If you travel or are thinking of traveling in an RV, there are way too many places to go and things to see to cover in one sitting. However, what we can do is give you a general idea of the types of places you could go.
I’ll also highlight some of my favorite places on earth, so maybe you could visit a few if you get time. I’ll give you some ideas to think about and some tips that will also make traveling in an RV a little bit easier.
Places to Park
Let’s start with the types of places you can park. Whether you’re looking for free parking or your budget is unlimited, these places are everywhere. You just have to look for them. And I guarantee you had no idea there were so many.
Sometimes called “boondocking” or “dry camping,” this is when you simply park. You don’t plug into electricity, you don’t have running water, and you can’t dump your sewer, but you certainly can get in touch with nature. And it won’t cost you a thing.
Now, you can’t just park anywhere or you’ll get towed, so you have to make sure you look into places that will let you park there for free. But here are some options.
- The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a government entity that owns quite a bit of land just about everywhere. BLM land is free and available to you, but it’s usually only for a few days at a time. It varies by spot, so you need to check their website first, and there are some rules. Make sure you read up on the Leave No Trace policies before you go.
- Businesses like Bass Pro Shop, Walmart, grocery stores, and even Cracker Barrel will let you park overnight for free if you are just passing through. But don’t count on every location being as friendly as the last. Call ahead and make sure it’s okay. Rest stops, truck stops, and picnic areas are also great options, but any more than an overnight probably isn’t a good idea. It’s also a good idea to make a purchase at the business if you’re staying overnight, as a polite gesture and a thank you.
- Your friends may even have land or a driveway that they will allow you to park in for free. I know we’ve been all around the country in our RV, and we’ve stopped in with friends for weeks or months at a time. Now, your friends may be willing to let you stay for free, but as a general rule, I like to help out around their house, babysit their kids, or at least contribute a little bit of cash to their utilities as a thank you for letting us stay.
The national and state park systems offer really awesome places to stay. The costs are lower and they offer tons of recreational activities. There are hiking and biking trails, horseback riding, swimming and rafting, and tons of other fun things to do.
However, often they don’t have full hook-ups. They generally offer water and electricity, with a centralized dump station for your sewer. So, depending on the size of your tanks, you may find yourself hooking up and driving to the dump station for a cleanout every few days.
They also place limitations on the size of your rig and the length of your stay. One of the great things about these parks is that the spots are spread out rather than crammed together, but the parking spaces aren’t very large. Although, I will say that we were able to back our 45-foot fifth-wheel into a very small space, so it can be done.
And they will only let you stay for 14 consecutive days within the park system before you have to leave. On a rare occasion, and usually, only during the off-season, will they make an exception? We stayed in Phoenix in August (dumb), and they extended our stay for us for a few extra days, but they were unwilling to do the same in March.
My family is huge fans of RV parks. And you’ll find RV parks everywhere you go. A quick Google search will turn up literally dozens of them at practically any destination. However, there are a lot of different types of RV parks.
The resort RV park
There are RV parks that charge quite a bit of money for tons of amenities like pools, playgrounds, tennis courts, fitness centers, laundry rooms, libraries, business centers, and a full calendar of activities. These types of RV parks tend to cram as many RVs into a small space as they can because they want to make a lot of money.
While you might get a great community of people (you usually do) and some bang for your buck, you’re living in cramped quarters, as if your rig wasn’t already cramped enough. You’re not really enjoying wide-open spaces.
The downhome RV park
Some of the best RV parks we’ve stayed at didn’t have any amenities at all. In fact, we left Palo Verde RV Park last month, and we’ll never stay anywhere else in Phoenix. More on that in a minute.
A lack of amenities doesn’t have to mean poor quality, although sometimes it does. Sometimes a lack of amenities means lower prices and a focus on true RV community, wide open spaces, and incredible views.
The adult RV park
In Phoenix, there is an abundance of 55+ RV communities. Phoenix is a popular place to retire, so the RV community caters to that. It’s nearly impossible to find anything in the Phoenix metro or surrounding suburbs that are welcoming of families.
They have every right to do this because retired folk enjoy their quiet. These RV parks also offer other activities that this demographic likes. There’s bingo, golf, quilting, and quite a bit more.
