Offering the freedom of the open road and the ability to take the comforts of home with you, RV camping has a timeless allure. Since the first “autocampers” set forth in the 1920s, North Americans have turned to RV camping as a way to see more hidden spots with relatively low vacation costs.
Where should you park your RV this summer? There’s a wide range of RV campgrounds out there. Public parks with RV camping offer more in the way of breathtaking scenery than hook-ups. Private RV parks have all the amps you need, and other perks like water, sewage, WiFi, laundry and even swimming pools. While RV parks are not always smack dab in the middle of the scenery, they’re often located right next to it.
Here are 10 West Coast RV campgrounds worth a visit. They’re ordered north to south from British Columbia through Washington, Oregon and California.
Inviting sand beaches, aquamarine waters and lush forest attract drive-in and walk-in campers to this prime Sunshine Coast spot. The sun-dappled waterfront at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park is separated from the Strait of Georgia by the isthmus at Sechelt, creating a protected swimming area. The calm waters are also popular with rookie paddlers.
Pack your hiking boots and check out the Porpoise Bay Provincial Park 2 kilometre hiking route along Angus Creek. Take the bridge across the creek to tack on the Sunshine Coast trail; you’ll stumble upon a pretty estuary where you can work on your birdwatching.
There are no hook-ups, so head to nearby Bayside RV Park (no website) when you need water and electricity.
With the rugged beauty of Norwegian fjords and the verdant emerald of Hawaii, Tofino is one of the loveliest places to summer in BC. It’s also one of the most expensive, making RV camping a particularly appealing alternative. Crystal Cove RV Park, located on Mackenzie Beach, is just 5 minutes from the town of Tofino and 15 minutes from the Pacific Rim National Park and surf-central at Long Beach. After you ride the waves, check out the hiking trails along the Tofino shoreline, Broken Islands and the West Coast Trail.
The RV park amenities include 30 amp power, sewer, and water hook ups as well as a picnic tables and fire pits. Fire wood is complimentary, as are wireless internet and coffee. Bonus perks: DVD and board game rentals, plus storybook sunsets at the beach.
Locals have been in the know and tourists are just starting to find out that Whistler is as much fun in summer as in winter. Folks who like to rough it in style park their campers at Whistler RV Park which has 102 fully serviced RV sites and is 12 kilometers from Whistler Creekside and 18 kilometres from Whistler Village. Tucked up snug in the middle of the Coast Mountain Range, sunrise and sunset at Whistler RV Park feature vistas with Whistler Mountain and Black Tusk making them truly Instagram-worthy beauties.
Stick around and hike the forests near the camp or catch the free shuttle to town. You’re a hop away from quintessential summer activities like a paddling from Alta Lake, through Whistler’s wetlands and down a glacier river to Green Lake, zip-lining it or trying out your rock climbing skills on Whistler Mountain. Come home every evening to free creature comforts: wifi, hot showers, laundry, and even an 18-hole frisbee golf course.
Olympic National Park in northern Washington is a breathtaking world heritage sight; the wild 73-mile coastline, where Kalaloch campgrounds are located, is the crown jewel. Set on a dramatic bluff overlooking the Pacific, you will always hear the background roar of the waves. Several staircases descend to the beach below from the campground. You can hike the beach in either direction.
There are 170 vehicle accessible sites that can accommodate 21-foot rigs. Only a few can handle a 35-footer. There are no hook-ups but the view is totally worth boondocking it for a night or two. Fun fact: Twilight tourists pass through here traveling to Forks, which is just up the highway.
At 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is a Washington icon most Vancouverites have seen on the horizon. Get up close and personal with this active volcano at Mount Rainier National Park, where subalpine wildflower meadows ring the glacial peaks and old growth forest is so abundant you might just start to take trees wider than a hug for granted. Of the camping on offer, Ohanapecosh is the best park campground for avoiding the crowds.
With a wild river running right through the campsite as well as Ohanapecosh Hot Springs, and quick access to the Grove of the Patriarchs trail, you can accomplish a lot close to base camp. There are 188 individual campsites and they can accommodate RVs up to 32 feet. When you need power, head to Gateway Inn, just outside the park’s Nisqually Entrance. You’ll find full and partial hook-ups at 30 amps, with sites that can accommodate vehicles up to 40 feet in length.
This RV’ers paradise, perched at the coastal intersection of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, is a bit like the set of a Pirates of the Caribbean film. Lazy summer days are easily lost at the 4,200-acre Fort Stevens; spend them beachcombing near historic shipwrecks, walking or biking along the miles of trails through shore pines and dunes, splashing in fresh water lakes or the ocean. It’s practically mandatory to finish with a beachfront bbq. There are 300 campsites that have electricity and water, as well as picnic tables and fire grills.
Immerse yourself in the heart of the Oregon forest at LaPine State Park, a peaceful, green respite where fishing poles are more useful than smartphones, and red-tailed hawks grab breakfast out of the river twisting right in front of you.
LaPine gives hikers access to the Williamette Forest, Deschutes National Forest and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument with Paulina Peak. You’ll also want to check out Oregon’s largest ponderosa pine, “Big Red,” which is 162′ tall, 28.9′ around and over 500 years old. There are 45 sites available for RVs that have both electricity and water. For a night on the town, make the 30-minute drive to Bend which has too many talented craft breweries to visit in one evening.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the San Fran area is quintessential Northern California. Founded in 1902, it’s the oldest California state park and home to the largest stand of ancient Red Woods. Elevations in the park vary from sea level to over 2,000 feet. The thing to do here is hike, with treks ranging from easy and scenic to pat-yourself-on-the-back grueling.
Big Basin has 146 campsites located in four campgrounds. Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring. Most campsites have level parking areas large enough for most campers, trailers, and RVs. There are no hook-ups for RVs; but there is a dump station.
Yosemite National Park is a bucket-list travel destination, and with 747,956 acres of sights including waterfalls, glaciers, mariposa stands and majestic mountains, it requires days at least a longer visit. None of the campsites in the park have hookups, but Yosemite Pines RV Resort, located 30 minutes from the western entrance to the park, in the heart of California’s old Sierra Nevada gold-panning territory, has it all. In addition to water, electricity and sewage, you’ll get picnic tables, fire rings and cable hookusp. Other perks: volleyball courts, laundry, friendly alpacas, a deli and a swimming pool.
This stunning stretch of Sonoma coast at Salt Point State Park just off Highway 1 has ample opportunities for gorgeous hikes. It’s a 6000-acre park with 20 miles of hiking trails, six miles of which are along rugged coastline. After you explore the honeycomb sandstone bluffs and tide-pools, cut inland and the landscapes shifts from forest to prairie.
You can also dive in the underwater park reserve which is rich with red abalone. There are no hook-ups for RVS, so after boondocking it on the beach, roll to Ocean Cove Campground (no website), with waterfront views, to recharge.
Featured image: David O