Mountains are magical. With their snow-capped peaks, sheer rock faces, and dramatic ridgelines, mountains call us in, begging to be explored. From the ancient, well-worn ranges of the east to the towering young upstarts of the west, mountains offer much more than pretty scenery. They have a spiritual quality that is undeniable, bringing people closer to the heavens and lifting their spirits. This year, why not head to where the wild things are and spend some time camping in the mountains!
Before you head out on your mountain trip, consider what you want to pack. Mountain temperatures can drop dramatically, especially after the sun goes down, so you’ll need extra-warm clothing and sleeping gear. And because the days can still be hot, you’ll also want shorts, a hat, sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses.
There are plenty of things to do in the mountains. Try horseback riding, fishing, hiking, ATV riding, mountain biking, and rock climbing. You can swim in a crystal blue mountain lake or view the wildflowers growing in the meadows. Some of the most fascinating animals makes their homes in the mountains – watch for foxes, deer, bears, owls, eagles, mountain goats, marmots, and lynx.
If you plan to go hiking during your trip, you’ll want a pair of good hiking boots – waterproofed if possible – for crossing mountain streams, as well as several pairs of hiking socks. Mosquitoes can be especially active in the mountains, so be sure to take repellent with DEET and/or some kind of netting for your tent or RV. You may also want binoculars for watching birds and animals, photography equipment, and bandanas that you can dip in mountain streams to cool yourself down.
RV campers should always pack tire chains, extra water or coolant fluid, and other emergency equipment when heading into the hills. Because supplies like gas and groceries are often more expensive in remote areas, it’s always smart to shop before you go. And you might want to give yourself extra time to reach your destination. Mountain roads can be slow and winding – you’ll be glad to have a little extra time for stops and slow traffic.
Mountain camping can vary dramatically with the change in seasons. In the fall and winter, storms can cause mudslides, snow-ins, or trees to fall across the road, so be sure to call ahead for travel conditions. Many mountain campgrounds close when the snows arrive, or only offer limited winter services. If you’re willing to rough it, this can be a fantastic time to visit, when the mountain landscape is covered in white and the campgrounds are uncrowded. Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing are popular wintertime activities.
In the spring, mountain streams can swell with run-off, sometimes flooding roads and creating spectacular waterfalls. Take great caution when crossing streams, whether you’re on foot or in your vehicle. The summer months are an ideal time for mountain camping, when cool alpine breezes feel so refreshing. Just be aware that afternoon thunderstorms are very common summer events, especially in the Intermountain West. It’s always best to be prepared for sudden showers, even if the day seems perfectly clear.
This season, why not take a camping trip to the top of the world? From hillsides full of wildflowers to amazing views of peaks and ridgelines, mountains truly have it all. So warm up your sense of adventure and see what mountain camping is all about!