RV sales have slowed (finally) and fewer people are buying RVs than has been the recent trend. Has that changed campground crowding? Is it easier to find a campsite now, particularly in state and national parks? Campgrounds are changing and evolving, some for the better and some for the worse. RV Travel readers discuss their experiences and offer a few tips to help other campers find that perfect spot.
Here are a few observations from our readers.
Nothing “recreational” in an RV park
Captain G. finds the “traveler’s spirit” missing. He explains, “We tow our newer Rockwood 2109S about 8-10 weeks per year around the western USA, although it has been all the way to Key West, New York, and everywhere in between.
“This past couple of years has been noticeably more crowded. First, it was Covid mania, now it seems to be full-timers who live in RVs because conventional housing is out of their financial range, life situation, and/or work ethic equation. They are not using their rig as an RV. The whole experience has lost a lot of its magic, in my opinion. ‘RV’ is shorthand for ‘Recreational Vehicle’ and there is nothing recreational about an ‘RV Park.’ Now they are basically a ‘trailer court’ or ‘mobile home park’ in the true sense of the definition.
“That ‘traveler spirit’ of actual vacationers is missing, replaced by something entirely different. And many/most RV parks have, like every other business, raised their prices due to inflation, demand and, yes, greed. Just like so many others.”
Extra boats and vehicles reason for less availability in this park
Teri B. owns an RV park in San Antonio. They share: “I own an RV park near San Antonio, Texas, but outside the city a bit in a country setting. Except for February and March, we always have sites available, long- or short-term. Even in those months, shorter stays are available.
“The biggest issue I see is that, even though our sites fit 40′ RVs easily, we are seeing more and more 44′ RVs with people traveling with boats, and/or two or three vehicles among other paraphernalia. That’s the biggest reason for the lessened availability in our park. We are upgrading with some even larger sites but, y’all, let me say, these upgrades are what is causing our rates to increase.
“We have a mix of seasonal and traveling guests that are in different areas of our park with a bit higher percentage of the seasonals. I am an RVer myself and always look to surrounding areas rather than tourist cities for sites and seldom have an issue finding availability.”
Grow up, people!
Diane S. does a lot of boondocking and is seeing a big change. “We just started living full-time after realizing we would have little retirement money to keep our home. That said, we have been tent campers for decades and now have gone to the life of ‘turtle people’ in an Airstream.
“The worst part is the ATVs and cows. They are destroying our public lands and forests. I heard the BLM is being sued for allowing overgrazing. We don’t use private RV campgrounds as they are overpriced and jam-packed cheek-to-cheek. We boondock mostly. There are mostly polite folks out here. The few that aren’t almost always have massive $250,000 rigs with dogs and/or kids. They light up the sky and let their dogs poop anywhere.
“The gearheads are awful. We get chased out of camping regions, noise, pollution and tearing up trails. There are virtually no trails without dirt bikes and ATVs. The cows are a menace with the nastiness they spread. Now we hear of rich people cutting off access to public lands for their own use (Elk Mountain in Wyoming, for example), and we have seen it in Colorado for the last 20 years.
“The reservation system is a joke and a scam. And we, too, have seen blocks reserved and no one present for the entire time. We also see trailers left for days, parked all over with no one present.
“Abandoned trailers are a nightmare for the park service, which has been gutted in favor of ‘concessions.’ People poop all over and leave trash all over. Don’t get me started on the guns. I have seen the destruction of trees from AR-15s shooting down whole groves.
“We are lucky due to the actions of far-sighted people 100 plus years ago to save so much. We are like spoiled children, breaking our toys, and those types will demand more, more, more without being raised right. We’ll lose it all if people don’t grow up.”
What makes a campground overcrowded?
Rod P. asks a question about crowding: “I’ve been summer camping for around 10 years. Lately, I’m seeing more and more discussions about overcrowding. My question is, what makes a campground overcrowded? If a campground has 50 sites and every site is filled with an RV or campers, is that overcrowded? It may be crowded, but is it overcrowded?”
Never paid more than $50
Randy G. has some great ways to cut campsite costs. He says, “We rarely stay in commercial campgrounds. Even when we have, we never paid more than $50 a night, which is a lot cheaper than any hotel we stayed at in recent years. We prefer to stay at federal or state campgrounds. We prefer COE or Forest Service campgrounds.
“Last August we stayed at Tionesta Lake in northeast Pennsylvania. It is a Federal Campground and honors the Senior Pass. Normally it is $40 a night for full hookups. We paid $20 with the pass. We go to Texas every spring to visit our grandkids. In Arkansas, we stay at Beard’s Bluff, which is a COE campground. Normally water and electric sites are $15 a night. We pay $7.50 with the pass. In Texas, we stay at Canyon Lake. A site with water and electric right on the lake is normally $38 a night, but $19 with the pass. We prefer to go in spring or fall when there are fewer people camping, making it easier to find a site. Also going on a Sunday and coming back Thursday or Friday makes it easier to find the sites we prefer. The only thing affecting our camping is the price of fuel.”
Now, some questions for you:
- Are you finding campgrounds booked up? Or is finding a place to stay not a problem?
- Are campgrounds changing for the better or for the worse?
- Are you seeing more permanent and seasonal RV parks?
- Are rising costs affecting your camping style?
- If campgrounds continue to be crowded and RVing continues to become more popular, will it affect how or when you RV?
- Do you have any tips or secrets you’d like to share about finding campgrounds that aren’t as crowded?
Please use the form below to answer one or more of these questions, or tell us what you’ve experienced with campground crowding in general.
Read the last issue of the Crowded Campgrounds column: One RVer’s solution to campground crowding and no reservations: Own two RVs