Believe it or not, right this very minute, you can book lodging for next weekend—plenty of availability—seriously, we checked—inside Grand Teton National Park for less than $30 per night (as low as $17 if you’re a member of the American Alpine Club). Inside the park! Right next to Jenny Lake, near the awesome plein air cowboy dinner buffet at Dornan’s, with stunning views of the Tetons. Far, far cheaper than what you’d pay for even a grimy motel in Jackson. Cheap camping options don’t get much better.

Your lodging would be the Grand Teton Climber’s Ranch, a rustic but awesome bunkhouse operated by the American Alpine Club, a non-profit organization that supports the American climbing community. The AAC, in fact, operates a number of domestic campgrounds, huts, and lodges in some spectacular places for spectacularly cheap prices. They’re happy to rent you a room, bunk, or hut, even if you’re not a member of the club. You don’t have to be a climber either. But since these lodgings are typically near world-class climbing zones, you may end up becoming a climber on your trip anyway. Wyoming, Alaska, Texas, West Virginia—the selection is mind-boggling.

Look at these spots, just a few of the American options the AAC runs:


grand teton climber’s ranch

Moose, Wyoming
Bunks: $27 non-members; $17 members

snowbird hut

Snowbird Glacier, Talkeetna Range, Alaska
If you can hike or ski there, you can stay at this hut for free. Sleeps 6-12. Close to plenty of alpine peak bagging opportunities, backcountry skiing, multi-pitch rock climbing routes, hut-to-hut traverses.

Rumney Rattlesnake Campground

Rumney, New Hampshire
Camping: $12 non-members; $8 members. Bunks: $33 non-members; $20 members
Close to Rumney Rocks crags, wifi if that’s your thing, even a little library to cozy up in after hitting the crags.


Hueco Rock Ranch

El Paso, Texas
Everything from tent camping to private rooms on offer. The world-class bouldering of the Hueco Tanks is right there.

New River Gorge Campground

Fayetteville, West Virginia
Private sites and communal sites, ranging from $12-30 for non-members; $8-20 members
Like to climb sandstone? Plenty of opportunities here.

Gunks Gampground

Gardiner, New York
Tent platforms are $24-38 for members and non-members
Wifi, showers, easy peasy access to the Trapps and Near Trapps climbing zones.

AAC members get discounts on huts in New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and Chilé—all of which are terrific budget options. Membership will run you $80 per year, or $45 for six months as an introductory deal, if you feel like pitching in and supporting the climbing community.

But even for non-climbers, these are some pretty great camping and hut choices. Less than $30 to stay that close to the Tetons? Sign us up.

Photo: Sheehy