Photo: Marc Venema/Shutterstock

RVs Are the Way to Travel This Summer. Here's Where to Hit the Road.

United States Road Trips Camping
by Jacqueline Kehoe Jun 1, 2020

When social-distancing norms came into place, the RV industry looked at itself, blinked, and realized it was about to experience a silver lining in an otherwise tough global situation. If there’s any moment that RV life would take over the world, it’d be this one.

And so far, “taking over the world” it just might. A recent survey conducted by the Cairn Consulting Group shows that Americans and Canadians are — more than ever — hard-pressed to find ways to travel, get into nature, and break from the daily chaos but with quarantine still in mind. In other words, we’re ready to hit the outdoors for RV adventures.

For starters, it’s just safer. You’re self-contained. No shared toilet seats, no stuffing into a flying sardine tube. You could still, technically, be under strict quarantine while traveling the country, provided that you’re stocked up on supplies. And it’s cheaper than a lot of options — given the current economic climate, that’s a big no-brainer. Its only rival in terms of budgeting is camping, and RVing comes without the sacrifice. You have your own space, plus many amenities offered at a resort.

If you’re lucky enough to have access to your home on wheels, where should you go? These options are beautiful and located along major road-trip routes in the US, meaning there are plenty of places to refuel and relax.

One important note: We do not want to suggest you bombard beautiful places, rural areas, or small towns. Ideally, you will gather all your supplies where you live and make minimal stops during your trip. Keep to yourself as much as possible, and have a plan B at the ready. If your destination looks busy, pass it.

For hiking adventures

Ridgway State Park, Colorado

Photo: Patrick Jennings/Shutterstock

Ridgway State Park is like a best-of outdoor buffet. Yes, the hiking is great. There are 14 miles of trails in the park. But nearby is Box Canyon Falls, Cascade Falls Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (hello, dark skies), and the San Juan National Forest. Lush hills, waterfalls, and gorgeous mountain peaks are all at your doorstep, there to enjoy.

The state park also has a five-mile-long reservoir that’s great for wakeboarding, waterskiing, windsurfing, and boating. While you’re here, be sure to get a glance at Ouray, known as the Switzerland of America because it’s surrounded by towering rocky peaks that resemble famous Swiss mountains like the Matterhorn.

The park’s Dakota Terraces Campground offers year-round RV camping sites. All Colorado state parks require camping reservations as of January 2020, so let them know in advance that you’re coming, even if it’s day-of. A site complete with hook-ups runs $32 per night.

Devil’s Lake State Park, Wisconsin

Photo: MarynaG/Shutterstock

Twenty-nine miles of hiking trails unfurl around this ancient river gorge, now a glacial lake sparkling under 500-foot quartzite bluffs. A section of the 1,200-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail winds up and along the lake’s western ridge, granting fantastic views. Paddleboards and kayaks are also available for rent.

All three campgrounds welcome RVs, though only Northern Lights and Quartzite offer hook-ups. Rates are $20 per night for residents of Wisconsin and $25 for non-residents, the state’s best sunrise included. Explore the campground and make a reservation via the park’s website.

Crown Villa RV Resort, Oregon

Crown Villa is known for its spacious sites (with patios and storage) and for being the best RV spot in Bend, Oregon. The resort also includes access to the spa, bocce ball, and pickleball courts. Being right in town, Bend’s outsized attractions are just a few minutes away — namely the Deschutes National Forest. There are 100+ trails in the area, some leading to crystal-blue lakes, gigantic waterfalls, mountain peaks, and lazy rivers. Rates start at $45 per night this summer, but that gets you into a resort-like lounge area complete with a game room, business center, hot tub, steam rooms, and more.

For water adventures

Priest Lake State Park, Idaho

Photo: Hanjo Hellmann/Shutterstock

Northern Idaho has three amazing lakes, but Priest Lake is by far the most natural and pristine. With 80 miles of shoreline, the Selkirk Mountains to the east, and state and national forests on practically all sides, it is one of those treasures that highlight a trip.

Rent a canoe — or bring your own — and navigate the park’s quiet, hidden coves. Be sure to follow the 2.5-mile inlet to Upper Priest Lake, an even more serene spot only welcome to boaters and hikers. Pull up on the shore to take a break for huckleberry picking, in season.

Each of Priest Lake State Park’s three campgrounds offers RV sites: Indian Creek is open year-round. Make reservations through the state’s portal. Rates start at $24 per night.