Some of these RV parks don’t explicitly say they’re for 55+ people. It can be tough to tell. What we’ve learned is to be on the lookout for terminology like “adult,” “quiet community,” “pricing is for 2 people,” or anything that might indicate families, noise, children, and more than 2 people aren’t welcome.
The exclusionary RV park
I made this term up, but there is a category of RV park that’s not necessarily 55+, but that makes it pretty obvious you’re not exactly welcome, either. Their attempt is to price you out of the park, or make it difficult in some other way for you to stay there.
Here’s an example. Remember how I said that nearly everything in Phoenix is 55+? We finally found an RV park 20 minutes from Grandma and Grandpa that wasn’t. And it looked affordable at first. It was about $500 for the month with all the hookups we needed.
When we looked at the fine print, we realized that the pricing was only for two people. Now, when I called, they confirmed that they weren’t actually 55+, but they charged an extra $5 per night per additional person.
We have 4 children. That’s an extra $600 per month for a total of $1100 a month. That’s more than double what we would have spent had it just been the two of us, which is ridiculous. We didn’t stay there.
There are other RV parks that will do this for pets if you have more than 2, or for any pets at all. There are RV parks that will charge extra for children, but not adults. You could have 4 adults, but if you have 2 adults and 2 children, they’ll charge extra.
Just be sure you read, or call and find out everything you can before you stay.
The other business + RV park
Now, these are way cool. There are RV parks that are working cattle ranches or alpaca farms. There are places you can stay where you can participate in the daily activities of the business and get some hands on experience.
You can feed the animals, learn how the equipment works, or just observe the day to day. They may offer amenities and they may not. But the real appeal is that they’re letting you in on something that you’d probably never get to see otherwise.
Some are expensive because they think they can charge you for the atmosphere. They have something to offer that no one else does. Others are cheaper, because they’re getting free labor out of you, so it’s worth it to them to charge a little less for all-hands-on-deck.
But these are fantastic options if you have kids. They’re very family friendly, perfect homeschooling opportunities, and awesome if you love the outdoors.
Now that you understand a little bit more about the types of places in which you can park, here are some worthwhile destinations. Some I’ve been to, and some I’ve heard are amazing, so take your pick.
Beach destinations can be a great year-round trip, depending on the geographic location. In the south, you’ll find beaches that are temperate, even in the off-season, while in the north, you’ll only want to brave it when it’s warm.
The historic coast of Florida
You could spend weeks driving up and down the coast, finding RV park after RV park, all well-maintained with high quality amenities. Just be careful if you’re in the family mindset, because Florida is a popular retiree spot, too.
Touring St. Augustine or Ponte Vedra will give you miles of pristine beaches, and you can stay at North Beach Camp Resort on a barrier island. You can also visit Anastasia State Park for plenty of beautiful wooded sites as well as lovely hiking areas.
There’s plenty of outdoor recreation for those who love the water, with wonderful currents in all directions, and St. Augustine is one of the best places in the United States to put your kayak in the water.
Navarre Beach, Florida
If you want a relaxing, quiet beach with clear, blue water and white, sandy beaches, then check out The Hideaway Retreat. It’s a great place to get away. You can park under large oak and magnolia trees, and walk along uncrowded beaches.
There are also a variety of low-impact outdoor activities. The Blackwater River is nearby, or you can drift along in a tube on the Coldwater Creek. Watching the sunset from the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier is also a breathtaking experience.
Tybee Island, Georgia
From gorgeous views to mouth-watering cuisine, Tybee Island is a place you could spend at least a week, despite its size. It’s friendly to families, and this little beach town will not disappoint.
Check out River’s End Campground & RV Park if you want access to the beach and plenty of one-on-one time with nature.
There are walks along the pier, ice cream shops, a lighthouse tour, yummy food, and exciting beaches. This is a wonderful place for your next summer RV trip.
Delaware Shore and Southern New Jersey
You don’t have to participate in the Jersey Shore scene to enjoy this trip. You can bring your van, truck, RV, bike, or other vehicles across the Cape May-Lewes Ferry (yes, ferry), to the Delaware Shore and Southern New Jersey.
Across the Delaware Bay, you’ll find campgrounds on the Jersey Shore and in South Jersey. You can park your RV or rent a cottage at The Beachcomber Camping Resort and then play in the arcade, rent boats, or enjoy any one of the three pool complexes.
