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Back That Baby Up: Making Sure Your Camper Meets National Park RV Length Restrictions

There’s nothing quite like spending the summer enjoying nature cruising from park to park in your travel trailer taking in all that nature one campground at a time. As you make your plans, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

The size of your vehicle, available hook up options at the campgrounds, and whether or not Fido will be joining you on this trip are essential aspects to consider. 

RV Size Restrictions

Before you head out this summer, you should make sure that your home-away-from-home meets the national park RV length restrictions. Otherwise, even the best-laid plans can go awry after being denied permission to camp because your RV is just too long.

Each of the sixty-one national parks in the United States has different RV length restriction. These aren’t arbitrary measurements. Most parks have length restrictions so that you’ll be able to negotiate the winding roads that lead in and out of the designated campsites.

As you peruse RVs for sale and before you purchase a recreational vehicle, you should know that the average national park RV length restriction is 27 feet. Some parks allow Class A motorhomes as long as 40 feet while others have a restricting 20 feet limit.

If your RV is less than 12 feet, you shouldn’t have any problems with national park RV length restrictions at any of the campgrounds. However, there are a handful of parks that prohibit RVs of any size.

Approximately 98% of national park campgrounds can accommodate RVs up to 19 feet long. You still have a good selection if your RV is smaller than 25 feet more than 90% of parks permit that length.

The number of available campsites drops if your RV is 29 to 32 feet long since about 80% of parks will let you in. If you have an RV up to 35 feet, just over 70% will have room for you. Only about half of all national parks have sufficient space for RVs over 37 feet in length.

Even if the park you plan on visiting allows larger RVs, they may have only a few slots available to accommodate them. For instance, Yosemite Valley has twelve 40-foot sites. If twelve people already have reservations, there won’t be any room for your behemoth RV no matter what the sign says about accommodations.

If you have a pull-behind trailer rather than an RV, there is a different set of length restrictions you may need to look over before booking your campsite. These are often found in parks that have back-in sites with a limited turn radius. These restrictions apply to any trailers your RV may be towing as well.

In these instances, you should consider the total length of your motorhome and trailer when planning your trip. Your insurance company might not cover damage sustained to your vehicle because you did not heed the national park RV length restrictions.

Remember, if your RV doesn’t fit, you won’t be able to pull off the side of the road in a national park or stay overnight in parking areas. If your RV is over 40 feet in length, you should consider campgrounds outside of the federal park jurisdiction.

If you discover that your RV is too large to travel to those lovely national parks on your bucket list, consider renting an RV for your trip. Or you might decide to sell or trade your big back end RV for a shorter model after visiting your local RV manufacturers

RV Hookups

Now that you are sure your RV will fit the camping compound, it’s time to take a look at the hookups the site offers. Some national parks have dump stations and electrical connections, and some don’t.

A campground that is advertised as full hookup has electricity, water, and sewer connections. Some even have cable, phone lines, and Wi-Fi if you can’t live without those for a few days. A partial hook up camping site does not usually have a sewer line you can connect to your RV.

However, it often has dump stations where you can offload your holding tanks.

Most RVs use 30-amp electricity, although larger models might use 50-amps. Many campgrounds that provide electricity have both types of hookups. If the one you are camping at only has one or the other, you can step up or down the power source with specialized electrical cords.

You might also come across the terms RV Electric, Standard Nonelectric, RV Nonelectric, and Tent Only Nonelectric as you consider your campground options. The RV Electric designation means that the site has electric hookups and most likely water as well.

Either campers with tents or RVs can use Standard Nonelectric sites, providing there is enough space for the size of vehicle you are driving. No hookups are available as any facility that is classified nonelectric.

Tent Only Nonelectric may not have the capacity for you to maneuver in your RV. You’ll have more room at sites classified as RV Nonelectric. To find out what type of services are available at each campground you can check each park’s website or the National Park Service listing online.

If you are camped in a nonelectric site, you can still use a generator for your electricity needs at some national parks. However, most parks restrict the times you can run and noise level of generators, vehicles, and radios.

Typically, you will not be able to run your generator between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am. If it has a noise level higher than 60 decibels at a 50-foot distance, you won’t be able to use no matter what the time of day it is. Therefore, plan your recharging sessions accordingly.

Other Considerations When Visiting National Parks

There are a few other things you’ll need to keep in mind.

Length of Stay

Even if you find a campsite at a national park that meets all your needs, you cannot stay there indefinitely. All parks impose limitations on the length of time you can stay in one place.

In most cases, you must move on after 14 consecutive days, but the exact amount of time varies from park to park.

Trip Timing

It’s no surprise that the summer months are busy times at most national parks. The kids are home from school, and it just makes sense that families head to sleep under the stars during June, July, and August.

If you have a smaller RV, you might not have any issues finding a campground even on the most crowded days.

The larger your RV, the fewer spots are available generally. In that case, you might want to reschedule your trip for the late spring or early fall rather than brave the crowds at the height of summer.

Wild Animals

National parks are the natural habitats of many wild animals that will help themselves to your food, given the slightest opportunity. It is your duty to secure your items from scavengers.

Keep food out of sight, preferably in a bear box. If you don’t have one, hanging your food in a tree might keep it safe, provided it’s hung higher than the animal can reach.

Make sure to close windows, doors, and vents at night and when you are absent from your RV. You don’t want to come back to any of Goldilocks’ bears eating your porridge, do you?

No matter how cute those little critters are, refrain from feeding them. It doesn’t take much for that darling squirrel to get accustomed to humans and become aggressive. Not to mention the fact that people food can make animals quite sick.

Pets

Many people like to bring their pets along with them when camping. Most national parks permit dogs to enter their facilities free of charge, but there are some rules pet owners must follow. All dogs must have a 6-foot or shorter leash on at all times.

You cannot leave man’s best friend tied up at camp, but most parks allow you to let your pal stay in the RV provided there is adequate ventilation.  

Dogs are not allowed to walk with you on the trails, but you can take them for walks at the campground, picnic areas, and paved roads. Cleaning up after your dog is a must as well.

Be sure to check whether your proposed campground allows pets at the National Park Service website. Some parks even host special events for pets and their owners.

RV Friendly Service Stations

Driving from national park to national park means eating up a lot of miles along the highway. Several states have begun RV friendly symbols on highway service signs to let you know there is room for your wide load at that establishment.

Rest areas and service stations that are RV friendly have at least a 12-foot broad roadway access which is free from overhead obstructions including electrical wires 14 feet above the ground. There is a minimum 50-foot swing radius to enter and exit the area.

Areas where short-term parking is permitted like restaurants, rest areas, and tourist attractions have at least two parking spaces that are 12 x 65 feet. Campgrounds that are RV friendly have at least two spaces that are 18 x 45 feet large.

Look for RV friendly logo in California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington.

Final Thoughts

Knowing the national park RV length restrictions, hookup options and pet regulations ahead of time will save you a headache whether you visit a national park with your tow-behind pop-up or Class A RV. Take the time to plan your travel well and Bon Voyage!