RVing Basics for Visiting National Parks

rv national parksThe United States is home to nearly 60 national parks, each slightly different in its landscape, each stunning in its vastness and beauty. In most cases, these monuments and their scenic campgrounds can be found in remote locations throughout the country, reached only by a long, steep drive, tour bus, or small aircraft.

These idyllic campgrounds are ideal spots for outdoorsmen looking to escape the confines of society and discover the joy of being connected only to the ground beneath their feet. If you’re looking to visit a national park by RV this summer, we’ve got a few essential tips you should consider to help you better prepare for and complete your journey.

Research your specific park

There are general guidelines campers ought to follow in order to enjoy a successful and responsible RVing experience at one of the nation’s iconic parks. However, it is important to remember that every park is its own, with unique wildlife and terrain as well as rules for camping and navigating.

Prior to embarking for a national park, it’s recommended that you visit its website to gather key information, read about past experiences of other campers and fully acclimate yourself with the lay of the land. Look over maps and lists of attractions, and be sure to schedule a reservation for your preferred campground if they accept them. Major parks such as Yosemite make available on their site thorough RV camping guides for visitors planning to travel by motorhome.

Know how you’ll get there

Just as important as knowing what you’ll do once you’ve arrived is making a plan for the road trip. Being that national parks are typically found in the middle of nowhere, you likely have limited options for your route.

However, with RV-specific GPS systems and mountain directories, you can cater your drive to the needs of your vehicle. If you want to avoid an excess of winding gravel roads and narrow passes, you’re better off knowing about them ahead of time rather than the moment you’re staring them down in person.

Respect other campers

We don’t just mean being friendly and maintaining your distance, but in keeping with the spirit of the outdoors, most RVers set up around you at a national park will expect you to keep noise and modern technologies to a minimum. We recommend only ever running loud generators when totally necessary, such as in the event of recharging RV batteries at the end of the day. The goal of camping at a national park is to soak up the beauty of nature without leaving your mark.

And most essential of all tips and recommendations: have fun! The majority of national parks have made their campgrounds fully accessible to motorhomes of all sizes, so you won’t be breaking any new ground. Additionally, if you have questions during the buildup to your trip that are not addressed online, feel free to call your park’s headquarters – they’ll be happy to advise you.

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13 Responses to “RVing Basics for Visiting National Parks”
  1. Teri Egts

    We stayed at Madison CG in Yellowstone, near West Yellowstone. As we pulled into the dump station we didn’t realize it was too narrow for a class C motorhome to enter. We lost our awning to the post that was positioned too close. While we were trying to secure it at the next stop another couple came over and asked what had ripped it off. We explained and they asked us if it happened at Madison. They had gotten stuck in the same side of that dumpstation with a pickup camper just a few days before. They had to be pulled out by another truck. The sides of their unit showed the scars. It is unbelievable to me that the park didn’t at least have a sign warning those with wider RVs (or in this case normal width RVs) not to enter that bay. Very irresponsible in my mind. Madison is a beautiful campground, just stay away from the dump station’s west bay.

  2. Sid Tufts

    RV Make: Pleasure-Way, RV Model: PLATEAU TS, RV Year: 2016

    Would like to receive RV related information on all the US’s and Canada’s National Parks

  3. Rik Bergethon

    RV Make: Jayco, RV Model: Jayflight 24FBS, RV Year: 2010

    The National Parks I have been to are not set up for large RVs or travel trailers as the parking lots have very tight turns in them, very few RV sparking spots, the scenic pull-offs are short and narrow and the RV camp grounds have close-in parking spaces, where you barely have room to put out your slide or put out your awning. National Parks seem to be more set up for tent campers than RV, 5th wheel or travel trailer campers. The entrances with those “cute” little log cabin-style entrance gate houses are set up for passenger car travelers, not RV or trailer travelers. You cannot get close enough to them to either pay or pick up your “free entrance brochure, map and newspaper.” Either you have to practically crawl out of your window or the staff members has to crawl out of the window of the building to reach you, because the roof of the little building sticks out two feet from it. If you have a dog, you may as well not visit any National Park. They have so many rules against what you can with your dog, they spend most of their time in the park in your vehicle. Most NPs we have visited have vendors running the campgrounds and concessions. The vendors are not as nice or as polite as NP employees and act like they really don’t want to be there. This “they don’t pay me enough to be nice to anybody” attitude wears thin very fast. And don’t ever complain to them about their attitude. You will be threatened with everything but death. The only good thing about National Parks is the Golden Age Passport or Senior Pass, where you get in for half price!

    • Wayne

      Oh, I am married to a southern girl, if her tongue dont set them strait, the vendors, her 12 gauge will! Just kidding!

  4. Gerry

    RV Make: Forest River, RV Model: Sunseeker, RV Year: 2016

    Tyler, Thanks for this timely article. We are in the early planning stages for a month-long trip, September 2017, from San Antonio, TX to Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, then across to the Little Big Horn and Rapid City/Mt Rushmore/Badlands area then back home. We would appreciate any feedback you or your readers might have on these parks.

    • Christie

      RV Make: Keystone, RV Model: Passport, RV Year: 2016

      If you can, find a campground or RV park outside of the NP. Our experience is exactly as related by John above regarding roads, parking lots, etc. definitely research not only the campgrounds, but the length of RV/trailer that can be accommodated on the roads. Narrow roads and hairpin turns abound. Love the NPs but usually have to camp outside the park and unhook.

    • Kin Knight

      RV Make: Avion, RV Model: 9.1 Meter, RV Year: 1978

      We live in Waxahachie TX and are looking at making that same trip next year. Is there any info you can share with us that might make our trip more enjoyable? Thank you very much for any help.

  5. Juan Abrego

    RV Make: Keystone , RV Model: Montana high country , RV Year: 2018

    Just planning a trip to Colorado and Utah

  6. John Taylor

    RV Make: 4 Winds / Chevy, RV Model: 26', RV Year: 1992

    Does Yosemite allow older RV’s?

  7. Stan Krieger

    RV Make: airstream, RV Model: Overlander, RV Year: 1968

    right now looking in NC

  8. William

    RV Make: Grand Design, RV Model: Imagine , RV Year: 2018

    How do you like self leveling jacks