America’s best idea also happens to be most kids’ idea of paradise. While any of our country’s national parks would be an excellent destination for a family summer vacation, there’s a few that should find the way to the top of your list for being both family and RV-friendly.
Yellowstone National Park Location: Wyoming, Idaho and Montana
Our nation’s first national park is a place everyone should see at least once in their lifetime – why not cross it off your kids’ bucket list early? Abundant and fascinating wildlife like bison, elk, bears and wolves turns a drive through the park into a real-life “I Spy” book. Geothermal features like brilliantly colored pools, roaring springs and of course, geysers will wow the whole family.
All 12 of Yellowstone’s campgrounds allow RVs, which is not always a guarantee in the park system. Especially in peak summer months, campgrounds fill up quickly. Reserve your site in advance at Bridge Bay, Canyon, Fishing Bridge, Grant Village or Madison to guarantee a spot. If you’re traveling on a whim, the other seven campgrounds in the park are first come, first served. Get there early to snag a spot.
Fishing Bridge RV Park is the only campground with full hookups. If that’s not an amenity you need, Bridge Bay, Canyon, Grant Village, Madison, Mammoth and Norris allow generators between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. You’ll find dump stations at Bridge Bay, Canyon, Fishing Bridge, Grant Village and Madison.
Yosemite National Park Location: Central California
Yosemite National Park is full of stunning granite domes, pounding waterfalls, giant trees and sparkling lakes and rivers. Rent bikes from Curry Village in Yosemite Valley and explore the paved bike path until the little ones get tired. Then, hop on one of the park’s free shuttles to get back to the campground.
If your kids are older and confident swimmers, rent an inflatable raft at Curry Village to float down the Merced River on a hot afternoon. Yosemite’s one of the only parks in the country that has human-made forms of amusement. In the summer, swim in the pool at Curry Village or Yosemite Valley Lodge. In the winter, ice skate under Half Dome or make some turns at Badger Pass Ski Area.
Nine of Yosemite’s campgrounds are RV-friendly. North Pines, Lower Pines, Upper Pines, Wawona, Bridalveil Creek, Hogdon Meadows, Crane Flat, Tuolumne Meadows and White Wolf.
Yosemite’s campgrounds fill up early, so make your reservation five months in advance at recreation.gov. Last minute travelers can snag first come, first served spaces at Wawona, Bridalveil Creek, Tuolumne Meadows or White Wolf. None of Yosemite’s campgrounds have hookups, but you’ll find dump stations at Upper Pines, Tuolumne Meadows and Wawona.
Don’t want to drive? Stay at one of the Pines campgrounds and take the free park shuttle through the valley to all the sights.
Olympic National Park Location: Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula
Haven’t heard of this park tucked in the corner of Washington state? You’re not alone. This often-overlooked park will quickly become your new favorite, thanks to its diversity.
You’ll find temperate rainforests, moody lakes nestled in the woods, snow-capped peaks and beautiful beaches all in one park. Kids will especially love wandering Beach 4 and Hole in the Wall beach during low tide to explore the tidepools. Don’t miss Sol Duc Hot Springs or renting a canoe to explore Lake Crescent. Have a kid who’s wild about boats? Catch the Black Ball Ferry in nearby Port Angeles to explore the city of Victoria, Canada, just across the sound for the day.
Ten of Olympic’s campground can accommodate RVs. Reserve sites at Sol Duc or Kalaloch in advance at recreation.gov or sites at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort or Log Cabin Resort at olympicnationalparks.com. Heart O’ the Hills, Fairholme, Ozette, Mora, Hoh, South Beach and Staircase are all first-come, first served. You’ll find a dump station at Kalaloch, Hoh, Mora, Sol Duc and Fairholme. Hookups are only available at Sol Duc Hot Springs RV & Campground (not to be confused with the park service’s Sol Duc Campground) and Log Cabin RV & Campground.
Great Sand Dunes National Park Location: Southern Colorado
This park is one of Colorado’s hidden gems. Tucked up against the Sangre de Cristo mountains, you’ll find the tallest sand dune in North America here. For kids, it’s one giant playground. Rent sand sleds at Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa to slide down the dunes or plan your trip to coincide with the seasonal Medano Creek (usually May and June) and spend your days building sandcastles and splashing.
Great Sand Dunes has one campground, so be sure to make advanced reservations at Piñon Flats at recreation.gov. If you can’t get a reservation, or need hookups, the Oasis Campground just outside of the park is another option. Book at greatdunes.com.
Wind Cave National Park Location: South Dakota
If you’re looking to beat the crowds, this park in South Dakota is the place to go. Above ground, you’ll spot wildlife like bison and elk on the unassuming prairie landscape. What makes this park really incredible, though, is one of the longest and most complex caves in the world that lies underneath the park. Your kids will be fascinated by going underground to explore this cave system. Join one of the daily cave tours, or make reservations for specialty tours at recreation.gov.
Wind Cave’s only campground, Elk Mountain, accommodates RVs and is first-come, first-served. Potable water is only available late spring through early fall. If sites are not available, or you need hookups, RV parks can be found in the nearby town of Hot Springs.