The National Parks across the country are home to some of the most beautiful landscapes that our nation has to offer. Traveling to and touring these magnificent parks can be an unforgettable experience.
Many people want to camp out in these parks with their RVs, but the rules can be a little bit hazy.
What RV sizes are allowed in national parks?
Most national parks accept RVs that are around thirty feet in length. If you are looking to purchase a new RV to camp at national parks, you might want to purchase a model that is 29 feet or less to give you a bit of breathing room with these standards.
|National RV Park||Maximum RV Length|
|Great Smoky Mountains National Park||40 feet|
|Grand Canyon National Park||50 feet|
|Zion National Park||19 feet|
|Rocky Mountain National Park||40 feet|
|Yosemite National Park||40 feet|
|Yellowstone National Park||40 feet|
|Acadia National Park||35 feet|
|Olympic National Park||35 feet|
Are Class A’s and Fifth Wheels Allowed in All National Parks?
If you are interested in doing a lot of traveling to the various national parks across the country, you likely want to know how comfortably you can do so. Cruising across the country in a Class A RV is a luxurious way to tour some of the most scenic parts of the country. Even packing up your fifth-wheel trailer can be a fun way to spend a weekend in the most beautiful areas around.
The question is whether or not all national parks are going to accept these accommodations.
The reality is that most campgrounds in the United States will accept both Class A motorhomes and fifth wheels. However, there are a few old-fashioned areas that are still tent only.
They prefer to keep their visitors more in touch with nature instead of blocking the view with large trailers.
Check out our awesome article for 9 Amazing Fifth Wheels Under 30 Feet (With Pictures)!
Exclusions of RVs
While only a handful of the national parks are tent-only, there are more that will exclude Class A RVs from their lots. A Class A motorhome is a rather large vehicle that can fit in a bedroom as well as fold-out sleeping. Many of the RVs in this group are going to be thirty feet in length or more.
Unfortunately, some national parks simply cannot accommodate this type of length on their camping lots.
You may also find that the national park limits what size the fifth-wheel you can bring is. Their paved lots are only meant to fit a certain length.
When towing a fifth wheel, you must consider the total length with the car and the trailer combined. If this is over their maximum length allotted, you might not be permitted to spend the night.
While the average for many of the more popular national parks is forty feet in length, there are certainly others where the measurements are much smaller.
For example, Zion National Park can only fit vehicles and trailers that are nineteen feet long due to their smaller roads and campsites.
Check out our awesome article for 8 Great Travel Trailers Under 3,000 Pounds (With Pictures)
What is the Best RV Length for National Parks?
If you are going to purchase an RV for your many upcoming travels, you want to ensure that you can take it places you want to go to. Many people dream of touring the national parks across the country.
They want to see the very best that nature has to offer. There is no better way to do that than to immerse yourself in it by spending a few days at their on-site campgrounds.
When you plan to visit the national parks, you should make sure that you purchase an RV that can fit into these campsites. What size RV is the best length for national park visits?
You can take the safe route and go with a very small RV measuring under twenty feet. However, many people wish they could go for more space. A larger RV can hold more beds and simply provides more legroom for passengers who might be cooped up inside on a rainy day during your vacation.
The best thing to do is to survey the national parks you want to visit.
Average RV Lengths & You
According to the US National Parks Travel Guide, the average permitted length for RVs is 27 feet. There is good news, though. Most national parks accept RVs that are under thirty feet in length.
To be on the safe side, the best RV length for visiting national parks is probably a twenty-nine-foot model. This gives you a little extra room to play with when parking your RV on the lot.
Keep in mind that your tow vehicle is factored into the overall length. If you are dragging a fifth wheel behind you, then you need to make sure that your total length is under thirty feet.
This might mean making a large sacrifice and going with a much smaller trailer. Always make sure that you know the total length of your fifth wheel and tow vehicle before you make a trip.
Are RVs Allowed in All National Parks?
The reality is that not all national parks allow for RVs, but the vast majority of them do. The National Parks Service does a great job of keeping their parks in pristine condition, just the way that nature intended. They do not allow too many vehicles to frequent their campsites, preventing them from turning into little more than RV parks.
If you plan to visit a national park in your RV, you need to make sure that you plan well in advance.
The number of spaces for RVs is very limited, particularly when you are talking about larger models that range from thirty to forty feet.
The sites simply were not designed with these types of motorhomes in mind.
Prepping & Planning When Choosing a Site
Even once you arrive, you may find that it is extremely difficult for you to back your RV into your assigned spot. You must be very conscious of your overall length and width, as well as the size of the paved area where you are slotted to park.
Just because it requires some planning, don’t let that deter you from making the rounds at your local, national parks. Many people find that it is helpful for them to plan their trips roughly four to six months in advance, particularly if they will be driving there with an RV or a fifth wheel.
This not only ensures that they will have somewhere to spend the night, but it also reserves one of those coveted large-sized lots.
How do RV Parks Measure RV Length?
Before you head out on your next camping excursion, you need to make sure that you meet all of the guidelines. National parks can be very strict when it comes to setting limits regarding the size of your RV or trailer. You should know the exact means that they use to measure your RV and make sure that you can fit on your allotted campground site.
First things first, you need to measure the overall length of your RV.
Have a friend help you or pull out your handy tape measure and run it from the front bumper to the back bumper.
This is the length of the RV that they refer to when listing the maximum length for the campsite.
If you have a tow vehicle or will be towing a vehicle, you need to include the car in your overall length measurement.
Most national parks allow for a maximum length of thirty feet or less. Some are becoming more accommodating and are offering up sites that will house RVs that are forty or even fifty feet long. One thing to remember is that it may be extremely difficult for you to maneuver these longer lengths into the tight spaces allotted for them.
