Ryan Robinson takes you for a ride in the passenger seat of his RV, off the grid, deep among the dramatic rock formations of the Utah Desert. Robinson and friends chill by the fire, tell stories, and of course, rig a one of a kind highline over the Looking Glass Arch in Moab, UT.
There are literally tens of thousands of campgrounds across the United States offering everything from primitive campsites to luxurious RV resorts.
The challenge in figuring out what kind of camping experience you want and finding the campground, RV park or resort that best fits your needs.
Unlike the hotel industry, whose inventory of accommodations is easily searchable through most major travel portals, the campground industry is highly fragmented, which means there is no single website listing every campground. The campground industry is further segmented between government run campgrounds, which are the campgrounds you typically see in county, state and national parks, and independently owned and operated campgrounds, which are everywhere else.
In an effort to assist with your trip planning efforts, GoRVing.com has produced this campground search engine primer to help you find the specific type of campground that best suits your needs.
For starters, consider the differences between public or government-run campgrounds and independently owned and operated campgrounds:
Public or Government-Run Campgrounds
These are the campgrounds typically found in county, state and national parks as well as other protected areas, such as public lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as state and national forests. These are the locations where you will find the most beautiful landscapes as well as the most primitive campgrounds, often offering nothing more than RV and tent sites, pit toilets and trash receptacles. In the more more popular and developed parks, you’ll find public campgrounds with drinking water as well as restrooms with hot showers. Some locations offer fire rings and barbecue grills. Electrical hookups and dump stations for RV holding tanks are only available in the most developed locations. Most public campgrounds do not offer WiFi service. However, limited WiFi service is gradually becoming more available in some of the more developed locations. The most developed public campgrounds also offer convenience stores and rental accommodations as well as bicycle, boat, canoe or kayak rentals and other recreational amenities. The best online resources for public or government-run campgrounds across the U.S. include https://www.recreation.gov/ and https://www.reserveamerica.com/.
Independently Owned Campgrounds
These campgrounds can be anywhere in the country, but are usually outside county, state and national parks, unless they have a special concession or permit that allows them to operate inside protected lands. Independently owned campgrounds usually offer a much wide variety of amenities and services than public campgrounds, including water and electrical hookups, hot showers and WiFi service. Many independently owned campgrounds also have swimming pools and playgrounds and other amenities.
A large number of independently owned campgrounds are family owned and operated, often by multiple generations of the same family, depending on the age of the campground. Others are owned by investor groups. Growing numbers of independently owned campgrounds offer organized activities and entertainment during their peak seasons. Some of the best known independently owned campgrounds are affiliated with the Kampgrounds of America and Jellystone Park franchise networks. Other major campground and RV resort companies with national networks of parks include Sun Outdoors and Equity LifeStyle Properties, which owns and operates RV parks and resorts marketed with the Encore and Thousand Trails brand names.
How to Find Independently Owned Campgrounds
The largest online listings of independently owned and operated campgrounds can be found on https://www.goodsam.com/campgrounds-rv-parks/, the website of Good Sam’s North American RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory and https://gocampingamerica.com/, which is hosted by the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. But while some states are affiliated with the national association, others are not, which means there are some state campground association websites with listings of campgrounds that are not included on the national website. Not every state has a campground association, either, which makes it harder to quickly find every independently owned campground online. The following list features states that have online listings of independently owned campgrounds, RV parks and resorts:
Beyond these state-by-state listings, there are also growing numbers of search engines that feature national listings of campgrounds as well as campground reviews. These include:
— Campendium.com: This search engine includes listings and reviews of campgrounds across the country.
—CampgroundViews.com: This company started off creating virtual tours of campgrounds and now has a search engine featuring its videos of each park.
— Campspot.com: This company produces online reservation software for campgrounds.
— GoodSam.com: This website contains listings of independently owned campgrounds across the country that are contained in Good Sam’s North American Campground Directory.
— Spot2Nite.com: This website features campgrounds that use several different types of online reservation software.
Additionally, there are companies that offer unique camping opportunities, such as HarvestHosts.com, which is a membership network of over 3,000 wineries, breweries, distilleries, farms, and attractions that invite RVers to stay overnight.
Jeff Crider, President and CEO of Crider Public Relations, has been involved in covering the campground industry for over 25 years. Jeff has worked as a freelance writer for publications such as RV Business, Motor Home Magazine, Trailer Life, Highways and other Affinity Group Inc. publications since 1995. He has also successfully pitched many of the nation's top tier media outlets, including CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Financial Times, Reuters, The Associated Press and National Public Radio. In addition to writing, Jeff is also a talented photographer and humanitarian.