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Best National Parks in the Midwest

Published on June 16th, 2022 by Contributor, Let's RV

Western states are known worldwide for great national park RV camping. But Michigan, Missouri, and Oklahoma camping are equally as beautiful. Some of the best national parks in the Midwest for RVs are located in these middle America destinations that don’t get nearly as much attention. They aren’t designated “national parks” but still protected areas overseen by the National Park Service.

You’ll find these RV-friendly national park campsites tucked into thick forests, perched along cool rivers, and on beautiful lakefronts. Many locations have some surprisingly spacious campsites for trailers and motorhomes. But be warned, these destinations can be popular in summer. Here’s what you need to know to make your Midwest national parks adventure a reality.

Michigan: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Seashore has some RV-friendly campsites
Pictured Rocks National Seashore has some RV-friendly campsites

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula region is a cool, pretty place for warm weather camping. Dense, lush forests keep so much heat and sunshine away that you might forget it’s summer. Although days can be humid, and bugs might pester you, RV camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore makes dealing with those hassles worth the trouble.

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Want a long and windy, pine filled driveway that leads to your own beachfront property? Well you can have it at Twelvemile Beach Campground! These shady sites sit on a gorgeous sandy bluff overlooking Lake Superior with steps leading right down the beach for a day of fun! The White Birch Interpretive Trail is right in camp, so there’s no time wasted getting back to camp for those s’mores and fireside chats.


Why Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is Awesome

The two RV-friendly campgrounds at Pictured Rocks are Hurricane River and Twelvemile Beach. Located near the picturesque town of Grand Marais, you’ll find features like:

  • Lakefront camping on Lake Superior
  • Quiet, generator-free camping zones
  • Picturesque happy hour sunsets and gorgeous forest scenery
  • Dozens of hiking trail options, including one that leads to shipwreck ruins and and the Au Sable Light Station.
  • Waterfall, wildlife, and relaxation opportunities everywhere you turn

What to Expect for RV Camping at Pictured Rocks

This is a place to get away from modern living. Aside from fresh water spigots and vault toilets, these campsites have no hookup or modern conveniences for campers.

  • Pictured Rocks RV campsites are so densely forested that if you rely on solar electric power, you’ll have a hard time generating juice.
  • Turn your phones off. Cellular service is scarce.
  • Technically, both campgrounds are rated for motorhomes up to 42 feet long. But truck/trailer combos can only have a combined total of 42 feet long. Visitors say even that length can be tricky.
  • Some campsites are spacious and roomy for RVs. But getting there may prove difficult for big rigs. Check campsite notes carefully before reserving your spot.

Is your rig longer? Keep reading for better big rig friendly national park camping options along the Ozark National Scenic Riverway.

Missouri: Ozark National Scenic Riverway

Learn about Ozark history at Alley Mill Campground
Learn about Ozark history at Alley Mill Campground

The Ozark National Scenic Riverway is bordered by dense river forests and spring-fed waterways. These features make it one of the best places for boating and paddle sports in Missouri. The region is teeming with swimming holes, natural springs, waterfalls, and old timey history. Summer river recreation is a way of life in this protected, wild and scenic riverway.

RV camping on the Ozark National Scenic Riverway is mainly geared toward water recreation. If you tow a boat with your camper, love to fish, or just lounge on an inner tube, you just found paradise. But if you’re not into river recreation, it’s still a great getaway. The sounds of water and nature at your campsite will lull you into a state of relaxation you didn’t know you needed.

Rent a canoe and take a float trip – or better yet, a sit-on-top kayak. Check out Alley mill and spring. Eminence is 6 miles away and has fuel and basic necessities and 4 or 5 restaurants

@Hickory Nut,

Where to Camp in the Ozark National Scenic Riverway

If you drive a larger RV, you’ll find the Alley Spring, and Pulltite campgrounds accommodating. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll find in each spot.

Alley Spring Campground

Located just outside of Eminence, Missouri, this big-rig friendly national park campground is a great place to learn about the history of the Ozark region. Hiking trails lead to the Alley Spring and Mill, an historic merchant mill that ran full throttle during the late 1800s. A large community thrived around the store, mill, and blacksmith shop. Take the walking tour of the site, and stroll back to your campground to relax along the river.

  • Year-round camping is available
  • The largest sites easily accommodate 40-foot or longer RVs
  • Electric hookups are available
  • And the campground has a dump station too

Pulltite Campground

This is another big-rig friendly campground at Ozark National Scenic Riverway. Campsites are set along the Current River, where large shade trees keep you cool in summer and protected in winter. Lounge or fish along secluded beachfront areas just steps away from your campsite.

  • This one is also year-round, and can easily accommodate RVs up to 40-feet or longer.
  • No hookups but flush toilets and hot showers are available
  • It doesn’t have a dump station, but there’s a free park service one nearby
  • Conveniences include a camp store, and good cellular service

The Ozark National Scenic Riverway’s other RV-friendly campgrounds are Big Spring and Round Spring. Big Spring can accommodate larger RVs, but Round Spring is more well-suited to smaller RVs.

Oklahoma: Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Stay cool in Oklahoma RV camping at Chickasaw NRA
Stay cool in Oklahoma RV camping at Chickasaw NRA

The best national parks in the Midwest are all great places to escape summer heat, and Chickasaw National Recreation Area is no exception. This water recreation paradise feel remote but it’s not far from all the conveniences you need in the town of Sulphur.

Back at camp, visit Pavillion Springs and “Little Niagara Falls” to drink the famous mineral water known for its healing properties. Don’t forget to see the park’s famous bison herd while you’re there. No wonder Chickasaw National Recreation Area is so popular. It’s one of Oklahoma’s best places to swim, fish, boat, and paddle.

Nice campground with ample space for almost any size RV. We stayed in #44 and our 34′ travel trailer fit fine with our tow vehicle. Electric, water, picnic table and fire ring at every slot and an extra parking space as well. Plenty of deer, turkey and other wildlife to see!


What to Expect for RV Camping at Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Buckhorn and The Point are the two big rig friendly campgrounds at Chickasaw that RVers love. Here’s what you’ll find at each:

  • Year-round campsites with many that accommodate 40-foot or longer RVs
  • Some sites have electricity hookups
  • Flush toilets, hot showers, drinking water, and a dump station at Buckhorn
  • No cellular service

Smart National Parks RV Campers Make Reservations

Many national parks now require visitors to make reservations year-round. These don’t. But arriving without one will almost guarantee disappointment. Book your campsite as soon as you can at Plan your RV camping getaway at these three best national parks in the Midwest and you may never want to visit anywhere else.

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