By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Ah, those wonderful mysteries of RVing. When you’re first starting out, there must be hundreds of them to be resolved. Here’s one: “We are transitioning from tent camping to towing a travel trailer this year. We will be towing a 19.5′ travel trailer with a 19′ pickup truck, the overall length being approximately 38.5′. Does the RV length limit listed for a campground (especially national parks) include the tow vehicle and the travel trailer?”
RV scholars, how do you reply? If you’ve been on the road for long, you know this is a question that, sadly, often has more than one answer. Really, what does “site length” or “length restriction” mean in a campground or RV park listing? There’s no universal definition, but we can give you some ideas.
When “site length” is listed, it often means the number of feet for the RV unit to park in. For our questioner, his “combination” length is almost 39 feet. If the site length listed was 40 feet, surely he’d fit. But there’s more at play here. Many RV sites have a “stopping block” at the end of the parking pad that prevents the rig from backing up any farther. In many cases where we’ve traveled, there’s actually space behind the stop block. If we back our trailer right up to the stop block, we have another ten feet or so that overhangs the block, provided there aren’t trees or other obstructions behind the block.
Here’s a snippet from the campground information page at Yosemite National Park. “Many more sites exist in Yosemite Valley and elsewhere in Yosemite that can take RVs up to 35 feet or trailers up to 24 feet.” What’s the difference here? Same site, two different lengths? The differentiation might be more clearly made by saying “motorhomes up to 35 feet,” while the trailer length itself could be 24 feet, and the balance of the space is allowed for the tow unit. On the other hand, in some cases this problem applies: “Please note that many campsites have different maximum lengths for RVs and trailers. This is because many of the campsites are back-in sites with limited turning radius.”
In some cases you may find you can get a longer trailer into a site than you might think, provided you can unhitch and park your tow vehicle elsewhere in the same site, or in a different vehicle parking location.
Best advice? Call ahead wherever possible and ask just what the limitations really mean. Yosemite warns visitors, “If you reserve a site for equipment other than what you bring, and the site can’t accommodate your RV or trailer, we will not be able to find a different campsite for you.”