America’s Top National Parks for RV Camping
From quiet evenings spent around a campfire to day hikes to the most majestic vistas in the United States, our national parks range from desertscapes to snow capped mountains, remote lakes to rivers running through major metropolitan areas. And of course, camping is abundant.
The concept of the “national park” was born in the United States, way back in the day when a former leather tanner and farmer by the name of Ulysses S. Grant decided that a slice of mountains known to regularly send a fireworks-like display of steaming water into the air should be preserved and protected by the United States Government. While there are indeed many beautiful places the world over, few countries protect their natural resources in the way we do here in the US, where we not only cherish the innate beauty and diversity of our corner of the planet, but allow visitors to physically enter and enjoy the parks as well.
Technically, there are 59 areas with the official designation of “national park,” though these are managed by the National Park Service, which manages hundreds of other types of recreational, historical and protected areas in the US. Think national monuments, seashores and historic places. Some are massive, like the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, and some are simply a single building, like the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial in Pennsylvania. Therefore, not all of the places designated under the management of NPS have camping, and even less have camping suitable for RVs.
For those that do, we’ll cover them all, one state a time (though only 32 states have national parks with RV camping directly in the park itself).
Denali National Park RV Camping in Alaska
When it comes to untamed spaces, the Last Frontier is still our largest resource, and if it weren’t for official designations and borders, one might argue that the entire state is akin to a national park. Denali, named for the mountain with the highest peak in North America, is perhaps the shining star of all of Alaska’s eight official “national parks.”
When it comes to RV camping, you can choose from three locations directly in Denali National Park itself (the first two shown below as well as Riley Creek), or a handful of private RV parks on the outer perimeter.
RV Camping in Arizona’s National Parks
From the Grand Canyon painted with snow in the winter to the high heat of Organ Pipe Cactus in the state’s southeastern corner, the Copper State is replete with camping opportunities for RVers, and its six portions of the national park system that offer camping suitable for RVs are among the most spectacular sites in the Southwest.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument RV Camping
One of the few units in the NPS not owned by the United States Government, Canyon de Chelly aims to preserve a landscape inhabited for centuries by the indigenous people of North America. While the land is owned by the Navajo Nation, it’s visited by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world every year, making it not only one of the most visually stunning areas designated as a national monument, but certainly one of the most visited as well.
It’s sole campground is suitable for even the biggest of RVs and, as its name implies, promises the shade of massive cottonwood trees to keep you company in between your adventures into the canyon itself. An additional, private RV park outside of the park proper is another option should you need it.
Chiricahua National Monument RV Camping
This national monument, and the surrounding Coronado National Forest, combine to serve a multitude of options for claiming your stake and exploring the forested mountainside for as long as you might desire, given the ease of hopping from one campsite to another, despite the typical 14 day limit on camping in any one campground.
The monument itself promises spectacular examples of hoodoos and balancing rocks, in addition to protecting an historic ranch associated with conflicts between early American pioneers and the native Apache people of the region.
While there are nearly twenty private and public places to camp in the area, here are some of the highlights from public lands, including Bonita Canyon Campground, the only spot directly in the park.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area RV Camping
This massive reservoir was once yet another gorgeous canyon carved by the Colorado River as it made its way through Utah and into Arizona. While some controversy exists around the recreation areas formation, particularly the damming of the river, for those interested in participating in the myriad of aquatic activities available here, RV camping is certainly available.
Grand Canyon National Park RV Camping
As the Eight Wonder of the Natural World and the biggest hole in the ground the Earth has to offer, the Grand Canyon needs little introduction. Opportunities for camping near this painting of an outdoor enthusiasts wildest dream are as varied as the layers of rock that stripe the canyon’s walls. Whether you’re looking for full hookups only a short walk from the main attraction, or something forested and a bit more remote, you can find it all at Grand Canyon National Park.
Lake Mead National Recreation Area RV Camping
Approaching Lake Mead from the east can feel like driving across the lifeless surface of an entirely different planet, craggy black rock for as far as the eye can see. As you approach the lake (another reservoir created from the mighty Colorado), the landscape begins to show signs of life, though sometimes sparse. As the largest reservoir in the US, that’s to be expected. If for no other reason, one might appreciate Lake Mead for its testimony to how powerful man’s effect on his planet can actually be.
While campgrounds are plentiful, from private RV parks near Vegas to the popular Valley of Fire State park to the north, there are abundant opportunities to camp in eleven of the national recreation area’s official campgrounds.
Navajo National Monument RV Camping
Featuring a cliff dwelling “city” from the ancient Puebloan people, this national monument provides the opportunity for visitors to explore a past leading up to the civilizations we know today as the Native American peoples, and the campgrounds near it offer those of us who’d like to work or browse the web while we visit the opportunity to snag a little cell reception.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument RV Camping
The sole natural home of the mountain dwelling organ pipe cactus, this national monument is both out of the way and well worth the drive. Don’t feel like hoofing it all the way back to I-8 after touring around one of the most beautiful deserts in the US? The national monument hosts an official campground, and is surrounded by BLM land and private parks, too.
RV Camping in Arkansas’ National Parks
Whether you want to frolic in a cool river or have a soak in the American Spa, Arkansas has a body of water with your name on it.
Buffalo National River RV Camping
If a lazy float down a largely untamed river sounds like your cup of afternoon, there are an assortment of sites on and near the Buffalo National River. Adjoining the official “national park” part of the river is also a US Forest Service-managed section designated a National Scenic River. Regardless of the official nomenclature, this stretch of water in Northern Arkansas is a favorite amongst locals and travelers alike.