Chula Vista RV Resort, California

This is about as luxury as RV camping gets. Right on San Diego Bay, Chula Vista has impeccable grounds, marina access, bike trails, live music, a swimming pool and spa, a workout space, and pet-friendly areas. Bayside Park and San Diego National Wildlife Refuge are just across the way, too. Even if you don’t have a boat, you can swim, fish, paddleboard, kayak, or just wander the paths by the water, taking in the views of San Diego Bay. Rates hover slightly over $100 per night.

Camp Hatteras RV Resort and Campground, North Carolina

Cape Hatteras is the US’s first national seashore, and it stretches for 100-plus miles along North Carolina’s famed Outer Banks, from the Pamlico Sound to the Atlantic Ocean. Stay at the Camp Hatteras RV Resort and Campground and you’ll have the water on either side of you, giving you access to wild adventures on the waves or quieter moments paddling the sound.

The resort is massive, with 400 campsites with full hookups, cable, and WiFi. You’ll also get access to the camp store, swimming pools and hot tub, bike rentals, mini-golf, and bathhouses. Plan to spend slightly over $100 per night over the summer.

For national park adventures

Wonderland RV Park, Utah

Photo: Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock

Wonderland RV Park is within three hours of five national parks: It’s just five minutes from Capitol Reef, two hours from Bryce, 2.5 hours from Arches, just under three hours from Canyonlands, and three hours from Zion. You’ll overstay your welcome before you could ever run out of things to do.

The resort itself has all the basics covered: Free WiFi, cable, basketball courts, lawn games, and even fishing, with rates starting around $50 per night.

Riverbend RV Park, California

Right on the Kings River, Riverbend RV Park sits at the gateway to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Because California proliferates with big-ticket attractions, that means you’re also only 90 minutes from Yosemite and fewer than three hours from Pinnacles. Streams that flow into the Kings River flow through the 30-acre resort, giving it a calming, natural feel. You’ll spend your non-park time playing cornhole, horseshoes, and letting Fido run free in the designated dog park. Rates start at $50 per night.

Midway RV Park, Washington

Photo: Bill45/Shutterstock

Around three hours from Mt. Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades National Park, Midway RV Park is truly “midway.” It’s smack dab in the middle of at least three national forests to boot, meaning whichever direction you head away in is a good one.

With 60-foot-plus sites, the biggest of big rigs can find a comfy home at Midway — and the food is equally “comfort”-based at Judy’s Country Kitchen, on site. There’s a fully equipped rec hall, and the views are pine-clad wherever you look. Rates start at just over $50 per night.

For “backcountry” adventures

While it is technically possible to take an RV out into the backcountry for “wild camping,” the below is a short list of off-the-beaten-track destinations, with campgrounds that have few, if any, amenities for RVers. They may not be backcountry per se, but they’re the next best thing.

Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forests, Colorado

Photo: Marilyn D. Lambertz/Shutterstock

The Boulder Ranger District, just west of the eponymous city in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, has seven campgrounds, five of which are open to RVers. They do offer hook-ups, dump stations, and showers. You’ll be tucked quietly into a glacial valley or near an old mining town, experiencing a slower side of Colorado than its busier national parks.

With 1.5 million acres — the forests are managed together along with Pawnee National Grassland — you’ve got quite the backyard to explore. There are hundreds of miles of trails to choose from just in this district alone. Check out this list if you’d like to get overwhelmed.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Stunning sunrise in Big Bend National Park

Photo: Dean Fikar/Shutterstock

It’s uncommon, but primitive RV-compatible sites do exist in national parks. Big Bend has 11 that meet the cut for vehicles under 30 feet, though they are roadside, and generator use isn’t allowed. Sites are little more than a flat area to park with no distractions and great views — but that’s all you need, right? Do note that you need a permit for these sites as they are in high demand. Be sure to reserve early.

Superior National Forest, Minnesota

Photo: Sharon Day/Shutterstock

In the Gunflint Ranger District of Superior National Forest, stretching from Lake Superior all the way up to the Canadian border, eight campgrounds are suitable for RVers — though not all include electricity. Every site is pretty remote, in a heavily wooded area, and quiet, quiet, quiet.

Here you can fish in the Cascade River, go in search of the wildlife that abounds, and get proverbially lost in the pines. There are countless lakes and trails to wander up here, too, each far, far away from any WiFi signal or any reminder of city life.

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