Think you need to head to one of the oceans to take advantage of all the fun water has to offer?
Think again. From canoeing and kayaking to fishing and swimming, lakeside camping is the perfect way to enjoy some wet and wild family adventures. You can even snorkel and scuba dive in lakes! What’s more, the fresh water is less corrosive to your water gear and RV’s systems than its brackish cousin. It’s pretty much a win-win situation.
No matter what part of the country you call home, chances are there’s a lakeside beach a whole lot closer to you than your nearest ocean. (Unless, of course, you live in Florida or something… in which case you likely want to vacation in the mountains, anyway. Like they say, the grass is always greener. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
Lake camping is one of our favorite ways to enjoy an RVing weekend, and with the weather heating up, we’ve got water on the brain. So grab your swimsuit and sunglasses, and double check your Passport America membership and road atlas — here are some of our favorite lakeside family campgrounds and camping ideas to help you plan your next destination!
Lakeside RV Campground
From the midwest to the south to the bicoastal mountain ranges, there are plenty of lakeside campgrounds to choose from. Here are a few of the most popular lake destinations.
1. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
This is the only lake on our list to have the distinction of being a natural park, and you’ll understand why once you see it. The flooded remains of a collapsed volcanic peak, Crater Lake is the deepest in America — 1,943 feet deep, to be exact. Although that’s way too deep to reach without a super high-tech submarine, Crater Lake is a popular spot for scuba divers, who explore the unique lava formations in its shallower waters.
(Pssst — don’t make the journey without your National Parks passport! This is one stamp you don’t want to miss.)
Where to stay: Both of the National Park’s developed campgrounds, Mazama and Lost Creek, can accommodate RVs… but be sure to reserve your space ahead of time! As at any other national park, these campsites fill fast.
2. Lady Bird Lake, Austin, Texas
Add some urban fun to your lakeside adventure in one of our favorite southern cities. After all, what’s better after a long day of stand-up paddleboarding than some quality barbecue and live music?
Where to stay: If you’re looking for affordable, public camping in the Austin area, Camp Creek Park is right on Lake Travis and less than $20 nightly. For something closer to town, the Austin East KOA comes very highly rated.
Lakeside Campground & Recreation Park
Some of the best lakeside campgrounds might be where you least expect them. Here are a few more of our favorites.
3. Lake Monroe, Bloomington, Indiana
Indiana’s largest lake (Michigan doesn’t count since its namesake, Wisconsin, and Illinois all have joint custody), Lake Monroe is surrounded by thousands of miles of natural preserves and state forests — and tons of opportunities for just about any water-based activity you can imagine. Plus, its central location makes it convenient to a variety of midwestern cities and communities, the perfect weekend summer getaway from Cincinnati to St. Louis.
Where to stay: This lake just so happens to have a Jellystone Park along its shores, which is one of our favorite franchises of family-friendly resort campgrounds. Along with all the fun to be had in the lake itself, your kids will enjoy the campground’s jumping pillow, train rides, and more!
4. Shadow Mountain and Grand Lake, Colorado
If you’re like most RVers, colorful Colorado is likely already on your bucket list or even in your travel log. And for good reason: from skiing in the winter to hiking and climbing in the summer, there’s no outdoor destination that quite measures up to this state’s opportunities.
Add lakeside fun to that equation with these two adjacent lakes, situated just about an hour northwest of Denver. When you’re done enjoying the water, you can enjoy the many miles of mountain trails meandering through the surrounding wildernesses.
Campground by the Lake
Still wondering, “Where’s the best lakeside campground near me?”
Here’s another option.
5. Norris Lake, Tennessee
Nestled just an hour north of Knoxville, Tennessee’s sprawling Norris Lake is actually one of the cleanest in America… which means it’s the absolutely perfect place to scratch your swimming and fishing itch. It’s also surrounded by thousands of acres of state forest, with trails for hiking, biking, or getting muddy with your ATV.
Where to stay: Norris Dam State Park offers 75 sites with water and electric, as well as some primitive sites if you’re alright with going off the grid.
Camping Gear for Your Lake Trip
Like any other camping trip, your lakeside adventure is best enjoyed when you’ve got the right gear for the job along with you. Of course, what exactly that will mean depends on your preferences, your destination, your family, and your camping style — and what you plan to do at the lake!
Maybe you need little more than a beach towel and a bathing suit, or maybe you’ll upgrade to a folding camp chair or an inflatable lounger — or even a pool float for enjoying long, sunny days relaxing on the water (literally). Maybe you’re looking to get rugged and will need to invest in some camping tents and sleeping bags for you and the kids to enjoy a weekend under the stars.
Any way you slice it, one thing’s for sure: you definitely need to bring some sunglasses and sweat resistant sunscreen. After all, with those two items, all you need to do is add water… and that’s what the lakes are for!
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