If you’ve ever attempted a vancamping adventure in a popular destination during spring break, you know the inevitable: Battling for parking spots, hours spent searching open campsites, and waiting in long lines to get into local attractions. Let’s be honest — that’s not exactly a relaxing way to spend spring break.
The good news is that you can still explore the country’s most gorgeous destinations while avoiding the worst of the crowds. This year, head to these stunning spots during spring break to avoid the tourist rush that follows when the weather warms up.
Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Every summer, visitors throng to Olympic National Park to spot the abundant wildlife that roams through this ancient rainforest. It’s easy to understand why, as this rainy region’s driest months fall in June through August. But spring visitors get to experience the misty conditions that make the Olympic Peninsula so magical. Fortunately, that’s the best time of year to see wildlife too; elk are active in March, while bears and migrating birds abound in May. While you’re there, camp at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort Campground and relax in the geothermic hot springs.
Borrego Springs, California
From May through September, Borrego Springs is downright toasty, with average temperatures ranging well over 100 degrees F. But head here for spring break to find yourself blessed with sunny, bright days and a million things to do. This tiny town, nestled inside Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, offers eateries and art galleries galore. Spring visitors will be there just in time to take in the Plein Air Invitational and Circle of Art Show, as well as attend stargazing events (Borrego Springs is an International Dark Sky Community). You’ll also enjoy free (that’s right, free!) camping anywhere in the State Park as long as you park no more than one vehicle length off the road, camp at least 100 yards from water sources, and leave no trace.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Entering White Sands National Monument is almost like stepping onto another planet. Where else can you explore 275 square miles of sparkling white gypsum sand? This amazing national park’s dunes are a don’t-miss for any bucket list, and spring break is a great time to visit. You’ll beat the summer crowds and enjoy average temperatures around 75 degrees F in March. While you’re there, you can hike and bike the dunes, take a horseback tour, and go sledding down the white face of the dunes. Camping is available just 25 miles down the road at Oliver Lee Memorial State Park.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
If you’re not quite ready to give up winter fun, Steamboat Springs, Colorado is the perfect place to spend spring break. This charming mountain town is known for its adventure sports, and the Howelesen Ski Area is usually open for skiing and snowboarding well into the spring months. At that time, the weather is milder, making it a perfect choice for vancamping. If the white stuff is gone by the time you arrive, you can still go mountain biking, zip lining, hiking and paddling. Stay at the KOA in downtown Steamboat Springs, which is open year-round.
Patagonia Lake, Arizona
It’s no secret that Arizona is a hot spring break destination. But it is possible to avoid the crowds, if you head off the beaten path to Patagonia Lake. Tucked in the hills of southeastern Arizona just north of Nogales, this 2.5-mile, man-made reservoir is a haven for birdwatchers, anglers, and anyone who loves exploring this unique environment. Visit in spring to catch sunny, warm weather before the Sonoran Desert really heats up for summer. Camping is available at Patagonia Lake State Park , where you can choose from 105 campsites, many of them located lakeside.
Ulvade County, Texas
When you think Texas and spring break, South Padre Island probably comes to mind. But when you’re not in the mood for wild parties and crowds, head for the Texas Hill Country instead. About two hours from San Antonio, Ulvade County offers the perfect mix of stunning natural scenery, historical attractions and outdoor activities. Stop by Alamo Village where John Wayne filmed his movies, tube on the Frio River, and camp in the shady meadows at Garner State Park.
Pomme de Terre Lake and Truman Reservoir, Missouri
While is gorgeous and packed with activities, it’s also packed with people over spring break. For a more serene experience, head west to Pomme de Terre Lake and Truman Reservoir. Here, you won’t find many resorts, but you will find relaxing lakeside camping and plenty of outdoor activities. Ride bikes on miles of trails in Truman Lake Mountain Bike Park, or rent kayaks and spend the day paddling. Swim at multiple sandy beaches around the Pomme de Terre, or fish for muskie on the lake. Camping is available at Pomme de Terre State Park, also a jumping off point for hiking the scenic Indian Point Trail.
Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio
There’s a reason why Hocking Hills State Park has earned the nickname of Ohio’s “scenic wonderland.” This gorgeous park is chock full of waterfalls, cliffs and canyons, all thanks to the unique sandstone rock formations that dot the region. Spend a day (or a week) exploring stunning attractions like Old Man’s Cave, Ash Falls, Cantwell Cliffs and Cedar Cave. You can also hiking 76 miles of trails, take a zip-line through the trees, canoe and mountain bike inside the park. Visit in spring before the crowds descend on the park in summer. Camp at the Hocking Hills Campground, set on the river just a few miles from the state park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
While Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park may not be a hidden gem — it’s among the most popular national parks — visiting in spring offers a much quieter experience. If you’re fortunate enough to visit the park in April, be sure to take the Wildflower Pilgrimage. Founded in 1950, this annual event offers an in-depth exploration of the flora and fauna of the area, from fungi and trees, to salamanders and bats to, of course, spring wildflowers. Choose from 10 campgrounds located within the park.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Set on the rugged shores of Lake Superior, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is home to sand dunes, beaches, waterfalls and cliffs, all of which set a wild backdrop to your spring break photo ops. As a spring break destination, it may not exactly offer sunbathing or swimming, but Pictured Rocks definitely has all the scenic views you could ask for. Early spring visitors may catch the tail end of the region’s ice caves, or go snowshoeing or snowmobiling. There’s usually snow on the ground until late April and campgrounds open on May 15, so plan accordingly.
Just because it’s spring break doesn’t mean you have to battle the crowds. These 10 scenic destinations offers stunning views and plenty of activities, making them the perfect choice for a spring break that’s both adventurous and relaxing.