Camping Destinations for Wine Lovers | Wine Country Camping

April 11, 2024

Home to the third largest wine region on Earth, the U.S. isn’t lacking in wineries or wine countries. But while California takes the spotlight as the epicenter of wine production and the home of the majority of the nation’s wineries, that’s not to suggest there aren’t thriving, fruitful wine regions to discover across the country — and in Canada. While far quieter than many California wine regions, these are locales that are no less impressive and immersive, exhibiting a knack for terroir and a penchant for pairings.

Looking for North American Wine Regions That Aren’t California? Start Here!

Vineyards and distance mountains in the Snake River Valley of Idaho.

1. Snake River Valley in Idaho

The first viticultural area in Idaho is among the most exciting up-and-coming wine regions in the U.S. Located around Boise, anchored in south-central Idaho, the Snake River Valley AVA extends from eastern Oregon, encompasses about 8,000-sq.-mi., and thanks to a climate that gets hot by day and cool by night, specializes in varietals like Riesling, Syrah, and Viognier. This is also a region marked by high elevations, ranging from 2,500- to 3,000-feet above sea level, with a temperate climate that endears itself well to a bountiful wine scene. And it’s only growing, as the state now boasts more than 50 wineries — best experienced along the Sunnyslope Wine Trail in and around Nampa, or Garden City in Boise’s near suburbs, where ornate wineries and wine bars like Cinder Wines and Telaya Wine Co. will make visitors feel like they’re in Napa.

Nearby KOAs
Boise / Meridien KOA Journey

2. Walla Walla Valley in Washington

Among the most famed wine regions in the country, beyond the California borders, the southeastern corner of Washington contains a vast wine-making swath called the Columbia Valley AVA. Within that, the Walla Walla Valley — which also extends into northeastern Oregon — reigns supreme for its abundant sunshine, high elevation, moderate climate, waterways, and fertile growing conditions. Soil here is rich and ripe, paving the way for countless farm stands, farm-fresh restaurants, and seasonal activities. It’s relatively remote location, about a four-hour drive from Seattle, keeps it quaint and quiet, albeit well worth the extra mileage to experience wineries and tasting rooms like Grosgrain Vineyards and Abeja. Meanwhile, Walla Walla proper contains tasting rooms and wine bars aplenty, like The Thief, Spring Valley Vineyard, and Echolands Winery.

Nearby KOAs
Pendleton KOA Journey
Starbuck / Lyons Ferry Marina KOA Holiday

Vineyard rows of a beautiful winery in Oregon during sunset.

3. Willamette Valley in Oregon

Conveniently close to Portland, only about an hour drive’s south of the city, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is the largest — and most famed — wine region in the state. Renowned for its Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling, this is also prime turf for Pinot Noir. Expanding more than 100 miles in length, and 60 miles in width, the Willamette Valley is also far-and-away the largest wine region in Oregon, home to more than 2/3 of the state’s wineries and vineyards. For those counting, that tally currently sits at about 800 wineries. Among the wineries to visit, top picks include The Eyrie Vineyards in McMinnville, Brigadoon Wine Co. in Junction City, David Hill Winery in Forest Grove, and the gorgeous Domaine Willamette in Dundee Hills.

Nearby KOAs
Cascade Locks / Portland East KOA Holiday


Alamogordo, New Mexico vineyard winery grape vine farm for wine with Organ mountains in background and rows of plants.

4. Mesilla Valley in New Mexico

The New Mexican desert may not immediately conjure imagery of fruitful wine-making, but the state has emerged as one of the most underrated wine regions in the nation. In addition to the sparkling wine production anchored in Albuquerque, as at the Gruet Winery & Tasting Room, the southern reaches of the state — around the city of Las Cruces — contain the Mesilla Valley. Here, wine production has been a tradition since the 1600s, when Spaniards began planting grapes, like Syrah and Zinfandel. They’re still among the most popular varietals in the region, now home to some 50 wineries, like the Rio Grande Winery, Hearts of the Desert Winery, Noisy Water Winery, and Luna Rossa Winery & Pizzeria, where guests can pair prized Pinot Grigio with a slice of Margherita.

Nearby KOAs
Las Cruces KOA Journey

Vineyard in the fall, near Traverse City, Michigan.

5. Traverse City in Michigan

Perched along the northern shores of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the bucolic town of Traverse City is teeming with surprises. Namely, the fact that this small city — in the famously frigid nether reaches of the Midwest — has risen up the ranks of world-famed wine regions to become one of the best in the country. Quaint, charming, and rich with Americana, the Traverse City area is as precious as it is potable, with wineries churning out everything from dessert-worthy ice wine to crisp whites and old-world reds. The region extends out into Lake Michigan via two extensive peninsulas, both of which contain more than 50 wineries in total. Driving north, it’s entirely possible to embark on a lakeside wine crawl, with stops at pristine properties like Mari Vineyards, Hawthorne Vineyards, and Tabone Vineyards. Back in Traverse City proper, you’ll find wine bars like Left Foot Charley and The Tasting Room Restaurant, while Low Bar is a speakeasy that pairs local wines with esoteric spirits and classic cocktails.

Nearby KOAs
Traverse City KOA Holiday

Close-up of bunches of ripe red purple red wine grapes on the vine with colorful fall leaves.

6. Lake Erie Wine Country in New York/Pennsylvania

On the other end of the Great Lakes, another wine region hugs the shores of Lake Erie. Expanding from Buffalo, N.Y. to Erie, Pa., Lake Erie Wine Country is a majestic, four-season expanse on the rise. Now home to more than 20 wineries, specializing in varietals like Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, viticulture is a longstanding tradition around these parts —dating back more than 150 years. There’s now a designated Lake Erie Wine Trail, which conveniently lists the area’s numerous estates, including Johnson Estate Winery (the oldest in the region), 21 Brix Winery, 6 Mile Cellars, Heritage Wine Cellars, and Noble Winery.

Nearby KOAs
Erie KOA Holiday

Wine Vineyards in the south Okanagan near Pentiction British Columbia Canada with Vaseux Lake and mountain cliffs in the background.

7. Okanagan in British Columbia

Wine-making in the PNW doesn’t stop at the Canadian border, though. British Columbia, in fact, is home to six viticultural areas, where the climate and terrain begets a bountiful crop of Cabernets, Rieslings, Pinots, and Merlots. Among the province’s wine regions, Okanagan is one of the top wine-producing regions in the whole country, with upwards of 185 wineries and 8,830 acres worth of vineyards — second only to the Niagara Peninsula. Spanning the small town of Salmon to the north, and culminating at the U.S. border on the south, the area is lined with rivers and lakes, and its diverse terroir results in a dynamic destination for oenophiles. Among the gems are Mission Hill Family Estate, NK’ MIP Cellars, CedarCreek Family Estate, and Tantalus, overlooking the shimmering shore of Lake Okanagan.

Born and raised in New Hampshire, Matt Kirouac grew up with a love for camping and the outdoors. Though he’s lived in Chicago since 2006, he’s always on the lookout for new adventures. He writes about travel and food for outlets like TripExpert, Money Inc, Upventur, DiningOut, Food Fanatics magazine, Plate Magazine and Zagat, and he currently serves as Chicago editor for What Should We Do?! He’s the author of The Hunt Guides: Chicago (2016) and Unique Eats & Eateries of Chicago (2017).

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