It’s no surprise why national parks are such popular destinations for the RV set: They’re equipped with RV-friendly campgrounds, they’re accessible no matter where you are in the country, and they offer the chance to wake up to spectacular natural landscapes every day. However, as you’re mapping out your spring and summer travel plans to visit a national park—whether you’re checking a few of them off the bucket list or working one in as a side trip option—there are several factors to consider.
While all national parks offer something for RV campers, some are more optimized for RV travel than others, with accessible campsites, full-service hookups, and easily navigable roads. As you determine which one you’ll visit, keep a few things in mind. First off, consider what’s involved in getting there: Are the roads to reach it maneuverable for a larger vehicle? Are there any steep passes or tight canyons to navigate? Next, you’ll need to think about logistics while you’re there. For example, the majority of national parks are dry camping only for RVs. But chances are you can find a KOA campground within proximity to the park.
To provide further inspiration, here are five of the best National Parks for RVers, along with ideas for where to stay and what to do.
Yellowstone is America’s first national park, and it remains one of the most popular due to its incredible natural beauty, geothermal activity, and wide variety of wildlife. It’s massive, spanning nearly 3,500 square miles in the northwest corner of Wyoming, reaching into Montana and Idaho as well. You’ll find one of the largest high-elevation lakes in the country, plus half of the world’s geysers and other hydrothermal features that make it one of the most unique settings on the planet. It’s also home to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which is the largest nearly intact ecosystem in the northern temperate zone. While the park is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles, it’s best known for its free-ranging herds of bison and elk, plus the bears and wolves whose populations have recently rebounded.
The Grand Loop Road through the park is full of RVs, so you’ll be in good company. Numerous pull-outs along the road offer views and interpretive trails. The chance to see wildlife along the route is almost guaranteed, just make sure to pull off to the side of the road for a photo—no one likes a traffic jam (and no one likes drivers who cause them, either!). In addition to Old Faithful and other well-known geyers, don’t miss Mammoth Hot Springs near the Gardiner entrance. The multi-tiered boardwalks showcase the mineral deposits and bubbling springs of this otherworldly site.
Where to Stay: Yellowstone is surrounded by several different KOA campgrounds. Two of the best options include Yellowstone Park / Mountainside KOA Journey, which at the western entrance of the park in West Yellowstone, Montana. It’s less than eight miles to the entrance of the park and 37 miles from Old Faithful. Visitors here will find some of the area’s longest and widest Pull-Thru RV Sites. The Red Lodge KOA Journey in Red Lodge, Montana, sits just off of the Beartooth Highway, one of the most scenic ways to reach Yellowstone.
Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park is just south of Yellowstone, making this a popular 1-2 combination for RV travelers. The wide road through the park affords dramatic views of the Tetons right from your windows. Keep your eyes peeled for moose, elk, and raptors as you explore the main roads through the park. You can choose from more than 200 miles of hiking trails, and the park’s rugged peaks also make for excellent mountaineering expeditions. Grand Teton is also one of the country’s premier fishing destinations, and it’s one of the few places to catch the Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat trout. Stop at Jenny Lake and take a hike up to Inspiration Point, or take a boat ride across the lake for some on-the-water time with an out-of-this-world backdrop.
Where to Stay: Located just south of the national park, the Jackson Hole / Snake River KOA sits on the banks of the Snake River, surrounded by aspens, cottonwoods, and giant spruce. You can enjoy both guided whitewater rafting and scenic float trips on the river, and the Snake River Beach in the campground is just the spot to take a refreshing dip on a hot day. Horseback riding is just across the street, and, for a relaxing way to wind down after a day of exploration, go for a soak in the nearby Granite Hot Springs.
One of the country’s most iconic sights, Grand Canyon National Park must be seen to be believed. The canyon stretches along 277 miles of the Colorado River, and at points it’s up to 18 miles wide and a mile deep. To (literally) get into it, take a mule ride into the canyon for an unforgettable experience. Meanwhile, hiking enthusiasts who have experience with longer-distance excursions can trek down the popular Bright Angel Trail. The trail is well maintained, but remember: What goes down must come up, and the hike back up will be significantly more challenging than the descent.
Where to Stay: Four KOA campgrounds are located with convenient access to the national park. The closest is the Grand Canyon / Williams KOA Journey, which is an easy drive to the South Rim of the canyon. While on the grounds, enjoy the pool, and the dark skies in the area make it an excellent place for stargazing. In the same town, the Williams / Exit 167 / Circle Pines KOA Holiday features a Go-Kart track, mini golf, and other family activities. Hop on the free hayrides, offered on weekends, or take advantage of the trails in the surrounding forest for hiking, cycling, ATVs, or horseback riding.
Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park features one of the most astounding geographic landmarks in the country. The namesake lake was created 7,700 years ago when a volcanic eruption literally took the top off of one of the region’s tallest peaks. In its place, the caldera filled with water from rain and snow to form the deepest lake in the country. But it’s the stunning blue water that gets most people’s attention—plus the spectacular setting of the surrounding Cascade Mountain Range. To soak up those magnificent vistas, cruise the Rim Drive; active types can also walk or bike this route. However you do it, be sure to stop by the Steel Visitor Center for the fascinating volcanic history of this natural formation. Wizard Island, which protrudes distinctly from the lake, is accessible via ferry in the summer, and is a sublime place to hike, fish, and swim—although the water remains cold year-round, so don’t expect long, leisurely dips.
Where to Stay: For camping, you have a choice both north and south of the national park. The Lemolo Lake / Crater Lake North KOA, where you can take advantage of Lemolo, another beautiful Oregon lake, for fishing, swimming, and boating. You’re also surrounded by excellent opportunities for hiking and mountain biking in the region, in addition to those in Crater Lake NP. South of the park, the Klamath Falls KOA Journey is just minutes away from the scenic mountain town of Klamath Falls, which boasts excellent shopping and restaurants. You’ll also find just about any outdoor adventure imaginable nearby, including two of Oregon’s longest ziplines.
South Dakota’s dramatic landscapes are at their best in Badlands National Park. The park has two distinct environments—a section of eroded buttes and pinnacles, which resembles a mini grand canyon, and the largest mixed-grass prairie in the country. It’s also one of the richest sources of fossils in the United States. While here, attend a ranger-led talk, or set out on one of the trails that leave directly from the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Be sure to take plenty of water, as summer temperatures can regularly hit 90 degrees or higher (shoulder season is also an ideal tie for a visit). And bring a telescope if you have one: On a clear evening, the night sky over Badlands is one of the most epic you’ll ever see.
Where to Stay: The Badlands / White River KOA Holiday is just four miles from the national park and offers a quiet setting with hundreds of shade trees along the White River. You’ll see that it’s earned its nickname as the “Oasis in the Badlands.” In addition to easy park access, the campground features fun-bike rentals, mini golf, and a huge pet park.
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