The state and national parks in the United States are some of the first places people want to go in their RVs. In fact, many people buy their RVs exclusively to use in state and national parks.
What’s the maximum RV size for state and national parks? The maximum recommended size RV for national parks is 29 feet with this number holding true for most state parks as well. The reason for this is that many state and national parks will not allow campers that are longer than 30 feet.
Let’s take a look at exactly what you need to know about bringing an RV to a national or state park in the United States.
National Parks And RV Sizes
Are you planning on buying an RV to take to both state and national parks? If so, you might be interested in knowing that not all RVs will fit in the camping spots that these places have to offer.
Each national park will have its own size restrictions when it comes to what size RV you can bring in. Many of these will have combined restrictions meaning the length cannot exceed the length of both your towable camper and your tow vehicle.
If you have a motorhome without a tow vehicle, you’ll have more space to work with.
Also, keep in mind that there are usually multiple campgrounds within a national park and each campground may have different size restrictions.
For example, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has campgrounds in ten different locations. Some of these campgrounds do not have any size restrictions while some do not allow RVs in at all. The rest fall somewhere in between with Abrams Creek only allowing RVs measuring 12′ long and Smokemont allowing RVs as long as 40′ long.
Here is a list of RV lengths allowed by each national park in each state:
|State||National Park||Acceptable RV Lengths|
|Alaska||Denali National Park||40 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Gates of the Arctic National Park||No restrictions.|
|Glacier Bay National Park||N/A|
|Katmai National Park||No restrictions.|
|Kenai Fjords National Park||No restrictions.|
|Kobuk Valley National Park||N/A|
|Lake Clark National Park||N/A|
|Wrangell-St. Elias National Park||No restrictions.|
|Arizona||Grand Canyon National Park||40 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Petrified Forest National Park||N/A|
|Saguaro National Park||35 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Arkansas||Hot Springs National Park||60 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|California||Channel Islands National Park||N/A|
|Death ValleyNational Park||No restrictions.|
|Joshua Tree National Park||40 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Kings Canyon National Park||35 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Lassen Volcanic National Park||45 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Redwood National Park||36 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Sequoia National Park||95 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Yosemite National Park||40 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Colorado||Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park||35 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Great Sand Dunes National Park||35 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Mesa Verde National Park||36 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Rocky Mountain National Park||40 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Florida||Biscayne National Park||N/A|
|Dry Tortugas National Park||N/A|
|Everglades National Park||45 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Hawaii||Haleakala National Park||N/A|
|Hawaii Volcanoes National Park||N/A|
|Idaho||Yellowstone National Park||50 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Kentucky||Mammoth Cave National Park||40 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Maine||Acadia National Park||No restrictions.|
|Michigan||Isle Royale National Park||N/A|
|Minnesota||Voyageurs National Park||N/A|
|Montana||Glacier National Park||40 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Yellowstone National Park||50 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Nevada||Death ValleyNational Park||30 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Great Basin National Park||40 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|New Mexico||Carlsbad Caverns National Park||N/A|
|North Carolina||Great Smoky Mountains National Park||40 Feet for RVs and 35 feet for trailers.|
|North Dakota||Theodore Roosevelt National Park||65 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Ohio||Cuyahoga Valley National Park||N/A|
|Oregon||Crater Lake National Park||50 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|South Carolina||Congaree National Park||N/A|
|South Dakota||Badlands National Park||40 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Tennessee||Great Smoky Mountains National Park||40 Feet for RVs and 35 feet for trailers.|
|Texas||Big Bend National Park||90 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Guadalupe Mountains National Park||40 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Utah||Arches National Park||100 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Bryce Canyon National Park||50 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Canyonlands National Park||100 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Capitol Reef National Park||71 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Zion National Park||No restrictions.|
|Virginia||Shenandoah National Park||100 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Washington||Mount Rainier National Park||35 Feet for RVs and 27 feet for trailers.|
|North Cascades National Park||122 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Olympic National Park||35 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Wyoming||Grand Teton National Park||45 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
|Yellowstone National Park||50 Feet – Vehicle plus RV.|
You’ll notice that on this list there are some national parks that were listed more than once. This was intentional as some national parks encompass multiple states.
