AN ALL-AMERICAN VACATION: RV CAMPING IN NATION'S PARKS, CAMPGROUNDS
RESTON, Va. -- Travel experts say it's America's hottest vacation trend: Camping in a recreation vehicle (RV) at the nation's parks, forests and campgrounds.
Escaping to a safe and peaceful wilderness setting-via RV-has wide appeal for families seeking a stress-free vacation in today's travel climate. And RV camping is perfect for experiencing nature up close-with all the conveniences of home, experts point out.
"Families want to reconnect with America's great outdoors and spend quality time together on vacation," explains David J. Humphreys, president of Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. "RV camping offers the best possible way-providing the ultimate in freedom, flexibility and control. Our nation's parks, forests and campgrounds are rich in natural settings, breathtaking views and scenic spots ideal for RV camping."
Camping opportunities abound with more than 16,000 campgrounds on America's public and private lands. Here's a primer on the range of campground options and how to search for information:
Privately-Owned RV Parks and Campgrounds. More than 8,500 of these popular family-oriented properties are located near national parks and forests, popular tourist attractions, along interstates and in cities and small towns. Many are vacation destinations in their own right, offering pools, playgrounds, organized activities, convenience stores and much more. Information sources include the following:
- The National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) offers campground information for 3,700 member properties. A new online reservation system provides campers instant confirmation of their travel plans.
- North America's largest campground chain, Kampgrounds of America (KOA), offers a free Directory, Road Atlas & Camping Guide when you stop by any one of more than 550 campgrounds. To order the directory by mail, send $3 to cover postage to: KOA Directory, P.O. Box 30558, Billings, MT 59114-0558.
Camping on Public Lands. The United States is rich with public lands and parks, many offering campgrounds and facilities for RV travelers. Search for camping areas by state, recreational activity, agency, or map at www.Recreation.Gov, a partnership among federal land management agencies. This easy-to-use website provides information about all federal recreation areas, including National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, Bureau of Land Management sites, Army Corps of Engineers projects, and Tennessee Valley Authority sites.
- National Parks - At the nation's 384 national parks there are over 440 campgrounds offering 29,000 campsites. Camping facilities are generally simple and rustic, but set amid the nation's most spectacular scenery. To make reservations at some of the busiest National Parks up to three months in advance, contact the National Park Service toll-free at 1-800-365-2267 or visit its website at http://reservations.nps.gov. The site provides campground layout maps and availability.
RV travelers planning to visit numerous National Parks during the next year may be interested in the National Parks Pass, a $50 annual passport to all National Parks charging entrance fees. Purchase the National Parks Pass online at www.nationalparks.org/index.html, by telephone at 1-888-GO-PARKS or in person at Park entrances and visitor centers. In addition, U.S. residents age 62 years or older may purchase a $10 Golden Age Passport, which entitles the bearer to 50 percent discounts on camping fees.
- National Forests - The USDA Forest Service boasts more than 4,300 campgrounds in its 155 forests, covering more than 192 million acres of forest and grassland in 48 states, with 133,000 miles of trails, 95 wild and scenic rivers, 136 scenic byways and 1,500 picnic sites. A list of Forest Service campgrounds is available free by writing to: USDA Forest Service, Public Affairs Office, P.O. Box 96090, Washington, D.C. 20090-6090. Make reservations for Forest Service campgrounds through the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS) toll-free at 1-877-444-6777 or visit www.ReserveUSA.com.
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Projects - Discover some 2,375 parks with campgrounds and 103,000 family campsites located mostly near lakes, created through Corps projects, in a series of brochures provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. To obtain information, please indicate regional preference or "nationwide" and write to: USACE Publication Depot, 2803 52nd Ave., Hyattsville, MD 20781-1102. The NRRS, mentioned above, also handles reservations for Corp's projects campsites. Visit www.usace.army.mil/public.html#recreation.com.
- Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Recreation Sites - The BLM oversees 264 million acres of scenic outdoor recreation land in the western United States, including Alaska. Recreation activities from hunting to hang gliding abound in BLM areas. For BLM camping and recreation information, visit www.blm.gov or write to: BLM, Department of Interior-MIB, 1849 C Street N.W., Room 5600, Washington, DC 20240.
- National Wildlife Refuges - The 520 National Wildlife Refuges are dedicated to wildlife conservation. Camping is allowed if compatible with conservation efforts at each location. A free list of refuges that permit camping is included in National Wildlife Refuges - A Visitor's Guide, which highlights facilities and activities offered on refuges. Write to: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Conservation Training Center, Shepherd Grade Road, Rt. 1 Box 166, Shepherdstown, WV 25443. Or call toll-free 1-800-344-WILD (9453).
- State and Local Parks - In addition to federal and privately owned campgrounds, the nation is dotted with thousands of state and local-run facilities. To find out what's available in particular areas, contact local travel and tourism bureaus for camping information. A free brochure of state travel offices, Discover America Vacation Guide , is available by writing to: Travel Industry Association of America, 1100 New York Ave., N.W., Suite 450, Washington, DC 20005. Please include a self-addressed, business-size envelope with requests for the guide.