Visiting national parks like a veteran RVer

It’s hard to argue that National Parks offer some of the best bang-for-your-buck RV experiences available. From education and relaxation to rugged exploration and wildlife observation, you can find just about anything you’re looking for on an RV trip to a National Park.
If you’ve never visited a park by RV, or haven’t been in a while, you’ll find it’s a little different from visiting a KOA site or your local State Park. We’re here to help get you ready for your next National Park adventure with some of our best knowledge for getting there comfortably and enjoying every minute at the campground.

Make plans up to a year in advance.

Many RV owners book their favorite sites for next year while they are on vacation this year. And many national park campgrounds have 6-12 month booking windows that may be open now. When you pull onto your huge, hand-picked site next summer, the effort of booking now and planning around it will have been well worth it.

Call back about reservations.

Missed out on a reservation, but still have the time to travel? Don’t give up. Cancellations happen more than you think. Call back often and check online often to see if a spot opens up as your dates approach.

Plan ahead for furry friends.

National parks aren’t always the most pet friendly. The thinking is that they can disrupt or contaminate the natural environment. It seems like a dream to many to run through the prairie or mountains with a four-legged friend, but definitely do research on your park destination.

Review RV campsite descriptions closely.

National park campgrounds can be pretty remote. Sites with “full hookups”, water, sewer and electric can be hard to come by, especially if you’re booking late. Dry camping, or boondocking, as it’s also known, takes practice. If you have never boondocked before, take a trip close to home, even the backyard, and get a feel for what it’s like and how long reserves last.

Stay wherever works best for you. (That’s the beauty of RV travel.)

State parks and national parks can cost less per night than their private campground counterparts. However, if the more expensive campground offers amenities (such as recreational opportunities or free WiFi) that your family will use, you may get more out of your time in the park each day. Or, consider splitting your time, a few nights at the park with hookups, a couple dry camping, then a few in style at the nearby resort.

The smaller your RV, the more options you’ll have.

Especially at older parks, there aren’t always a lot of sites to accommodate today’s longest RVs. Some national park campgrounds still cap out at around 30 feet. With a small trailer, Class C or B RV you can fit into almost any campsite. If your dream is to visit several parks, you may want to lean on the smaller side when choosing your RV.

Plan your route in and out.

Some parks have few and/or difficult routes to them (a smaller RV can help there too). Such beauty shouldn’t be easy to get to! No matter what RV you’re in, follow RV routing. There are easy-to-use apps out there to help RVers stay on the easiest route and plan your stops, including the official National Park App and many more.

Plan your parking.

If home base is all the way across the expanse of the park, or not in the park at all, you may be driving to different trailheads or attractions. Small parking lots are the norm—as little disruption of the natural environment is always priority #1. With a lot of families and people in vacation mode, you can beat the crowds if you go early. Many parks and/or nearby campgrounds will have scheduled shuttles in and out of the park, or to specific attractions.

Schedule your day wisely.

Piggybacking off when and where to park, have a plan for when to visit activities and attractions. Take your time to seek out and explore “hidden gems” in the afternoon. The most popular attractions tend to boom with tourists after lunch. Every National Park has its keynote sites that draw visitors from everywhere. Plan it right and who knows, you may find yourself at total peace in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Take advantage of programming.

When you purchase your pass you will often receive a schedule of ranger programs. We strongly recommend that you take a good look at the schedule and pick some to attend. Most are free and are geared toward families with kids of all ages. These are a great way to learn about the history, flora, fauna and experiences at your disposal.

Modernization, upgrades and repairs are coming!

Passed in 2020, the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) is the largest investment in public lands in several decades. A big part of the law includes modernizing national parks to better accommodate today’s RVs. It has been years in the making and it’s exciting news for campers and national park enthusiasts.

There’s simply no better way to experience these treasured lands. Find the ideal RV companion for your national park adventures here.

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