If you’ve never been camping in a national park, you’re in for a treat – national parks are some of the most beautiful and historic places in the country, and as such are extremely popular camping spots year round. There are some things you should know before you camp out at a national park, however – they’re not always the same as other campgrounds!
Planning for National Park Camping
Make your reservations early – because they’re so popular, national parks tend to fill up early. And while you might get lucky and grab an unreserved spot at the last minute, you can’t really count on that. Most places recommend you make your reservations five days in advance, but you’re really better off making your reservations as soon as you start planning the trip – the earlier the better!
Watch out for traffic – most national park campgrounds are designed in a one-way loop. While this makes travel much easier, there are still things to watch for – trees often seem to jump out of nowhere, and low hanging branches can tear up your rig if you’re not careful.
Pick a good campsite – one thing you’ll find is most national park campgrounds don’t have pull-through spaces, so be prepared to back into your spot. Fortunately, most spaces are level, but you may want to come prepared with external leveling equipment just in case. Most campsites should have picnic tables and campfire rings, and many will have cooking grills as well.
Know your facilities – since national parks are government funded, they usually have a lot in terms of convenience. Trash cans and restrooms will be scattered extensively throughout the park, and many restrooms will even have a dish washing station with a large sink and countertop. You’ll probably also find a central RV dump station in the campground. Quick tip: get to the dump station early if you want to empty your tanks. Waiting even a few minutes too long can result in hours of waiting in line.
Plan your power – many national parks have designated limited hours during which you are allowed to use a generator. Many don’t allow you to use one at all! Find out if the campground comes with electrical hookups, or plan on being without power in your rig for the duration of your stay.
Campground Facilities and Activities
While every campground will have different specific activities, the classics will be available at all. National park campgrounds will be well set up for campfires at every site and almost all will sell firewood. We recommend you bring a hatchet to split the wood – you probably already know how hard it is to start a fire with big logs!
The National Park Service also offers evening outdoor campfire programs at most parks, which are presentations put on by National Park Rangers around dusk. Presentations are designed for families and can be on topics ranging from Astronomy to Zoology.
Many people cite national park campgrounds as their favorite spots and the locations of their happiest memories. If you’re planning on taking a trip to a national park campground, make sure you stop by Beckley’s for a quick RV tune-up before you hit the road!