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Best National Parks in the Southwest You Might Not Know About

Published on September 29th, 2022

Seems like everyone is RVing to the most popular national parks like Grand Canyon. Fewer visit the least crowded and in our opinion, best national parks in the Southwest like these.

Why it’s Better to Visit the Least Crowded (and Best) National Parks in the Southwest

The National Park System is our country’s crown jewel of the outdoors, and it seems like every RVer knows it now.

But the truth is, the most popular national parks in America are not necessarily easy places to visit and camp.

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  • More visitors put strain on facilities, roads, and the nature they came to experience in the first place.
  • The most popular parks now require “timed entry” visits, meaning you need a reservation to get into the park. This is even if you already have a campground reservation.

In today’s world, RV camping in national parks requires extensive pre-trip planning help. This is to accommodate increasing numbers of visitors. The amount of people visiting and camping in RV parks is staggering. For example, park visitation numbers show that in 2021, parks saw 297,115,406 people (for both day use and overnight stays). One of the most popular national sites, the Blue Ridge Parkway, saw 15,948,148 visits in 2021.

Spread Out at the Best National Parks in the Southwest

So how can you go RV camping at great national parks, without a lot of hassle? The answer is easy. Spread out! Increase your RV gas mileage and drive a little more to enjoy less popular and least crowded destinations. We can help with that. Here are some of the best national parks in the southwest that deserve consideration.

Colorado: Great Sand Dunes National Park

Ranked as #106 out of 380 national park sites (with camping and without), Great Sand Dunes is popular, but nothing like nearby Rocky Mountain National Park. That location the 14th most popular national park! In 2021, Great Sand Dunes saw just 602,613 visits, compared to 4,434,848 at Rocky.

Why RV Camp in Great Sand Dunes?

  • At 8234′ feet altitude, it’s a cool place to camp in summer
  • Giant sand dunes at the base of sky high mountains is an incredible sight to see
  • The camp store, flush toilets and hot showers are nice amenities when you’re boondocking
  • If you’re a hiker, trail options are endless

What to know about RV camping in Great San Dunes

  • Small RVs under 33-feet-long (including truck and trailer) are best.
  • Reservations are advised for the park’s 91-site campground (all dry camping sites).
  • Stock up, you’re far away from services and shopping.

Utah: Cedar Breaks National Monument

This Utah national monument with RV camping sees more visitors than Great Sand Dunes. Probably because it’s close to Zion and near other popular Utah parks like Bryce, and Capitol Reef. Cedar Breaks is ranked #92 out of 380 national park sites. With 772,886 visitors in 2021, it can get busy. But don’t let that keep you away.

Why Go Camping at Cedar Breaks National Monument?

  • At 10,000′ feet altitude, the moonscape geology and terrain is like nowhere else in Utah.
  • Summer temperatures are mild and cool, making it a great escape from the heat
  • The Cedar Breaks Amphitheater geology, animals, and plants are ancient and unusual
  • Campground amenities include seasonal showers, drinking water, and campsites for rigs up to 40′ feet long.

What to Know About RV Camping at Cedar Breaks National Monument

  • The mountaintop location is not for the faint of heart. Know how to prepare for high altitude camping before you go.
  • Getting there involves a steep, windy, mountain road that isn’t ideal for larger RVs.
  • You need reservations, always.

New Mexico: Chaco Culture National Historic Park

One of the least visited national parks in the Southwest is Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Ranked at #283 out of 380, the remote location and rough road to get there attracts only the most rugged RV campers. The 31,922 visitors in 2021 can tell you that it’s worth the effort.

Why Go RV Camping at Chaco Culture National Historic Park?

  • The five star campground reviews about Chaco say it all. “This place is remote and beautiful. The park has an amazing number of ruins and is located in a beautiful canyon where there is much to do and learn,” says one RVer.
  • Hiking trails leave right from the campground.
  • Located far from anywhere, the dark, starry skies over Chaco are like nowhere else in the country.

What to Know About RV Camping at Chaco Culture National Historic Park

  • The road is bad. Really bad. “We drove 10mph towing a 30 5th wheel RV and saw several people turn back without ever making it to the park,” writes one campground reviewer.
  • With only 33 campsites, you must have a reservation to stay there.
  • Come prepared and bring your own water. The usual RV camping services are not usually available.

Arizona: Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Now Canyon de Chelly is an RV destination you really have to want to get to. RVers who have, say it’s totally worth the effort. It’s on my bucket list, and needs to be on yours, too. Ranked as #187 out of 380 national parks, Canyon de Chelly (pronnounced “Do-Shay”) is a remote location with spectacular scenery on ancient and sacred Navajo Nation land.

Why Go RV Camping at Canyon de Chelly National Monument

  • In 2021 alone, just 184,191 visitors experienced the magic on this sacred land. From hiking to touring the canyon itself, it’s an immersive experience in ancient cultures, unusual landscapes, and unforgettable legends.
  • Walk in the footsteps of legends on hiking trails that go deep into the history of the land. Drive around the entire rim and enjoy breathtaking views from above.
  • Larger RVs up to 40′-feet long can be accommodated in the monument’s Cottonwood Campground.

What to Know About RV Camping at Canyon de Chelly National Monument

  • The only way to get into the canyon itself is with a Navajo guide, a nominal fee that’s worth it.
  • RV camping at Cottonwood is dry camping only, but fresh water and a dump station are available.
  • You must call Navajo Parks and Recreation Department at 928-674-2106 for reservations.

Plan Your Ultimate Uncrowded National Parks RV Camping Vacations

National parks are more popular every year. Getting into RV campgrounds is tougher too. The best way to enjoy the parks is to plan your trip with RV LIFE Trip Wizard. Using your desired dates, location, and RV specs, it’s a one-of-a-kind app that creates a fail-safe national park trip itinerary with everything you need for a problem-free, fun getaway.

This post may contain affiliate links or mention our own products, please check out our disclosure policy here.

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