In my last blog post I shared five of our favorite campgrounds, from California’s Central Coast to the shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont. While we love a nice pool, paved roads for biking, clean laundry rooms, and spacious sites, our favorite places aren’t all about amenities. Read on for more campgrounds around the country that we loved and would return to again.
6. Valley of Fire State Park, Overton, NV
I dedicated an entire post to this park. Normally we wouldn’t risk a first come, first served campground and would just make a reservation nearby. In this case, the nearest campground was 20 miles away, and the thought of getting to stay overnight in the incredible surroundings of Valley of Fire was too enticing to pass up. We had a backup plan, but when we arrived at the campground we managed to get the last available site that was big enough for our RV.
The state park has two adjacent campgrounds, one that can fit larger RVs. Some sites have hookups. We didn’t get one, but we only stayed for one night. Valley of Fire is a relatively small park, and while it would be great to stay longer, one night is still well worth the effort. It’s enough time to see the park highlights, get a couple hikes in, and experience the magic of sunset, sunrise, and blissful silence in this magical red rock valley.
7. Tall Chief RV & Camping Resort, Fall City, WA
We booked Tall Chief for our first visit to Seattle, and liked it so much we stayed there again a couple years later. When you’re at the campground you’re immersed in the forest, but it’s only a short drive to major stores in the suburb of Sammamish, and less than an hour’s drive into downtown Seattle. Snoqualmie Falls and great hiking trails are also nearby.
The park feels like a rustic resort. There’s a huge pool, playground set, and putt-putt course to keep the kids happy. We spent time in the lodge and new club house, on the park’s Wifi, doing school work and work-work. Even though the campground has been almost full both times we were there, we’ve never seen more than a few people around at a time, and the dense forest gives each site a really peaceful and private setting.
8. Bend/Sisters Garden RV Resort, Bend, OR
This RV park is a perfect base to explore central Oregon, including the cool town of Bend and gorgeous Smith Rock State Park. “Sisters” in the name of a town nearby and the three mountain peaks that dominate the horizon. Sisters felt like an idealized version of an Oregon small town: independent coffee shops, breweries, bakeries, farm stands and bookstores, with charming Old West buildings.
If we never ventured outside the RV park we still would have been happy. This place was beautiful. Full of shady trees, meticulously maintained lawns and flower beds, nature trails, and a pretty pond. There was a fenced in dog run, and, even better, we had access to the huge rodeo grounds next door where the dogs were allowed off leash. We loved the great pool, mini golf, spa-worthy showers, and flat paved roads at Bend/Sisters that were perfect for our little bike riders to gain some experience and independence.
I’m bending my own rules to list these two campgrounds together. While not exactly remarkable, each park had spacious sites in a beautiful setting, and we’d choose to stay at them again. What made them favorites is that they a) introduced us to parts of Wisconsin we fell in love with, and b) provided unforgettable encounters with bald eagles.
At Nelson’s Landing we explored the natural beauty, charming small towns, and surprisingly great food in the Mississippi River Valley. The RV park had a picturesque location up against sandstone bluffs, where bald eagles regularly rode the thermals. We also got to see the majestic birds up close at the National Eagle Center, across the river in Wabasha, Minnesota.
A few days later we stopped outside Green Bay as we made our way up the western shore of Lake Michigan. County fairgrounds can be an economical option for RV sites with partial hookups, but they’re typically not much more than a parking lot. We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Brown County Fairgrounds and found ourselves in a beautiful riverside park. What put this place over the top was the bald eagle nest that had been home to families of eagles for years. It was incredible to be able to observe two adults and two juvenile bald eagles up close in their natural environment, just steps from our RV.
Another pairing of two campgrounds in areas of Michigan we were happy to discover. Munising Tourist Park has a spectacular location on the shore of Lake Superior on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Our site backed right up to the sand. The kids spent hours exploring the shoreline, running up and down the narrow beach, climbing driftwood and throwing rocks into the still water. We enjoyed hikes and views of beautiful Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore nearby. The stay would have been perfect if it weren’t for the black flies that drove us inside…
Petoskey was a serendipitous stop. After we read about the unique petoskey stones we decided to make the town our next stop as we made our way down Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. We found ourselves with a huge campsite in a city park on Little Traverse Bay, right in the middle of the beautiful, historic town of Petoskey. Through social media we connected with a high school friend of Chris who happened to live in town with his family. There were no flies, so we thoroughly enjoyed all our time outdoors, relaxing at our campsite, riding along the bike path, and walking the rocky lakeshore where we were thrilled to find our own petoskey stones.
