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Old 04-02-2019, 04:42 AM   #1
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Question about National Parks Camping

I am sort of new to rv's, had a pop up for years switched to a hybrid TT at the end of last season. But between my job and location, haven't really traveled as much, just hit some local CG's. We definitely wod need to learned to conserve our resources better first... But I'm going to try to plan some travels And M very interested in national park camping. How does it work? People make it sound like they just drive around and drop anchor at the prettiest Vista or next to the quietest lake, I'm sure your not allowed to just set up where you want are you... Also I think I've seen that east of the Mississippi is more difficult is that correct, cause I'm from NJ?
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Old 04-02-2019, 06:05 AM   #2
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Most national parks have a reservation system. Recreation.gov and search where you want to be and they list campground in that park. You canít just park and camp wherever. There are some really nice campgrounds in the parks in the East. We are hitting Shenandoah National Park at Big Meadows Campground this June.

In New Jersey check out Worthington State Forest. Itís inside the Delaware Gap recreation area and right on Delaware River. Iím planning on a trip there in July.
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Old 04-02-2019, 06:57 AM   #3
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All national parks (and some national park service units) have designated campgrounds. Some sites are first come, first served and others are by reservation. You can make reservations at recreation.gov. It's not like you can just park and camp anywhere.

We do a lot of camping at federal dispersed sites in Vermont and NH and have done it both ways. The first couple of times I made reservations just to have a site but I found that some of the places we were going were more open than I thought and if it's a place I know, I'll go there and pick the best spot. This year we'll be staying at a few national parks and I'll probably make reservations and adjust the plans if need be.

I hope that helps.
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Old 04-02-2019, 08:07 AM   #4
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All national parks (and some national park service units) have designated campgrounds. Some sites are first come, first served and others are by reservation. You can make reservations at recreation.gov. It's not like you can just park and camp anywhere.

We do a lot of camping at federal dispersed sites in Vermont and NH and have done it both ways. The first couple of times I made reservations just to have a site but I found that some of the places we were going were more open than I thought and if it's a place I know, I'll go there and pick the best spot. This year we'll be staying at a few national parks and I'll probably make reservations and adjust the plans if need be.

I hope that helps.
When you pick the best spot... You just wander figure out what you like and then go to the office and pay? I guess they leave markers if it's already reserved?
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Old 04-02-2019, 08:38 AM   #5
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I've been to a bunch of Federal parks where you pick your site by driving thru the campground.

They will have small sign posts with Reserved or Open markings on them.

The attendant say drive thru, pick one not reserved, and report back.
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Old 04-02-2019, 01:00 PM   #6
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Every national park has an awesome web site. Check them out before making plans. They give things to do, camping, road information, special alerts (fires, flood, road wash out), etc.

Below is the one for Arcadia NP. You want to use the 'nps' sites for the official web site.

Under 'Things to Do' there is a eating/sleeping section to click on. Then it will show 'campgrounds' and all the information will come up, including a 'clicky' for getting reservations.

Every campground in national parks don't require reservations. There are usually first come campgrounds, including in busy Yellowstone. For those, you would need to stay outside the national park but nearby the previous night and then drive into the park and non-reservable campground early morning when folks are leaving. Even with our 40' motorhome we always got a site without reservations but then we were retired and had the time to deal with getting there early. For those on a specific vacation time it's best to stay where you can make reservations.

To answer your question, no, you can't just park anywhere and camp. It needs to be in a designated campground.

You might be thinking of boondocking on public lands such as national forests. Then you can be more flexible with parking as there aren't designated campgrounds. It's called 'dispersed camping'. However, they still ask that you use a pre-used spot and not drive through the vegetation creating your new spot. We have also done this kind of camping a lot and it's very enjoyable. You might want to stop at a national forest ranger station to ask where you can do this until you get the hang of it. State forests are run differently so you'll need to ask there, also.

There are many, many lovely national forest campgrounds where they have designated sites. Usually those would be on or near a lake or stream so that might be of interest to you. Some are dry camping - no hookups - but some have electric and some have dump stations. Each one is different.

Here's a national forest site that we used a lot. You first need to know what the forest name is where you want to stay. Some maps show the names. Then click on the forest and a list of campgrounds comes up with lots of good information including directions.


https://www.forestcamping.com/dow/pictures/pictures.htm

https://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm


We enjoy all of this type of camping rather than a close-knit RV park where all you see are other RVs. We like nature! Good luck to you.
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Old 04-02-2019, 06:30 PM   #7
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Since your in NJ. I would suggest Shenandoah National Park. The Big Meadows campground is rather large and offers sites that don't book up till a few months out for the summer. When reserving there, which is all dry camping, one section is for generator use and other no generators allowed.

Also a little further down Skyline Drive is Loft Mountain Campground. That one since it is farther away form Baltimore and Washington doesn't fill up so a reservation is not needed. Fact the sites you are allowed to reserve there are not level. Mostly the non-reservable one on the back loops are nice and private. We usually do 4-5 days at each.

Picture gallery of Big Meadow and Loft Mt. (2017)


Some of the popular national parks, you will have to reserve 6 months ahead period. Acadia, Yellowstone, Smoky Mtns,
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Old 04-07-2019, 07:05 AM   #8
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When you pick the best spot... You just wander figure out what you like and then go to the office and pay? I guess they leave markers if it's already reserved?
We have stayed at National Campgrounds all along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The campsites vary quite a bit in size and degree of levelness. The smaller you are, the easier it will be to find a spot that will work for you. If you reserve ahead, it is hard to figure out if the campsite you choose will really work for you and I think you need to reserve at least 24-48 hours in advance.
If you show up just after checkout time, they will usually let you drive through and pick out any site that is a walk up or not yet reseved. There are posts at the front of each site where the camping pass is displayed. Either park and walk back to the entrance or tag the site and drive back. Since sites are first come, first serve, it is best to get there earlier rather than later. Once you have a site, you can leave again if you want to go do something else for a while. There are sone state parks that operate this way, but not all.
Some state parks take non-site specific reservation. You are guananteed a space, but not a specific spot. It is best to arrive early for those as well to get a site that works for you.
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