Your bucket list is on your notes app on your phone or penned in your journal: canoe down the grand canyon; see the dark sky in Big Bend National Park; visit Mount Rushmore; RV down Highway One. But where do you go from here or – rather – when?
RV travel is seen as seasonal by many, with campgrounds across the country bursting at the seams during summer months and some closing entirely during the winter. It is no surprise that most decide to hit the road when the country warms up and kids are out of school. Besides, RVs are only appropriate when the temperature is between 40 – 90 degrees. Any cooler or hotter and you won’t be comfortable camping. But some of the best places to visit by RV are actually most enjoyable in the “off” season. After mulling over my own RV travel bucket list and doing research on where to go when, I put together this guide to outline the best places to RV every month of the year.
RV enthusiasts will know, that once you start RVing your list of must-go destinations in an RV grows. I have always wanted to go to Glacier National Park and the Badlands in North Dakota but now that I am proficient in RV travel, those destinations simply cannot be visited in any other way than with an RV.
Most of the country is cold and RVs are winterized in January. However, there are few states where RVs are a great option during the winter months including Southern California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida.
In January, I’d recommend renting an RV near the Miami metro and key hopping down to Key West. January is a fantastic time to visit the gulf coast as it is pretty much guaranteed to be the warmest place in the US. Because it is warm and a snowbird’s paradise, book campgrounds early! Boyd’s campground, Key West KOA, and El Mar RV Resort are all good options. Enjoy driving down the Overseas highway and soak in that crystal clear blue water.
It is not easy to get to Big Bend National Park. It is three hours away from the closest airport and 7+ hours away from Texas’ largest metros. Due to the remote nature of Big Bend, many visitors prefer to travel by RV. Renting a motorhome or camper allows you to camp directly in the park while bringing all the comforts of home along with you. I suggest renting an RV from Austin and heading out to Big Bend in February.
The weather can be slightly unpredictable, 85 and sunny one day and 55 and raining the next. But, the temperature swings are worth it to avoid the hot summers. Big Bend is extremely vast and wide open. It has one of the darkest skies in the whole world where you can see the milky way with your bare eye (it is incredible!). We boondocked at a campground that was 40 minutes down a dirt road. It is worth setting a calendar reminder to book a campground inside the park 6 months in advance.
In March, the average temperature is a high of 72 and a low of 48 – perfect camping weather! Be aware that any time of the year temperatures can fluctuate widely between daytime and nighttime. It is a popular time to visit but don’t let that deter you. You can enjoy pleasant hiking and rock climbing temperatures and witness the wildflowers blooming – maybe you’ll even catch a superbloom! It is not required that you reserve a camping spot at Joshua Tree National Park, but it is highly recommended. You can make reservations at Black Rock, Cottonwood, Indian Cove, Jumbo Rocks, and Ryan Campgrounds. The Belle, Hidden Valley, and White Tank Campgrounds are all first-come, first-serve.
APRIL – Highway 1
Roadtripping up or down HWY one can be done any time of year. It is especially beautiful in March and April. June and July can bring a bit of gloominess and you might miss the sensational Pacific views. Start in LA or San Francisco. Pick a few stopping points along the way. Between Santa Barbara and LA you’ll find a few boondocking spots right off the highway where you can open your door on the sand.
Stay North of Santa Barbara in a town called Goleta in the Ocean Mesa campground. You’ll have access to Santa Barbara and the wineries in that region. Big Sur is a camping paradise. There are state park and national forest campgrounds as well as privately owned. Make sure to do your research because campsites get booked up fast. A great option is Kirk Creek Campground or Plaskett Creek Campground. Both can be booked online. After Big Sur, stop in to the quaint towns of Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey.
Acadia National Park is one of the most unique National Parks located on an Island off the coast of Maine. It is best visited in late spring or early summer when the island begins to wake up. Crowds within the park are minimal this time of year. You’ll find quite a few towns and villages woven into Acadia National Park.
Whether you prefer a small, picturesque village-like Somesville or a larger resort town with more to do, such as Bar Harbor, there’s plenty to see and do all throughout and around Acadia National Park. If you are planning to stay in your RV at the park, Schoodic Woods Campground is the only public campground that provides water and electric hookups. Blackwoods and Seawall Campgrounds do not have hookups but each has a dump station.
Badlands has always been on my list of places I must visit by RV. There are a few spectacular boondocking locations according to our friends at Campendium. A must-do is Nomad View Dispersed Camping and Steer Pasture Overlook. June is the ideal time to visit South Dakota, with temperatures reaching about 80 degrees. The Badlands is said to look like the moon’s surface and visitors enjoy watching the sunlight bounce off the canyons and spires. With plenty of hikes and areas to explore, the Badlands should be on every RVers bucketlist.
The summer months are the only time you can visit Glacier National Park. Located in northern Montana, Glacier’s beauty is only accessible when the warmer months arrive. Spring extends into late June and snow-related closures may persist into July; however summer brings long, bright days with sunshine until well past 10 p.m. After talking to a handful of RV enthusiasts, the majority say Glacier is hands down the best national park in the country. The landscape is dramatic, the water is crystal clear and the park encompasses over one million acres for endless exploring. According to RVshare’s National Park guide, Glacier hosts a variety of scheduled events including star parties, boat tours, guided hikes, and more.
AUGUST – Alaska
Summer is a popular time to visit Alaska, for good reason! When camping, it is important to go when the weather is temperate and you won’t freeze through your sleeping bag. Many people have found that the best way to explore the last frontier is from the comfort of an RV and that’s why it made it on this list! There are a number of routes you can take depending on how much time you have to explore the massive state by RV. The most RV rental inventory will be found in Anchorage. Heading down to Homer, visiting the Kenai Fjords National Park and stopping in Seward would be a great first trip for an RV excursion.
The best time to visit the Grand Canyon is in shoulder seasons when the crowds have died down and the weather is manageable. The Grand Canyon is easily accessible from Phoenix, Arizona, or Las Vegas. I would suggest picking an RV up from one of those metros and making the short drive to the canyon’s edge. Being one of the most popular RV destinations in all of the US, campgrounds book up around the Grand Canyon year round, so book ahead of time.
OCTOBER – Utah’s Mighty Five
Fly into Salt Lake City and rent an RV from the large selection in the Utah metro. You’ll head south to visit Utah’s “Mighty Five:” Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion National Park. These parks hold some of the United States’ most beautiful and unique landscapes. Get yourself a national park pass, rent an RV from Salt Lake City and start exploring the beautiful state of Utah!
NOVEMBER – Disney World
November is a great time of the year to visit Florida due to the decent weather and fewer crowds. Renting an RV to visit Disney is growing in popularity. Guests can stay at Disney’s Fort Wilderness which is a huge RV resort inside the park. RVshare has more than 1,000 RVs in the Orlando area available for delivery to the campground. Renters can meet the owner at their reserved camping spot on the day of check-in. The RV will be set up, plugged in, and fully ready to welcome you to your glamping retreat.
DECEMBER – Oahu
Although there aren’t as many RV options on the Hawaiian Islands, there still are a handful of RVs to rent and it would be an experience of a lifetime to live out the ultimate #vanlife dream. Boondocking was banned in Hawaii so finding proper campgrounds to stay the night is essential to a successful RV trip in Hawaii. Oahu is one of the bigger islands making it easily accessible by flying into Honolulu. Explore the pineapple fields, hike the infamous Diamond Head and watch the pro surfers take on the waves at North Beach.
There’s no shortage of fabulous places to visit via RV across the U.S., but this list is a great jumping off point! Always consider busy season, temperatures, and campground availability when planning your journey.