National parks offer some of the most breathtaking outdoor experiences in the United States. However, not all national park campgrounds and campsites can accommodate large RVs. So, what is the best RV length for national parks?
In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about RV size and national parks, including which national parks are big rig friendly, which ones are better for smaller RVs, and how to measure the length of your RV. Let’s dig in!
Most National Park Campgrounds (and Campsites) Weren’t Built for Big Rigs
Before delving into the specifics of RV sizes and national parks, it’s essential to understand that most national park campgrounds and campsites were not originally designed with large RVs in mind. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built many of these campgrounds decades ago. President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the CCC in 1933 as part of the New Deal to help conservation efforts and put hundreds of thousands of young men to work. In the following years, the CCC constructed roadways, campsites, shelters, and parking areas. Their work eventually turned into the National Park infrastructure we enjoy today.
We didn’t have big rigs in the 1930s. Most RVs were travel trailers ranging from 13 to 30 feet long and tent camping was the norm. As a result, the infrastructure accommodated smaller vehicles. Now, you’ll only find a handful of campsites in some national park campgrounds that can accommodate big rigs.
What Size RV Is Best for National Parks?
The ideal RV size for national park visits often depends on various factors, including the parks you plan to visit, the available campgrounds, and your personal preferences. Generally, RVs with a length of 32 feet or less tend to have more flexibility when finding suitable campsites within national parks. With this length, you can visit up to 73% of the United States National Parks.
Nevertheless, 25 to 27 feet or under is the best RV length. With this size, you’ll explore upwards of 93% of the national parks. We love visiting the national parks in our 26-foot truck camper. It’s easily maneuverable through small campsites and winding roads. We can also bring our camper on our explorations instead of leaving it at the campsite. If you want to bring your pets and gear wherever you go, a smaller rig could be a solution.
What Size RV Is Too Big for National Parks?
While there is no strict definition of an “RV that’s too big” for national parks, RVs exceeding 35 feet long will face more challenges when visiting these natural wonders. Most national parks have mountains, narrow roads, and tunnels with size restrictions. It can be uncomfortable – or near impossible – to drive around in a big rig. Moreover, the campgrounds you have access to will be more limited if you’re over 35 feet. When we travel in our 45-foot motorhome, we usually stop outside the park and drive in instead of staying within the park.
Which National Parks Are Big Rig Friendly?
While it’s true that many national parks have limitations regarding RV size, some parks are more accommodating to larger rigs than others. Here are a few national parks visitors know to be big rig-friendly.
Everglades National Park, Florida
Located in the beautiful Everglades National Park, Flamingo Campground in Florida offers several RV sites with generous lengths, making it suitable for larger rigs. With massive paved pull-through sites, you’ll maneuver through this area with ease in even the largest fifth-wheel or motorhome.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Sitting on the rocky shores of Acadia National Park, Schoodic Woods Campground offers larger campsites that can accommodate RVs up to 45 feet long. Each campsite has water, electricity, a picnic table, and a fire ring.
Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
Hot Springs National Park is America’s smallest national park. At only 5,550 acres, it’s a beautiful blend of metropolis life and natural beauty. Luckily, it can easily accommodate RVs of all sizes. If you’re looking for a place to stay in your big rig, Gulpha Gorge Campground is the place for you. This campground can accommodate RVs up to 60 feet long and offers convenient access to the park’s attractions.
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grand Teton National Park is another welcoming destination for big rigs, north of Jackson, WY. Gros Ventre Campground accommodates RVs up to 45 feet long. It has paved sites and roads and is in a prime spot for exploring the park.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Are you planning on exploring Grand Canyon National Park with a large RV? You’re in luck. Trailer Village RV Park offers full hookups and can accommodate RVs up to 50 feet long, making it an excellent choice for people visiting the Grand Canyon. All the sites are paved and pull-through with picnic tables at each camping spot.
Best National Parks For Smaller RVs
If you have a smaller RV or prefer the flexibility it offers, you can comfortably explore all of America’s National Parks. However, the following parks are particularly restrictive and are best for small RVs.
Glacier National Park
With its narrow, winding mountain roads, it’s best to explore Glacier National Park with a smaller RV. This is especially true at higher elevations, when there may be snow or ice even in the summer. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a destination you don’t want to miss, as it offers stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains. Nevertheless, it has strict size restrictions, prohibiting vehicles longer than 21 feet. This includes the length of a towing setup.
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is another destination you’ll want to explore with a small RV or an all-wheel drive vehicle. Because giant sequoias only grow in high elevations, you’ll need to traverse extremely steep winding mountain roads to catch a glimpse of these colossal beauties. In winter, the park requires chains on your vehicle’s tires. Believe us, you’ll be happy you have them.
Yosemite National Park
Like Sequoia National Park, Yosemite also has steep, winding mountain roads. The valley can be extremely challenging for larger RVs due to narrow roads and steep grades. It also has narrow tunnels with size restrictions. The park can become extremely crowded during the busy season, making parking especially difficult for large rigs. Because of this, we highly recommend exploring Yosemite National Park in a small RV or van.
Joshua Tree National Park
Although Joshua Tree National Park doesn’t have steep, winding roads like Yosemite and Sequoia, the campgrounds in Joshua Tree have strict size limitations. If you’re lucky, you might find a campground that accommodates RVs up to 35 feet, but most are limited to 25 feet or smaller. Luckily, there are boondocking opportunities near Joshua Tree, like the BLM Dispersed Camping area by the north entrance. This dry lake bed can accommodate rigs of all sizes, but be wary of rain.
Kings Canyon National Park
Next to Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon also has the steep, winding mountain roads of the Sierra Nevadas. The roads leading to Grant Grove and Cedar Grove are very challenging for larger RVs. We recommend exploring the park with a small, rugged RV or van.
How to Measure the Length of Your RV
Knowing the exact length of your RV can help you make informed decisions when planning your national park trip. But how do you find these exact measurements?
Have someone hold the end of a tape measure at the front bumper of your RV and measure to the rear bumper. This measurement represents the overall length of your RV. If you don’t have any accessories or tow vehicles, your job is done. However, if you have attachments that extend beyond the rear bumper like bike racks or storage, you’ll want to factor those into the overall measurement.
Remember that when roads have length restrictions, they usually mean the overall length of your vehicle and anything else you’re towing. If you have a motorhome and are towing a car, you’ll need to consider the overall length of your RV, tow bar or dolly, and the vehicle.
When in doubt, you can always verify the measurements with your RV’s manufacturer or use the owner’s manual to confirm the accurate length.
Plan Your National Park Trip Accordingly
National parks offer unparalleled opportunities for RV enthusiasts to connect with nature and experience the great outdoors. While the ideal RV size for national parks varies, smaller RVs have much more flexibility regarding campground access and maneuverability. However, with careful planning and research, all RVers can enjoy these protected landscapes and create lasting memories. It might mean camping outside of the park and using another vehicle to explore.
Do you have an ideal RV size for exploring the national parks? Let us know in the comments!
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