Roof Top Tent Camping in The City

Many people have only ever known of camping in rural areas, usually the wilderness. For them, camping would mean driving through the weekend for several hours to get to a remote campsite. And for some of us, it would mean a long time of disconnection from the urban life. Probably, others would resign to the idea that only those with the heart of pure adventure fit camping. However, there is actually a good alternative available at present – convenient camping in the city.

In the main, camping places are classified into four categories. These include the state-designated and dispersed campgrounds, and private and other alternative camp spots. The most common campsite among the four is either the designated or the dispersed campgrounds. Thus, we can expect them to have higher demands, and should often be booked in advance. On the other hand, private and other alternative camp spots are more accessible. This should require us, however, permission to set up camp.

Apparently, camping in the city can be in any of those four campsite categories. Major cities can actually house designated campgrounds in their operating national or state parks. These campgrounds may still give off a serene and remote atmosphere while still giving us easy access to the city. Therefore, we can enjoy a relaxing place to stay in, which is a short ride away from Starbucks coffee. Some of these city camping places include the following:

1. Cherry Creek State Park, Denver

2. Red Rock Canyon Campground, Las Vegas

3. Anderson Road Camping Area, Nashville

4. Petit Jean State Park, Little Rock

5. Rob Hill Camping Area, The Presidio, San Francisco

6. Emma Long Metropolitan Park and Campground, Austin

7. Larry and Penny Thompson Memorial Park and Campground, Miami

Roof top tent camping per se is already an upgraded alternative for conventional ground-mounted tent camping. It cuts off conveniently the time and effort we have to spend on mounting our tents on the ground. Also, it provides us a similar comfort as RV camping at a cheaper cost and with versatility. It is for the latter that roof top tent camping is often chosen for far backcountry adventures. However, we can actually relax our selves with the option of not having to drive for hours to the backcountry. 

Where to Camp with a Roof Top Tent

In the main, there are four types of places where we can park our vehicles and pop our tents in. These include the following:

Designated Camping Areas

Usually, national or state parks in states, including big cities, are packed with ideal designated ares for camping in the city. They would operate on a first-come, first-serve basis or through advance bookings or reservations. Most of them have accommodation sites for different camping opportunities. These include ordinary ground tent camping, RV or truck camping, and roof top tent camping. We may expect, though, to pay some small fee in these camping areas.

Private Camping Lands

These places are more convenient than the previous option in terms of booking. This is as designated camping areas often have a high demand compared to privately owned lands. In line with this, we can expect better-maintained privacy in which crowded and open parks do not permit. And in the aspect of amenities, probably more is offered by private hosts such as toilets, tables, grills, etc.

Dispersed Spots for Camping in the City

Also, in national forests are dispersed camping sites that are outside developed or designated campgrounds. One major thing to consider, however, for this type of camping is the absence of amenities. We should expect no immediate bathrooms, water, or disposal cans or areas. Also, we should make sure to stay on the road so as to avoid damaging the forest with our vehicle.

Alternative Camp Spots

These places are what should best fit the concept of camping in the city. They are for when we are traveling cross country and needed to stop-over for the night. These include Walmart parking space, truck stopsrest areas, and some casinos. We should expect, though, that there might be a small fee to pay and rules in time and parking to follow.

Best Camping Sites across Cities

Cherry Creek State Park, Denver

The Cherry Creek State Park is perhaps the best place to go for camping in the city. It is located literally in the middle of Denver but still gives off a remote and pastoral feel. The most immediate features that can be noticed in the campground are the shady cottonwood trees. Aside from that, we can note the well-maintained space over a sprawling area in a six-loop shape. There are crisscrossing trails, moreover, and bike paths that we can transverse through downtown Denver.

Additionally, the popular Cherry Creek Lake is just about half a mile from the campsite proper. We can enjoy water activities in the lake, such as boating and fishing. There may also be if we are lucky, sightings for wild turkeys, golden eagles, and wandering deer. These animals apparently just roam around the area in early mornings and in the evenings. Lastly, we can see a special sunset view over the Rocky Mountains from the campsite as well.

Red Rock Canyon Campground, Las Vegas

About thirty minutes west of the Las Vegas Strip is the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The single campground in the area is being operated by the Bureau of Land Management for twenty dollars. Near the campground are the rock climbing sandstone cliffs, which is one of the city’s most legendary sites. Aside from that, we can also find miles of hiking trails in the course of desert landscapes.

Despite being literally close to the jungle of lights of the Sin City, the place actually offers exceptional stargazing. In fact, the Las Vegas Astronomical Society even hosts star parties and full moon hiking activities. However, the place is not open all year round. Unfortunately, they close operations during the summer peak season. Nonetheless, we can still enjoy the dream camping in the city from September 1st through June 1st.

Anderson Road Camping Area, Nashville

The Anderson Road Campground is specifically located ten miles east of downtown Nashville. It is still inside the city limits and can easily be accessed. In the area, the best campsites to book early on are those that are close to the sparkling Percy Priest Lake. In these sites, although we are actually camping in the city, we can enjoy some secluded and peaceful space. We can also enjoy a sublime early morning walk or jog through the cedar glade. It is during the same time as well that can have sightings of the misty lake, and potentially, deer.

Moreover, activities in the campground include that which we can do in the lake like fishing and boating. Otherwise, we can dedicate some time to horseback riding and wildlife spotting. It is great to note the place’s 19,087 acres of grasslands and woods. With this knowledge, we can guarantee a quiet place to rest our minds in, without getting too far from the city—all these pleasures along with some country music scenes in Nashville.

