Finding RV campsites is probably among the easier parts of this lifestyle. “How do I find a campsite for my RV?” We get this question all the time. There are many books, applications and websites to help you make a selection. A lot depends on what type of campsite you are looking for. If you must have full hook-ups, than probably a private or membership park is for you. If your rig is self contained and you can conserve your resources, you will probably like boondocking on public lands. Public sector campgrounds run the gamut from full hook-ups, to electric only, to bare ground with no facilities. You will need to do a little homework before you leave on your camping trip. We will also discuss Privately Owned Campgrounds and Resorts, Membership Campgrounds, Boondocking and Camping on Public Lands, and Electronic Means to finding RV Campsites.
Finding RV Campsites in the Public Sector
Finding RV campsites in the public sector include federal assets like National Parks, National Monuments, National Forests, National Seashores, and National Grasslands. You’ll have no trouble finding RV primitive campsites on the lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management(BLM). Find most of these at the National Parks website http://www.nps.gov .
Another Federal entity is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who operate over 400 campgrounds on or near the lakes and waterways the Corps manages. Many of these campgrounds have full hook-ups. Check out all the Corps of Engineers camping opportunities at: http://corpslakes.usace.army.mil/visitors/visitors.cfm
Along with the federal lands are the parks, forests, and other lands administered by the various States. Almost every state has a camping publication listing campgrounds. These are available at the highway welcome stations.
You will also have no trouble finding RV campsites in many municipal campgrounds in cities and towns. Each State has a website, often many. You should have no problem finding information on camping. A Google search on a town or city name along with “camping” should give you plenty of information. We have spent many nights at county fairgrounds. Many have hookups and dump stations.
Many of the government facilities were built many years ago when RV’s were much smaller. The trees in these areas have also grown up quite a bit over the years. Check before you set off to a particular campground to see if your rig will fit.
Privately Owned Campgrounds and Resorts
This is by far the largest group of campgrounds available. Finding RV campsites in this group is as easy as reading a campground guide. The large majority of these are open to the public and are “mom and pop” operations. The well known Kampgrounds of America(KOA) are included in this category. A few are operated by KOA, but the majority fall into the mom and pop category. You can pick up a guide book at any KOA campground. Another group of campgrounds is the very popular Jellystone Parks. Many of these campgrounds and resorts are listed in the Good Sam Travel Guide and Campground Directory available at half price at any Camping World. Good Sam members will receive 10% off camping at these “Good Sam Parks.” Others are Private membership type campgrounds and are covered below.
The membership campgrounds may be either member or privately owned. There are usually annual dues in addition to other fees collected. These tend to be quite deluxe and most have full hook-ups and other resort style amenities. Check these out on the Membership Camping page.
Boondocking and Camping on Public Lands
I believe the most important part of finding a good place to boondock is your personal safety. If a place doesn’t look right, or feel right, move on! We will list several sources for finding RV sites in boondocking areas, but the really good ones you see on magazine covers will not be found easily. Those pristine locations and views are a closely guarded secret by those who have been lucky enough to find them. You might try to make friends with boondockers and ask about some sites. Over time you might be invited to one of those secret spots.
I will not cover camping in parking lots of large businesses or any form of what has become known as “Stealth Camping.” I’ll be discussing camping on public land with no hook-ups.
The majority of federal lands, especially in the west, have areas where you are allowed to camp. Most are free, but some charge small fees. Check with your local BLM(Bureau of Land Management), NFS(National Forest Service), COE(Corps of Engineers) or NPS(National Park Service) offices for locations. Federal agencies call these “Dispersed camping.” Finding RV sites in these areas will require some homework and some map reading skills.
