7 Creative Options for Finding a Campsite for Your RV
Struggling to find a campground with availability? Try these!
By: GoLife Staff

It is no secret that RV camping has grown exponentially in popularity over the years. While it is certainly exciting to see so many motorhomes and travel trailers out on the road, more RVs also means finding a campsite during summer and other busy times can be more challenging.

Although it is highly recommended to book any must-stay RV parks or campgrounds well in advance, it is good to remember there are also some lesser-known and more creative options available if you are struggling to find a place to park for the night during an RV trip. 

Creative Options for Finding an RV Campsite

Last year, with so many people no longer taking international trips, campsite shortages became a bit of an issue due to more travelers going RVing instead. Even though traveling abroad has become a realistic possibility again, RVing is still extremely popular and there will definitely be a huge RVer presence on America’s roads – especially this summer. Having some back-up camping options in mind can really help save your trip if you encounter an area that is fully booked up!

Here is a list of some of the creative options our GoLifers have shared about over the years:

1. Lesser-Known National Parks 

If you have RVed before or researched possible RVing destinations, you are aware that campgrounds in and around national parks tend to book up quickly. However, that is usually only true for the most popular parks, like Yellowstone or Zion. There are actually 423 sites included in the National Park System, which also includes battlefields, recreational areas, memorials, and monuments. Of these, 63 are given the designation of a ‘national park’ due to the large variety of resources the park provides. 

For example, James and Stef Adinaro of The FitRV enjoyed Guadalupe Mountains National Park – a hidden gem in Texas with a campground at the visitor’s center.

If you plan to visit one of the lesser-known parks or sites, you’ll have a much better chance of being able to get a spot at their campground (if they have one within the park) or somewhere nearby. Many national park campgrounds will have a mix of reservable or first-come camping and possibly even free boondocking, so be sure to do some research on what the options are and note that many do not offer full hook-ups. To find and reserve spots, go to Recreation.gov.

2. Small Local Campgrounds

If the KOAs and resort-style RV parks are all booked up, don’t forget to search locally for smaller, often family-owned, options. Although you may not have the same level of amenities, you could happen upon an option that is really charming in an area that you wouldn’t have otherwise stopped. Luckily, with so many review sites out there, you can check to make sure the campground will align with your preferences before booking.

3. County and City RV Parks

If you are on a budget, county and city RV parks can be a great option since they are most often free and may even include hookups. There is usually just a rule around how many days you can stay at these parks, but some will allow longer stays for a fee.

There are dozens of these ‘hidden gem’ parks around the country! Apps like AllStays and Campendium are a good option for finding them, but a Google Maps search is always a good idea also. 

Sue Ann Jaffarian shares more about their benefits in this GoLife article – and she even shares a few of her favorites!

4. Casinos & Fairgrounds

By now, most RVers know that some retail stores will let you park overnight in their parking lots for free (Walmart being one of the most popular – aside from in some cities). However, did you know many casinos and even fairgrounds will often allow you to stay overnight as well? Casinos are often free or collect a small fee, while some may require you to spend a certain amount to stay. Fairgrounds sometimes allow RVers to park when they are not in use, but usually require a fee upon arrival. 

However, it is key to always call ahead or go in to ask about the rules before setting up to stay overnight. Also, make sure you are parking in the correct, designated area for RVs. If unsure, make sure to confirm to avoid any issues. Of course, these will usually be no-hookup options as well.

5. State Parks

While not free, state parks can offer incredible value – especially with their proximity to great trails and other activities. It is definitely worth doing a search for state parks when planning your route!

Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada is a beautiful area with RV camping available.

The sites at these parks are usually much less expensive than at RV parks, offer more space to spread out, and have at least basic hookups. Just double check that there are no size restrictions if you are in a larger RV. Read more about RV camping at state parks in this article from the GoLife archive.

6. Harvest Hosts 

While not so much of a secret anymore, Harvest Hosts has become a favorite of RVers looking for creative camping options. With vineyards, farms, and other unique locations available for dry camping to members, this is a great option to have when searching for an overnight stay. Just be sure to always call ahead to ensure there is room for your RV, and make a point to purchase something as a thank you to the owners of the property.

7. Public Lands

Camping on public lands (specifically BLM - Bureau of Land Management) involves a little preparation since you won’t have any hookups, and you will need to research whether your RV can handle the road, but the solitude and views usually make the extra effort worth it. 

With boondocking becoming more and more popular in the RVing community, you may find the more well-known spots are full at peak travel times. However, you can still find some great options if you are willing to go a little further away from the busier destinations or more off the beaten path. Of course, always know your limits and read reviews of areas to make sure you are staying within the limits of your RV and personal off-roading skillset.

We hope this list is helpful as you plan your RV travels for the coming year. Happy camping!

Comments

User commented on April 13, 2022 7:50 PM
Excellent article and good information.
User commented on April 29, 2022 9:29 PM
What is hip camp?
User commented on April 24, 2022 10:22 AM
Hipcamp is also a reliable, last-minute camping option.
User commented on April 24, 2022 4:07 PM
We are not on a budget when RVing, but we still camp at city and county parks, US Forest Service campgrounds, Federal and state wildlife refuges and management areas, state parks, and fairgrounds because we don't like being packed into private campgrounds like sardines in a can. We even occasionally overnight at a Flying J, tribal casino, or Walmart when trying to cover long distances in a short time, like to Alaska. But our absolute favorite places to stay in established campgrounds with hookups are Corps of Engineers lakes in the East and New Mexico State Parks in the West!
User commented on April 24, 2022 5:07 PM
Great information
User commented on April 25, 2022 9:14 PM
We love to boondocking. We have found a few not far from the gates of national parks. I agree that state parks are hidden gems.
User commented on May 2, 2022 9:00 AM
How do you get in contact with haven't host to possibly be come one. [email protected]