RVs offer the chance for couples, families, and friends to explore America and the outdoors.
Road tripping on America's highways and byways in an RV can mean lots of freedom, plus bring many opportunities to be closer to the great outdoors and family. The perfect trip starts with a little pre-trip planning. Any trip will be more pleasurable when the final destination is one of our nation's top-tier destinations. Your successful trip tomorrow begins with planning today -- and selecting that right place to park.
First, determine what your needs -- or personal wants -- are. Do you always need water and electricity to have a good night's stay, or will electricity be enough? There are also RVers who always need a campfire, and those who'd rather sit inside, away from bugs and smoke, as they read a book or hunting magazine. Do you demand an RV camp site with a panoramic view? Will you need a restroom nearby, or possibly need access for someone with a disability? Be certain you know what you need, and be certain those needs are met when you make a reservation at any campground or RV park.
While campground guides can help with planning, it is best to always call and ask specific questions about access, sites and services. Ask the important questions before completing the reservation. A great adventure also begins with few unexpected surprises -- that could be a big inconvenience, or worse.
On treasure maps, "X" often marks the spot where the treasure awaits. This is not the case when you search for a premium destination for an RV vacation. Here are some top scenic sites in America that make great destinations, and you can often immerse you and your family in the middle of the great outdoors at these locations. Turn the keys, adjust the mirrors, and start driving or towing. Adventure awaits at:
Custer State Park in South Dakota
With more than 1,000 bison roaming about, and opportunities to view pronghorns, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, elk and wild turkeys, this popular park is definitely a top destination to see wildlife. There are also many miles of trout streams, a few lakes that also hold trout and numerous hiking trails. Highlights in the park are three scenic drives where you can view a lot of wildlife -- but note that large motorhomes might not fit on all roads. Electric service and level gravel parking areas are available in about half of the nearly dozen campgrounds found here. For dinner I'd suggest a chuck-wagon barbecue! For details, visit: http://gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer/campgrounds/ or call 1-800-710-2267.
Bison are popular with wildlife watchers, and Custer State Park in South Dakota, and Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming offer great viewing opportunities.
The Great Lakes
These inland "seas" hold 20% of the world's water. With five large bodies of water and scenic north-country landscapes along the shorelines, you'll find numerous sights -- and campsites -- to smile about. A top state offering thousands of places to park a travel trailer or motorhome is Minnesota with its scenic state parks along the shores of Lake Superior. Details are at: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/reservations_campsite.html. Note that most reservations can be made a year in advance, and these popular sites along Lake Superior fill quickly. Make reservations early. You can also find a stunning lakeside view in the quaint town of Two Harbors in the city's Burlington Bay campground. Call: 218-834-2021 for more details.? The other states, like Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, offer similar sites to spend the night -- or a summer.
Well known for their "wow" factor with stunning views, hiking trails and lots of things for families, or couples, to do, most national parks have numerous places to park an RV. While getting in and out of a few of the more popular parks can take time and patience, once you settle in, the adventure begins.
"All the national parks, and especially Yellowstone and Glacier, are popular with RV owners," said Bud Walter, a salesman for Autorama RV in Des Moines, Iowa. "These are great places to take the kids for a week or more during their summer vacation break, and we have a lot of RV owners who make trips to those parks on a regular basis." Yellowstone is one park that visitors return to time and time again.
Another popular national park destination for RV users is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the North Carolina and Tennessee border. The park has more than a dozen campgrounds that permit RVs, but some do have length restrictions. Visit: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/frontcountry-camping.htm for more details and to make a reservation. The great news is that nearly every national park has an on-line trip planner to help you decide what to do and see while you visit the park. Plan ahead for the best experience.
Known for shows and three stunning lakes that hold a lot of fish, Branson is a popular destination for RVs. "Branson is known as a destination for mom and pops that might want to get away from the kids," continued Bud Walters. If you need a place to park and hook up, more than 12,000 RV friendly sites exist in the area. More details are at: http://www.branson-missouri.com/camping_rv.asp.
Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced Pon-duh-ray), Idaho
This stunning lake in northern Idaho (near Sandpoint) is 43 miles long and has more than 100 miles of shoreline. The fish here include world-record size Kamloops, and you can see moose, bears and possibly elk along the shore. Eight campgrounds in the area offer unmatched views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. You'll find endless opportunities to explore hiking trails in the national forests and trout streams in nearly every local valley. More details are at: http://sandpoint.web.infoseek.co.jp/pendoreille/index.html
Saratoga, Wyoming: For those who want to avoid crowds and get away from it all, Saratoga awaits. This town of approximately 1,000 residents has two RV parks nearby and more places to hike, hunt or fish than you could possibly explore in a lifetime. If you get tired, there are several hot springs where you can relax and soak. More than a dozen campgrounds permitting RVs can be found in the surrounding national forest and BLM lands in case you need to "get out of town." Note the elevation at some sites is 7,000 to 8,000 feet, so views are assured. More details are at: http://www.wyomingcarboncounty.com/camping.htm.
Many national forests offer a place to park an RV and place to ride your toys.
Local State Parks
Gas prices and a lack of time are causing some RV owners to explore places closer to home. State parks are often the answer. Many have campgrounds, spaces for RVs and are affordable while often showcasing natural features of the region. Most state parks are also affordable, but some of the more popular ones require booking well in advance. An online search or call to your state's tourism office can help you begin your escape.
In addition to national parks, several federal agencies have campgrounds that welcome RVs. Among those are national forests and US Army Corps of Engineers lands. Most Corps lands surround a lake, so plan to take a motorboat and save time for fishing or skiing. Some national forests have ATV trails for those RVers who own and use "toy haulers." Begin your search at: http://www.recreation.gov/.
Before You Go
Because of the size, towing restrictions and other considerations when traveling in, or with, a larger vehicle like an RV, explore your route options before leaving your driveway. Consider buying an RV Atlas to help you plan routes and avoid tight or impassable roads.
You should also prepare your RV for any road trip. Be certain to check the mirrors, tires and exterior features to be certain all items are locked in place, including that antenna on top and the overhead vent covers. All items should be closed and secured before moving.
While on the road, allow more time to brake and stop or slow. You're moving more weight than an average car and longer stopping distance is required. For going forward, be certain your vehicle and trailer match if you'll be towing a travel trailer or 5th wheel trailer. Make a test trip before taking a long distance jaunt. Check all engine coolant and oil levels to prevent overheating.
There are also driving classes available to help RV owners better meet the highway demands. Some RV dealers offer test drives and give driving pointers before you leave their lot. Many community colleges across the nation also offer weekend driving classes and courses for RV owners to help you prepare for the trip -- and the unexpected.
Since some RV parking or camping sites are remote, plan to take your tools and supplies with you. You could need extra levelers, blocks and tools (like screwdrivers and wrenches) for repairs or set-up. Always pack spare batteries for flashlights and enough fuel for gas or propane lanterns and outdoor stoves. In some cases it can be miles to town or a store. You should also pack any required personal medications and a first-aid kit. You never know when severe weather could pass through an area and leave you stranded for a few days.
Adventure awaits and RVs can help you explore fishing, hunting, hiking and camping destinations. With so many options, the most difficult part of your next RV trip could be deciding where to go.