Hot Springs National Park RV Camping
Native Americans knew of the healing properties of this natural hot springs centuries before America’s upper class began appropriating the place into an upscale resort, and even before the idea of a “national park” existed, the US government set this piece of land aside with a special “do not develop” designation, ensuring it would be relatively preserved for centuries to come.
Today, over a million and a half visitors come to the hot springs every year for its bubbling blend of history, recreation and relaxation.
RV Camping in California’s National Parks
The Golden State is a place of legend. With its vast dominion, covering landscapes as varied as the colossal rainforest cliffs of oceanside Redwoods National and State Parks to the arid Joshua Tree National Park, and plenty of oak scrublands, snowy mountain forests, big cities and small towns in between, to lump all of the parks this state holds into one section seems as frivolous as the question, “What color is a bird?”
Such is the way of our United States, though, and so below, we proudly present to you every national park that offers RV camping in the Great State of California.
Carrizo Plain National Monument RV Camping
This national monument is a massive grassland, the largest in California, which also plays home to a portion of the San Andreas Fault, a once very visible “crack in the earth” which has since eroded and been covered by the sands of time.
Like much of the western states, it promises stunning beauty coupled with a sometimes alluring danger that is inherent in the geology that makes these regions so attractive to many a camping enthusiast.
While the park itself offers no official camping, plenty of national forest sites are available, as well as some BLM land and a county park in the area.
Death Valley National Park RV Camping
Lowest, hottest, driest…you’ll hear these words over and over again in this Martian-esque landscape east of the snowcapped Sierra Nevada Mountains and just shy of the Nevada border.
Death Valley provides ample opportunities to camp in some incredibly remote, and elevated, locations, where one can truly enjoy and experience the diverse nature of a park which may surprise those who imagine it only to be a wasteland. On the other hand, you could stay at one of the private RV parks next to a watered golf course and spend hours considering how a park that touts its lack of water might be able to sustain such a popular recreational activity.
Either way, there are plenty of opportunities for RV camping in Death Valley.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area RV Camping
Given its proximity to San Francisco, and no doubt thanks to the likelihood that when the Planet of the Apes actually happens, this is where our ape overlords plan to setup camp, Golden Gate National Recreation Area is consistently one of the most visited parks in the national park system.
If you’re lucky, you can snag a spot at the nearby Samuel Taylor State Park, or try one of the privately owned campgrounds within a realistic drive.
Joshua Tree National Park RV Camping
The majority of campgrounds situated in the amassed boulders of this magical yucca forest can accommodate RVs, though check on maximum lengths before you start making reservations or showing up hoping to snag a first-come first-serve site. Even if you can’t find a place to call home directly within one of the many campgrounds (Joshua Tree is a popular place not far from some pretty significant portions of the population) there is ample free camping on BLM land in the area, and plenty of private RV parking available in the area to boot.
Kings Canyon National Park RV Camping
While oft overlooked due to its big brother Yosemite’s proximity, Kings Canyon offers grand mountain vistas, big Sequoia forests and frigid flowing rivers, with less than 1/10th of the visitors.
Aside from several campgrounds directly within the park, camping of all varieties can be found in the adjoining national forest, farther south in Sequoia National Park, where private RV parks with more amenities begin popping up as well.
Lassen Volcanic National Park RV Camping
The volcano’s peak stares wistfully into its own reflection on the calm waters of the lakes it wears like a glacially fed necklace all year round with big conifer forest whiskers shaved down to the tree line. Slow, easy drives to picnic spots and lookouts that are practically uninhabited–compared to California’s more popular parks–begin to make you feel like this is your very own private national park.
Meanwhile, back at camp, the hustle and bustle of everything from moms swapping s’mores recipes to kids skidding around corners on their bicycles gives you a chance to meet a few of your fellow travelers who’ve realized that Lassen is one of the best kept secrets in the NPS.
Lava Beds National Monument RV Camping
You’re a spelunker are you? Or maybe you just love crawling through tunnels carved by millions of years of lava flows? This is exactly what Lava Beds is all about! For as little as $10 or less, you can camp in the park itself (including cell service), or a handful of private RV parks offer the full-hookups experience nearby.
Mojave National Preserve RV Camping
Pristine desert that plays the role of “the meat” in the Death Valley / Joshua Tree sandwich, Mojave National Preserve is another piece of the national park pie where you can find stunning nature, often for free, and sometimes even with cell coverage to check your emails or get a little work done. Expect stunning sunsets, desert wildlife and plenty of wide open spaces to explore.
Pinnacles National Park RV Camping
While the formations that give this national park its name are millions of years old, and native people were inhabiting the area for some 2000 years, Pinnacles is one of the newest additions to the National Park Service’s official “national parks.”
Rock climbers, birders and hikers alike frequent this park, located about an hour and a half south of Santa Cruz and even closer to the popular Big Sur area of California’s coast. In addition to the official park campground, a variety of county and private parks are available, as well as BLM land.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area RV Camping
Ever wanted to visit the Mediterranean, but couldn’t figure out how to get your RV to Europe? The Santa Monica Mountains are considered to wear the same hat as one might find on the Italian boot (when it comes to climate, anyway), but much closer to home. The site has been proposed as a national park, various state parks, and has a diverse history of locals working hard to protect it, and for good reason: it’s often considered to be an even more pristine example of this kind of ecosystem than the European sea itself.