You’ll also notice that if you have a motorhome that is under 30 feet long, you’ll be able to access any national park that allows RVs.
However, if you’re towing a vehicle behind you or are towing a towable camper, 30 feet might just be too long. In this case, you’ll have to find out how long your tow vehicle is and then tow a camper that is short enough to fall within the 30-foot length restriction.
Remember, if you’re towing a fifth wheel, you’ll have some additional space because part of your camper will reside over your truck’s bed. In this case, you’ll want to hitch up your camper and measure everything together.
Tiny Houses and National Parks
A tiny house is essentially a towable camper so you’ll be able to take your tiny house into a national park but you’ll need to make sure it meets the size restrictions of the park you’re visiting. Just keep in mind that RVs are usually much shorter than tiny houses and a tiny house that is too tall may run into trouble in some national parks.
Also, keep in mind that the access roads in some national parks aren’t always smooth.
Some tiny homes are not built to go on dirt roads so you’ll want to make sure your tiny home is prepared for off-road conditions before you decide to take it into a national park.
State Parks And RVs
There are over 1,500 state parks in the United States and many of them allow camping. Some of these state parks have multiple campgrounds within the park and all of them have their own restrictions.
As much as I’ve dreamed about camping in all of the state parks in the United States, it isn’t a realistic goal for anyone who doesn’t want to dedicate their entire life to it. Even if you could visit a different park every single night of the year, you’d still end up devoting over 3 years to your trip.
For this reason, you shouldn’t buy an RV based on being able to camp in all of the state parks in the country. Even if you did, you might find that you end up purchasing multiple RVs over the course of your journey and some of the states may change the rules before you actually get to them.
In this case, a better idea is to look at the state parks you think you’ll be visiting most often so that you can buy an RV that works for those parks.
My advice would be to look up the information on each state park within an hour or two of your house. These are the campsites that you’ll be able to visit each weekend without having to take time off from work and they’re the ones you’ll probably end up visiting the most.
How to Learn More about State Parks in Your Area
Each state park has its own website that you can use to research each of its state parks. Some websites are much better than others but most of them will at least give you a list of parks as well as contact information.
If you’re unsure about the state park’s requirements, why not go ahead and visit them yourself? This way, you’ll be able to take a look at the campsites and talk to the rangers on site.
You’ll also be able to get a feel for the park to see if it is a place that you’d like to spend a lot of time in. If it isn’t, you don’t want to plan your RV purchase around visiting it anyway.
4 Other Restrictions do I Need to Consider?
Size isn’t the only RV specification to think about when buying an RV for the state and national parks. You may also want to think about water tanks, bathroom facilities, and power supplies.
Other Items to Consider
- Water requirements.
- Bathroom facilities.
- Power supplies.
1) Energy Restrictions
Did you know that some state and national parks do not offer full hookups? In this case, you may want to consider getting an RV with a great alternative backup power supply. This is especially true if you have a health issue.
For example, you may need to have an energy source to power a CPAP machine. You might also need to have the power to run a refrigerator to store your medicines. People camping in the desert might want to think about getting an RV that has solar power built into it. Others might want to think about getting an RV with a nice generator built into it.
Need more information on RV electricity? Take a look at my post titled, “Do RVs Need to Be Plugged In“. This post will give you more details on getting electricity, water, and even cable and Internet at your campsite.
2) Temperature Restrictions
Some state and national parks are too cold for some campers. Does the RV you’re considering have heat? If so, is this heat source usable if you don’t have electricity? For cold weather state and national parks, you’ll probably want an RV with a built-in gas or diesel powered furnace. This way, you’ll be able to heat your RV even if you’re at a cold campsite without electricity.
