In 2007 Rene Agredano embarked on full-time RVing with her husband and three-legged dog, and never looked back. Through her work as a small business owner, writer, metalsmith, and animal advocate, she loves sharing RV knowledge with other nomads here at Let’s RV, and on her website at LiveWorkDream.
Are your summer vacation plans solid? If not, don’t panic. These three national park RVing tips for 2023 will let the good times roll all season.
National Park Visits are Climbing (in Places You’d Never Expect)
You already know that more people are RVing than ever before. The pandemic boosted RV ownership to record levels. Although RV sales are slowing down in 2023, the numbers of existing RV owners camping with motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, truck campers, and vans in national parks is not decreasing.
In fact, according to the National Park Service, 2022 park visitation numbers are going back up to pre-pandemic levels. The park service reports that “312 million recreation visits were recorded in 2022 compared to 297 million recreation visits in 2021, an increase of five percent year over year.”
“People continue to seek a variety of national park travel experiences – to learn about American history and culture, get active, and enjoy breathtaking scenic views.”National Park Service Director Chuck Sams
Which leads us to our first top national park RVing tip:
National Park RVing Tip #1: Take the Road Less Traveled (and everyone benefits)
The pandemic RV camping boom started in 2020, and there’s no going back now. The National Park Service wants everyone to take the road less traveled. Instead of flocking to the most popular national parks for RV camping, consider least visited parks and monuments instead. There’s a good reason for this:
If we spread out among all of the national parks with RV camping, we thin the herd at the most popular national park locations. Crowds get thinner, campsite reservations are easier to obtain, and you might even show up and snag a last minute spot too!
A recent National Park Service press release shows how people are following this advice. Parks with record visitation in 2021 and 2022 are in the lower 50 percent of overall park visitation. The numbers look like this:
In other words, visits to the most popular national park are slowing down. And all of those lesser known national park destinations for RVers, tenters, and overnighters, are going up. The result is a more balanced national park service experience for everyone who wants to see these incredible places.
You might also consider national park campground alternatives just beyond park gates.
National Park RVing Tip #2: Don’t Be a Campsite Hoarder
We all know that first-come, first-served RV camping is a thing of the past. It is now necessary to plan your RV trip with advance RV camping reservations at popular destinations like national parks. Unfortunately, the current reservations system at many locations encourages “campsite hoarding.”
People hoard campsites by booking as many dates as allowed as soon as they are able to book a spot. Then they might show up and camp for all of that time. Or, they might only stay for a few days. Their campsite goes unused, and everyone loses. Park employees hands are usually tied. The reservations system won’t allow them to release the campsite for last minute arrivals who would otherwise enjoy that spot. This leads to camp host harassment, campsite squatters, and other unruly behavior.
Please don’t be a campsite hoarder.
National Park RVing Tip #3: Choose the Best Park for Your RV Size
The best RV size for camping in national parks is an endless source of debate. But what it comes down to is this: where you can stay in the national parks depends on whether you own a motorized RV, or a towable trailer.
Campground spots can have multiple length restrictions for trucks, vans, motorhomes, and towables. This is because each style requires different amounts of turning radius and campsite maneuvering space. For example, if a campground spot indicates a maximum RV length of 35 feet,The Essential RVing Guide to the National Parks
ONLY a motorhome of that length or shorter can stay there.
But if you want a towable to go in that same spot, your total overall length of RV and truck must be no more than 35 feet long. Since towable RVs need more turning radius for backing up and jockeying into position, they are sometimes excluded from certain campsites.
Make your national park camping reservation carefully. If all four wheels, RV side-outs, and bumper racks do not fit in the campsite when you arrive, you will probably be asked to leave.
Your RVing Summer is Coming Soon, Get Ready!
Start your summer dream adventure with these top tips for RVing in national parks, but don’t stop there. Talk to other RVers about their national park experiences. Plan your trip carefully. And don’t forget to handle your RV maintenance with plenty of time before departure day. You’ll be well-prepared for a hassle-free 2023 summer adventure.