The ultimate RV bucket list
Whiskeytown Lake, California
Let’s cut to the chase: this reservoir, in north California’s Shasta County, isn’t filled with whiskey. You’ll get over the disappointment when you see the clear water and gloriously empty shingle beaches. The water’s chilly but in a way that gets your blood pumping. Park up just for a swim and a picnic, or stay overnight at the on-site RV park. Whiskey not included.
Jumbo Rocks, Joshua Tree, California
Joshua Tree National Park, less than an hour’s drive from Palm Springs, has some of the darkest skies and most bizarre landscapes in the US. From smooth domes and jumbled piles of rocks to the eponymous twisty-turny Joshua trees that stud the desert floor, it feels a lot like a filmset. Jumbo Rocks Campground has 124 much-coveted spots for tents and RVs, and each has plenty of space to absorb the strange surroundings.
Wahweap Marina, Lake Powell, Arizona
Straddling the border between Utah and Arizona, Lake Powell is a freshwater reservoir backed by canyons and colorful striped rock formations. For that sweet spot between location and convenience, Wahweap Marina’s RV site is tough to beat. There are electric hook-up sites, showers and shops, plus restaurants within walking distance. But there’s no compromising on the views which will keep your neck on a constant swivel.
Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose, Texas
You can follow in dinosaurs’ footsteps at this state park, close to Glen Rose in Texas. In fact, you can stand in their footprints, preserved on the bed of the Paluxy River. Park up by the water to go hunting for tracks or watch for birds like wild turkeys and golden-cheeked warblers. Gloriously peaceful RV sites are set in woodland clearings, a short walk from the river.
The View, Monument Valley, Arizona
The View Campground is perfectly placed for watching the sunset, as it paints Monument Valley’s famous sandstone buttes with rich, glowing shades of red and apricot. There are no hook-ups but being surrounded by Utah’s red desert sands or hunkering down under a duvet of stars tends to put little matters like that into perspective.
Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway, Finger Lakes, New York
You could spend days exploring the 86-mile scenic byway that loops around skinny Cayuga Lake in New York’s Finger Lakes region. There are wineries to visit, cute villages to explore and art studios to browse. But the best course of action is to simply park up, pull out a camping chair, sit back and soak in the views.
Bayshore, Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Pull your RV right up to the bay at this serene campground in Chesapeake Bay, which is boldly, brilliantly blue by day and shimmers in rose and lilac tones at dusk. This is the place to take a break from driving. Spend days fishing from the shore, collecting colorful beach glass from the sand or scouring the sky for bald eagles.
Mazama, Crater Lake, Oregon
This peaceful campground is seven miles from the shore of America’s deepest – and some might say most beautiful – lake. The sites, which come with fire rings, picnic tables and bear lockers, are shaded by a canopy of mountain hemlocks and ponderosa pines. Perfect for kicking back and gazing down at the shimmering sapphire water after a day of hiking around the rim.
Cook’s Chasm, Yachats, Oregon
Smoky Bear Campground, Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Time at Smoky Bear Campground in Tennessee can be as sociable or serene as you like. RV sites are spacious and tucked in their own nooks, shaded by trees. Chill out around your fire pit and picnic table, or find company at the hot tub, pool and clubhouse. Either way, it’s ideally located for some of America’s most spectacular scenery. The campground is right by the northeast entrance to the Great Smokies, where waterfalls, forested mountain ridges and black bears await.
Mattole Beach, Petrolia, California
You have to weave down misty, ribbon-like Bear Creek Road and rattle down Lighthouse Road, bumpy as a xylophone, to get to Mattole Beach Campground. It’s worth it if you manage to nab one of the 14 (tent or RV) spots right by the treacle-colored, driftwood-strewn beach. This is part of California’s ‘Lost Coast’, too wild for the Pacific Coast Highway to cut through. There are no hook-ups but each site comes with a fire ring, picnic table and rugged, romantic views.
Upper Pines, Yosemite, California
California’s Yosemite National Park is perfect for RVers. While those staying in hotels and lodges have to journey into the awe-inspiring park each day, you can step straight out of your camper, watch the early light wash over the pines, peaks and domes, and beat everyone else to the trails. Upper Pines is perfectly placed for some of the best trails, including a two-mile path to reach Mirror Lake.
Indian Beach, Ecola State Park, Oregon
Oregon’s Cannon Beach is a beautiful, honeyed, sandy stretch that draws crowds in summer. You can enjoy views of it and domed Haystack Rock from the quieter Indian Beach in Ecola State Park, a few miles north. There’s no overnight parking but RVs can stop on the bluffs during the day. Hike down to the sandy beach and tide pools or stay up top and scan the horizon for gray whales, which often pass close to the shore during their migration between December and April. Discover more animal encounters you can have in the US here.
Lone Fir, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Washington
There are just 27 first come, first serve spots for RVs or tent campers scattered around this forested campground. But it’s worth getting here early to nab one because this has some of the best views in Washington state’s vast Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Each shaded, spacious site has clear views of the snow-capped Cascades and access to trails along creeks, on paths with mountain goats and past fields that burst with wildflowers in summer.
