The Ultimate Guide to National Park RV Length Regulations
November 26, 2021
You’ve ticked everything off your list, have the vacation all planned out, and are ready to jump into your RV and hit the road to visit one of America’s beloved National Parks.
Before you leave though, you’ll want to make sure your RV falls into line with the length regulations they have in place, otherwise, you could end up disappointed.
What are the National Park RV length guidelines?
All National Park campsites have rules and regulations in place about the size of RVs they allow.
The safest length for an RV to be allowed into the majority of these campsites is 35 feet or less, as anything larger than this will start to restrict where you can park.
While most people find their RVs fit comfortably in these guidelines, those who have purchased larger motorhomes might not feel so welcome.
That’s why we’ve compiled this handy guide to National Parks and the length restrictions they have in place, so you’ll never be caught out again.
Why Are There Length Restrictions At National Parks?
When you first find out about the length restrictions in place at national parks, you might feel a little jaded.
However, the reason for most of these regulations is not just to keep the campsites free from larger vehicles, but it’s about the safety of the drivers as well.
Many of the roads that lead into these parks are winding, narrow, and sometimes dangerous.
A larger 40 feet rig will have a lot of trouble maneuvering them safely, and even if they can make it to the campsite, they might not be able to fit comfortably into the designated space.
In some National Parks, the space for RVs and campers is limited, and where they can fit just one 41 feet rig, they could also take a few smaller ones.
For the comfort of other campers and to ensure everyone gets to enjoy the wider spaces of these areas, it’s not always feasible to allow larger vehicles to camp there.
How to Measure Your RV
Before planning any trip in your RV, it’s your responsibility to know what’s required of you and your vehicle.
It’s not only National Parks that have these length restrictions but other campgrounds as well, and knowing the exact measurements of your rig is simply part of being a responsible RV owner.
When you purchase an RV, the size that’s given to you by the manufacturer might not always be the most accurate and they can be deceptive with how they advertise them.
If you’re looking for a definitive answer on its length so you can know whether you’re allowed at a National Park, the safest approach is to get out the tape measure and do it accurately and manually.
When doing these measurements, you must note the size of the entire RV, along with any other vehicle being towed or doing the towing.
Considering most RV manufacturers go a little over their advertised length, this is the only genuine way to know what size vehicle you’re working with.
Which Parks Have Length Restrictions?
With 423 National Park sites in the US, it’s not surprising to learn that almost all of them have a restriction on what size campers can park there.
If your rig is 12 feet in length, the good news is that you can fit anywhere and are allowed at any of these sites, provided they accept RVs at all.
The best size of RV to have is anything under 35 feet, and at this length, you’ll find 73% of the campgrounds will accept you.
Those with an RV less than 19 feet will be even more welcome with up to 98% of campgrounds allowing them to stay there.
With so many different rules and sites, you’ll need to contact the National Park directly to find out what’s allowed before you plan a trip.
However, if you’re lucky enough to own an RV that’s more than 40 feet long, you might feel unlucky to find that not many National Parks will permit you to stay there.
At last count, there were only 7% of campgrounds in the whole of the United States that were able to accommodate this size which means you’ll need to book up to a year in advance to secure your spot there.
What Can You Do If Your RV Is Too Big?
Even with the best intentions, sometimes our camping trips can go awry, like when you pull up to a National Park and find your RV is too big to fit.
If this happens, it’s not enough to simply pull over on the side of the road and stay there for the night, so you’ll need to immediately turn around and find somewhere else to stay that’s not in the jurisdiction of the park.
Attempting to stay in a National Park with an RV that does not meet their regulations means any damage sustained won’t be covered by your insurance company.
You could also find yourself in trouble with the park’s management and be issued a fine if you do not move on immediately.
Even if you are able to make it through to your designated camping site, attempting to pull in and fit there likely won’t work.
There might be a limited turn radius or you could be imposing on neighboring campsites, so it’s not worth the risk of driving all the way there just to be turned away.
If there is a particular National Park on your bucket list, the best advice is to rent a smaller RV to take the journey in.
You’ll still get to enjoy the RV lifestyle that you love but with a vehicle that’s better suited to the environment and without being a burden on any of the other campers.
Things to Keep In Mind at National Parks
The length of your RV isn’t the only important thing to note when planning a visit to a National Park.
Here are some other things to be mindful of before you head off on your trip so you won’t be caught out with any surprises.
Length of stay: All parks have a limit on how long campers can be there, with most following a 14-day rule. These imposed time limits give others a chance to experience the park as well.
Wildlife and pets: Research the local wildlife so you know what to prepare for, and if you plan on bringing a dog make sure it’s allowed. Each park has guidelines on dog behavior and leash length that must be adhered to.
Book ahead: National Parks are a popular tourist destination and their campsites book up quickly. Don’t leave it to the last minute and assume you’ll be able to pull in without a booking, even in the quieter seasons.
Planning for the Perfect Trip
The most crucial part of any RV trip is learning all that you can about your destination and what’s required of RV owners.
When you’re planning a trip to a National Park, there’s a lot to be mindful of including your RV’s length, so make sure you do your research and are prepared for the journey ahead.
National Parks are some of the most frequently visited locations for RV owners, thanks to their endless natural beauty and open spaces.
If you’re thinking about paying a visit to one of North America’s National Parks and still have questions, we’ve answered a few common ones to help.
Can I Drive My RV In National Parks?
Most National Parks allow for RVs to be driven on their roads, but that doesn’t mean you always should.
If you’re not planning on camping within the park, sometimes it can be easier to utilize the free shuttle systems that operate there so you can have a break from driving and avoid having to look for a park.
How Much Does It Cost to RV In National Parks?
Each National Park has its own rates and fees that campers must pay per night, and it usually ranges between $20 and $60 per night, with some free parks available.
The season of travel and size of the campsite can vary costs as well, so there are ways to save money if you’re hoping to spend less.
Where Can I Park My RV For Free?
Along with some of the National Parks that offer free camping sites, there are other places you can camp your RV for free for a night.
Bureau of Land Management land, the parking lot of Walmart, truck stops, and in the backcountry, are all potential free camping sites that might be available to get some rest.
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