By Bob Difley
When a National Park’s or Forest Service’s campground designates a maximum length limitation, what does that mean? You’ve seen it in campground guides and on entry kiosks: “Maximum size 27 feet,” for instance. So, driving a 28-foot Class C, or towing a 28-foot fiver, you crossed it off as a potential camping location, and possibly missed an opportunity to visit what might be a wonderful national treasure or a “nesty” forest campsite beside a tumbling stream.
Unfortunately, that would be making a mistake. The maximum length referred to means that all the campsites in the campground will accommodate that length. But … some will also accommodate longer lengths, sometimes much longer. The people in charge, or at least those that write the rules (probably at the advice of the lawyers), do not want to officially include longer lengths when maybe only three or four campsites will fit longer lengths; and if those are taken but smaller ones remain open, they may get in a tangle with someone with a longer RV urging them to move someone with a shorter rig out of the larger site and into a smaller site.
Not that I blame them at wanting to avoid such hassles. But knowing that does open up some options. If you can fit into the campsite, they cannot tell you to leave. And often, the measurement is made from the wheel barrier at the rear of the campsite to the front. So, when you back in, your overhang extends over the barrier adding quite a few feet to the length that will fit. But watch out for those wood posts that some campgrounds use. Your overhang may not clear them. And there might be several sites that are long enough even without the overhang factor.
When you arrive at a campground that has a stated maximum length, drive around the campground and if you find one you fit into — no extending into the road, into foliage in the rear, or onto other obstructions — take it. It’s unlikely that you will find a host or ranger that will ask your length unless they know exactly which sites are open and whether you will fit in any of them.
In national parks, it’s a bit more difficult, especially on busy holidays and weekends. If the park is filled every day, those that assign campsites may hold to the size maximum to reduce chaos, so plan to arrive early mid-week, before they start to fill up, when you can scout for larger sites on your own.
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