RV Destinations to Help You Leave the Crowds Behind
If you’re looking for a fun, remote RV trip to enjoy the great outdoors, but you’re sick of the crowded national parks, you may want to consider a state park.
State parks are, of course, run by the state where they are located. They operate much like national parks. They usually charge a fee, have plenty of camping near you, and usually feature the same kind of beauty you’ve come to expect in national parks.
But they also tend to allow dogs, the fees are lower and, yes, there just aren’t the millions that flock to national parks every summer.
State parks, however, don’t offer the guarantee for pretty scenery, good camping, and fun things to do that you can bank on in the national parks. There are, after all, more than 10,000 state parks. Not all of them can be awesome. That’s why we are here for you. Man, we do a lot for you. We hope you’ve included us on your Christmas card list.
Here are some of the best state parks in the country that you should include on your next RV camping trip.
Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah
Wow, that name, uh, really gets the soul stirring, doesn’t it? And yet this state park made many other “best of” lists on the web. Utah, as you probably know, is known for containing some of the most visited national parks in the country. That makes this state park even more attractive, as most will travel there instead of here. And yet, this place offers the same spectacular high desert views offered by Canyonlands National Park. In fact, they may be better here, as Dead Horse Point is one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world.
By the way, there is a reason for the unusual name. We will let you research that for yourself once you arrive at the park.
The park is 32 miles from Moab and offers pet-friendly hiking trails, including a paved trail that offers views to some of the most scenic points in the park.
Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada
If you can pull yourself away from the casinos in Las Vegas, this short drive 50 miles from the gambler’s paradise offers 40,000 acres of bright red Aztec sandstone nestled in gray and tan limestone across the Mojave Desert. There are 72 units in two campgrounds, all of it first-come, first-serve, which is perfect for the RV lifers who won’t mind popping in on a weekday, with power and water hookups available. There are many short hikes and some larger ones, but it does get hot, so if you plan on a long one, leave early in the morning. There are also many driving routes that will let you see much of the beauty of this park.
Custer State Park in South Dakota
South Dakota could swallow up an RVer’s summer with its many tourist spots in the beautiful Black Hills, and this state park is one of the best examples. The park features live, wild bison, and let’s be honest, you probably only see bison on your dinner plate with a side of quinoa in one of those fancy restaurants. There are many places to hike, but you can also drive the friendly roads (just watch for the bison) for a beautiful tour of much of the park’s 71,000 acres—known as one of the top 10 places to see wildlife in the U.S. The park is also close to Crazy Horse Memorial, the Wind Cave National Park, and Mount Rushmore. See what we mean about tourist spots?
Cheyenne Mountain State Park in Colorado
This park in Colorado Springs is one of the more friendly state parks for RV camping in the country with full-service sites, a laundry-mat and a store, and it’s located in one of the most beautiful areas in the country. Colorado Springs boasts the Garden of the Gods, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, and Red Rock Canyon, all of it watched over by Pikes Peak, the 14,000-foot mountain that inspired “America The Beautiful.”
Niagara Falls State Park in New York
Yes, THAT Niagara Falls, the place with the monster waterfalls and billed as one of the most romantic places in the world, second only to a bunch of chapels in Las Vegas. Sure, the waterfalls are spectacular, but you should stay for the trails, the Cave of the Winds, and the Maid of the Mist. The reason Niagara Falls draws more than eight million people a year is because it’s a really cool spot. This time around, put up with the people for an experience you’ll never forget.
Big Bend Ranch State Park in Texas
Known as Big Bend National Park’s little brother, there’s nothing small about this state park’s view of the open sky. The park’s 311,000 acres of wide-open Texas desert along the Rio Grande River is literally in the middle of nowhere, so you’ll see the night sky the way it was meant to be seen. You’ll see more distant stars than an audition for “America’s Best Talent,” as it is designated as an International Dark Sky Park. There’s also about 250 miles of trails perfect for horseback riding, hiking or biking, and your ATV will have more fun than you roaming over 70 miles of unmaintained dirt roads.
Adirondack Park in New York
This park features the largest protected chunk of land in the lower 48 with six million (!) acres of forests, waterways, and 46 small mountains that adventurers love to climb. There are more than 3,000 lakes and ponds as well, with lots of boats available for rent and cruises on various lakes if you don’t want to push yourself. This is also a great place to see fall foliage and tour the sights in your RV. You could spend a year here and never get bored.
Kanopolis State Park in Kansas
This huge lake stocked with trout is a great place to take your boat out for a spin. It was the first state park in the state — no, it wasn’t Oz — and features rolling hills, bluffs, and woods in the scenic Smoky Hills region. There’s also 30 miles of trails, half of which are in the Smoky Hill Wildlife Area, an anglers’ and hunters’ delight. If you prefer to watch wildlife rather than catch or shoot it, this is a nice place for you as well, and in the winter, bald eagles swarm over this area.
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Kentucky
You can probably guess the main attraction of this state park. No, it’s not the raccoons. This massive waterfall, um, falls 68 feet, with easy access and free parking and admission to see it. There are paved hiking trails and overlooks to give you better looks at it. If there’s a full moon, stay for the moon bow, as this is one of the few places in the world where you can see one.
Lime Kiln Point State Park in Washington
The park’s scenic rocky bluff at the west end of San Juan Island would put this park on our list, but this state park is a must-visit for one huge reason.
Whales, whales, whales.
Orcas, fin-slapping gray whales, humpbacks, and minke whales pass through the area every May through September, with peak times depending on salmon runs. Visitors can see the action from a 1919 lighthouse or a nearby cliff.
Other things to do include hiking, bird watching, and diving, but really, isn’t one of the best whale-watching spots in the world a good enough reason to visit?
Missouri Headwaters State Park in Montana
This park lives in Three Forks, Montana, which does not refer to your last fancy dinner. It does, however, refer to the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers that converge to form the Missouri River within the boundaries of this scenic park. The area looks much like it did when Lewis and Clark camped there in 1805. There’s also hiking, which seems to be a common theme to all the parks, as well as fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing.
For more information:
This site has a nice complete guide to RV camping in state parks.