The Essential Guide for Taking Your RV to National ParksUS national parks are an absolute staple of our country, providing an incredible opportunity for exploration and discovery to all of us.
From Grand Teton to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and the Everglades, there’s pretty much a park for everybody under the sun. However, for those wanting to stay in an RV rather than roughing it in a tent or cabin, it’s not quite as simple as blindly deciding on a locale. There are a few considerations you’ve got to take, like RV size, park regulations, and hookup options, just to name a couple. Need a little bit of guidance? Here’s everything you need to know when RVing the parks.
Are RVs Even Allowed in National Parks?
Before you set off on your grand journey to one of the US’ amazing national parks, it’s pretty important to know the basic dos and don’ts – but it’s all the more essential if you’re planning on traveling around in an RV. The most obvious thing to figure out first and foremost: are RVs even allowed in the first place? The basic answer is that it will vary from campsite to campsite, with some being more overtly RV-friendly than others.
The vast majority of national park campgrounds allow the vehicles, mainly should they find themselves on the smaller side. But if they’re especially loud, over 27 feet, or in any way disturb fellow park users, you might find yourself out of luck. The best thing to do in this case is to check the individual park’s rules beforehand. This way, you can easily ensure your RV won’t be a problem, and you can fully enjoy your trip without being worried about running into any unfortunate snags along the way. After all, you don’t want to go all the way out there only to turn right back around! Plan ahead, and it won’t be an issue.
National Parks and RV Restrictions
Part of this planning ahead means being well-informed about the rules and restrictions of where you’re going. Easier said than done, of course. As said before, each and every US national park has its own individual guidelines for RV size and overall length, which can make travel planning an even bigger pain than it already is naturally.
These migraine-inducing details aren’t just there to annoy you, though. National parks RV length limits and restrictions exist to keep you safe when navigating the often tricky, windy roads that lead to park campsites, as well as guaranteeing visitors’ spaces won’t be completely overtaken by just a couple of large RVs. In other words, it’s fair stuff, and it’s actually pretty forgiving. Almost all of our US parks allow RVs below 20 feet, where 35 feet long campers still will get clearance for about 70 percent of the campgrounds out there. Not bad stats, right?
But what if you really want to tool around in an RV or camper that’s 40 feet or bigger? Well, your options are narrower, but there are still several grounds that can accommodate, even in some of the most popular and crowded national parks. Here are a few top choices and their size limitations to give you a better idea of what you’re looking at.
- Denali National Park’s Savage Campground – 40 feet
- Sequoia National Park’s Lodgepole & Dorst Creek Campgrounds – 42 feet and no limitations, respectively
- Grand Canyon National Park’s North Rim Campground – 40 feet
- Arches National Park’s Archview and Moab Campgrounds – 50 and 44 feet, respectively
- Grand Teton National Park’s Colter Bay Campground – 45 feet
If the national park you want to visit isn’t included here, don’t worry. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are several other grounds and dedicated RV parks that might be worth checking out. For a more comprehensive rundown, this is a great resource to glance over. You can also find plenty of information by visiting your park’s official site page or by visiting www.nps.gov.
Considerations for RV Travel
US national parks RV restrictions and length limits are pretty important things to keep in mind before you put rubber to the pavement, but they’re not the only things you should consider before your travel. It’s also a big help to think ahead about hookups, road closures, reservations, and more. Even one of these details falling through the cracks can have disastrous outcomes for your trip, making things unnecessarily challenging and stressful, if not wholly impossible. Luckily, it merely takes a bit of forethought to sort out the details and keep everything right on track. Here are a few essential considerations that you should iron out before delving into the more minor details.
Decide on Reservations
It should go without saying, but doing your research is an essential step in your trip’s success. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to figure out all the basics. Keep a close eye on the weather, any travel advisories, and closures that might impact your travel and time at the parks. You don’t want to drive or fly for several hours just to turn back home! You should get informed on park hours and closings, attraction hours, fees, and required passes or permits, too.
Figure out plans for any pets
Your fluffy (or potentially scaley – we don’t know you or your life) friend is part of the family, and as such, you should take great care in figuring out what they’re to do while you’re camping in the RV. US national parks are great, but they’re not necessarily the best place for a pet to be.
Many trails aren’t pet-friendly, and a full activity schedule will probably leave you short on time to spend together. And on top of this, your buddy probably isn’t going to be too keen on being alone for hours on end in a cramped, unfamiliar space.
Consider this before you insist on bringing them along for the ride and plan accordingly. Tracking down a friend to watch them, finding a stay-at-home pet sitter, or checking them into a boarding facility are likely smarter options. They’ll be both safer and more comfortable in the long run. Just be sure to do plenty of research about sitters or facilities, of course!
Know what is available at each campground
Here’s the thing: not all RV parks or RV-accommodating campgrounds are the same. All of them will have different amenities for your use. Most importantly, the available hookups will differ. Some spots may have electrical connections and included sewer lines you can connect with. Others will have the bare essentials and maybe a dumping station.
Meanwhile, some grounds might go the complete opposite and have the whole shebang – electricity, water, cable, internet, etcetera. It’s crucial you know what’s at your disposal ahead of time, so you can shape what your days will look like and what you’ll need to plan around.
Take note of park rules
RV length limits and restrictions are a big deal to abide by, although they’re just the tip of the iceberg. US national parks love their rules, and for a good reason. They’re what maintains order and guarantees our parks stay in good operating condition. But that means you need to be aware of these rules and take them seriously.
These regulations and requirements will range everywhere from how late you can run a generator to how long you can be hooked up to specific amenities to how you should store or dispose of food and trash. Find out everything possible and take note of it, preferably somewhere you’ll remember to actually look at them rather than let them gather dust on a shelf you’ll never look at again.
Have backup plans in place
In a perfect world, all of our travel plans would go off without a hitch. That’s not how it works, though. Inclement weather, dangerous conditions, cancellations, and just plain ole’ bad luck can turn things around in a second and leave you scratching your head for where to go from here. It happens. Prepare for this inevitability by having a couple of backup plans in place.
For example, merely having plans for different routes to your park, a list of various activities and sight-seeing opportunities, and ideas of different dinner options can go a long way in safeguarding the overall experience from any potential snags. If you have a backup in place, you likely won’t need to use it, and that’s always a better position to be in than being figuratively lost at sea.