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10 best US states to visit in a camper van

An empty road through the Arizona desert

If you crave adventure, traveling in a camper van is one of the most intimate ways to experience the USA.

In 2017, I set off on a two-year road trip with my husband and dog. We camped in 48 states, hiked countless national parks, ate in local towns and drove from coast to coast in our 1996 retro camper van. 

Throughout the trip, we quickly found that some states were more conducive to van life than others. The Southwest USA, for example, has a wide diversity of landscapes within its free public lands. The East Coast amazed us with stunning fall colors and historic towns we had previously only seen in books.

While every state added a unique aspect to our itinerary, there were certainly a few standouts. We’ve traversed the country logging the best from coast to coast: here are the top ten states in the US that are perfect for your next camper or RV trip.

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1. New Mexico: Do you prefer red or green chile?

Camping in the desert is particularly enjoyable because of the starry nights, predictable temperatures and few flying bugs. New Mexico is home to a desert landscape unlike any I’ve experienced. There are distinctive hoodoo rock formations, an unending trail system and large swaths of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas that allow free camping. New Mexico generally flies under the radar, which makes it less crowded even in the most scenic areas. A lack of trees in the north allows for excellent landscape visibility, and some of the most magnificent sunsets we have seen. An underrated food haven, New Mexico gave us vibrant and affordable cuisines that we could find in every town. It’s also home to our favorite cave system, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, on the state’s southern border.

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Budget-friendly Arizona is great for adventurers in a camper van © miroslav_1 / Getty Images

2. Arizona: Natural wonders abound, off-grid living comes easy

For outdoor enthusiasts who love mountain biking, rock climbing and stunning hikes, Arizona cannot be beaten. Most people think of visiting the Grand Canyon, but the entire state is ripe for adventure. Free campsites scatter the forests surrounding Sedona, Flagstaff and southern Arizona, which makes it one of the most budget-friendly places to visit year-round. One of the things we loved most about this area was the kind reception to…

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