While the lone campground in the national recreation area is strictly for groups of ten or more, there are plenty of state parks and private facilities who’ll be happy to serve as your basecamp for exploring the Santa Monica Mountains.
Sequoia National Park RV Camping
A spaghetti noodle of a drive leads visitors out of the oak scrublands of the base of Sequoia National Park, cars clinging to the edge of cliffs spray painted temporarily by the shadows of passing hawks, the views growing grander and grander with each hairy curve. As visitors ascend the mountains, the trees grow in size as well. What may have begun as a warm Spring day when first entering the park can easily change into a snow-covered forest of a hike through the largest living organisms on earth.
These are the Sequoias, one of three species of Redwoods still in existence today, and they bear the names of great heros of our nation’s past even as they need no nomenclature to enforce their raw power.
While RV parks exist near Sequoia’s entrance, to snag a spot in one of the official park campgrounds, or even nearby Kings Canyon, is an experience in and of itself, putting you as close to the heart of the action (or utter peace) of these mighty giants as possible.
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area RV Camping
The fullname of this playground near Mount Shasta is Whiskeytown–Shasta–Trinity National Recreation Area, and though it’s a mouthful, the forests and lakes surrounding snow-capped Mt. Shasta are a paradise for those seeking the simpler pleasures in life.
Whiskeytown NRA’s focal point is the similarly named lake, and while the park does have campsites along this mirror, mirror of a fairest body of water, sites suitable for RVers are a bit more limited (though RV camping on the water is available at Brandy Creek RV Campground). Luckily, plenty of private and national forest camping is available in nearby Redding, California and the surrounding area.
Yosemite National Park RV Camping
John Muir’s former playground is considered by many to be the most beautiful, magical and special place in the United States, if not the world. Indeed, cities worth of travelers, adventurers, hikers, climbers, campers and those just looking to experience the fabled legend of this national park flock here every year to watch the water fall or the moon rise over the epic cliffs and domes that comprise this valley and its surrounding mountains and forests. For some, it’s an easy weekend drive from their homes in California, for others it’s a reason to spend several hours on a plane, crossing oceans, just to marvel at its wonders. Many a wanderer makes a regular pilgrimage to Yosemite, and some merely pass through on their way to somewhere else.
Whatever your reasons, wherever you come from, it is almost inevitable that you will drop your jaw and open your eyes wider than ever as the valley does all it can to flood each and every one of your senses.
Note that with all of the wonderment, scoring a spot in one of the official campgrounds can often prove difficult, if not impossible, without sufficient planning, so make note to check availability well ahead of time, and best of luck!
RV Camping in Colorado’s National Parks
When it comes to rugged expanses of ice cream cone snowcaps coating silver mountains with prominence rarely seen elsewhere in the Continental US, Colorado can’t be topped. Add hip cities and strip mall free small towns, endless national forests and some of the most scenic drives winding through it all, and it’s no wonder the Centennial State draws millions of RVers every year to its multitude of national parks.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison RV Camping
If the name alone isn’t enough to stir up enough intrigue in your quest to conquer every one of the national parks, just take a look at a few pictures of the place and there’s little doubt your compass will tend to point towards these spires upon canyons in Western Colorado.
Colorado National Monument RV Camping
The red rock stacks, layered valleys and desert scrublands that comprise this national monument feel closer to something one might discover in Utah or Arizona. At only half an hour or less from Grand Junction, a decent sized little city in Western Colorado, Colorado National Monument is one of those ideal wilderness areas that you don’t have to completely leave civilization to explore, and camping ranges from the park’s official campground to BLM land and private parks galore in the area.
Curecanti National Recreation Area RV Camping
Near Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, this NRA focused around three reservoirs is a playground for boaters, fisherman and anyone who loves getting into the water. Eight campgrounds can accommodate RVs directly in the national recreation area.
Dinosaur National Monument RV Camping
The “terrible lizards” who once roamed here have forever left their impression in the rocks of Dinosaur National Monument. One of those “far from anything” parks, the drive along US 40 in Utah and Colorado is worth the trek alone, while the half-a-handful of campgrounds available directly in the park simply sweeten the pot.
Great Sand Dunes National Park RV Camping
Imagine Sahara like dunes flanked by verdant rivers and a snowy mountain backdrop. The scenery in Great Sand Dunes is unreal and something one truly has to see to appreciate. Tucked away in a lesser traveled corner of Colorado, and another one of those parks that debunks the imagery many people hold in their minds of what the state’s natural areas have to offer, Great Sand Dunes is every bit as worthy of a visit as the more traditional mountains and valleys for which Colorado is known.
Mesa Verde National Park RV Camping
Home of the remnant city and villages of an ancient cliffdwelling people, Mesa Verde offers a glimpse into a native civilization who transitioned from the more typical life of the wandering peoples who inhabited the US to one of tall buildings carved into the side of the valley faces. Beyond the historical significance of Mesa Verde, sweeping views and the big blue skies for which Colorado are famous treat campers looking to make the park their home for some time.
Rocky Mountain National Park RV Camping
Perhaps the quintessential Colorado mountain experience, Rocky Mountain is a 24 hour live news feed, broadcasting episodes of blue sky winds wisping snow into curly swirls from the peaks of its mountains, herds of elk congregating in vast golden pastures, and rivers running through it all. While the park has suffered the woes of man in a variety of forms, it has never lost its grandeur, and is so near to many of the most interesting small towns, historical sites and cool cities that Colorado has to offer, to pass it by would be to miss out on perhaps everything Colorado is about.
