One of the best things about living the RV Life is getting to visit National Parks! But if you’re new to exploring these wonderful places, we have a couple of tips to share from our experiences over the last 5 years. Here are 5 tips to RV National Parks.
When you’re stationary and aren’t planning to visit more than one National Park a year, the Interagency Annual Park Pass, or National Park Pass, might not make sense. Even after hitting the road, we were skeptical about whether or not this pass was going to pay for itself. We really weren’t sure it was going to be worth forking over $80.
But that first year we kept track of every time we used it, and were surprised by all the places it got us into besides National Parks! While it doesn’t cover or discount your campsite fees, entrance fees into parks can be pretty steep. At $25-30 per car per day at some of the most popular parks, don’t let that stop you from experiencing these beautiful places!
Long story short, our first Interagency Annual Park Pass saved us $45 in the first year alone. Click here to see the full breakdown.
Many National Park sites have campground in them. Many of the popular parks (like Yellowstone and Yosemite) usually require you to book upward of 6 months in advance to get a spot. If you know you want to camp inside park boundaries, book way ahead of time.
Note: National Parks RV Length Restrictions
Many National Park Campgrounds have RV length restrictions. Check with the campgrounds before you book to make sure you’ll fit! Many campgrounds set RV length limits at around 35 feet in length.
Fortunately, National Park Campgrounds aren’t the only campgrounds available for RVers near the parks. Maybe neighboring towns have RV Parks that cater to park visitors.
Additionally, many National Park sites are surrounded by National Forest areas. Many of these have campgrounds that are less busy or have non-reservable sites.
Many National Forest campsites are primitive or dispersed campsites. (Learn what dispersed camping is.)
You often can also find free boondocking sites near National Parks! Learn more about responsible boondocking and how to find great campsites here. Remember, “Leave No Trace” and “Pack In/Pack Out” policies apply!
Here are some of our favorite campsites near and inside National Parks:
More resources for finding camping in National Parks:
We’ve all heard about the crowds. We’ve also all heard the advice “visit on the shoulder season.”
While that is great advice and a good way to avoid crowds, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit in the summertime. Not everyone has the luxury of coordinating travel plans around everyone else’s travel plans.
So we’re here to tell you: visit the parks anyway!
Yes, you’ll get frustrated waiting for people to get out of your way for that perfect picture.
Yes, you’ll get stuck in traffic.
But, the parks are worth it!
Here are a couple of strategies we used to avoid the crowds at Yellowstone in July:
People die and are injured every year by wild animals in the parks – and in most cases it’s because the HUMAN instigated it.
Please don’t become part of the statistics! Do NOT approach wildlife. Even if that means you don’t get the best angle photo.
Do NOT feed wildlife. Even if it comes up to you, or “looks” hungry.
Do NOT touch wildlife. Even if it is a baby animal.
SPEAK UP when you see someone else being stupid. You could save a life!
We personally LOVE visitor centers! Reading the exhibits and watching the park movies are some of the best ways to develop an understanding of what makes the park special in the first place.
Once you’ve learned about the park, you can ask a Park Ranger to point out on a map the things to see and do in the park that align with your interests. Looking for an easy hike? Looking to summit a mountain? Want to just do a driving tour? They’ve got you covered.
Plus – many Visitor Centers have RV parking. Check the satellite imagery of the parking lot before you go!
If you haven’t heard of it before, National Park have a program called the Junior Ranger Program geared towards kids! Children are provided workbooks and invited to special Ranger-led presentations to learn about the ecology and geology of the park.
Upon completion of the workbook, your kids will be pledged in as a Junior Ranger and receive a badge for that park. How cool is that?? I honestly was a bit jealous they didn’t have a similar program for adults when I found out. 🙂
Want to learn more about educating your kids on the road? Learn how to homeschool while traveling, also known as roadschooling.
Also, check out the “Ready to Roadschool” course by RV Masterclass and transform parks, museums, zoos, and more into interactive hands-on classrooms as you travel!
We hope these tips help you out and get you excited about exploring the National Parks in your RV! If we had one final piece of advice, it would be to stop at as many National Park sites as you can – there are over 400 of them in the National Park System!
There are so many sites out there that you’ve never even heard of but are incredible in both natural beauty and historical value. Sometimes these turn out to be the most delightful surprises (and typically aren’t too crowded!)
We’ve been to quite a few National Parks. Here are some of our articles on our favorites and recommendations on things to do in each:
We did a live Q&A to answer questions about RVing in National Parks. Watch the replay below! ⬇
Join our newsletter for the latest updates on RV Travel, RV Gear, RV Solar & Electrical Mods, and more!
Read More from the Mortons:
Considering switching to lithium-ion batteries for your RV? They are an amazing power source, but… Read More
RV toilets solve a unique problem, giving you a bathroom on the go. The challenge… Read More
As more and more people have discovered RVing's benefits throughout 2020, concerns have been raised… Read More