If you’re new to U.S. national parks, these tips can help make for a hassle-free RV adventure.
If possible, visit during the spring or fall.
Plan your route:
Depending on the park, you may encounter steep grades, tight tunnels, or gravel roads.
At popular parks, reservations may be necessary months or even a year ahead. Some parks offer a combination of reserved spots and first-come, first served sites. To snag one of the latter, arrive early.
More park campsites are available to those who dry camp. Besides, the operation of generators often is restricted to certain hours, and there may be a decibel limit.
If no sites are available within a park, consider camping in a nearby national forest or boondocking on Bureau of Land Management property temporarily until a park site opens up. FMCA members Fred and Suzi Dow have compiled the U.S. National Forest Campground Guide, which provides information on developed campgrounds in national forests and grasslands.
Measure your RV:
Know the length (including towed/towing vehicle), height (including rooftop objects), and width (including extended slideouts). Don’t rely on the measurements from the RV manufacturer. Check with the park you plan to visit for size restrictions, the number of sites that can accommodate RVs, and whether they are pull-through or back-in sites.
Download an app:
The National Park Service has produced mobile apps for some parks (check each park’s website). The “National Parks by Chimani” app (available from the App Store and Google Play store) includes information on all national parks.
Buy a parks pass:
If you’ll be visiting multiple parks, consider purchasing an America the Beautiful Pass; an annual pass covers entrance fees at more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including national parks. People age 62 and up can buy an $80 Lifetime Senior Pass or $20 Annual Senior Pass. Passes are free for people with permanent disabilities and U.S. Military personnel.
Fuel and grocery prices typically are higher in the parks; buy such provisions before you arrive.
Regulations vary by park, but most parks don’t allow you to take Fido or Fluffy on trails and wilderness areas. Go Pet-Friendly has compiled a list of dog-friendly national parks and pet-friendly campgrounds in national parks.