RV Camping in Florida’s National Parks
No place in the United States is quite like Florida’s tropical climate, making it not only one of the few guaranteed hot spots all winter long, but as unique an experience in this country as one can find.
From the glassy waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico to the swamplike waterways of the Everglades, nowhere does Florida continue to shine through the development and progress of man more than in its national parks.
Big Cypress National Preserve RV Camping
Next door to a panther reserve, and with its main thoroughfare lined by a creek full of alligators, Big Cypress is one of the wildest places left in Florida, and perhaps the most easily accessible and enjoyable parks.
Whether you’re making the national preserve your actual destination, or simply visiting as you use US-41 to cross the state’s southern tip, expect countless sightings of Doctor Seuss-like exotic birds and flora silhouetting against long sunsets that seem to last forever.
Everglades National Park RV Camping
With manatees in abundance and the possibility to spot the very elusive American crocodile, Everglades is another Florida national park full of strange sights rarely seen outside of this subtropical wilderness.
From full-hookup locations near Miami to a few campgrounds directly in the park itself, you can “choose your own adventure,” weighing the benefits of the more natural areas (and mosquito downfalls) with the conveniences of big city life so very near to all that there is to explore.
Gulf Islands National Seashore RV Camping
At the near exact opposite end of Florida, floating along the shores of the state’s panhandle, this national seashore is more about sandy beaches and lazy days than the more rugged, wildlife filled adventures found in the south. That’s not to say that the opportunity for experiencing nature isn’t available, but perhaps more people visit this stretch of Florida for its easy going days and plethora of seaside resorts and quaint small towns. Let’s just say, you won’t have to worry about a crocodile or a panther sneaking up on you while you work on your tan.
RV Camping in Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument
Note: For Yellowstone, see Wyoming.
Given that Idaho is perhaps the wildest, most asperous states, it may seem strange that it’s national parks with RV camping are limited to one location named for an otherworldly body. On the other hand, maybe it’s precisely due to the Gem State’s course nature that its camping lends more toward a backpack and a fishing pole than accommodations suitable for bigger rigs. Luckily, Craters of the Moon National Monument not only houses an official campground (as well as a few spots to camp nearby), but is easily accessible via US-20/26, one of the nation’s most scenic and beautiful routes, and a great way to traverse the state if you’re not the Interstate type.
RV Camping along Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
The only national lakeshore not located in Michigan, though perhaps ironically still along the shores of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes is a beachy paradise in the throws of an otherwise heavily populated portion of the nation. Whether you find solace in a good hike, dipping your paddles into the Great Lakes, spotting migrating birds or just losing your toes in the sand, plenty of opportunities for camping can be found along this stretch of the lake’s southern shore.
RV Camping in Kentucky’s National Parks
While the eastern seaboard is often too overrun with the development of our nation’s centuries of growth, Kentucky is often seen as the first true state where one can begin to abandon the hustle and bustle of all things “back east” and begin the adventure westward. Home to two units of the national park system, including an actual, official national park, the Bluegrass State certainly holds its own amongst its fellow “East of the Mississippi” fellows.
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area RV Camping
A peninsula preserved, sandwiched between a series of lakes in Kentucky and Tennessee, a multitude of private and state owned camping is available.
Mammoth Cave National Park RV Camping
Hundreds of miles of explored (and who knows how much has yet to be discovered) caves make this the world’s longest known series of caverns, but there’s more to Mammoth Cave National Park than simply spelunking and stalagmite watching. From floating the Green River to hiking nature trails, there’s plenty of above ground activities to enjoy as well, and certainly camping is one of them.
RV Camping in Maine’s Acadia National Parks
The oldest national park east of the Mississippi, Acadia is home to furry, four-legged creatures ranging from porcupines to beavers, bobcats to black bears, as well as the elusive golden eagle. Thanks to a plethora of private RV parks (and quite a few spots in the park itself) it’s also home to the wildest of all creatures, the RV enthusiast.
RV Camping in Maryland’s Assateague Island National Seashore
Feral horses snooping in your window, or grazing alongside the road through this beach of a national park along the Atlantic Ocean make for an experience found in no other national park in the nation. Vacation destinations like Berlin and Ocean City, Maryland increases the opportunities for something to do should you grow restless amongst the quiet dunes of the campgrounds within the park. All in all, this is one of the most beautiful of the accessible eastern national parks.
RV Camping in Michigan’s National Lakeshores
All of the United States’ national lakeshores live along the Great Lakes, and two of them in the state of Michigan. Indeed, the Great Lakes State is known for being an outdoor enthusiasts playground, from hiking trails to getting out on the waters for which its nickname is derived.
Whether you find yourself in the “Mitten” (the Lower Peninsula), or the “U.P.” (the Upper Peninsula), a national seashore is just waiting for you and your RV to pull in, setup camp and dive right in.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore RV Camping
These waterfront cliffs get their name for the colorful spectacle of sheer cliff face and hollowed out arches that line this section of Lake Superior’s southern shore. The small town of Munising makes finding supplies (from fishing licenses to pontoon rentals) easy, and the beauty of the park itself gives you plenty of reason to stick around…as long as the snow stays away.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore RV Camping
Farther south in the more moderate climes (for Michigan) of Sleeping Bear Dunes, one can find much of the same recreation available in Pictured Rocks, but without needing to cross the somewhat daunting Mackinaw Bridge.
