RV Camping In US National Parks

RV Camping
National Parks And Monuments

The National Park Service - NPS has over 400 parks and monuments, and some of the nicest RV camping locations available on public land. Millions of visitors travel every year to see natural beauty the National Parks have to offer. Because of this popularity, campgrounds can be a busy place for the RV traveler.

The USA Camping Map on our home page has links to each individual states National Park Service (NPS) information page.

National Park RV Camping Reservations

National park RV camping locations are near some of the most beautiful and historical places making them extremely popular, with some requiring reservations at least 5 days in advance. You can get lucky getting a non reserved RV camping site, but you have to be at the campground early, and expect to wait to find out if there might be an open campsite. If no site becomes available, you are out of luck, so we don't recommend trying to find a campsite at popular National Parks at the last minute.National Park RV Camping

RV camping reservations can be made through each parks "camping" section which can be found by clicking on the "Fees And Reservations" link on each park's home page. As you research the NPS campgrounds, you will soon notice that many have a combination of reserved and first come first served campsites. Some popular park campgrounds may only accept reservations.

Most National Park campgrounds offer some first come first served campsites. During peak travel times, you should try and check in as early as possible. Often 12 noon is too late for some campgrounds, so plan your trip to allow for early campground registration if you don't have reservations.

RV Camping - What To Expect At The Campground

Most National Park campgrounds offer some first come first served campsite placement. During peak travel times, you should try and check in as early as possible. Often 12 noon is too late for some campgrounds, so plan your trip to allow for early campground registration if you don't have reservations.

Most, but not all NPS campgrounds are set up in a loop. One way traffic only is allowed in these loops. You need to watch yourself in corners especially when meeting another vehicle as trees seem to jump out of nowhere to try and tag the side of your RV. Low hanging branches can be a hazard, so just try and remember to be especially careful of roadside hazards.

There are very few pull-thru RV camping sites available in NPS campgrounds. Be prepared to back into your assigned campsite. Most spaces are quite level, but you will be well advised to take some old boards to help level your RV. Your campsite will usually have a picnic table and campfire ring. It may have a cooking grill as well.

Restrooms are conveniently located throughout the campground. Trash bins are also conveniently placed in the campground. Be sure to carry jugs or buckets for trips to the water spigot as carrying water in pans isn't my idea of fun. Often restrooms have a dish washing facility made up of a large sink and counter top. It makes it easy to wash a pan full of dinner dishes without filling up your RV holding tanks.

You will also find a centrally located RV dump station in the campground. Here's a tip - If you need to dump your RVs holding tanks, get to the dump station early. Waiting even a little while may cost you an hours wait in line. There is usually a fresh water RV fill spigot at the dump station.

Campground Facilities And Activities

RV camping and campfires go hand in hand. There's just something about the crackling sounds, and savory smells of a campfire that bring back all kinds of pleasant memories. NPS campgrounds are well set up for campfires with firewood available at nearly every campground. It's a good idea to take a hatchet to split the firewood you purchase. Trying to start a fire with the big pieces of wood you get is pretty tough without half a bottle of charcoal lighter.National Park RV Camping

Many NPS campgrounds have an evening outdoor campfire program in the campground area. This presentation is put on by National Park Service Rangers starting around dusk. Programs vary from Astronomy to Zoology. Programs change from night to night, and they are especially fun for kids. Don't forget to take your flashlight as it's going to be dark at the conclusion of the presentation. We highly recommend attending these educational, entertaining programs. RV camping in our National Parks can be a great experience. You will find that these campgrounds are always full during peak travel season. You may have the unfortunate experience of noisy neighbors, but that is a risk with any public or private campground. The roads in these campgrounds are asphalt so dust is not an issue. You will see lots of families with children riding bikes and playing in the campground. These campgrounds don't supply much in the way of peace and quiet, but the outdoor experience and scenic beauty make these campgrounds the chosen destination of thousands of RV camping travelers.

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Public Lands
RV Camping Information

USFS (US Forest Service) - Describes USFS policies and rules about RV camping. Information about dispersed camping, and tips on how to find great free RV camping sites.

USACE/COE (US Army Corp of Engineers) - USACE (perhaps better know as COE) manages water recreation areas throughout the USA. Information about finding USACE lakes, RV camping possibilities, and rules and policies for use of these water based recreation areas is included.

BLM (Bureau of Land Management) - Located throughout the western USA, BLM managed lands offer great camping locations. Developed campgrounds, and almost unlimited dispersed camping opportunites await you.

Free Overnight RV Parking Ideas

Here's a list of places to consider when looking for a free overnight RV camping or parking location. We always recommend asking for overnight RV parking permission when looking for a free spot to spend the night. The smaller your RV, the better chances you will have finding places to stay if you choose not to ask permission. If you don't ask permission, you end up "sneaking" into places and hoping nobody bothers you or issues you a trespassing ticket before you move on.

Be smart and Be Safe...Ask Permission.

  • Truck Stops - Asking permission is usually not a requirement Be considerate of the big rigs!
  • Walmart - Not all stores allow overnight RV parking in Washington due to city ordinances. Check store for policy.
  • Nightclubs - Had one too many or just pretending?
  • Grain Elevators - Ask where you can park your RV out of the way for the night.
  • Fraternal Organizations - VFW, Elks etc. may allow members free overnight RV camping.
  • Cemetery - Sounds creepy to us, but we've also heard they may have water available.
  • Fairgrounds - State and County facilities may allow RV camping when not otherwise in use.
  • Parks - City, County, State, and Community parks often have free RV camping.
  • Churches - You can almost make "reservations" by calling ahead for permission.
  • Hotel Parking Lots - Assuming a nightclub/bar is inside, had one too many or just pretending?
  • Truck Terminals - Parking areas for large trucks might allow you free RV camping permission.
  • RV Dealers - Pretty brave to us, but you could fit right in.
  • Cracker Barrel - These nationwide restaurants usually allow free overnight RV parking.
  • Movie Theaters - Too tired to drive home after the late show?
  • Highway Rest Areas - All rest areas allow a few hours of free RV parking, but noisy.
  • Drive In Movies - Got a small RV, park in the back row and enjoy the show. Fell asleep by accident right?
  • Vehicle Repair Shops - Need to see the repairman first thing in the morning?
  • Big Box Retailers - Kmart, Best Buy, Sams Club often allow free RV camping.
  • Roadside Parks & Picnic Areas - The early day version of the rest area.

As you can see, there are a lot of free RV camping and parking possibilities. If you are not asking permission, it's best to keep a very low profile. If your RV has slide outs, jacks and TV antennas, don't use them so as not to draw attention to yourself. Consider your surroundings carefully and if you feel uncomfortable with the area, move somewhere else.