A Science-Backed Reason to Go Camping (Plus: Where to Camp Around Philly)

Go ahead and mark off a long weekend in your iCal. You’ll thank us later.

Spring is here, which means that the folks of Philadelphia have begun to emerge, slowly but surely, out of hibernation. Eventually, by May I’d say, this city becomes a different place — it’s more crowded than usual, but not yet as smelly as it will be once August hits and, after exploring the Wissahickon for weekends in a row, us Philadelphians get the urge to plunge into the woods outside the city.

And if you need an excuse to skip out of the real world for a weekend, let it be known: A recent study from the University of Colorado at Boulder found that a weekend in the woods can seriously improve sleep. Turns out, a weekend of camping can help reset your internal clock, which has probably (definitely) been affected by modern life (read: spending your entire life looking at screens). For the small study, researchers sent small groups camping in Colorado. After a week of camping, folks had reset their internal clocks to fall asleep and rise two or more hours earlier than before and lost a midday jet-lagged feeling they usually experienced. Long story short: Camping seems to be good for fixing sleep woes.

Now that you have an excuse to ditch town for a few days, the real question: Where to camp? Not to worry: We’ve got you covered there. We chatted with Christina Saboe, owner of Fireside Camp Supply, and Charlotte Bronner, co-owner of Trove General Store, to see where they go when the camping bug bites. Does hiking with waterfall views sound appealing to you? How about setting out on the water and canoeing your worries away? Below, their top picks for where to pitch a tent around Philly.

If you want to learn more about the great outdoors …
Go to: French Creek State Park, Elverson, Pennsylvania
This state park offers up the largest block of connected forests between D.C. and New York City and is a known oasis for people and wildlife alike. Your time at French Creek can be action-packed with swimming, fishing and biking or spent relaxing comfortably in a yurt (read: a bougie tent) equipped with fire pits, fridges (!!) and cook tops. The coolest part? Bronner notes that you can take knowledge-boosting classes at the park, like an orienteering class to learn navigational skills like reading a map or using a compass. Saboe agrees that this is an awesome local camping spot, saying it’s “great for first-time campers or families with young children, because French Creek is so close to the city that you could easily just head back to town if things don’t go your way.” Here’s to hoping you make it through the weekend, though! Starting at $15 a day. 

If you want to see waterfalls …
Go to: Glen Onoko Falls, Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
After a challenging three-mile waterfall-dotted hike, you’ll set up camp in the Lehigh Gorge State Park, which houses Glen Onoko Falls. This state park, with thick vegetation and picture-perfect rock clusters, follows the Lehigh Valley River to the ever-so quaint town of Jim Thorpe, which is “pretty amazing to explore. It’s so charming and makes you feel like you’re walking back into Pennsylvania coal country history,” Bronner says.  Starting at $32 a day for two adults and two children.

If you want to be near the beach …
Go to: Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes, Delaware
Located right by the Cape May ferry drop-off in Lewes, Delaware, Cape Henlopen is just a short walk from the beach, so you can indulge in some fishing and swimming. The ultimate pro tip, according to Saboe, is to “reserve a much larger and sandier tent-only site well ahead of time for more privacy,” because Henlopen tends to get crowded with people escaping the city in summer. Bird watching and disc golf are a few other activities to add your your agenda. Starting at $40 for tent camping, with discounts available for Delaware residents. 

If you want to canoe …
Go to: Wharton State Forest, New Jersey
Wharton State Forest (also known as the Pine Barrens) boasts countless state park campgrounds as well as a number of rivers, streams and hiking trails. As Saboe says, “Fishing and canoe-camping is where the Barrens shine.” As a bonus, this underappreciated network of campgrounds hardly ever fills to capacity, meaning you’re almost guaranteed a spot, even at the height of the camping season. Starting at $5 for a “primitive campsite,” with discounts available for New Jersey residents.

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