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Campground Showdown: Private RV Parks vs. State and National Parks


Choices. It’s one of the things that draws people to travel, and why so many people tend to spend their time on the road in an RV. The freedom to do what you want, when you want to do it calls to people of all ages and all walks of life. Some of us like to wander in the woods all day, so we gravitate to places where access to trails and scenery are easily accessible. Others RVers like to be close to casinos, football tailgating gatherings, and other activities that are done in more urban areas. Of course, there’s plenty of crossover between the two that’s the beauty of RVing. It’s all about having choices.

We all have different ideas of what makes a comfy campground. If you spend enough time around RVers, the question will inevitably come up: Which are better, private campgrounds or state and national parks?

The answer to this question isn’t straightforward. To help you better understand which is best for you, we’ve broken down the main differences between the two, as well as the pros and cons of each.

 Meadville KOA Campground
Meadville KOA Campground

Private RV Parks

Private parks are those that don’t exist on public lands. They may be individually owned or part of a larger campground network, such as the Kampgrounds of America (KOA). Because of this, private campground experiences can vary greatly from location to location. You’ll come across simple sites with just the necessities, but you’ll also find luxurious RV resorts.

Pros of Private RV Parks

Generally speaking, private parks have better amenities in the way of full-facility RV camping. It isn’t uncommon to find things such as:

  • WiFi
  • Cable hook-ups
  • Laundry facilities
  • Recreation rooms
  • Dog parks

You’ll even come across some parks that have pools, hot tubs, and even lazy rivers! Because of the number of amenities, private campgrounds are often where full-timers choose to set up camp. And unlike national and state parks, which typically exist away from civilization, you’ll find private RV parks near and even in larger cities.

Cons of Private RV Parks

Many people camp to enjoy the great outdoors. If you love hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, and more, a private park may not be your best option. While you’ll there certainly are private campgrounds out there that off these, it isn’t a guarantee like it is in most state and national parks. You’ll likely have to travel to get to the good stuff.

Having your own vehicle to drive around is usually a must when staying at a private RV park. Unless you’re content with just kicking back and relaxing at the park, you’ll probably want to go out and do some activities. If you aren’t towing a trailer that you can simply unhitch, towing your car behind your motorhome is recommended. This will make leaving the park to explore nearby attractions everyday easy.

Another common disadvantage to private parks is the price. Especially if you’re staying at an upscale location, prepare to pay hotel prices for your little piece of land. While you can certainly find affordable private grounds, they are typically more expensive than national or state parks.

flowing river near tall trees viewing mountain under blue and white skies
Zion National Park

National Parks and State Parks

You’re probably familiar with national and state parks. Both are public parks. National parks are operated by the National Park Service and state parks are ran by your state’s department of parks. If you are into the traditional RV fare like campfires, hiking, and biking, and getting off the pavement for a while, then you are probably drawn more to state and national parks. There are some trade-offs for all that awesomeness, though. Here are some of the pros and cons.

Pros of Camping at National and State Parks

You’ll be in the center of all the action when you stay at a park. Likely, you’ll find an abundance of trails and other fun things close to your RV, meaning you never have to get in your car to go anywhere. Prices are also usually minimal, making this an affordable way to camp.

lake in middle of forest with pine trees
Yosemite National Park

Cons of Camping at National and State Parks

There are far fewer amenities at public parks. Not all sites will have full-hookups, if they have hookups at all. Some facilities like restrooms and showers may also be run down and not as frequently maintained as some campers would prefer.

Here’s an example. In Acadia National Park, there are bathrooms, but no showers. There is a dump station, but campsites don’t have electric or sewer hookups. This is the case in a lot of state and national parks.

Make Memories, No Matter Where You Are

With the right attitude and RV, you can make memories regardless of the campground you choose.  Here at Outdoorsy, we love both types of RVing. Our renters do everything from vintage camping rallies to beautiful state and national parks to in-town camping. We just love being out there, on the road, and taking in a wide range of experiences.

We want to you have these experiences, too. Browse around on Outdoorsy where we have rentals available from coast to coast. Get out there and explore.

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