Winter Camping Is on the Rise: What’s Behind the Trend?

Autumn has arrived, inviting everyone to enjoy outdoor activities like scenic driving, hiking, and camping. Old Man Winter anxiously paces back and forth on the horizon, desperate to push people back indoors with his colder temperatures. He may be disappointed to discover Americans plan to remain outdoors this year. Winter camping is heating up.

Millions of American Households Camp Annually

person lying inside tent and overlooking mountain
Camping has its rewards. Photo credit: Dominik Jirovský

Kampgrounds of America (KOA) regularly conducts independent, non-biased research studies of the North American camper to examine trends in the outdoor hospitality market. Their 2023 report reveals camping makes up nearly one-third (32%) of the leisure travel market.

Over 58 million households went camping in 2022, spending $52 billion in the local communities where they visited. Since 2014, the number of families who camp three or more times a year has grown by 174%.

Why Has Camping Become Popular?

a white dome sitting on top of a lush green hillside
Glamping comes in different forms. Photo credit: Anna Ana

The KOA study sheds more light on why camping has become popular with North American families. Survey respondents expressed a hunger for new experiences, including culinary tourism and observing events like eclipses and meteor showers.

Half the participants said camping offers a more cost-friendly way to travel during an economic downturn. Further, they expressed a desire to connect with nature and each other during times of economic uncertainty. Respondents state that camping allows them to relax, blow off steam, and focus on their mental health.

As many as 40% of survey participants said the availability of WiFi greatly influenced the decision to camp more. Glamping played its role, appealing to 38% of respondents, up sharply from only 26% in 2021.

Warming Trends in Winter Camping

brown wooden house near mountain during daytime
Glamping pod. Photo credit: Jonas Dücker

KOA recently published its September 2023 research report on fall and winter camping trends. In that study, 38% of campers stated a definite intention of winter camping, compared to 17% last year. Another 27% said they will probably camp this winter.

Cabins and comfortable accommodations beyond tents play a significant part in the increase. Glamping and cabin campers increased from a little over 5 million households in 2021 to over 12 million in 2022.

Survey respondents stated that the benefits of winter camping include fewer crowds and breathtaking views in regions with snow. In some cases, winter camping means escaping to a warmer weather environment. For other survey participants, winter camping means an opportunity to experience unique recreational activities like skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling.

KOA has over 500 locations across the United States and Canada. The study also accounts for other privately owned campgrounds, all levels of public parks, and camping in the backcountry. Americans are flocking to a combination of warm and cold weather destinations for winter camping.


Saguaro National Park Desert Giants
Saguaro National Park desert giants. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Campers visit Arizona for warmer temperatures, stunning red rock formations, and iconic destinations. Campers regularly stay near Sedona, Flagstaff, and Tucson. Many campers plan to admire the giant cacti in Saguaro National Park and the state’s crown jewel, the Grand Canyon.


things to do in Joshua Tree - watch sunset
Sunset in Joshua Tree. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Between California’s warm southern region and its colder northern region, campers may have very different experiences depending on their destination. Campers often stay near famous cities like San Diego and San Francisco. Other winter campers want to see natural wonders like Joshua Tree National Park, Sequoia National Park, and Redwood National & State Parks.


least-visited national parks in U.S. - Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Photo credit: Joshua J. Cotten

Known for its beautiful mountain scenery, Colorado offers a cold-weather camping experience with excellent skiing opportunities. Visitors regularly camp near Denver and Colorado Springs. Natural wonders include Rocky Mountain National Park and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.


a large alligator is in the water with its mouth open
Alligator in Everglades National Park. Photo credit: Max Harlynking

Practically the polar opposite of Colorado, Florida attracts winter camping visitors due to its warm weather, beaches, and theme parks. Campers regularly stay near places like Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale. Disney World, Kennedy Space Center, and Everglades National Park are popular attractions. Many birders enjoy Kissimmee and Myakka River State Park.

New Mexico

Big Room Trail cave decorations
Cave decorations along the Big Room Trail. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

The Land of Enchantment contains various landscapes, from deserts to mountains. Campers often stay near cities like Alamogordo, Las Cruces, and Albuquerque. Popular attractions include the state’s three World Heritage Sites: Chaco Culture, Taos Pueblo, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Many campers plan to visit White Sands National Park, where they can scale rolling dunes and try sand sledding.


View from Blackrock Summit
View from Blackrock Summit in Shenandoah National Park. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

The east coast state has beaches, forests, mountains, history, and politics. Campers regularly sleep near Shenandoah Valley, Virginia Beach, and Wytheville. Another popular winter camping spot is Fredericksburg, between Washington, DC, and Richmond. Shenandoah National Park provides scenic Skyline Drive and beautiful hikes through the forested ridges of the Blue Ridge Mountains.


one of America's least-visited national parks - North Cascades National Park
Camping near Easy Pass in North Cascades National Park. Photo credit: NPS

Many campers come to Washington to revel in the beauty of nature’s solitude. The Pacific Northwest state is renowned for its lush forests and diverse geological features, including mountains, volcanoes, and coastlines. Visitors typically camp in Pasco, Spokane, Lynden, Leavenworth, or the Olympic Peninsula. The Cascade Mountains offer skiing and snowboarding.

Camping Is On The Rise, Even With a Falling Thermometer

blue tent under milkyway
Tent camping under the stars. Photo credit: Pars Sahin

Camping is no longer a three season activity. Cold weather is waiting in the wings, but Americans are determined to enjoy winter camping, whether that means heading to a warmer climate or embracing the cold.

This article originally appeared on Media Decision.

Featured image credit: Simon Berger

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About the author

We are Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey. After nearly 30 years, we took a leap of faith out of the corporate world to enjoy a life of travel and adventure. We hope to inspire you to find ways to travel more and enjoy life now.