OK…So now that camping season has officially been started, here’s a post that is long in the making. And we will start by jumping to the end…Buy What You Want. Don’t worry about if you will fit.
When you have been traveling as long as we have, you’re bound to get the same questions over and over again. One big question on people’s minds is if they buy a 40+ foot motorhome will they have issues finding places to park it or may fit into our National, State or County parks?
Well…The answer is yes and no as to getting into parks. We started out our travels in a 2008 Gulf Stream Tour Master that was a 43-foot diesel pusher and tow vehicle. Well, you know the saying….Location, Location, Location. It really is going to depend on a few factors like where you may want to go.
First off, remember that our highway system across the US is made for big rigs. As such, you will NOT have an issue traveling on interstates, highways, expressways, nor most roads for that matter. Sure, you can come across a bridge that can be to low, but that will be on side roads, parkways, town roads, etc. We personally have not yet run into any issues with not being able to go somewhere we wanted based on size. Ok, wait, there was one….State HWY 1 in California. It is a great scenic drive that just will not handle large rigs due to the hairpin turns. If you tried this, you will see that as you tried to come around a corner that your rig will end up crossing into the on coming traffic. Never a good thing. But besides that, for us, we have not been able to reach somewhere we wanted to be one way or another. Heck, we have been all the way to Newfoundland with a 43-foot motorhome and spent 1.5 month traveling all the areas.
Quick suggestion if you are considering a big rig, or if you have one, is to purchase a Motor Carriers Road Atlas and take a look around the country on paper. This is a special atlas that shows what roads are OK for larger rigs. You may also want to look into a GPS that has maps and data points for RV’s or trucks such as the TripMaker RVND 7710. These types of GPS’s are not your normal GPS as they allow for you to put in the size & weight of your motorhome and will map you around items such as low clearance and weight restrictions. (NOTE…ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION TO SIGNS!!! Maps DO NOT know if three new inches of asphalt was put down making a 14 foot tall bridge now 13 feet 9 inches. Not paying attention can make for a very bad day. We also suggest if you see “trucker” routes, take them. After all, you are as big as they are and someone would like you to take that road for some reason. (You do not need to pull into weigh stations unless directed to do so.)
Our National Parks were built before big rigs were even around. No one back then thought that we would have 45-foot motorhomes for “camping”. When you consider how old a park may be, it’s sites may be smaller unless it has it been upgraded to accommodate larger rigs. Based on budgets etc, it is not likely that the government spent such money. In the chance that money was spent to upgraded the sites or add sites to accommodate larger rigs, have the roads? They may be tighter turns and be narrower if the campground was originally set up for smaller rigs. We have come across some campgrounds in National parks where there was no way we would fit, while others we have been to were no issue at all. (It should go without saying…Watch for low tree limbs also.)
A good source to find out if you would fit is, of course, the campgrounds or park service website. They usually always list the maximum size rig they can accommodate. That being said, Google Maps can be your friend in this as well. Just go to Google Maps and look at an overhead shot of the campground. You can see how heavily treed the area is, how close together the sites are and even how tight the turns may be. This will give you a good idea but remember, Google Maps can also be outdated depending on when they took the overhead shot. So if you still have your doubts, call the campground office.
Most National parks and State parks are going towards an online reservation system. One nice feature about some of these online reservation systems is that they will show you a picture of the actual site you are looking to book. You usually just have to hover over the site on the map and a picture will appear. We really like this feature. It can give you a good sense of whether you indeed can fit in a particular site or not.
When I was looking through our old photos, I came across some places that I felt we had just been to but in actuality we were there years ago. It’s these types of places that really stay with you and being able to stay right on site, at the park, is a great way to really enjoy the full experience.
When we stayed in the Badlands in South Dakota, we were right in the park. They also have a small hotel and restaurant but we kept to ourselves in our rig. The site we had just fit our 43-foot motorhome at the time.
While visiting the Grand Canyon we stayed at Trailer Village (not run by park services) right in the park itself. It is big rig friendly but they do pack you in there. It’s easily maneuverable though if you take your time and know where you are going, there are lots of roads throughout the campground. The picture I have above of the Grand Canyon campground isn’t the greatest as I was focusing on the wildlife that wanders throughout the campground. You can see our current motorhome in the background, the 45 foot 2014 Tiffin Allegro Bus with our tow vehicle. And yes, the Elk you see were THAT CLOSE to the motorhome. Just walking through without a care in the world.
