What You Need to Know Before Taking Your RV to a National Park

Night RV Camp

Although taking an RV to an American national park can make exploring nature comfortable and easy, that doesn’t mean you should skip the planning process. There’s a lot to know about taking recreational vehicles to national parks, especially if you don’t want to wind up without a campsite once you arrive.

Let’s talk about how you can reserve RV parks and campgrounds near famous areas, determine what your RV needs are, and make the best plans before you set off on your next adventure.

Plan on Making Campsite Reservations

If your idea of planning for an RV trip to a national park involves pulling into the closest RV park and hoping they’ll have a spot open, you’re running a pretty big risk. Most national parks (and even national forests) have campsite reservation policies, and their spots can fill up a handful of months in advance.

Fortunately, reserving a campsite for your RV (with hookups if necessary) isn’t as difficult as it might seem. Visit and look up the national park or national forest you’re trying to visit. As long as you’re looking for dates that occur within the next six months, you should be able to find reservation options.

The sooner you are able to book your spot, the better. Many of the most popular parks fill up far in advance, so err on the side of caution by planning ahead as much as possible.

Know Exactly What Your RV Needs

RV Needs

In most national parks, there are different RV camping spots for different types of recreational vehicles. You might need to know several pieces of information before you book a spot, including:

  • The length and width of your RV (bumper-to-bumper)
  • What kind of hookup(s) your RV requires
  • Whether or not you can “boondock” (aka go without full hookups)
  • How much electricity your RV requires

Don’t arrive at the national park camping ground assuming that whatever spot you book will be a perfect fit. Try to pick the one that works best for your vehicle, but also come prepared with backup plans in case something goes wrong and you can’t find the right hookups or space size.

Research Your Top Activities and Attractions Before You Go

Although some people would rather try to find a free RV camping spot than one in a prime location, it pays to think about where you’ll be spending most of your time in the national park. What good is camping if you have to drive more than an hour to get to everything you want to see and do?

If you are going to set your RV up further away, will you be unhooking it and moving it every time you want to visit an attraction you can’t walk to? That seems like a lot of work. Maybe bring an extra car or come up with another mode of transportation.

Better yet, choose an RV campground that’s relatively close to many of the things you want to check out. You’ll be glad if you don’t need to disconnect your vehicle very often and if you can easily visit some of the top attractions or features.

Understand That the Parks Aren’t Very Pet-Friendly

Pet-Friendly Park

Many RV travelers have furry friends that like to tag along, but unfortunately, many of the RV and/or travel trailer parks within U.S. national park borders aren’t exactly pet-friendly. They might be allowed to stay within your campsite, but they are often banned from certain trails or areas of the park.

Additionally, many national parks pose threats to your pets. They could contain wild animals, thorny plants, and other dangers that you don’t want your four-legged friend encountering.

You could just leave your pet in the RV while you’re out and about, but that’s ill-advised in most cases. RVs can sometimes overheat or freeze while you’re not there, subjecting your isolated pet to poor conditions. If you’re not sure you can be with the animal at most times, it might be better to leave them back home.

Being a Considerate Camper Is Important

RV Camper

One of the best RV travel tips we can give is to remember that other people will be camping nearby. You might enjoy having the comforts of your home at your fingertips, but other nature lovers might not.

Try to keep noise and air pollution to a minimum. Don’t blast your TV or stereo – not everyone wants to hear your sounds obscuring the peace and quiet of nature, and sound travels quickly in the wilderness of America’s national parks.

Furthermore, keep in mind that many people like to stargaze, so keep your outdoor RV lights off once the sun is down. The less light pollution you can create, the more people around you will appreciate it.

In Conclusion

Staying at RV and trailer parks nearby or inside national parks is an excellent way to see what the famous areas have to offer. RVs make it easier to bring the comforts of home with you, and yet you’ll still be out in the wilderness with plenty of incredible sights to see and explore.

  • Take some time before you plan a trip to any of the national parks with a camper or some sort of recreational vehicle.
  • Be careful about the campsite you pick and book one well in advance.
  • Do everything you can to be a considerate camper, including keeping your distractions to a minimum and your pets on leashes.

Above all else, don’t assume that you can show up at a national park and magically stumble across a campsite that has everything you need, from the right size of space to the correct hookups. You need to do research in advance, otherwise, you could end up in real trouble.

If you’re visiting the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, don’t hesitate to check out our available accommodations here at Cool Sunshine RV Park. We offer best-in-class RV amenities, from areas where pets are allowed to more modern features like WiFi, laundry, and indoor stores.

(Image credit: 1, 2, 3 & 4)