Petit Jean State Park, Little Rock

The Petit Jean State Park is actually the first state park in Arkansas. It is located about an hour from downtown Little Rock with the best views to offer. Actually, several camping opportunities are offered in the campground. These include the conventional ground-mounted tent camping and rustic Civilian Conservation Corps-built cabin camping. We can also opt for more full-service cabins, yurt, RVs, or our own roof top tents. For a price, the campground also offers some camping essentials we can utilize.

Other than staying in our temporary shelters, the park offers several activities to keep us busy and entertained. These include hiking trails that are over twenty miles long, and riding rental kayaks and canoe at Lake Bailey. Also, we can also come to the butterfly spotting and trek to the 95-foot Cedar Falls. Lastly, we can get ourselves to be stunned at the Cedar Creek Canyon’s view from the notable Mather Lodge.

Rob Hill Camping Area, The Presidio, San Francisco

Within the city limits of San Francisco is only one campground, which is the Rob Hill Campground. It is specifically perched over the Baker Beach, around the Presidio location. The Presidio Landmark is actually a national park in the northern end of the city. It covers an area of about 1,500 acres.

At our stay in the campground, we can wake up to the song of the birds on the eucalyptus trees. We can also bring our eyes some pleasure out of the exceptional city views. These include the Golden Gate Bridge itself and the Marin Headlands from Immigrant Point. The latter is located just across the road from the campground. Moreover, there is a trail that leads down to the beach at the foot of the rocky cliffs.

Generally, the campground accepts group camping that consists of up to thirty people. It is also just a short ride away from Starbucks or Peet’s Coffee for a fancy morning delight. We may also want on our first morning to surprise our still sleeping companions with some almond milk lattes.

Emma Long Metropolitan Park and Campground, Austin

About half an hour drive from downtown Austin is this green urban camping space. It is positioned next to Lake Austin and comprises one mile offshore and a thousand acres of various tree species. The prominent trees in the area are oak, ash, and juniper. Moreover, inside the Emma Long Metropolitan Park are campsites lining the Colorado River of Texas. This river is different from the actually huge Colorado River that runs from Colorado through Mexico.

The campsites offer a variety of options ranging from basic to premium on three big sites. In addition to the general camping, activity is the hiking activity in some exceptional trails nearby. These include the Turkey Creek Trail that is about 2.5 miles long. It has stream crossings where we can splash in and rocks we might scramble over. Also, the beach area is a relaxing place for a picnic, swimming and sunset watching. The sunset view is best across the lake.

Larry and Penny Thompson Memorial Park and Campground, Miami

The Larry and Penny Thompson Memorial Park and Campground is actually an oasis in the south of Miami. It is a safe and peaceful area where we can set up campsites while giving easy access to the city. Moreover, it is an ideal spot to bring kids in as it is situated conveniently next to the zoo. Also, the park is a natural playground that comprises about 270 acres of woodland. Other than that, hiking paths and bridle trails are in the area for our morning activities.

In addition, the park has a nearby freshwater lake that has its own beach. It also has three water slides that are carved into mountain rock and lead down a pool. Fruit trees surround the park as well, such as mango, avocado, and lychee. With the abundance of these trees can we guarantee a quiet place to rest in the middle of a big city. We can hear occasional faint wails of the siren, though, to remind us where we are.

Campland on the Bay, San Diego

Campland on the Bay is actually located on the shores of the Mission Beach. Primarily, the campground is aimed at campers, often families, which have a lot of energy. This is as it offers several non-stop activities that are not conventional to wilderness camping. For instance, we can enjoy practicing or learning some yoga and playing games like beach or dodgeball. Also, we can access a swimming pool, a game room, and a restaurant.

Generally, the Campland is located near to the San Diego Zoo as well as the Gaslamp Quarter. There, we can witness a nightly fireworks show from the SeaWorld that is close by as well. That while not having the trouble of an additional entrance fee. Moreover, camping opportunities in the place range from primitive to supersite camping with Jacuzzi and patio. No doubt that this place is on the fancier side of camping. Also, its location at the heart of San Diego is not one to beat.

Related Questions

What are other uses there for roof top tents other than recreational or lifestyle camping?

Roof top tent camping is more popular primarily for those that want to explore the safari basically. It is how the idea of it came to life. However, at present, it is becoming more popular as a way to relax and as an alternative to ground or RV camping. And unlike the ground and RV camping, roof top tent camping can be used in public activities off designated campgrounds. For instance, we can pop our roof top tents at music festivals or waiting for lines for product drops and tickets.

Music festivals, especially multi-day ones, may actually include onsite campgrounds. This is as a part of a package, cultivating a community of similar-minded music and nature lovers. We can surely get the most of our experience as our tents provide a killer view of our favorite musicians. On the other hand, we can guarantee front row tickets for Broadway shows, for instance, with our tents. We can park at a permitted roadside camp and take turns with our companion for the tickets. While one is waiting in the queue, the other can snooze for a while so that we can switch after.

How can we plan a roof top tent camping in the city or urban camping in general?

No one gets to any battle without strategizing or planning ahead. Therefore, nothing tells us that popping up a tent in New York does not need proper and advance planning. Initially, we would want to think ahead about what we want to gain from experience. And from there, we can work our way to list the stuff that the experience should require. Our list should include, of course, our camping location and the gears we would want to bring. We should find out as much as we can about the camping location, including the weather forecast. We may want to avoid heavy rainstorms, especially if we are going on a roof top tent camping.

Generally, though, we would want to check the local laws or ordinances whether public spaces are good for overnight use. This is if we are not planning to camp on designated camping sites in states, cities, or municipalities. For private spaces, we may have to secure permission from the owner beforehand, whether we are paying or not. Apparently, some states allow free public camping while others are strict at it. Nonetheless, we have to make it a point that wherever we park our vehicles, we are not disrupting anything or anyone.

Eni Gordove

is an outdoor enthusiast. She loves the thrill of the challenges that nature brings.

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