Additionally, you might want to consider buying a 4-season RV.
These RVs are insulated better than 3-season RVs so you’ll be able to retain your heat longer than you can in RVs that are not insulated very well. This will save you money on fuel and will increase the amount of time you can camp before having to drive out of the park to get more fuel. Here’s all you need to know about RVs and insulation.
3) Bathroom Facilities
Not all parks have dump stations or flush-toilets. Are you OK with using pit toilets? Are you healthy enough to dig your own toilet if you have to? When choosing an RV, you might want to look into the bathroom facilities at the parks you plan on visiting so that you can buy an RV that meets your needs.
For example, if you’re going to be camping in a park without dump stations, you might want to buy an RV with a large black water tank. This will give you the ability to stay longer without having to worry about overfilling your RV’s sewer system.
Alternatively, you might want to think about adding a cassette toilet or dry toilet to a camper that does not have bathroom facilities.
Of course, you might find that the opposite is true as well. Some state parks have great bathroom facilities with flush toilets, hot showers, and even laundry facilities. If you’ll be visiting these kinds of parks, you won’t have anything to worry about at all.
4) Water Requirements
While we’re on the topic of plumbing, we should talk about water requirements. Some desert parks might not have any water readily available to you. In this case, you might want to think about getting an RV with a large freshwater tank.
In other cases, you might not have to worry about water at all. Personally, I can’t think of any parks or campgrounds in the northeast that do not have a source of water that you can access. For people camping in this part of the country, a dry camper without water storage might work just as well.
For more information on RV plumbing, take a look at my post titled, “Do RVs Have Water Tanks and Water Heaters“. There you’ll find information on tank sizing and tank usage.
Still searching for a camper that will meet all of your needs everywhere at all times?
You might want to consider a truck with a truck camper and a towable camper. This gives you flexibility since you’ll essentially have two different campers to use depending on the campground you’re visiting.
You’ll also have a standard vehicle so you’ll end up with a setup that offers you three different options.
For example, you could tow your large camper to places like Zion National Park where there aren’t any size restrictions to worry about. Then, when you wanted to visit a park like Death Valley, you could leave your towable camper behind and load up your truck camper.
Another option might be to buy a small motorhome as your tow vehicle. Some people will buy 20 foot long motorhomes and lightweight campers to tow behind them.
Check our complete guide to tow-cars for RVs.
In this instance, the person has a small motorhome that they can take on weekend trips and to parks with heavy restrictions and they can tow along their larger camper on longer trips and to parks with loose restrictions.
What Size RV Should I Buy?
Unfortunately, there really isn’t a one-size fit all solution to buying an RV for state and national park camping.
However, this doesn’t mean you can’t buy the perfect RV for your particular situation. The key point to keep in mind is that there are a lot of state and national parks and you won’t be able to visit them all at once. This is great since this offers you many years of camping fun and you may even get the chance to buy multiple RVs over the course of your life with camping.
I’d suggest that you start your journey by deciding on which state and national parks you’ll be able to visit within the next few years. Then, choose an RV that meets your needs as well as the requirements of each state and national park within your plan.
In a few year’s time, you can plan a few more years of camping trips and buy another RV that is perfect for these new trips that you’ll be taking.
If you end up having to decide between a few different RV options, your best bet is to buy the smaller of the two. There are usually maximum size restrictions but there are never minimum size restrictions.
Buy a smaller RV and you’ll give yourself more camping options in all of the parks as well as the campgrounds outside of the parks that you may end up staying in.
Additionally, you’ll save money on RV storage and insurance so you’ll end up winning in multiple ways.
If you are looking to buy an RV, You need to read these tips first: Our very best buying tips for RVs and Motorhomes.
Plan carefully before you buy your RV and be sure to do your own research on the areas that appeal most to you. Evaluate your own individual needs and you won’t have any trouble finding the perfect RV for your next trip.
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Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.