Cape May, New Jersey is rated one of the most family-friendly shore towns in all of the east coast, which might be surprising, given the reputation of the Jersey shore. However, you could also visit Cape Henlopen State Park.
It’s one of the best state parks you’ll ever see, with more than 7000 acres of coast. Explore sand dunes, fish from the pier, swim in the ocean, go horseback riding or tour Fort Miles, and birdwatch at the salt marshes.
South Beach Campground, Washington State
If you’ve never explored the Pacific Northwest coastline, it’s truly spectacular. Even in the summer, it’s temperate and mild, with a lovely breeze coming off of the ocean. You may need a light jacket. No sunbathing here.
However, what you will enjoy are rocky seascapes and a wonderful journey through a mountainous forest to get there.
The South Beach Campground is right off of the 101 and sits on the edge of a rocky ridge, giving you a breathtaking view of the beach that stretches to the ends of the earth.
You are only minutes from Olympic National Park, with some of the best hiking in the entire country. As you awake to the lapping of the ocean waves, you can watch the water as it rolls over the driftwood lining the coast.
Time your visit in May just right, and you’ll see the migration of the whales to Alaska. You may even see dolphins and seals as well. There’s no better morning view with your cup of coffee.
Deserts aren’t always hot, but they’re always gorgeous. If you like warm weather, you can certainly visit in the summertime. But often, the fall or winter is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors and get a taste of the beautiful scenery.
Snow Canyon State Park, Utah
Snow Canyon State Park is in Ivins, Utah. It sits where the Mojave Desert and the Great Basin Desert meet, so you get the best of both worlds. It’s in a spectacular red rock canyon with picturesque views and plenty of photo ops.
People visit for the hiking trails, the wildlife observation, and to hone their photography skills, but it’s also an excellent place for a family to spend some time together.
The Great Basin Desert is the largest desert in the United States. It sits between the Wasatch Mountain Range in Utah and the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. If you venture into this desert, you’ll see sandstone formations and tons of color.
In fact, many people think of deserts as brown, but this one is so colorful that the National Geographic Society conducted an expedition and produced a color film in the 1940s.
White Sands National Monument
The white sands in White Sands National Monument look like snow, and they’re cool to the touch, no matter how hot it is outside. You can hike through the dunes or sled down them, and you can eat at the covered picnic tables, too.
You can’t take your fifth wheel or class A, but you can drive up to the parking at the shelters in your class B or small class C as well as some shorter travel trailers. There are also some pull-outs along the road.
Walking in your bare feet on the dunes is one of the best parts of visiting. Plus, if you walk the Alkali Flat Trail, you’ll catch a sparkling sunset.
While there aren’t RV parks in the monument, there are plenty of options like Sierra Vista Trail in Las Cruces or private parks in Alamogordo. You can also boondock at Holloman Lake, which is only about 5 miles from the monument.
If you have kids who are into dinosaurs and dragons, you won’t want to miss the Anza-Borrego State Park in the Borrego Springs area. The area was named the second International Dark Sky Community in the entire world. At night, you get a perfect view of the night sky with nearly zero light pollution, making it perfect for stargazing.
You’ll also stumble upon strange dinosaur and dragon sculptures rising from the sand. These works of art were created by Ricardo Breceda, and they’re placed seemingly at random throughout the desert, waiting to be discovered.
You’ll also enjoy badlands, cacti varieties, and slot canyons. You can drive or hike through, but some of it is too remote, and you have to access it by 4WD only.
There are a lot of campgrounds and RV parks nearby, and boondocking is allowed, too. As long as you’re not farther than a vehicle’s length from the road, you are within 100 yards from a water source, and you follow the Leave No Trace policy, you’re good to go.
Lost Dutchman State Park
The Phoenix area has gorgeous weather from December through April. You really can’t beat the perfect temperatures, the clear sky, and the wonderful scenery. The Lost Dutchman State Park is perfectly placed so that you’re close to all kinds of fun things to do.
You can stay within the park for hiking trails, or you can go across the street to the Goldfield Mine and pan for gold while learning about wild west history. This is a great activity for the kids. There’s also a Lost Dutchman Museum down the street where you can learn about the original Lost Dutchman, Jacob Waltz.
You’re 10 minutes away from Silly Mountain, where you can explore different difficulties of hiking trails for the whole family. You’re only 20 minutes away from the spectacular Hieroglyphic Trail on Kings Ranch Road.