State Parks are also a great way to get away and see the sites. We have found quite a few that can accommodate larger rigs. One of our favorites and one that we like to visit every time we are in the area is Picacho Peak State Park in Arizona. It’s between Tucson and Phoenix and right off the highway, yet really quiet and peaceful.
While in the Denver area we always stay at Cherry Creek State Park but we have heard from other RVers that Colorado has some wonderful state parks that are big rig friendly.
One thing to keep in mind is if a park offers full hook-ups, electric or nothing at all. While Picacho Peak State Park and Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada has electric (some sites), that is all they have at the sites. They do have potable water and a dump station in the campground so there is that. But you need to be sure you go in prepared for the type of site.
County and Town run parks are not to be forgotten either. We have found some very lovely county and town parks that rival any state run park.
We always stay at the Hoover Met RV Park (closed for renovations until June 2017) while in the Birmingham, Alabama area and while visiting Charleston, SC we stayed at the James Island County Park Campground. There are a few choices around the Charleston area but we did not want to go to a commercial campground like a KOA. While they do serve a purpose for us (we stay at them while traveling from point A to point B and need hook-ups), we try not to frequent them as we have no kids and we do not wish to partake in any activities, so why pay for something we will not be taking full advantage of.
In fact, our very first stop after picking up our new 45-foot Tiffin Allegro Bus was this lovely campground just north of Red Bay, Alabama where the Tiffin plant is. It’s the McFarland Town Park Campground in a town called Florence, AL and is located right on the Tennessee River. It has boat drops and hiking trails and a disc golf course. Right across the river is the Muscle Shoals area where there is lots to do as far as the history of music and recording studios. And in Sault Ste Marie in the UP of Michigan is a great county/town run campground called Aune-Osborn Campground where you can spend your days watching the huge freighters pass through the Soo Locks and travel up and down the great lakes. Which let me tell you, can be very addicting. Who knew?!
These are just some of the places that we have stayed and there are many more out there. We have yet to stay at a COE (Corps of Engineers) Park, which we hear are lovely.
Some things to consider while staying at National, State or County/Town Parks is that you may not have access to Wi-Fi, you may not have full hook-ups if you want them and there may be additional fees such as a one time park fee. The state parks usually have a state park pass; they are usually good for one year. So if you know you will be frequenting one particular state for a while, or coming back to it a few months later but within a year’s time frame, then you would more than likely be better off buying a yearly park pass. It’s good for any of the state parks, not just that particular one that you may be at at the time. In the long run it would be cheaper than paying the additional park fee every time you camp.
Make sure you also look out for discounts. Georgia State Parks have a great RVer program and it’s free! The more you stay at their parks, the more stickers you will earn and you can work your way up to a free night of camping. Not all state parks may participate so just check the website before you book and see. To learn more info about this RVer program, visit this page.
Wow, that was a lot on places we have been. But the point is, they are all places we were able to go without issue even with a 45-foot motorhome. When we were looking for a motorhome, we did not even consider the issue of not fitting into places. Why? Simple, we knew we would be happier with a larger home on wheels. So you see from the above, it is indeed possible to stay in National, State and County/Town parks in a “Big Rig”. We have stayed in more than I thought we had and we will most certainly continue to do so.
If there is a place that you really want to go to and looking at the website of that particular park shows that you can not fit into the campground, remember that there are always campgrounds just outside of the parks that will accommodate you. We here it now and again, “you can not go everywhere with that large rig.” True. However we have yet to find anyplace we wanted to go that we could not go, either staying inside the park or just outside it’s borders. And if we need to drive 30 mins to go see a site…so be it. After all, that is more of the area we are in to see along the way. So while we may not be able to get into “everywhere”, consider that we also may have a much more comfortable time if stuck inside the motorhome for five days as it rains.
Would we by a large motorhome again? Seeing we have already gone from a 43-foot to a 45-foot, the answer seems to be yes. Again, we knew we would be happier with more space. And lets face it, it is all about living like you want to live and what is right for one person, may not be for another. So buy what you want and enjoy your travels!
Not sure if you trust what you just read…Well here…watch a video instead….
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