7 Bucket List National Park Adventures in Your RV
May 24, 2021
If you’re looking to up the ante on your next national park road trip, we’ve rounded up seven epic adventures for your next RV getaway.
By Mikaela Ruland, Courtesy of National Park Trips
The best season to visit our nation’s first national park might just be winter. With fewer crowds, geysers steaming in the frigid air and lots of animals to spot against the snow, Yellowstone is a wonderland come winter.
Much of the park is inaccessible by car in winter, but head to the park’s North entrance in Gardiner, Mont. to experience the part that is: Mammoth Hot Springs and the Lamar Valley. Strap on your snowshoes and explore the boardwalks surrounding the travertine terraces on the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces loops, or head to the Tower Falls Trailhead to snowshoe to an amazing frozen waterfall. Keep your eyes peeled for elk, bison and wolves on a scenic drive through the Lamar Valley. Want to see more of the park? Book a snow coach or snowmobile tour to get to areas like Old Faithful and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Yellowstone’s only year-round campground, Mammoth Campground, is accessible to RVs in the winter. Pack those wool socks.
While seeing the Grand Canyon from the rim is impressive, there’s nothing quite like hiking all the way down to the Colorado River, that tiny ribbon you see snaking through the walls from above.
This adventure is for the intrepid. The 7.5-mile hike down South Kaibab Trail takes 4-5 hours and the hike back up takes even longer. Heat in summer months can be epic and snow and ice in the winter months can make the trek slippery. This hike isn’t for the faint of heart, but those that undertake it are greeted with incredible views, solitude and a stay in the canyon’s depths like none other. Reserve your accommodations at Phantom Ranch 13 months in advance by calling 888-297-2757.
Be sure to stick around after your hike to enjoy all the South Rim has to offer while staying at Trailer Village, Mather Campground or Desert View Campground in your RV.
Get a taste of that Rocky Mountain High you keep hearing about at Rocky Mountain National Park’s Trail Ridge Road in Colorado. The highest continuous paved road in the United States, Trail Ridge will take you up to 12,183 feet in elevation. You’ll see stunning peaks, alpine tundra and, with any luck, wildlife.
The road is usually open from late May through October, depending on weather and connects the park’s east side to the west, crossing the Continental Divide. Be sure to check your RV’s brakes and coolant levels before setting out. A stop at the picturesque Alpine Visitor Center is a must.
Set up basecamp at Moraine Park, Aspenglen, Glacier Basin or Timber Creek campground to keep exploring this stunning park.
Canoeing on one of Olympic National Park’s stunning lakes shouldn’t be missed. You’ll experience the best of the temperate rainforest ecosystem as you paddle under mighty trees and watch seabirds swoop through the air.
Beautiful Lake Crescent is near Port Angeles, Wash., and is extremely deep at 624 feet. Rent a canoe from Lake Crescent Lodge early in the morning to paddle out while the lake is still glassy. You’ll be stunned at how deep you can see through the clear water.
Stay at the Fairholme Campground along the lake’s shores, or opt for a campground in a different area of the park to explore all the ecosystems of this hidden gem.
Yosemite’s towering granite monoliths can be viewed from the valley in the comfort of your RV, but to really get a sense for their scale, the best way is to stand on top of one. Half Dome is one of Yosemite’s most iconic formations and popular hikes, though the journey to the top is intense. The 14-16 mile round trip hike involves scrambling up the backside of the granite dome with only chains to assist you.
This extremely popular hike can be dangerous with crowds, so a lottery system helps to control the number of people hiking each day. The lottery is highly competitive. If you want to do this hike, apply in March for the coming year.
If you didn’t score a permit or are looking for a less-intense but still epic hike, head to North Dome. The 8.8-mile roundtrip hike takes you to the top of North Dome, where you’ll get incredible unencumbered views of Half Dome and the valley below.
Make advance reservations to RV camp in one of the Yosemite Valley campgrounds as they are popular and fill up quickly.
Get a taste of slot canyon hiking without having to squeeze through narrow gaps or do any rappelling. Zion’s Narrows is a gorgeous slot canyon formed by the Virgin River. On a hot day this hike, which involves wading through the river for much of the time, is a welcome respite.
You can hike up to five miles upstream – to Big Springs – without a permit. Many of the pools are deep and require some actual swimming, so plan accordingly.
Camp at the South or Watchman campgrounds to explore the rest of the park.
One of the most magical sights on Earth might be one of the largest gatherings of fireflies in the world each late May through early June at Elkmont in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The stunning display of blinking fireflies once the sun sets draws crowds from all over the world.
Due to the event’s popularity, a shuttle-only system is in effect for the Elkmont area during this time. Enter the lottery for shuttle tickets in April to see the spectacular event.
For amazing up-front views of the fireflies, try for a campsite at the Elkmont campground, available for reservation six months in advance, or book one of the other RV-friendly campgrounds in the park: Smokemount, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Balsam Mountain, Deep Creek and Cosby.
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