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6 Tips for Visiting National Parks in Your RV

One of the best things about living the RV Life is getting to visit National Parks! But if you’re new to exploring these wonderful places, we have a couple of tips to share from our experiences over the last five years. Here are six tips for RVing to our amazing national parks.

Top 10 Tips for Visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in the Summer
While this video is a few years old, the advice still holds!

#1. Get An Interagency Annual Park Pass (aka a National Park Pass)

If you plan to hit 4-5+ federally managed recreation sites per year, the Interagency Annual Park Pass, or America the Beautiful National Park Pass, is a no-brainer.

While it doesn’t cover or discount your national park campsite fees, entrance fees into parks can be pretty steep. At $25-30 per car per day at some of the most popular parks, this pass can quickly pay for itself.

Here are some key points about the “America the Beautiful” interagency park pass:

Access Over 2,000 Sites Managed by Five Federal Agencies

The pass covers most recreation sites including national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, and other federal lands. Basically, anything managed by one of these 5 agencies:

  1. National Park Service (national parks, monuments, )
  2. U.S. Forest Service (national
  3. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  4. Bureau of Land Management
  5. Bureau of Reclamation.

Get the Right Interagency Pass for You

There are several types of passes available, including:

  • Annual passes
  • Senior passes – annual or lifetime passes
  • Access passes – for individuals with disabilities and mental health conditions
  • Free passes for active-duty military personnel and their dependents
  • 4th grader passes

Find out more and up-to-date prices on the website.

denali national park sign

#2. Find Great Camping Near National Parks

Many National Park sites have campgrounds in them. However, many of the popular parks (like Yellowstone and Yosemite) usually require you to book upward of 6 months in advance to get a spot. If you know you want to camp inside park boundaries, plan to book ahead of time. Otherwise, there are usually some great options just outside the park.

Note: National Parks RV Length Restrictions

Many National Park Campgrounds have RV length restrictions. Check with the campgrounds before you book to make sure you’ll fit! Many campgrounds set RV length limits at around 35 feet in length.

Many neighboring towns have RV Parks that cater to park visitors. Additionally, many National Park sites are surrounded by National Forest areas. Many of these have more basic campgrounds that are less busy or have non-reservable sites. 

Boondocking Near National Parks

Many National Forest campsites are dry campsites, so you’ll need to know how to camp off the grid.

You can often also find free boondocking sites near National Parks! Just remember, “Leave No Trace” and “Pack In/Pack Out” policies apply.

Here are some of our favorite campsites near and inside National Parks: 

Best Boondocking Spot! (Hungry Horse Resivoir) - Vlog 66

Pro Tip: You’ll love exploring these Top 9 US National Parks for Waterfall Lovers.

#3. Plan An RV-Friendly National Park Entrance Route

Many national parks have more than one entrance. For example, Yellowstone National Park has 5 entrances. Not all of them are suitable for all RVs.

Additionally, some national parks have tunnels that restrict certain RVs. For example, Yosemite’s Wawona Tunnel only has a clearance of 10 feet 2 inches at the curb.

A few other popular parks we’ve encountered limits in have been Zion (tunnel), Sequoia, and King’s Canyon National Parks (narrow, steep, winding roads). Make sure to do your research beforehand.

Pro Tip: If you want easy help with that route research, we always recommend using RV Trip Wizard. Plug in your RV specs and destination, RV Trip Wizard does the rest. They offer a 7-day free trial to check it all out.

#4. Don’t Let the Crowds Stop You

You’ve all heard about the crowds by now. In fact, many parks are implementing a timed-entry program. We’ve also all heard the advice “visit on the shoulder season.”

While that is great advice and a good way to avoid crowds, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit in the summertime. Not everyone has the luxury of coordinating travel plans around everyone else’s travel plans. 

So we’re here to tell you: visit the parks anyway!

Yes, you’ll get frustrated waiting for people to get out of your way for that perfect picture. Yes, you’ll get stuck in traffic. But, the parks are worth it! 

Here are a couple of strategies we used to avoid the peak crowds at Yellowstone in July:

  • Get up at the crack of dawn
  • Get to your “activity” before 8 AM (activity being your big hike or destination of the day) – parking lots will still be relatively empty and traffic low.
  • Find activities that are close to each other
  • Take your time with those activities
  • After your activity, take a break until around 4-5 PM – as you return to your campsite, everyone else will be trying to get to where you just were.
  • Go to your next activity when everyone else is heading back to start dinner
yosemite valley in yosemite national park

#5. Respect the Wildlife!

We’re dead serious. People die and are injured every year by wild animals in and around the national parks – and in most cases it’s because the human started it.

Please don’t become one of the statistics! Be part of the solution.

  • Do NOT approach wildlife. Even if that means you don’t get the best angle photo.
  • Do NOT feed wildlife. Even if it comes up to you, or “looks” hungry.
  • Do NOT touch wildlife. Even if it is a baby animal and its adorable.
  • SPEAK UP when you see someone else violating these rules. You could save a life!

Additionally, be mindful when you are camping in and around the national parks. This means using bear canisters and food lockers and storing trash in the designated wildlife-proof dumpsters.

Pro Tip: Worried about wildlife encounters? Learn how to use bear spray before you need to.

woman standing way too close to a ram in wild

#6. Go To The Visitor’s Center First

We personally LOVE visitor centers! Reading the exhibits and watching the park movies are some of the best ways to develop an understanding of what makes the park special in the first place.

Once you’ve learned about the park, you can ask a Park Ranger to point out on a map the things to see and do in the park that align with your interests. Looking for an easy hike? Looking to summit a mountain? Want to just do a driving tour? They’ve got you covered. 

Plus – many Visitor Centers have RV parking. Check the satellite imagery of the parking lot before you go!

National Park Junior Ranger Program for Families 

If you haven’t heard of it before, National Park have a program called the Junior Ranger Program geared towards kids! Children are provided workbooks and invited to special Ranger-led presentations to learn about the ecology and geology of the park. 

Upon completion of the workbook, your kids will be pledged in as a Junior Ranger and receive a badge for that park. How cool is that?? I honestly was a bit jealous they didn’t have a similar program for adults when I found out.

hiking in Glacier national park

Touring The National Parks By RV

We hope these tips help you out and get you excited about exploring the National Parks in your RV! If we had one final piece of advice, it would be to stop at as many National Park sites as you can – there are over 400 of them in the National Park System! 

Learn all about them HERE.

There are so many sites out there that you’ve never even heard of but are incredible in both natural beauty and historical value. Sometimes these turn out to be the most delightful surprises (and typically aren’t too crowded!)

Suggested Videos

We’ve made quite a few videos talking about our RV experience in the national parks. We recommend watching the videos below to learn more!

The RVers TV: National Park Q&A with Mortons on the Move

We did a live Q&A to answer questions about RVing in National Parks. Watch the replay below ⬇

National Park Q&A with Mortons On The Move!

Our 8 Favorite National Parks!

We share our favorite national parks from our first 2 years of travel. We’d definitely add a few more to the list by now!

8 Favorite National Parks in 2 years of Travel | Mondays with the Mortons S3E8

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About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

Believe it or not, she is rather camera shy, though she co-hosts the Mortons’ personal videos and The RVers TV show.

Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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William (Mike)Chiles

Thursday 8th of October 2020

We discovered some disbursed camping 5 miles south of Wall, SD on the route to Badlands NP. It will work only on a dry day because you cross a field that would be impassable on a wet day. There were several other boondockers out theree.