6 Warnings for RV Camping in The National Parks

RV camping in the National Parks is a great way to experience the beauty and wonder of the great outdoors. However, for those who are new to RV camping, the process can seem overwhelming.

In this article, we will provide everything you need to know about RV camping in the National Parks, including information on RV size restrictions, campsite reservations, and amenities, as well as tips for a successful trip.

RV camping in the National Parks

6 Warnings for RV Camping in The National Parks

1. There are RV Size Restrictions

One of the most important things to know when planning to go RV camping in the national parks is the RV size restriction at each campsite.

National Parks have varying restrictions on the size of RVs that are allowed to camp in their facilities, with some parks only allowing RVs that are under 20 feet in length and others allowing RVs that are over 40 feet in length.

It is important to research the specific National Park you plan to visit to determine the size restrictions for their RV camping facilities. THIS printable offers a broad overview of park length restrictions, but I suggest you double check as individual campsites do vary.

Another consideration is accessibility of the campgrounds. Some national park campgrounds can only be accessed by switchbacks or narrow roads.

For example, the road up to Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park has a 20′ length restriction for trailers and 24′ length restriction for motorhomes. This is not due to issues at the campground but due to the road to access it.

For those who camp using motorhomes, it is also necessary to check any road restrictions for portions of the park you would like to access.

In Big Bend, the road out to the Hot Springs also has vehicle restrictions.

Also consider accessibility of your itinerary if you plan to drive around Custer State Park in South Dakota.

Another road to consider is the tunnel passage between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. Many tunnels have height restrictions.

Use and app, and read the park websites carefully to ensure that your vehicle will be safe on the routes you plan to visit.

2. You need Campsite Reservations

Campsite reservations are required at many National Parks, and it is important to book your campsite in advance to ensure availability.

Some National Parks have a reservation system in place that allows you to book your campsite six to thirteen months in advance, while others may only allow reservations a few weeks in advance.

National Park campgrounds often book up as early as their reservation release dates, so be sure to identify and research your desired campground at the beginning of your trip-planning process.

3. There might be no Amenities

While some National Parks offer a variety of amenities for RV campers, including electrical hookups, water hookups, dump stations, and showers, most options are considered “dry camping” with no hookups at all.

Some National Parks offer fire pits, picnic tables, and grills, but do not depend on them. If you rely on open-flame cooking, you will need to check on the local fire restrictions.

It is important to research the specific National Park you plan to visit to determine the amenities that are available at their RV camping facilities.

For example. only one campground in Yellowstone offers full hook-ups, and all others are considered “dry camping.” All of the Utah National Park campgrounds are dry camping. Big Bend has one campground that offers hook-ups.

Those national park campgrounds that do offer hook-ups book up very quickly. It would be wise to identify the exact date that reservations open for your trip, and make those reservations at opening time!

Alternatively, you can watch carefully for cancellations.

4. You need to Plan Ahead

Although we often consider the reservations the most difficult part of RV camping in the national parks, proper preparation takes more time and consideration than many other camping trips.

First and foremost, although some campgrounds offer potable water, it is likely that you will need to bring in all of the drinking water your family might need. Consider filling your fresh water tank before parking your rig.

Are there medications your family members take? Many national parks are hours away from a pharmacy. Double check all of your prescriptions before you arrive at the national park.

Similar to the pharmacies, there are few grocery stores near the national parks. The groceries that are available near the parks are often extremely expensive, and fresh foods are limited. Ensure that your dietary preferences can be followed by carefully planning and food shopping before you set off on your adventure.

It is also wise to consider the fullness of your black and grey water tanks prior to parking at your campsite. If you have a travel trailer, you may consider dumping both tanks prior to setting up. This may save you the pain of re-hooking-up your trailer to visit the dump station in the middle of your stay.

Ensure that you have identified where the closest dump station is, as some national park campgrounds don’t have them.

Read more about our national parks planning process!

5. You need to plan for Weather

Even though you will enjoy the safety of your RV, keeping an eye on the weather when travelling to the national parks is wise. Be prepared to modify your plans if necessary.

Ensure that you have carefully reviewed the most up-to-date weather along your route as well as at your destination.

Be prepared to slow or amend your trip plans if weather threatens.

6. Be Mindful of Wildlife

National Parks are home to a variety of wildlife, and it is important to respect the wildlife and follow park rules and regulations.

Keep a safe distance from all wildlife including birds. The recommended distance is usually at least 100 yards or more depending on the species.

Make sure to store all food, trash, and scented items in bear-resistant containers. Don’t forget your drink bottles and your grill utensils.

The faintest scents can and will attract animals!

As cute as those chipmunks are, don’t feed any animals! Feeding wildlife can be dangerous and is often illegal in national parks. It can also habituate animals to human food, which can lead to more frequent encounters and dangerous behavior.

While you walk around and near your campsite, be sure to keep an eye out for signs of wildlife such as tracks, droppings, and claw marks. If you see or hear animals in the area, take precautions to avoid encounters.

To check out our family’s favorite resource for RV camping, head to The RV Atlas website!

Final Thoughts

RV camping in the United States National Parks is a great way to experience the beauty and wonder of the great outdoors. In our opinion, it is often the best way to enjoy national parks with kids!

With careful planning, you will be ready to head out on your epic, family RV trip. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and enjoy the beauty and adventure of RV camping in the United States National Parks!

If this lifestyle istn’t for you or you want to ditch the tow, read more about TENT CAMPING with kids!