We’ve written all about where to find the best camping of all types, from official spots in the park itself to private RV parks with all of the amenities, in our article all about Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
RV Camping in Mississippi’s National Parks
Whether you want to laze about on the beaches of Gulf Islands National Seashore, or a scenic drive along the Natchez Trace is on your agenda while traversing everyone’s favorite state to spell, Mississippi has a healthy dose of campgrounds directly within its two national park units, as well as a plethora of state and private RV parks to flower the Magnolia state.
RV Camping in Missouri’s Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Missouri may not be on every RVers list of top states to visit, given its status as a flyover state, but that is quite likely due to the fact that they haven’t fully explored the possibilities of skipping out on the pricey cost of airfare in exchange for a slow, smooth stroll through one of the nation’s least frequented yet most peaceful places to explore.
From campgrounds in the state’s national scenic riverways proper, to a host of national forest and Army Core of Engineers locations, if you’re looking for solitude and a peaceful place to park your rig, Missouri might do well at the top of your list. Particularly if you find yourself in need of crossing this great nation and a straight shot through Middle America is on your agenda.
RV Camping in Montana’s National Parks
Note: For Yellowstone, see Wyoming.
Big Sky Country is home to one of the most stunningly classic national parks, where a winding drive up a dauntingly steep mountain promises not only endless vistas, but the possibility to see multiple sunsets in one day as you dip in and out of the shadows of the many mountains, laden with tall pine forests and mountain goat promenades, all along your journey.
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area RV Camping
Glacier isn’t your only opportunity to explore a national park in Montana. The southern central stretch of the state is home to a national recreation area not terribly far from the infamous Yellowstone, a place with a decidedly more desert climate, even if it is covered in snow for much of the year. Imagine big lakes, bighorn sheep and even bigger canyons cut through it all. Not to mention plenty of camping throughout.
Glacier National Park RV Camping
The first thing to know about Glacier is that it is absolutely unsuitable for large RVs if you need to actually cross the length of the park to get from an entrance to your campground. Even long trucks or sizable vans may find their tailgates or side mirrors dangling uncomfortably far over the edge of the Going-to-the-Sun Road that joins one end of the park with the other, particularly when the park service’s old school tour buses roll by, taking up more than their fair share of the narrow route.
Depending on how you enter, not all campgrounds require you to traverse this road, but we’d be bad neighbors if we didn’t at least warn you to do a little research first.
Figured out you can make the journey? Your reward is calling this glorious stretch of land home for your stay in some of the most prized national park camping in the nation.
Note: For Missouri National Recreation River, see South Dakota.
RV Camping in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park
Note: For Lake Mead National Recreation Area, see Arizona.
Just south of the US-50, “The Loneliest Highway,” as you enter Nevada, lives a national park rarely visited but worth every penny of your annual parks pass.
Great Basin boasts caves as deep and dark as its skies are bright…if you manage to find yourself there on a clear day, which isn’t always a likelihood.
RV Camping in New Mexico’s National Parks
New Mexico wears a name tag declaring itself the Land of Enchantment, and indeed, from the Gila National Forest to Taos, there’s plenty of magic to be found. If you’re looking to bag as many national parks in as many states as possible, New Mexico comes with two waves of that type of magical wand, a historic park and a national monument.
Bandelier National Monument RV Camping
The canyons sink into the earth as their neighboring mesas rise above, Bandelier preserves aim to protect these natural wonders while at the same time informing visitors as to the history of the people who once inhabited this land.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park RV Camping
With the second closest place to camp over an hour away, Gallo Campground in Chaco Culture National Historic Park may be one of the hardest places to get to (especially if you don’t have a reservation). The good news is, the park recently began accepting reservations, so no more, “Let’s just go and find out” scenarios need play out with a long drive back to the next closest who-knows-where you can find.
If you do manage to snag a reservation here, don’t plan on being disappointed. You’ll be surrounded by a cliff dwelling, petroglyphs, and all of the beauty of the high desert, if you can brave the rather rocky road into the campground.
El Morro National Monument RV Camping
People have been camping at El Morro long before RVers, or even European settlers ever found their way to this corner of New Mexico. Pyramid-like ruins, hiking trails and that austere desert scenery New Mexico is known for populate this national monument. The sole campground in the park only has nine spaces, and isn’t exactly big rig friendly, but that only adds to the serenity of the experience, no? If you can’t snag one of those spots, luckily there’s a handful of other private, state and BLM campgrounds to nestle into.
RV Camping in North Carolina’s National Parks
How many country songs have been written about the Great Smoky Mountains? Is it true that Smokey the Bear is actually from New Mexico? Is Carolina still on James Taylor’s mind, and which Carolina is he talking about?
These questions and more await as you explore North Carolina’s national parks, from scenic drives to and through the Smokies to a national seashore along the Atlantic.
Blue Ridge Parkway RV Camping
Not for the long trailers, the Blue Ridge Parkway is an expansive road riding the ridges of various mountain chains in the Appalachians, from Virginia to the Smokies. A winding slew of vistas where nary a chance to pull over and witness layers upon layers of purple mountains majesty can be found, the stretch of the parkway through North Carolina takes you through some of the western stretch of the state’s most interesting small towns, plenty of national forest, and lands you directly in the Smoky Mountains themselves.
Looking for a break from the long drive? Be sure to check out places like Boone, Black Mountain, Asheville, Waynesville and Bryson City.
The campgrounds listed directly below are on or near the stretch of Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. For more campgrounds in the area, check the listings for Asheville, NC or Great Smoky Mountains National Park below.
