Giancarlo and Erik hail from Los Angeles and have been traveling the United States in their travel trailer for almost two years. Once the pandemic hit, both their jobs went remote, which inspired them to move their office backdrop to some of the country's most beautiful landscapes. With their dog Juno, they've traveled to 38 states, 30 national parks, and are still on the road checking off as many bucket list items as possible.
Three of the Most RV-Friendly National Parks
GIANCARLO DAMIANI AND ERIK LEAZURE
With 63 U.S. national parks and multiple campground options for each, it might feel like an overwhelming number of options to choose from. To help, we’ve narrowed down the list to include our favorite national parks and campgrounds, and some fun things to do to maximize your trip.
1. Fruita Campground at Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef is one of Utah’s “mighty five” national parks, and Fruita campground feels like its hidden oasis. Located right in the middle of the park and a mile south of the visitor center, Fruita campground is the ideal spot for anyone who wants to experience the unparalleled beauty of Utah, without all of the crowds. Fruita Campground has 71 campsites and is open from March 1st to October 31st. You’ll also have access to water, restrooms and a dump station. There are three loops in the campground: A, B and C. The maximum RV length is 40 feet for loops A and B, and 52 feet for loop C.
- Fruit Picking: The campground gets its name due to the many orchards that still remain from the pioneer communities of the 1880s. Depending on the time of year, you can gather apples, apricots, pears, peaches, and plums. It’s free to taste the fruit but if you want to bring any home there is a self-pay station near the entrance.
- Fremont River: Part of what makes growing fruit possible at Capitol Reef is the Fremont River, which goes right through the Fruita campground. You can walk along the river via an adjacent trail or if the temperature is right, indulge in a dip!
- Wildlife: You will notice the Pendleton Barn and its friendly horses at Fruita campground, but even more exciting is the vast amount of mule deer that roam the grounds. It is not uncommon to look outside your RV window and see deer standing in your campsite.
- Gifford House Store & Museum: The Gifford House was originally built in 1908 and used by early pioneers to raise cows, hogs, sheep, chickens, and ducks. Now a museum, it’s typically open from March 14 to October 31 from 8:00am to 4:30pm.
- Cohab Canyon Trail: Near the Pendleton Barn, you’ll find a trailhead for the Cohab Canyon Trail. It’s a three mile moderate trail with scenic views and impressive rock formations.
- Additional Attractions: Petroglyphs, Historic Fruita School, Capitol Dome, The Castle, Chimney Rock, and Panorama Point.
2. Buffalo Gap National Grasslands at Badlands National Park
Located in the eastern part of Badlands National Park, Buffalo Gap is a stunning place to do some boondocking. There is plenty of open space and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land to find a great spot. We were able to park right on the edge of a cliff overlooking miles and miles of the Badlands. And for anyone who loves movies, this is the same place where they filmed Nomadland! There is no water and no hookups at Buffalo Gap. There are also no restrooms or dumpsters, and no fires allowed. However, you can run your generator any time of the day.
- There are no assigned or reservable campsites at Buffalo Gap. The area is open for dry camping—just show up and find your free camp spot. Use the following GPS coordinates to help: 43.8898000, -102.2270000.
- The sunsets and calmness of the surrounding area is simply unbeatable. Plus, you might spot some bighorn sheep roaming the grasslands!
- Despite the remoteness of the location, there is plenty of reliable cell service.
- Be prepared for windy conditions—this region of South Dakota is known for it. Try to angle your RV accordingly to help minimize sway.
3. Joshua Tree National Park
One of nine national parks in California, Joshua Tree offers a near-endless number of camping options. There are 500 campsites within the park, including a mix of reservation and first-come, first-serve sites. And this doesn’t even include the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) section that offers free dry camping. While most of the established campgrounds in Joshua Tree have a maximum RV length of 35 feet, the BLM areas have no RV restrictions. However, you can only camp on BLM land for a maximum of 14 days.
- Indian Cove: There are plenty of impressive rock formations at Indian Cove campground, many of which you can climb. This is also one of the only campgrounds at Joshua Tree that’s within driving distance to restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations. There is no potable water here but there is a small ranger station with water two miles north. There is no access to dump stations or showers, and cell service is minimal.
- Jumbo Rocks: Jumbo Rocks Campground is located right in the heart of Joshua Tree. Nearby attractions include Skull Rock, Hidden Valley, Barker Dam, and Keys Ranch. With 124 sites, Jumbo Rocks claims the most campsites of any campground in Joshua Tree. There is no access to dump stations or showers, and cell service is minimal.
- Cottonwood: This campground has 62 sites and is easily accessible from the nearby highway. The Cottonwood Visitor Center is a great place to check out and is located just outside the entrance to the campground. There’s a dump station and potable water, but no cell service.
Every national park offers something unique, from its campgrounds and scenery, to its history and activities. We have loved getting to explore the country through national parks, and being able to do it in an RV makes it all the more special.
Travel trailers are the most popular type of non-motorized RV. No doubt you’ve seen one pulled down the highway hitched to a car or pickup. Travel trailers come in all sizes including tiny jellybean-shaped models with a chuckwagon kitchen in the rear to the massive house-on-wheels with picture windows and a sliding glass patio door.
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