TEN MILE RIVER LEAN-TO (APPALACHIAN TRAIL, CT) This one is a sentimental choice. Sure, it's an amazing campsite. There's a river, a big field, a lean-to so you don't have to pack a tent. But it's also two hours from the city and you can take the Metro North train to get there. I've spent many many nights at that lean-to, sometimes as a last minute decision on a Saturday morning to escape the concrete. No matter how much planning is involved, I always have a great night, feeling refreshed and ready to head home to Brooklyn. Argh. 49 PALMS OASIS TRAIL (JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, CA) This is one of the best nights I've ever spent in a national park, hands down. The trail to 49 Palms is inundated with tourists during the day, which is fine, I suppose. It should be, right? It's beautiful so lots of people want to see it. But very few of those people will have packs on their backs, so take yours with you and, when it feels right, veer of the trail at least 500 feet (park rules) and set up camp behind the rocks. Even a few feet from the trail, hidden behind giant boulders of red, is a different world. The trail starts emptying out as the sun is setting, so after your tent is up, get your ass down to see 49 Palms, then hurry home for dinner and whiskey. ALAMO CANYON CAMPGROUND (ORGAN PIPES NATIONAL MONUMENT, AZ) Unfortunately, there's no backcountry camping in Organ Pipes anymore. Too many dangers from the drug trafficking that runs rampant in the area. A ranger was shot a few years back, so there's a reason for the strict rules. Either way, the primitive Alamo Canyon Campground isn't the worst thing in the world. It's a little secluded from the big campers that can fill up the parking lots, and since it's Organ Pipes and that means miles and miles and miles of desert, you still get the feeling of being in some backcountry. Because, as you'll realize as soon as you get a few miles out of Phoenix, Organ Pipes is not Yellowstone. There's nothing there. And THAT is why you go, of course. It doesn't really matter where you sleep.