The link below the campgrounds here will take you to Virginia’s stretch of the parkway.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore RV Camping
A constantly evolving string of islands just south of Kitty Hawk, where the Wright brothers first took flight, and north of the infamous Outer Banks vacation destination, Cape Hatteras National Seashore promises a relaxing natural setting with plenty of nightlife or history just a drive up or down the beach away.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park RV Camping
Dazzling landscapes are painted every color the floral palette can provide in the spring, while a decidedly more auburn and gold scene explodes across these mountains every autumn. The most visited of all of America’s national parks, the Great Smoky Mountains are not home to any one particularly astounding feature (like Yellowstone’s geysers or the Grand Canyons massive tear through the earth), but instead a testament to the simple beauty of a forest preserved as best a man can after years of use and settlement. With that in mind, you’ll find the history of the people who once lived here as much a part of the story of this park as the landscape you’ll explore.
RV Camping in North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Teddy Roosevelt was a major player in the creation and expansion of the national park system, and so it’s no wonder that he’s got his name hanging on the sign for North Dakota’s only national park with RV camping. From badlands to bison, this park is a testament to preserving the natural landscape that inspired the former president to make conservation such a serious goal of his administration.
RV Camping in Oklahoma’s Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Oh, Oklahoma. You have everything going for you, a nifty state abbreviation, a memorable musical bearing your name, and smack dab in the middle of the nation! Yet, so few people seem to want to hitch up the trailer and discover your bounties.
Maybe that’s because we need to get the word out about Chickasaw. Breaking every stereotype one might have about Oklahoma (if we ever bothered to come up with stereotypes about the Sooner State), Chickasaw is lush forests surrounding cool streams and plenty of opportunity for camping to boot. Not to mention it’s got the (really) Little Niagara Falls!
RV Camping in Oregon’s National Parks
For a state so full of splendor, it’s kind of baffling that Oregon is only home to a handful of national parks, and only two that you can camp directly within in your RV. Luckily, as you travel the misty rugged coastline, the old growth forest covered mountains and painted high desert stretches between these parks, Oregon isn’t likely to disappoint. Unless you hate things like great coffee, craft beers and nearly unlimited outdoor recreation. Even still, there’s always the rain to look forward to!
Crater Lake National Park RV Camping
When an ancient volcano decides to blow not only its top, but nearly 2000′ of its insides to smithereens, nature is there to fill it with a mirror-like placid lake, complete with cliff side bleachers the likes only Gaia herself could build.
While snagging a spot among the Doug-firs in the park’s only official campground that can handle RVs might be a bit tough, the good news is that several private and state parks cater to the crater as well.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area RV Camping
In 1492, the King of Ohio held a contest to see who could create the most beautiful coastline in all of North America. Everyone from Shakespeare to Neil Armstrong cast their lot, and the vote was unanimous: Oregon is, hands down, the most accessible and gorgeous of the three US states that line the Pacific.
With US-101 lining nearly the entire stretch, every inch of it public property, and prices reasonably affordable, Oregon has it all when it comes to surf, sometimes sun and most importantly, somewhere to pitch that tent on wheels you’ve been towing down these hairpin turns. While most of the places to camp on the coast are state parks, or private affairs, Oregon Dunes NRA is here to fill your national park dreams, even if technically it’s part of a national forest.
RV Camping in South Dakota’s National Parks
Firstly, we should note that missing from this list is the Black Hills National Forest. It’s such a magical place full of amazing rock formations, lakes and scenic drives that we’d like to personally cast our vote for it to be officially named a national park and never speak of the travesty again.
That said, we’ll leave the national forests for another day, and focus on South Dakota’s three amazing national park units that have officially been deemed worthy of the status. First, and perhaps least, is the Missouri National Recreation River and its splendid Cottonwood Campground, an Army Core of Engineers site.
And now, for the gold.
Badlands National Park RV Camping
There was a time when this harsh landscape would have been a no joke, life or death experience for many a traveler so unfortunate to be stranded in such an environment, yet at the same time, the abundance of life clinging to the fragile art forms that mother nature has created here sets up the perfect juxtaposition for yet another national park nearly unique in its composition.
While the hokey appeal of Wall, South Dakota may draw the occasional cross-country roadtripper in for some gimmicky souvenirs or a tour through one of the strangest roadside attractions left in the US, the Badlands promise boondocking, hiking and exploration unrivaled in the Great Plains.
Wind Cave National Park RV Camping
Remember how we just couldn’t help but mention the Black Hills? Well, consider yourself the grand prize winner because tucked down into this gem of a national forest is Wind Cave NP, but with only one official campground, chances are you’ll find yourself camping in, and certainly at the very least driving through, the fabled Black Hills to get there.
Be warned if you do visit Wind Cave and take the cave tour, they will turn out all of the lights, and should you recall the boogieman from your childhood, you may need an extra pair of skivvies when the journey is all said and done.
RV Camping in Tennessee’s National Parks
All of the national parks within Tennessee’s borders with RV camping also reside partially within another state.
For Great Smoky Mountains, see North Carolina.
For Land Between the Lakes, see Kentucky.
For the Natchez Trace, see see Mississippi.
RV Camping in Texas’ National Parks
Texas is no stranger to all things big, and so while its national parks, especially the official “National Parks” within its boundaries may not protect something unique, they certainly don’t skimp on immensity.
Amistad National Recreation Area RV Camping
When it comes to exploring Texas, don’t be surprised if you find yourself within a stone’s throw of our neighbor to the south. After all, before it was the 28th state in the Union, it was part of Mexico proper.