Piñon Flats, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
Colorado is synonymous with mountains, whether they be buried beneath a thick blanket of snow or roamed by elk in spring. But mountains made out of sand? Great Sand Dunes National Park has the largest dunes in the US, with some rolling to 700 feet (213m). Piñon Flats Campground is right on the edge of this ethereal landscape, which stretches over 30 miles. Most of the 88 sites have clear views over the dunes to the more familiar (and solid) mountains behind.
Redfish Lake, Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho
When you pull into one of the spots on the shores of Redfish Lake, in Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest, you might want to cancel all other plans – because it really doesn’t get much better. Sites are steps from the water which stretches out from a smooth pebble beach. It’s perfect for paddling, swimming and kayaking, with the peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains peeping behind thick pine forest.
K’esugi Ken Campground, Denali State Park, Alaska
You might have trouble sleeping at this perfectly positioned site within Alaska’s Denali State Park. It’s not noisy or crowded – the 32 RV sites are spaced well apart and most evenings, the only sounds will be rustling leaves and birdsong – but you’ll want to keep peeking at the peak. Denali, the highest mountain peak in North America, is impeccably framed by spruce firs and pines. You’ll want to see it in every light.
White River, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
If wildflowers and wild mountain goats are your thing, this is the place to pull up for the night. White River Campground perches 4,232 feet (1,290m) above sea level on the east side of Mount Rainier National Park in Washington. Goats are often spotted grazing around the camp while scatterings of wildflowers often brighten the Glacier Basin route.
Shorewood, Rockaway Beach, Oregon
Oregon’s coastline is shockingly underrated which is brilliant luck for RVers looking for the most stunning spots without the crowds. Rockaway Beach, a charmingly craggy stretch of coastline with bluffs and natural arches, is a case in point. Pull up at overlooks to watch incredible sunsets or camp right by the sand at Shorewood RV Park.
Explore more underrated attractions in the US here.
Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington
Washington’s tropical rainforest is like something from a fairy tale: centuries-old trees are cloaked in thick moss which drips down over soft dirt paths. And you can park your RV right in the midst of this beauty at Hoh Campground. It’s open year-round so load up your RV with woollens and come in winter to see the forest dusted with snow.
Porcupine Campground, Chugach National Forest, Alaska
Beluga whales are sometimes spotted near the coast from this wooded campground, which is set atop an ocean bluff in Alaska’s Chugach National Forest. There’s direct access to two trails that wind past streams and curvy-horned Dall sheep to the summit. Be sure to set aside plenty of time for the best activity: ocean-gazing.
Otter Creek, Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a top-notch driving destination, with stretches and curves of tree-lined roads and one incredible scenic overlook after another. Otter Creek, looped by waterside and forest trails, is one of the best places to stay overnight here. The two dozen RV sites are scattered among the trees or right by the creek, so campers are soothed to sleep each night by the trickle of water and the gentle rustle of leaves.
Eel Creek, Oregon Dunes, Oregon
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is a softly rolling expanse of enormous, peachy sand hills, some of them rising 500 feet (152m) high. Eel Creek Campground nestles among coastal forest and shrubbery, including rhododendrons which create a colorful ‘wall’ between sites. It’s right next to the dunes, ready to be hiked, driven over (in an ATV) or just stared at.
Pilot Mountain, Pinnacle, North Carolina
The pine-capped crest of this mountain peeps above a thick cloak of forested slopes and can be viewed from much of North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley. The vistas are even better from up here and you can park just below the summit to stare down across the vine-striped valley to the Sautatown Mountains and Hanging Rock. Go when Pilot Mountain State Park opens to make it in time for the lilac and pink sunrise. It’s definitely worth getting up early for. Find the top sunrise spot in every state here.
Davis Bayou and Fort Pickens, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Mississippi and Florida
This skinny spit of blazingly white sand, dissected by a road, straddles Mississippi and Florida. Each state has a campground with RV sites surrounded by sand, scrub oaks and the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Or you can just pull into one of many parking areas and pad down to the water’s edge with a picnic. Imposing former military facility Fort Pickens looms on the Florida side of the park, in Pensacola Bay.
Circle Creek Overlook, City of Rocks, Idaho
Idaho’s City of Rocks is like no other city we’ve seen. There are no skyscrapers or busy streets. Instead, the landscape is strewn with granite monoliths and pinyon pines, the air is fragrant with sagebrush and most of the residents have wings. This is a bird-watcher’s paradise with more than 170 species from burrowing owls to mountain bluebirds. Drive your RV up a narrow, twisty road to this overlook for soul-soaring views across the national reserve.
Ridgeline Campground, Cumberland Falls, Kentucky
Camp at this Kentucky state park on a full moon to see a moonbow (lunar rainbow) emerge from the base of Cumberland Falls, the largest waterfall south of Niagara. It’s pretty glorious on other nights (and days) too. The 125-foot (38m), broad cascade empties into a gorge scattered with boulders and there are opportunities for rafting, canoeing or just bobbing about in the water.