11. McCall RV Resort, McCall, ID
Last summer we took a trip to the Pacific Northwest. The highlight was Olympic National Park, but we also revisited old favorites, including Astoria, Oregon, and discovered gems like the Palouse in Washington and McCall, Idaho. McCall is a popular tourist town, full of charm and natural beauty on the shores of Payette Lake. The McCall RV Resort, located just outside of town, has an idyllic woodsy setting along the North Fork Payette River.
As I’m revisiting all these memorable places, McCall takes the prize for best campground and best campsite combined. The park itself is sprawling, with over 100 spacious sites spread out among tall trees and along a bend in the river. I worked on the patio of the stately lodge, and we all relaxed at the beautiful indoor pool and hot tub. We would have been happy with any site at this great resort, but ended up with an amazing riverfront spot. We arrived on my birthday, and it felt like the best surprise gift. The view was sublime, and we could take long walks with the dogs into the adjacent Riverfront Park.
12. Sam’s Family Spa & Hot Water Resort, Desert Hot Springs, CA
We’ve spent more nights at Sam’s than any other campground – two full months in December 2016 and February 2017. The Coachella Valley was a convenient place to winter, close to family and friends in Southern California, before we headed out on our first cross-country trip. We loved getting to be temporary locals in the Palm Springs area, which boasts an ideal combination of outdoor recreation mixed with a vibrant arts, culture, and dining scene.
Sam’s is developed around natural mineral hot springs, with four soaking pools of varying temperatures, saunas, and a huge heated swimming pool. While the full hookup campsites are tightly spaced, this is more than made up for by having the hot spring pools surrounded by an oasis of green just steps from the RV. Our time at Sam’s was a blissful blur of daily soaks and swims, free yoga classes and movie nights, delicious soft serve ice cream sundaes from the store, and walks in the open desert.
I have to be honest that the second time we were there, the park was a little rough around the edges. Recent online reviews mention new management, which gives me hope for this desert gem.
13. Pacific Dunes Ranch & RV Resort, Oceano, CA
There’s no shortage of great places to stay on the California coast, but we absolutely loved the unique setting at Pacific Dunes, in one of our favorite areas of California. The RV park is right up against the Oceano Preserve sand dunes, which are like a giant playground with million dollar views. Its location feels isolated, but we were just a couple minutes from the sleepy town of Oceano and a short, scenic drive to downtown Pismo Beach.
There’s not much privacy between campsites. But, as with Sam’s, we’re OK with a tight site when the surroundings are the star attraction. We enjoyed our spot on the lower level campground, which was protected from the wind and convenient for walking the dogs along the quiet entrance road and using the clubhouse patio as an office. We were just a short walk to the upper level campsites and entrance to the wonderful, wide open dunes.
14. Jackson Rancheria, Jackson, CA
When I asked the kids about their favorite campgrounds, they immediately named Jackson Rancheria. We’ve stayed there twice, and what the kids love is the big pool, hot tub, outdoor ping pong table, tv lounge, paved loop roads for bike riding, and free popcorn in the office. I love all of those things, plus: walking the dogs on the secluded trail around the grounds; using the spacious lounge and outdoor patio as a remote office; large campsites, and expansive views.
The RV park is separate from the casino resort, both owned and operated by the Band of Miwuk Indians, on beautifully landscaped grounds. The resort is enough of a relaxing destination on its own, but we also fell in love with Jackson and the surrounding small towns, history, natural beauty, and wineries, of California’s Gold Country. We’re happy to have Jackson Rancheria just a three hour, scenic drive away from our home in Reno for a weekend getaway.
15. Likely Place Golf and RV Park, Likely, CA
One of the first stops as we headed north in our full time journey, Likely opened our eyes to the possibilities and serendipity of RV travel. We selected Likely Place simply as a stop over point near the California border with Oregon. What we discovered was a tiny town in one of the least populated counties in California with wide open spaces, natural beauty, rich history, and a way of life so different from Southern California, we may as well have been in a completely different state. It also inspired my first published story.
Likely Place would be an excellent campground in any location: spacious RV sites, private grassy tent camping area, spotless restrooms and laundry, a restaurant with excellent fresh breakfasts and lunches, and a super friendly staff. What set Likely apart was the incredible surroundings: sagebrush, junipers, marshes, and unencumbered views for miles in all directions. The kids played and the dogs ran free. I marveled at the beauty and quiet, and how unlikely it was that we ended up at this campground in the middle of nowhere.
This experience stayed in our hearts as we traveled around the country for over a year and a half. And now here we are settled in Reno, with views of open high desert, sagebrush, and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, less than 200 miles from Likely.