Amistad NRA is just such a place, only a little ways from the railroad town of Del Rio, the lake offers the typical waterborne recreational activities you’ll come to know should you find yourself frequenting these types of park units.
Big Bend National Park RV Camping
We’ve gone into detail on the plethora of options for camping in Big Bend National Park, and the nearly adjacent state park of a similar name, already here on on Campendium. Suffice to say though, it’s one of the most stunning, stark places in the nation, replete with wide open spaces and if you’re lucky, some of the most spectacular spring blooms you’ll see in any desert in the US.
Guadalupe National Park RV Camping
Surrounded by dodgy sounding characters like Carlsbad and Brokeoff Mountain, this national park at the far western edge of Texas is for those who enjoy the road less traveled. Even as Big Bend is many miles from anywhere, it’s often a “destination park”, whereas Guadalupe doesn’t seem to inspire the same enthusiasm, and is still just far enough out of the way to leave it in the “maybe next time” category for many a traveling RVer.
Still, it’s a site to behold, and while RV camping isn’t exactly of the pristine natural variety, it is certainly available…and directly at the trailhead that will beckon you to conquer the mighty mountain itself.
Lake Meredith National Recreation Area RV Camping
Texas’ pandhandle is not exactly paradise. It’s hot, empty, maybe a little downtrodden at times. The horseheads do their constant bobbing up and down trying to suck precious oil from the ground in pursuit of, perhaps, the Guiness World Record of stinkiest place on earth.
Then you have Lake Meredith NRA, something altogether different. You’ll simply have to camp it to believe it.
Padre Island National Seashore RV Camping
The Padre Islands are Texas’ take on Gulf Coast living. Not as frilly as Florida, or as chilly as the Gulf’s northern shore states, and yes, with just the right twang of Texas hospitality…but maybe with a more “boots optional” policy.
RV Camping in Utah’s National Parks
For Glen Canyon NRA, see Arizona.
It’s not a competition. If it were though, Utah would win. They call them the Mighty Five, a slew of national parks interspersed by plenty of other public lands that seem to encompass nearly all of the state’s southern inclination.
More so, these parks are wild. You can get so lost in the series of backroads that wind through and connect many of the parks that you could die and find yourself reincarnated twice over before another vehicle passed your way. Between the hoodoos and cacti, the scrubby trees and high summer temps, one might think of this as a Wild West desert, but come the colder months’ falling temperatures, you’ll find yourself desperate for a fire as hot and red as the rocks the new fallen snow comes to cover.
Arches National Park RV Camping
Moab draws campers the likes of single track mountain bikers to Jeep enthusiasts, hippies to professional photographers from the world ’round, and during the more popular months, one may discover that finding a camping spot takes more effort than the millions of years of erosion required to hollow out the arches that gave the park its name.
Luckily, for those of you who can boondock without a second thought, the options are nearly unlimited.
Bryce Canyon National Park RV Camping
Nearly every trail a hiker can find in Bryce begins at the top of the canyon and heads down. Thus, many a foot soldier finds themselves wandering down, down and ever so down into the catacombs of the hoodoos this park is famous for, only to wonder where exactly the elevator back up can be found.
While it is indeed the hoodoos (said by local legend to be the ungrateful souls frozen in stone from a peoples long gone extinct), that make this park famous, its the bristlecone pines that deserve the real praise, given their literal ancient lifespan that needs no shroud of mystery to convey their living legend status.
Canyonlands National Park RV Camping
Though its the Grand Canyon that gets all the praise, the views of the multitude of sliced chasms in the earth visible and explorable within Canyonlands NP are every bit as impressive a site.
And while its neighbor to the north (Arches) may get more attention, it simply leaves Canyonlands all the more pristine for the rest of us to explore.
Capitol Reef National Park RV Camping
The middle child of the Mighty Five, Capitol Reef boasts ridges that seem as though they may one day rise up and reveal the giant stegosaurus that has been sleeping beneath them for ages.
Whether your interests lay in the history of the Mormon settlers who managed to eek out a life here, the unreal girth of the cottonwoods that still do, or the petroglyphs left by a civilization around before either of the former, camping in and around the park makes easy work of what was once a seemingly uninhabitable place made home by centuries of peoples.
Cedar Breaks National Monument RV Camping
Surrounded by, particularly outside of the summer months, frigid forests full of towering firs and ever vigilant aspens, Cedar Breaks is yet another contrasting panorama of red rock buttes and thick green skirts. While easy to overlook given the immensity of its officially higher in status companions in the Mighty Five, it’s no doubt a gem all on its own.
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument RV Camping
Though shrouded in controversy upon its appointment in the 1990s, perhaps due to the fact that it’s the largest national monument in the nation, the “Grand Staircase” is a peculiar creation of nature unlike any other. Literally, a stairway has been formed, striated in colors nearly each step of the way, in a manner even the greatest marble architects would surely envy.
Hovenweep National Monument
Relatively small compared to the bigger players in Utah’s list of national parks, Hovenweep nonetheless has a highly acclaimed campground near the Utah’s southeastern border with Colorado.
Natural Bridges National Monument RV Camping
Perhaps the national park unit which gets the least amount of love in this whole Southern Utah scheme of things is Natural Bridges. That doesn’t mean its lacking in great camping, though.
Zion National Park RV Camping
Zion is just one of those places that brings people back year after year, sometimes for an entire lifetime. We’ve written all about the best places to camp in Zion National Park, and covered all of the free ones, too.