Apostle Islands Area Campground, Lake Superior, Wisconsin
The most coveted sites at this laid-back RV resort gaze across the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, a wild scattering of islets, coves and tree-topped cliffs on the edge of Lake Superior in Wisconsin. Others are in wooded clearings, so tucked away it feels like you have the whole place to yourself. Cruises and kayak tours around the islands and sea caves depart from a beach just a mile away.
Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key, Florida
Sites understandably fill fast at this idyllic state park in the Florida Keys. With ghostly pale beaches, spindly palm trees and an endless expanse of blue, it’s paradise. If you don’t manage to nab an overnight spot, this is an essential stop en route to Key West. There are plenty of places to pull up right by the sand and enjoy views of old Bahia Honda State Bridge, a remnant of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad, jutting over the water.
Arch Rock, Valley of Fire, Nevada
Nevada’s Valley of Fire wasn’t named lightly. This is 40,000 acres of blazing, swirling red and orange sandstone, with peaks, arches, stacks and slot canyons popping against a backdrop of pale gray limestone mountains. Arch Rock Campground, named for one of the park’s most famous structures, lets you stay right in the heart of it. Start the day watching the first rays of sun illuminate the rock and end it under a carpet of stars.
Ozark Campground, Buffalo National River, Arkansas
It takes a three-mile bumpy gravel road to reach Ozark Campground but you’ll be glad you made the effort. The 31 sites are right by the edge of Arkansas’ Buffalo National River which winds, crashes and pools for 135 miles through the Ozark Mountains. The campground is fairly basic but there are bathrooms, picnic tables and fire rings. With direct water access plus caverns and a pale turquoise swimming hole just a few strokes away, you’ll probably cope.
Many Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana
This is one of the most popular campgrounds in Montana’s Glacier National Park and for good reason. Several good reasons, actually. Those who manage to get a spot will sleep amid a forest of towering Douglas firs and lodgepole pines, and to a soundtrack of a trickling creek. This park sits at an elevation of around 4,500 feet (1,372m), with easy access to hikes leading to waterfalls, peaks and the park’s famed mirror lakes.
Assateague Island, Maryland
The Maryland portion of this barrier island (which also stretches into Virginia) has several RV camping spots right by its pale, biscuit dunes. The landscape of rolling sand hills, shrubs and endless Atlantic Ocean views would be enough of a draw. Add in around 150 wild ponies which can frequently be seen grazing on dune grass or snoozing in the sand and it’s pretty much perfection.
East Rim, Cloudland Canyon, Georgia
Georgia’s Cloudland Canyon State Park has several campgrounds but road-trippers looking for wide open spaces and proximity to vistas of the forest-clad canyon should motor on to the East Rim. Facilities are on the basic side, with just one shower block, but you didn’t just come here to wash, right? The campground is also close to trails winding deep into the canyon, passing waterfalls and caves.
Norris Campground, Yellowstone, Wyoming
From the bubbling, turquoise-rimmed Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful geyser to lakes, forests and plateaus roamed by black bears, bison and wolves, there’s enough to see and do in Yellowstone for several road trips. Norris Campground has just seven, much-coveted, RV spots tucked in the alpine heart of the park, a short distance from Norris Geyser Basin. Plan the perfect northern Wyoming road trip with our guide.
Isla Blanca Park, South Padre Island, Texas
You’re never far from the water on South Padre Island, a barrier island off the southern coast of Texas and lapped by the Gulf of Mexico. And you could hardly get closer to it than Isla Blanca Park. It’s on the southern tip of the island with views of water either side. Stay here for walks on the beach, swaying palm trees and vivid sunsets.
Shawme-Crowell State Forest, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Sites are spread over 700 acres of pine and oak forest at this serene preserve on Cape Cod, the ruggedly beautiful peninsula that curls like a flexed arm off the coast of Massachusetts. Even though it’s popular, you can pretty much guarantee a pocket of peace and quiet when you park up. There are around 15 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails leading through forest to sandy shores, and campers get free access to nearby Scusset Beach.
Read more: America’s most magical road trips revealed
Jekyll Island, Glynn County, Georgia
Take the southern charm of Savannah, strip away the crowds and transport it to the seashore, and you have something close to Jekyll Island, one of Georgia’s Golden Isles. Park your RV between elegant oaks, whose branches trail velvety strands of Spanish moss, and spend days following woodland trails and pottering along soft honey beaches strewn with driftwood.
Read more: The most beautiful weekend road trip in every state
Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
It’s only a two-hour drive from Chicago to Starved Rock State Park but it instantly feels like a different world – sandstone canyons, bald eagles soaring over the Illinois River and waterfalls that freeze mid-flow in winter. There’s just one campground and it fills fast on summer weekends, but head here during the week (especially in winter) and it’s blissfully quiet.
Read more: 30 essential road trip tips you need before you set off
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