Here is a link to 2 excellent blog posts by Bob Difley on finding boondocking sites. I defer to Bob as he is a recognized expert. Check them out here: http://blog.rv.net/tag/finding-boondocking-campsites/
The Freecampgrounds website lists free or low cost boondocking sites across the country. Check it out: http://www.freecampgrounds.com/
Boondocking.org is an interesting site with a searchable database of known boondocking sites with directions and descriptions. http://boondocking.org/
US Public Landsis an IOS App written by our friends at Technomadiathat overlays BLM, Forest Service, NPS and public land boundary maps. It helps you utilize US national resources! Check it out at: http://www.twostepsbeyond.com/apps/uspubliclands/
There are several books that you can purchase at camping stores that list boondock sites.
BOONDOCKING: Finding a Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands by Bob Difley is $9.95 in a Kindle eBook version
Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts by Bob Difley is $6.99 in a Kindle eBook version
Electronic Means for Finding RV Campsites
AllStays Camp and RV is the number one camping app for IOS and Android devices. We use it extensively in our travels. It covers finding RV sites in resorts to hike-in spots. Included are amenities, maps, truck stops, rest areas, Wal-mart and casino parking, low clearance alerts, RV dealers, sporting goods stores and much more. There are two modes. One uses GPS and maps that you can filter. The other is an offline manual lookup mode for when you don’t have service. This is not a free app and currently is $9.99. Check it out at http://www.allstays.com/Campgrounds/
RV Parking Is a free service that has information on every park they can find.We list as much information as we can collect on every RV park we can find. They have detailed information on over 20,000 RV parks. You can filter your search to narrow down results based on what’s most important to you. In addition to listing all of the standard information about a park (location, number of sites, etc.), the listings include information submitted by users, such as reviews, photos and travelers’ tips. The site can be used from computer, tablet, and smartphones. http://www.rvparking.com/
RV Parky is an RV Park directory built by a full time RV’er with the help of the RV community to help fellow RV’ers on the road. Here you can find information, images, and reviews for over 25,000 RV Parks and campgrounds in the United States and Canada. There is an App for both IOS and Android devices. http://www.rvparky.com/
Find RV Parks is a newcomer to this space. With a very clean design, good mobile implementation, and clean familiar Google Maps interface, it is another great choice to find places to stay. Created by Mark McKinney, and RVer himself and web programmer by trade, he decided to create a website he wished existed. Check it out at https://www.findrvparks.com/
Ultimate US RV Campground Project This IOS app presents information about publicly-owned, non-commercial campgrounds across the Lower 48 United States. There are over 21,000 facilities, ranging from full-service campgrounds at state parks and Corps of Engineers parks to remote boondocking and back-packing locations with no facilities or services. The App is $3.99 http://www.ultimatecampgrounds.com
RV Park Reviews This is a highly regarded website with reviews, by campers, of campgrounds throughout the United States. There is an interactive map and form for submitting reviews. http://rvparkreviews.com/
RVBuddy This website gives visitors the opportunity to post their campground and RV park experiences, good or bad, for other campers. With hundreds of quality reviews covering campground and RV Parks throughout the United States, you should find what you need to know before you go. http://www.rvbuddy.com/
Passport America has Apps for Android, IOS, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile 7. Whether you are a member or not, you can browse all the campgrounds in the Passport America system of half price camping. Members get 50% off at participating campgrounds.
KOA (Kampgrounds of America) has extensive apps for IOS and Android devices. You can search on all the KOA campgrounds in the US and Canada. The App integrates with your navigation system for directions to any KOA campground. Reservations can also be made through the App. Check it out at: http://koa.com/get-the-koa-app/
National Parks by National Geographic is an app that lets you explore U.S. national parks easily on iPhone and iPad. There are National Geographic editor’s recommendations on park must-dos, as well as photo tips from renowned National Geographic photographers. Some features are Global and interactive map views with filtering by activity and seasonality as well as thousands of points of interest, all tagged with GPS coordinates for easy planning and locating the top must-sees and must-dos for each park. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/mobile/apps/national-parks-by-national-geographic/
There are many other Apps to help you in finding RV sites and evaluating campgrounds, and more are being developed constantly. These listed are the ones we use and can recommend. If there are some you use and like, contact us with the form at tthe bottom of the page.