Camelback Mountain offers some of the best hiking in all of Phoenix (or the country, I’ve heard).
If you take a drive north on Highway 88 from the Lost Dutchman, you’ll run into Canyon Lake, where you can take a steamboat ride on The Dolly. Epic views abound.
Arches National Park
There’s no shortage of campgrounds in and around Arches National Park, and it’s worth the visit. These arches seem to simply defy gravity. Arches National Park has the largest number of rock arches in the entire world, so the landscape is photographer and kid-friendly.
The elevation causes hot summers and cold winters, but the spring and fall are simply beautiful.
Mountains produce some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in our world, but it’s amazing how no two mountains are alike. There are plenty of great mountain RV trips, and every one of them is special.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
This national park is in Texas, and it used to be under water. That’s right, the entire mountain range was below the sea. That means you’re going to find salt deposits, quartz, and other really awesome stuff that was left behind when the water went away.
Stay in and around this national park, and you’ll see four of the tallest peaks in the entire state. The Guadalupe peak is almost 9000 feet above sea level!
There are fantastic hiking trails, and the drastic differences in elevation make for a wide, wonderful range of flora and fauna.
There’s no bad season to visit, either, because the weather is gorgeous all year round, and you can even knock out two national parks in one trip by visiting the nearby Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains are a small segment of the Appalachian Mountains, contained mostly in North Carolina. Because of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Outer Banks, North Carolina is one of the most gorgeous states in the union.
As the Blue Ridge Parkway winds in and out of the trees, you’ll see why it’s often called the most beautiful drive in the country. There is an outrageous number of places to stay in the mountains, so take your pick.
It’s a must-do road trip, whether you want to stay near the shopping in Asheville, or somewhere more remote along the way.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Smoky Mountains are in eastern Tennessee, spilling over into North Carolina. They’re named for their fog, giving off a smoky look. These mountains are lush, and full of diverse plant and animal life.
You’ll find miles and miles of hiking trails, leading you through mighty trees to towering waterfalls, gushing streams, and hopefully an animal sighting or two.
There is an abundance of RV parks from which to choose scattered throughout the mountain range, so you can choose to stay as close to or as far from civilization as you want.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Whether you want to drive to the summit of Pikes Peak, explore the Garden of the Gods, or see the cliff dwellings in Pueblo, Rocky Mountain National Park is a popular travel destination for families.
It’s full of Native American history, epic scenery, and great hiking. The Royal Gorge also isn’t far away, if you’d like to experience another natural wonder, walk across the Arkansas River on the bridge, or ride the gondolas.
Grand Teton National Park
The Grand Tetons are some of the most majestic mountains I’ve ever seen. If you enjoy wide open country, big mountainscapes, and a quaint rustic lifestyle, then this is the trip for you. You can bring your RV, or you can stay in a log cabin at the base of the range.
To the north, you have Yellowstone National Park, and to the south, you have Jackson, Wyoming. You can knock out some pretty historic stuff all in one trip.
Yellowstone has the Painting Pots, Old Faithful, and tons of wildlife while the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum does a fantastic job of preserving the culture of the 1800s.
Lakeside camping is serene. It’s simply gorgeous, and it comes with its fair share of activities as well. Here are some of the best places to experience RV camping near a lake.
Lake Havasu, Arizona
Most people think of the desert when they think of Arizona, but there’s lakeside camping, too. Lake Havasu is one of the coolest lakes you’ll ever see. There are swimming beaches and mountain views.
You can also visit the original London Bridge, which has been relocated here.
There are marinas that make this lake home to a lot of water sports, and the history of the area makes it fun for all ages. There are also more than a handful of RV parks and resorts.
Crater Lake, Oregon
This lake was the 6th ever place to be named a national park in 1902. It has sparkling blue waters that are more than 1900 feet deep. It’s mysterious and beautiful.
You can scuba dive, hike, ride your bike, or take a trolley around the lake. There are some really cool animals that live here, so it’s a fun national park to visit. Smaller rigs will enjoy Mazama Campground while big rigs can stay at Crater Lake RV Park.
Lake Mead, Nevada
Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States. It’s on the Colorado River and it’s contained by the Hoover Dam. If you’ve always wanted to see it, now is your chance. It’s full of rich, fascinating history.
