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Important Things to Know About RVing in National Parks
If you are planning on taking an RV trip to any of the US national parks there is a great deal of information you should arm yourself with before you go.
Since it is unlikely that you will visit all of them, taking the time to do some basic research about those you plan to see will help you to have a much better travel experience.
You can use the information in this article as a starting point, but don’t hesitate to
A Few national parks are more popular than others due to their size, location, amenities and beauty. These are the ones people dream of seeing, but you need to make sure that the ones you choose will offer the type of experience you want to have.
- Some parks are smaller and offer fewer amenities. Others are vast and have facilities such as laundries, showers and stores that make visiting more pleasant.
- Some also offer ranger lectures that enhance visitor understanding about a particular park, while others do ot.
- Some, such as the Smokey Mountain National Park are close to large cities, while others, such as Glacier National Park, while majestic in its beauty, are located close to small towns which have limited facilities.
- all of the parks have stay limitations,
- crowding can make finding campsites difficult,
- visiting is expensive,
- camping can be uncomfortable,
- dangers abound and
- driving an RV to and through many of the parks can be difficult.
If you have visited any of our national parks in the past, you’re also going to find that things have changed because these days
- it is likely that you will have problems finding a campsite,
- costs for everything will have increased significantly,
- traffic will be horrible and
- it will be unlikely that you’ll find much in the way of peace and quiet while trying to enjoy nature.
The reasons for these issues is that there are more people than ever visiting , most campsites are small and have not been upgraded to handle larger rigs and there is little ranger supervision within campgrounds.
While most RVers only stay at one of the big parks for a few days, some would prefer to visit for longer periods of time.
Longer visits may not be possible because every park requires limits on the amount of time visitors can stay. It’s usually 14 days, but some are less.
If you don’t plan carefully, you could arrive only to find that the campgrounds are full!
My husband and I were advised years ago to arrive at the park gate no later than 10::00 AM if we wanted to get a campsite.
One year we forgot to do that, arrived at the gate to the Rocky Mountain National Park at 2:00 PM and were turned away because all of the sites had been taken by people who arrived earlier in the day.
People often assume that visiting US parks is free, but nothing is further from the truth. If you don’t plan ahead, you can end up paying far more than you anticipated.
- Yellowstone National Park offers only the barest of amenities but staying there is not cheap.
- They charge a 7 day entry fee ($25), a daily camping fee (from $12 to $19.50) and fees for fishing licenses ($19 per day per person if you buy one for Montana and one for Wyoming).
You may think you can save money by camping outside of a park, but doing so is even more costly.
The small towns that surround most national parks learned long ago that they can charge as much as the market will bear for camping, groceries and services.
However people pay these higher costs because staying in town offers more comforts and conveniences than staying in the parks.
Unless you like primitive camping, most of these parks won't be for you because
- there are no hookups,
- you cannot run generators,
- big rigs will not fit into many of the sites,
- crowding can make stays uncomfortable and
- wild animals, stinging insects and poisonous plants are always close by.
To avoid having some of these problems, you do have the option of staying at a privately owned full hookup campground within or outside of the park if space is available, but doing so will be very expensive.
Although rangers patrol parks regularly, you have to bear in mind that when you visit, you’re pretty much on your own. This is especially true if you go into back country areas.
Dangers are everywhere, so if you don’t pay attention to what you are doing, you can really hurt yourself.
- People have been killed by falling into the Grand Canyon and geyser ponds.
- Bears in Yellowstone have literally dragged people out of their tents and killed them.
- Buffalo and Moose have gored visitors who made the mistake of assuming they were zoo animals instead of wildlife living in their own habitat.
For these reasons you need to remember that in many places, you have no cell phone or internet service and medical care is scarce. Also, a ranger might not be immediately available to help you.
While “being careful” may seem to take the fun out of your adventures, it’s much better to be a little less carefree than it is to endanger yourself or your loved ones.
The attached video shows you what can happen and what you can do to stay safe.
Many of the U.S. national parks are located in areas where the terrain is rugged.
Roads can be steep and windy, and in some areas. there are huge drops and no guard rails.
Therefore, you have to take great care when driving an RV in these places. You also should have equipment that can handle steep grades, such as motor homes with engine brakes.
One good example is Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park which is a beautiful, but harrowing drive.
If your RV or vehicle combination is longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet, they won't even allow you to make the drive.
Another problem is weather. Many parks are so far north that snow can block roads at any time of the year.
For these reasons, you should always contact the local highway patrol or the parks to find out about driving conditions and limitations.
Learn What You Need to Know Before You Go
Obviously there are many issues to consider before making the decision to RV to any of the US national parks.
They all are worth seeing, but they are not without their caveats.
Visiting these places is a dream that many people have, but those who follow through need to make sure they understand the issues that are involved in taking such an RV trip.
It pays to remember that while the natural beauty will always be there, the problems that go along with RVing to a US national park will continue to be there, as well.
Has this article made you consider more carefully a decision about visiting some of the big national parks?
© 2017 Sondra Rochelle