The Best RV Camping in the United States

Jan 17, 2018 |

The Best RV Camping in the United States

By Nathan Paul Swartz

These fifty states, or at least the forty-eight you can easily drive to without crossing a border or finding yourself in the Pacific, are home to a vast network of tiny villages where the homes often don’t last more than a night, the cost of electric is never a thought, and the largest discrimination you’ll find from their residents is often how adept any given person is at backing up a motorhome.

Indeed, the RV park landscape of America is an ever growing–and by nature, ever changing–series of wide right turns and paved, numbered spaces where retired couples from Maine and young Southern Californian families alike appear, pay a few dollars, plug in, shake a few hands, and then head back out onto the road to the next destination they may call home. It’s a momentary backyard’s worth of camp chairs and charcoal grills, a walk around the loop admiring your neighbors rigs and a constant struggle to recall the bathroom code.

In some RV parks, it’s about ice cream socials and swimming pools and a little store selling sewer pipes and s’mores. Others tend toward semi-permanent residences setup for a season, flamingos dressed in Christmas lights or a wooden sign out front declaring that indeed, “The Wilson’s from Wisconsin” are here and beware, their dog cannot hold its “licker.”

While the variety is only as endless as the two and a half thousand miles that span the country’s fat little belly, there are commonalities, and there are differences that can only be seen by some people, some of the time. “The bathroom was dirty,” for example, is irrelevant to the Class A couple who never stray from their personal lavatory while comments like, “lots to do!” may mean you can hike the day away or just that the RV park in question has a pool table.

No one can claim the best of the best when it comes to RV parks, it’s simply too personal an experience to say that what backs Barb up will pull Pattie through, but thanks to the tens of thousands of folks out there kind enough to take time and review RV parks all across this nation, we’ve got some pretty impressive data and thought we’d use it to put together this little guide on the top RV parks in the United States.

It’s worth mentioning that there is no set definition of an RV park. These typically privately-owned businesses vary as much as the United States’ regions, and while images of paved pads with water, electric and sewer hookups neatly spaced short distances apart, separated by small patches of grass and a picnic table come to mind, that is only a recipe and as any good campground cook knows, recipes are malleable.

Will they have a cable television hookup? Will the bathrooms be clean? Will the bathrooms be open? Will the WiFi work (that is one of the few questions that can be almost universally answered: probably not!)

Not all RV parks even offer electrical hookups, though this is rarer than a lion’s steak and twice as likely to keep the average human moving along. In the vast majority of cases, what RV parks offer is a place to find fellow travelers seeking the convenience and comfort of hookups, hopefully a relatively level site, and maybe some extracurricular activities to go along with it. In exchange, expect to spend around $30 – $50 for said convenience.

What to Expect from RV Park Camping

Every great parent knows that the difference between an amazing Christmas morning and tossing Veruca Salt over your shoulder is setting expectations. This isn’t just true with RV parks, but every camping situation you may run into while exploring the nation in your rig-as-a-residence.

If you fell in love with the idea of traveling in RVs because of sweeping views of mountains clasping hands in prayer to royal curtain sunsets while pristine rivers hum you into a perfect calm just an earshot away…you may be setting yourself up for disappointment upon pulling into your first privately-owned campground.

On the other hand, if you know what’s likely behind door number one, opening it will just be opening another portal into one of many options for your RV traveling adventures. Once more though, pin a note on your fridge clarifying that there is no specific formula for any given RV park, and results may vary from place to place.

The Pros: Much of this will depend on your setup. If you’re completely self-sufficient, ie, you’ve got a blazing hot water tank and couldn’t be happier with your husband using the toilet while you’re half an inch of particle board away, you may not care about the fact that RV park bathrooms will nearly always be better than the facilities you’ll find in state and national parks, and the typical lack of anything more than a pit toilet in BLM and national forest land. For those RVers who find the facilities in their rig unsuitable for whatever reason, RV park bathrooms will become a key part of their experience, if not down right necessary.

When it comes time to stream Netflix, power up the air conditioner, crank up the toaster, pop some tarts in the microwave and blow dry your hair, a steady connection to the park’s shore power (though you’ll want to double check before running all of those things!) will practically be a necessity. So if you didn’t get into traveling to give up the little luxuries in life, RV parks may very well end up being your go-to choice when it comes time to start making reservations.

That goes for getting water in and waste out, too. If you don’t find the idea of lugging jugs of water around or stopping off at a dump station regularly to clean the tanks out, having dedicated connections right at your site makes life all the easier.