Fishing is popular here, and you’ll be able to catch catfish and bass regularly. If you enjoy this relaxing activity, there are enough views to keep you occupied while you wait.
You’ll also want to make a short jaunt to Las Vegas, if that’s your thing, and see the O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Bridge.
Lake Powell is in both Utah and Arizona. It’s surrounded by great views and contains the Rainbow Bridge, which is the tallest natural bridge in the world. The local Native American people consider it sacred.
You can take a boat out on the lake, see the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, tour the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and journey back to the Old West in the town of Kanab.
Bear Lake spans Utah and Idaho, and its freshwater contains calcium-carbonate, which makes it look sparkly and gives it a unique aqua-blue color. It captures the attention of all who visit.
It’s easy to access its many beaches, there are plenty of parks, and marinas make swimming, boating, and fishing more accessible.
Shasta Lake, California
While there’s no shortage of lakes in California, Shasta Lake is probably one of the best. It’s technically a reservoir held by the 9th largest dam in the country, but let’s not get caught up in the technicalities.
You can sit and gaze at the watercrafts floating out on the smooth water or you can rent one of your own. They have boats, canoes, kayaks, and houseboats! There are also nearby attractions like hiking trails, caverns for touring, museums, and delicious food.
When trying to figure out where to go RVing next, it’s certainly not an easy choice. Who wants to miss any of the gorgeous or exciting adventures that await? These frequently asked questions may help you decide.
Question: What does boondocking mean?
Answer: Boondocking means a lot of things to a lot of different people. It’s essentially camping without hookups, but for some, that means staying off the grid, where it’s quieter. You get the opportunity to be closer to nature and enjoy the things around you.
For other people, it simply means cheaper camping for a night or two while you’re passing through. Either way, you might be able to save a few bucks and enjoy your trip if you don’t need the facilities
Question: Can you park and sleep in an RV anywhere?
Answer: While it’s not difficult to find a place to park and sleep, you can’t just park and sleep anywhere. Pulling over on the side of the road to catch some zzzs is not only dangerous, but it can be illegal.
Instead, you need to find a safe place to stop and make sure you’re allowed to park there first. Call ahead of time to see if they allow overnight RV parking. Check out Walmart parking lots, rest areas, and other businesses or travel stops.
Question: Where can I store my RV long-term?
Answer: During the off-season, many people need a place to store their RV. While some may have the luxury of a large driveway or yard to park it, others will need to rent a facility. If you’re legally allowed to park it on your own property and you have room, it will definitely save you some money.
However, there are RV storage facilities of all kinds. Some even have electrical hookups, if you need to keep the contents of your freezer good for a month or two, or you feel more comfortable keeping your air conditioning running.
Some offer open storage while others have covered storage, so check the options and the pricing to see what’s available to you and then determine what you need.
Question: Should I store my RV with the jacks down?
Answer: Yes, you should always store your RV with the jacks down to take the pressure off of your tires and suspension. If you have hydraulic jacks, leaving them down also means the interior of your jacks will stay lubricated, which will keep them from rusting.
If the ground is level where you’re storing your RV, this will be easy. If the ground isn’t level, you may have to reposition your RV or work a little harder to get it level so you can extend your jacks.
If all else fails, you can use a bottle jack or some other sort of lift to raise your RV onto cinder blocks or jack stands in order to reduce the pressure on your other equipment.
Question: Should you store your RV with the slides in or out?
Answer: You should always store your RV with the slides in. This prevents the seals from eroding and reduces the accumulation of snow, moisture, and debris on the slide-out roof.
Your idea of a fantastic RV destination is going to be different than mine. I’m not a huge fan of boondocking, but I do love RV parks with no amenities and those that let you participate in alpaca feedings and other fun farm things. Hey, what can you expect from a small-town girl in Missouri?
However, most people who have RVs have them because they want to get closer to nature and ditch the city. So in that vein, I’ve tried to include destinations that I think are a good mix of both attractions and recreational activities.
There’s also plenty to learn when it comes to history, people, and wildlife.
Not every RV adventure will be perfect, not everything will always go right, and you’ll run into your fair share of road blocks. Literally.
What I will say is that every mile and every tank of gas is well worth every picture and every spectacular moment. These destinations and many others will simply take your breath away if you can sit back, relax, and take it all in.