RV Camping in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park
Note: For the Blue Ridge Parkway, see North Carolina.
While initial efforts to preserve amazing spectacles of nature like Yosemite and the Tetons easily inspired the men who played a role in our National Park System to push forward with the plan, in reality, the majority of the population of the United States lived far from these natural wonders. Thus, the plan to create Shenandoah National Park, a park for the people of Virginia and all of the Eastern United States, was developed.
Not without a bit of controversy, however. In order to acquire the land, Virginia had to more or less take it away from the families of farmers living there. In an attempt at compromise, the people living on the land were allowed to remain, now citizens of a national park, for the remainder of their lives.
Today, ample opportunities for camping, hiking, or just cruising the scenic Skyline Drive make Shenandoah one of the most easily accessible national parks for the millions of people living in the Appalachians.
RV Camping in Washington’s National Park
Home to three official “national parks” alone, the Evergreen State is the perfect setting for natural splendor and outdoor recreation. Mild summers, splendid autumns and winters that, while rainy, offer a chance to explore snow covered mountains in the afternoon, and escape the coldest climes with just a short drive later that evening.
Additionally, like its sister state to the south, Washington offers everything from coastal neverlands to big glacier covered mountains to distant high desert.
Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area RV Camping
In the far eastern stretches of Washington, Lake Roosevelt is a reservoir formed from the Columbia River about three hours from Spokane. Given its length (130 miles or so), plenty of opportunity existed to create campgrounds along the water, and the agencies that created the river took advantage of said opportunity.
Mount Rainier National Park RV Camping
This grand general of a volcano towers above the State of Washington with such prominence it can be seen from Seattle some two hours drive away…when the weather cooperates anyway. Washington’s rainy reputation aside, Rainier is so big it actually creates its own weather.
We’ve written all about the options for camping in and around Mount Rainier National Park, but for best results, snagging a spot directly in the park itself is a surefire bet.
North Cascades National Park RV Camping
The majority of camping available, especially for RVs, in North Cascades National Park actually lives within the Ross Lake National Recreation area, which cuts through the park along Washington State Road 20.
Still, the campgrounds put you within decent proximity of the park itself, and one in particular, Newhalem Creek, provides the rare combination of cell service within a national park campground.
Olympic National Park RV Camping
Bald eagles soar above a misty coastline sculpted by time’s wind and waves over millennia. Towering trees like they only grow in this portion of Pacific Northwest cast shade and occassionally crash into the ocean, forming driftwood logs larger than canoes while tide pools turn television station entertainment as beachgoers explore the surreal creatures that live within.
And this is all before you even make it to the mountain itself.
RV Camping Near West Virginia’s New River Gorge & Gauley National Rivers
Once a year a slew of thrill seekers jump from this 876′ high bridge just north of the charming little town of Fayetteville, NC. Bungee cords and parachutes alike are no strangers to this bridge spanning the New River, ripe for kayaking or the occasional swim (if you can find a slow spot). Camping on and within the gorge is somewhat limited, but once you find a spot, the opportunities for hiking, photography and just good old fashioned sitting around the fire are nearly endless.
A little farther north, even more opportunities to splash around in the summer sunshine exist in the Gauley National River.
RV Camping Near Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
One of the nation’s four national lakeshores lives just off a sleepy peninsula in Northern Wisconsin. The Apostle Islands aren’t accessible by RV, but plenty of opportunity to take boat tours or, if you’re of the strong and brave variety, kayak to the islands from towns like Bayfield, WI abound. Even if you don’t get out onto the water yourself, just watching the rainbow myriad of sailboats passing by is enough to pass hours of any day.
RV Camping in Wyoming’s National Parks
The least densely populated of these United States, Wyoming’s buttes and rocky crests, towering mountains and endless empty landscapes are exactly the stuff national parks are made of. Indeed, Yellowstone is regarded as the first national park in the entire world, and its perhaps less famous sister to the south is an even more amazing wonderland, particularly for RVers.
Devils Tower National Monument
It’s as though the entire planet fell one day, but the Devils Tower remained standing strong. A site to behold in its own right, this national monument isn’t far (and often on the way to or from), South Dakota’s Black Hills.
Yellowstone National Park RV Camping
Grizzly bears roam the side of the road. Wild wolves reintroduced to their ancient native homelands. Old Faithful, despite not being quite as punctual as she once was, erupts regularly into the sky. Yellowstone needs little introduction, though you may be surprised at just how busy this national park gets come summertime.
Thus, if you’d like to take advantage of RV camping directly within the park, it’s best to plan well ahead, as you’ll be competing with visitors from every corner of Earth for one of the relatively few, but prized, spots to camp in the park that can accommodate recreational vehicles.
Grand Teton National Park RV Camping
You may be thinking we saved the best for last, and you’d be right. While Yellowstone gets much of the recognition due to its status as the first national park in the US, the Tetons are simply a staggering sight to behold. Perhaps even more so than the absolutely astonishing views one is bound to witness from nearly any corner of Jackson Hole is the abundance of boondocking, often for free, so very near to this treasure of a spectacle.
While it wouldn’t be fair to say that there aren’t any sights as spectacular as the United States’ National Parks (given the beauty of some of the state parks and BLM land which we are so fortunate to have in abundance in this country), for those who are seeking a surefire way to experience beauty, learn a little about our land’s past, and bask in the glow of our natural world, the national parks are the most surefire way to ensure you’ll have the best chance possible.