Many RV parks have additional amenities too, from the aforementioned cable TV hookup to swimming pools, playgrounds, line dancing lessons, mini golf courses, real golf courses, clubhouses, rec rooms and drive-in movie theaters.

Another side effect of private RV parks, and an arguable advantage they hold, is proximity to other conveniences. Where more primitive camping areas are–literally by nature–way out in the forest or desert, RV parks tend to be within easy driving, even walking distance to shops, restaurants and civilization in general.

Perhaps more than any of the above, RV parks offer community. You’re not out camping alone in the forest, miles from civilization. People are walking their dogs, fiddling with their awnings, and making campfires all the day long. You can say hi, or you can keep to yourself, but the opportunities to make a new friend or just say hello to your neighbor-for-a-day are prevalent. And while many of us get into RV camping for things like hiking trails into pristine nature, there is absolutely something to be said about the joys of walking an RV park loop and ogling your fellow campers’ setups as you pass by.

The Cons: A great and wise philosopher once said, “For every flower, there is a bee, for every R, a V.” No one knows who said it or what it means, but like every pop-top on a vintage camper van proves, what goes up, must come down.

So what are the downsides to RV parks? Well, they cost money. A lot of money sometimes, and while the average nightly fee these days tends to run between $30 – $50, prices can skyrocket even into the triple digits if you’re looking for, say, waterfront property in the Keys come dead of winter. Those instances are rare though, and deep discounts can be had simply by staying for longer periods at a time (think weekly and monthly rates) but even then you’re still typically paying considerably more than you would in more traditional public campgrounds.

Rivaling the cost, the other major downside to RV parks is the lack of space and privacy. Private RV parks are there to make money, and the more spaces they can fit into the amount of land they have, the more potential for cartoon like “ka-ching” sounds turning their owners’ eyeballs into dollar signs. If you’re not worried about your awning tapping on your neighbor’s slide out or little Fido licking at his sewer hose, this may not be an issue for you, but it’s certainly something to consider.

The last warranted complaint some travelers have with private RV parks is the rules. Yes, without rules there would be chaos, and without rule breakers there would not be grumpy RV park owners over-enforcing them, but this is life: one bad apple results in a world coated in pesticide. At the very minimum, you’ll need to keep your pup on a short leash, have any combination of special sewer pipe donuts or connectors, keep it down after 10pm and get the heck out of there by 11am or so. Some rules are common courtesy, like don’t smoke in the laundry room and clean up after your pets. Others seems puzzlingly unenforceable, like no fires greater than six inches high and requests to respect the privacy of other campers, even though you were told to park only five feet away from them. Still others are clearly there to enforce a certain demographic of campers: no one under 55, for example, or those that only allow RVs that are 10 years old or newer. You’ll find, however, that most park owners are genuinely decent human beings whose sole ambition is not to ruin your vacation. If you can simply remember that you’re not out in the wild but in a shared environment, everything should be just fine.

The Best RV Parks in the United States

Without further ado, the best RV parks in the USA:

The Best RV Parks in Alabama

In 2016, Lonely Planet named Birmingham the “coolest city in the South.” Explore the Heart of Dixie from the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville or try and learn how to pronounce coastal Mobile, Alabama.

The Best RV Parks in Alaska

You won’t be able to check this one off your list without a passport and likely a rock or two to the windshield, but if you’re looking to explore the wilds of Alaska from the comfort of an RV park, you can bet all of the big peak, riverfront, ocean bound scenery is just a glance out that big front window.

The Best RV Parks in Arizona

Easily one of the top states for RV parking, Arizona is not only open all year long but home to everything from the biggest hole in the world to the Southwest’s craziest megalopolis. Indeed, a grand canyon, a petrified forest, those saguaros and a sun that shines warm infinity over your bones leaves it easy to imagine why so many of us end up migrating to and through the Copper State so regularly.

The Best RV Parks in Arkansas

You won’t find Arkansas trying to top any must see RV lists or touting the virtues of its landscape in comparison to some of the other destinations in the US, but if watching the endless river traffic of the Mississippi from the comforts of your lawn chair or dipping your bikini in perhaps America’s most lavish public lands (Hot Springs National Park) doesn’t float your boat, perhaps a visit to bustling Little Rock will get your wheels rolling?

The Best RV Parks in California

A city that needs no introduction, the best RV parks in the Golden State might position you beachside, the waves tossing salt on your awning while the city of San Francisco looms just a bus ride away. They might find you deep in wine country or minutes from the Mexico border, basking in the bows of a redwood or pondering the moppy top of a Joshua tree.