Don’t forget that you might want to measure the width of your unit as well.
To get the full picture of how to measure the width of your RV, you will want to measure it with all slide-outs fully extended. This is the only real way to ensure that you will have enough room on your campsite.
Are There Any State Regulations About RV Length I Should Know?
Each state will have its own legislation about maximum RV lengths and even the appropriate terminology for these vehicles. Most states refer to them as motorhomes or RVs, but a handful assigns unique names such as house car, vehicle, or private motorcoach. This legal jargon could be a useful tool if you needed to discuss your RV with someone in the industry.
When it comes to the length of your RV, most states allow them to be 45 feet long. Only a few states allow for RV lengths to exceed this, including:
- Florida (50’ private motor coach)
- Montana (55’ self-propelled motor vehicle)
- New Jersey (40’ vehicle)
- North Dakota (50’ vehicle)
- Washington (46’ motorhome)
- Wyoming (60’ vehicle)
It makes sense that most national parks do not allow RVs over forty feet, as most state regulations do not even allow for this.
Another size limitation that you should keep an eye on when crossing state lines is the width limit. Some states will allow only for an eight-foot width limit.
New models sometimes come just slightly wider than this, but this makes them illegal in certain states.
The following states all have a width restriction of eight feet:
- Washington D.C.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
One thing that you should look out for is whether your state will require you to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). In most states, you will be just fine with a standard driver’s license that you use to operate your personal vehicle.
However, in some areas, you might be required to have a CDL for a motorhome that weighs more than 26,000 pounds.
It is unlikely that your setup weighs quite this much, but it is possible. Make sure to have your RV weighed and check with the state you happen to be driving through to see their unique rules in regards to licensing.
Within each state, there are also special exceptions. Some freeways, bridges, and tunnels have their own rules when it comes to height, length, and width. They may also limit your ability to carry certain items like propane tanks.
In other words, there is a lot of state-specific legislation and rules surrounding your ability to travel with an RV. If you are planning a cross-country road trip, make sure you read the individual rules for all of the areas you are passing through. This will help you to avoid any nasty little surprises like costly traffic tickets.
Can RVs be Too Wide for National Parks?
Yes, there is a possibility that your RV will be too wide for a spot at a national park. Most of the RV spots that you can reserve are paved to prevent too much damage to the earth itself.
While this is great for preventing your tires from getting stuck in the mud, it might spell problems for people with extra wide trailers.
Your tires should all be able to sit on your assigned lot comfortably. If they do not, you may be asked to move or to leave.
Some campers say that they have had a hard time maneuvering their RV into a position where all tires are situated on the pavement.
If you are new to driving your RV, you may struggle with this while first getting settled. Hopefully, you will find that your RV fits just fine after making some minor adjustments.
Always be sure to call and confirm the length and width of the spots that you are reserving in the national park. This prevents you from arriving just to be sent home when your travel trailer does not fit in the required space.
Remember that there are state requirements when it comes to the width of your RV also. Most states require your travel trailer not exceed eight feet wide. Others are a bit more lenient about the width of the RV.
This state rule could help you to determine whether your RV is likely to fit into a spot in a specific national park.
How Much Does it Cost to RV in National Parks?
One of the biggest questions that people ask time and again is how much it will cost to RV in the national parks. Compared to some luxury campsites, national parks charge a pretty nominal fee for those who wish to enjoy the scenic atmosphere.
First, you will have to pay for entry into the park itself. Most people find that it is in their best financial interest to purchase the annual pass for a total of $80.
This grants you and one other person access to the Federal recreation centers across the country for free. It will also admit passengers in a non-commercial vehicle in per-vehicle fee areas or three additional adults at per-person fee areas.
Children under sixteen are always admitted for free.
This annual pass does not cover any of the additional costs associated with camping or hooking up your RV.
These additional costs will vary based on the park and campground you select, the size of your RV or campsite, and any hookup you may need. Many national parks have more than one campground site, so you may want to ask about pricing for each of their campgrounds. You may be able to save a little money just by asking the right questions.
Without hookups, most people can expect to spend roughly $30 to $50 per night. For a week-long stay at one of the most beautiful places in the nation, you could spend as little as $150.
Are There are Other Things to be Aware of Regarding Camping in National Parks?
Of course, these are just the basic things that you should be aware of before you head out with your RV to a national park. Here are a few tips to make your experience as smooth as possible:
Plan for Hookup Campsites
Not all campsites allow you to tap into their electricity. If you need electricity, you should plan to visit a national park campground site that offers this service.
Even if you have the option of running a generator, it may only be permitted during certain hours, such as early in the morning or during the evening.
Reservations Are a Necessity
Everyone wants to experience the best that nature has to offer.
Especially because it is so inexpensive to camp at the national parks, you will want to plan your trip four to six months in advance.
Measure Your RV in Advance
Make sure that you know exactly what size your RV is and how big the campsite will be.
This can save you a lot of hassle and heartache in the end. If you have trouble getting these measurements on your own, check out a professional RV weigh scale for more help.
Find Out if they are Pet-Friendly
Some national parks do not allow pets or allow them under very limited circumstances.
If bringing your furry friends along is important to you, make sure you check the rules first.
Study the Roadways First
Not all routes into the campsite are going to be RV friendly.
Make sure to take a look at the map ahead of time to ensure that your motorhome can make it through any twist, turns, or tunnels that crop up.
Camping in the national parks can be a wonderful adventure if you are prepared to plan.
Make sure you know the maximum RV length and find out more details about the park in general before you head out.
It will be a trip that you will remember forever!
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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.