Sleeping on The Field: Airports With Campgrounds

Airports offer a surprising variety of outdoor living experiences.

Camping under your airplane’s wing reflects the freedom and flexibility of private air travel.

One of the advantages of traveling in general aviation aircraft is the ability to easily reach places that do not have airline service and are beyond reasonable driving distance. Indeed, a personal airplane can quickly get a family to destinations far off the beaten track.

A recurring problem with this approach is finding transport from a remote airport to the nearest town and other attractions. But that problem disappears, along with certain hassles and expenses, when the airport becomes the destination.

Many airports allow camping and some have dedicated campgrounds and support facilities on the field. Amenities vary, with some locations appealing to the pilots who want to rough it and others offering varying levels of comfort and amenities up to the “glamping” category. Many airports allow camping but might not advertise it.

If there is a particular airport where you have always wanted to pitch your tent, try calling the manager to see if it is allowed.  

Alpine Airpark (46U)

Alpine, Wyoming

Want to camp under your Falcon’s wing? This might be the place. After all, this airpark touts its 5,850-foot runway as “jet friendly.” However, they might try to sell you a home with an attached hangar. Seriously, though, camping is one among many outdoor activities that Alpine offers, including mountain biking, trout fishing, horseback riding, boating, and hiking.

Kern Valley Airport (L05)

Kernville, California

The airport’s location in the scenic stretch between Lake Isabella and the Sequoia National Forest almost guarantees spectacular vistas from the air. Views are great from the on-field campground as well. This is a place where you can park your airplane and camp under the wing. But you do not have to really “rough it” because the campsite amenities include a café and a maintenance shop.

Rough River State Park Airport (2I3)

Falls of Rough, Kentucky

When flying into the Rough River airport, one gets the sense that it will be a good place to camp. The runway parallels the impressive river, and a swath of forest in between looks promising for hikers. Pilots can set up camp near their aircraft and use the restrooms and showers at the site’s service building. If you crave a little more comfort, there is a lodge next to the airport.

Rockin M Airport (T14)

Quinlan, Texas

The airport’s address on Stinson Road gives a hint of what visitors might find at this quarter-mile-long turf strip. A former owner of the field used to fly a Stinson 108, and the runway’s forgiving surface helps make it a haven for vintage taildraggers, which often turn out for organized events and impromptu fly-ins. Camping is allowed on the field, but campers must supply their own amenities.

Fairbanks International Airport (PAFA)

Fairbanks, Alaska

You might not expect an airport campsite with an 11,800-foot runway, but that is what you get at Fairbanks. There is also a 4,510-foot strip more appropriate for small general aviation aircraft and a 2,900-foot gravel strip for ski-equipped airplanes to use during the winter. The airport says its airpark area at the north end of the Charlie taxiway is open generally from mid-May to the end of September. It includes 15 parking spaces and room for one tent at each tie-down spot. There are two covered pavilions, barbecue pits, showers, and restrooms.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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