an alligator in your sleeping bag or a tent full of swamp water!
4. American Prairie Reserve, Montana
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, the American Prairie Reserve is ideal — it’s more than an hour away from any occupied town or city. This is a good thing, though — the Reserve is home to Buffalo Camp, where you can spot up to 600 bison roaming the grasslands at any given time. It’s also home to black-footed ferrets, sheep, elk, pronghorns and even burrowing owls you might see poking their heads out of the ground.
Be careful, though — depending on the time of year, you might have bison coming right through your camp! It’s a fantastic experience, but you don’t want to be stepped on by one of these gentle giants.
5. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, Shenandoah National Park is ideal if you want to do some hiking during your trip. The park lies right along the Appalachian Trail, which stretches for more than 100 miles and is full of some stunning wildlife. You might come across black bears, deer, birds or other forest critters.
Make sure you keep your food well-secured if you’re camping here — black bears can get into just about anything, and the last thing you need is a bear in your camp while you’re trying to sleep! The park stretches across more than 200,000 acres of protected land, so there’s plenty for you to explore during your stay.
Whether you’re roughing it in the woods or staying at a campsite, tent camping is by far one of the best ways to experience nature. Pack your camera and be prepared for some amazing experiences.
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