Seeing the United States through the prism of hotels, motels, and basic camping amenities isn’t enough to catch a glimpse of what makes this country so dang special. When you camp at a national park like Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, or Zion, you unlock the natural splendor and awe-inspiring wonder that brings millions of tourists to American soil each year!
RV camping is the perfect way to experience America’s national parks while still enjoying the everyday creature comforts that make you smile and help you relax. And the great thing about an RV is that it doubles as both your cabin and your transport to national parks in every corner of this great country.
If you’re ready to tackle your bucket list of national park visits with the help of your RV, we’re here to help. Rather than leaving you to go the trial-and-error route, we’ve compiled an in-depth list of things you need to know about RV camping at America’s vast array of beautiful national parks.
9 Things You Need To Know About RV Camping In National Parks
- Try To Keep Your Footprint As Small As Possible
Tourists don’t flock to a national park to see the trash you left behind. And you don’t want to go to Rocky Mountain National Park only to have your experience marred by careless campers that destroy precious vegetation and wildlife areas — accidentally or purposefully.
To keep the national park experience as pure and powerful as possible for everyone who makes the trip, reduce your environmental impact to a bare minimum every time you visit. Pack out your trash or dispose of it in provided dumpsters. Do as much as you can to impact the park as little as you can. Fellow campers (and surrounding wildlife) will thank you.
- Be Ready To Boondock And Dry Camp When Necessary
While some national park camping areas might have a full hook-up available for your RV, most do not. You may have to go without electricity or water replenishment for the duration of your stay.
Always try to be a step ahead when RV camping at national parks. Stock up on water and ration your power supply to ensure you can dry camp without incident. When you see a campsite restroom or shower service available, use it to save precious power and water for later in your trip.
- Make Sure Your RV Has All The Supplies You Need (And Want)
National park grounds such as Grand Teton and Sequoia National Park have limited on-site options for purchasing needed food and supplies. And if they do have a shop within the bounds of the park, chances are that you’ll have to deal with inflated pricing aimed at unprepared tourists.
Plan and stock your food, drinks, personal hygiene supplies, and camping equipment beforehand. Don’t bring firewood across state lines due to potential invasive insects. But, do bring everything else you need to make a long RV journey a comfortable one.
- Create A Camping Plan Centered Around The Attractions You Want To See
National parks always seem smaller on a map or in a Google image. If you want to see the Grand Canyon, you’re going to need to find adjacent camping sites that are within feasible hiking, biking, or driving distance.
Be smart about where you park your RV and why. If there are attractions or trails you have in mind for a particular day or two, plot your RV camping locale accordingly.
- Brief Yourself On The Goings-On Around Each Park Before You Get Going
We’re all beholden to the weather report when it comes to RV camping at national parks. If you’re planning to hit the road a week or so from now, brief yourself on the weather report at your chosen national park and in the areas you need to drive through to get there.
Inclement weather might affect attraction hours or even force road closures that make traveling through your national park of choice a real headache (or even an impossibility.)
- Get Your Reservations Set Up Early
Depending on the national parks you plan on visiting and when you plan on visiting them, campsite reservations are a crucial piece of the planning puzzle. Trying to find an ideal RV campsite at a place like Olympic National Park in the middle of the summer is nearly impossible without reserving your spot in advance.
Either get online and get booked months before your trip or alter your RV camping plans for a less busy season either in the spring or early autumn.
- Plan And Execute The Right Route For You Through Each Park
Go online and look at the different thoroughfares through your national park of choice. There might be main roads that work well for RVs and side roads that present either a major challenge or serve as a no-go for your vehicle.
Rather than just winging it once you’re there, plot your route beforehand while paying close attention to attractions you want to see and camping grounds you’re looking to use. With a little bit of forethought, driving your RV through a national park will be a lot easier.
- Respect For Fellow Campers (And Wildlife) Is Key
We’re all trying to enjoy the national park experience together. Don’t make things hard on other campers and the wildlife that makes each park their home. Pay attention to listed rules and regulations, noise ordinances, and special briefings on wildlife in certain areas.
When we decide to RV camp at national parks with a sense of respect for one another, we make things a heck of a lot less stressful for each other in the process.
- Learn The Ins And Outs Of RV Driving First
A national park isn’t the best place to learn how to drive your RV. While some roads are wide enough to give you a margin for error when you need it, there are plenty of cramped thoroughfares in national parks that require a skilled RV driver to navigate.
Before you set out on an RV excursion through places like Canyonlands and Arches National Park, get comfortable with everything from parking your RV to maneuvering it on one-lane roads. The better you are at driving your RV, the better time you’re going to have to pilot it through your national park(s) of choice.