OK…So now that camping season has officially been started, here’s a post that is long in the making. And we will start by jumping to the end…Buy What You Want. Don’t worry about if you will fit.
When you have been traveling as long as we have, you’re bound to get the same questions over and over again. One big question on people’s minds is if they buy a 40+ foot motorhome will they have issues finding places to park it or may fit into our National, State or County parks?
Well…The answer is yes and no as to getting into parks. We started out our travels in a 2008 Gulf Stream Tour Master that was a 43-foot diesel pusher and tow vehicle. Well, you know the saying….Location, Location, Location. It really is going to depend on a few factors like where you may want to go.
First off, remember that our highway system across the US is made for big rigs. As such, you will NOT have an issue traveling on interstates, highways, expressways, nor most roads for that matter. Sure, you can come across a bridge that can be to low, but that will be on side roads, parkways, town roads, etc. We personally have not yet run into any issues with not being able to go somewhere we wanted based on size. Ok, wait, there was one….State HWY 1 in California. It is a great scenic drive that just will not handle large rigs due to the hairpin turns. If you tried this, you will see that as you tried to come around a corner that your rig will end up crossing into the on coming traffic. Never a good thing. But besides that, for us, we have not been able to reach somewhere we wanted to be one way or another. Heck, we have been all the way to Newfoundland with a 43-foot motorhome and spent 1.5 month traveling all the areas.
Quick suggestion if you are considering a big rig, or if you have one, is to purchase a Motor Carriers Road Atlas and take a look around the country on paper. This is a special atlas that shows what roads are OK for larger rigs. You may also want to look into a GPS that has maps and data points for RV’s or trucks such as the TripMaker RVND 7710. These types of GPS’s are not your normal GPS as they allow for you to put in the size & weight of your motorhome and will map you around items such as low clearance and weight restrictions. (NOTE…ALWAYS PAY ATTENTION TO SIGNS!!! Maps DO NOT know if three new inches of asphalt was put down making a 14 foot tall bridge now 13 feet 9 inches. Not paying attention can make for a very bad day. We also suggest if you see “trucker” routes, take them. After all, you are as big as they are and someone would like you to take that road for some reason. (You do not need to pull into weigh stations unless directed to do so.)
Our National Parks were built before big rigs were even around. No one back then thought that we would have 45-foot motorhomes for “camping”. When you consider how old a park may be, it’s sites may be smaller unless it has it been upgraded to accommodate larger rigs. Based on budgets etc, it is not likely that the government spent such money. In the chance that money was spent to upgraded the sites or add sites to accommodate larger rigs, have the roads? They may be tighter turns and be narrower if the campground was originally set up for smaller rigs. We have come across some campgrounds in National parks where there was no way we would fit, while others we have been to were no issue at all. (It should go without saying…Watch for low tree limbs also.)
A good source to find out if you would fit is, of course, the campgrounds or park service website. They usually always list the maximum size rig they can accommodate. That being said, Google Maps can be your friend in this as well. Just go to Google Maps and look at an overhead shot of the campground. You can see how heavily treed the area is, how close together the sites are and even how tight the turns may be. This will give you a good idea but remember, Google Maps can also be outdated depending on when they took the overhead shot. So if you still have your doubts, call the campground office.
Most National parks and State parks are going towards an online reservation system. One nice feature about some of these online reservation systems is that they will show you a picture of the actual site you are looking to book. You usually just have to hover over the site on the map and a picture will appear. We really like this feature. It can give you a good sense of whether you indeed can fit in a particular site or not.
When I was looking through our old photos, I came across some places that I felt we had just been to but in actuality we were there years ago. It’s these types of places that really stay with you and being able to stay right on site, at the park, is a great way to really enjoy the full experience.
When we stayed in the Badlands in South Dakota, we were right in the park. They also have a small hotel and restaurant but we kept to ourselves in our rig. The site we had just fit our 43-foot motorhome at the time.
While visiting the Grand Canyon we stayed at Trailer Village (not run by park services) right in the park itself. It is big rig friendly but they do pack you in there. It’s easily maneuverable though if you take your time and know where you are going, there are lots of roads throughout the campground. The picture I have above of the Grand Canyon campground isn’t the greatest as I was focusing on the wildlife that wanders throughout the campground. You can see our current motorhome in the background, the 45 foot 2014 Tiffin Allegro Bus with our tow vehicle. And yes, the Elk you see were THAT CLOSE to the motorhome. Just walking through without a care in the world.
State Parks are also a great way to get away and see the sites. We have found quite a few that can accommodate larger rigs. One of our favorites and one that we like to visit every time we are in the area is Picacho Peak State Park in Arizona. It’s between Tucson and Phoenix and right off the highway, yet really quiet and peaceful.
While in the Denver area we always stay at Cherry Creek State Park but we have heard from other RVers that Colorado has some wonderful state parks that are big rig friendly.
One thing to keep in mind is if a park offers full hook-ups, electric or nothing at all. While Picacho Peak State Park and Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada has electric (some sites), that is all they have at the sites. They do have potable water and a dump station in the campground so there is that. But you need to be sure you go in prepared for the type of site.
On the other hand, Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora, CO as well as Reed Bingham State Park in Georgia do have full hook-up sites. They both are also very big rig friendly and have big pull through sites.
County and Town run parks are not to be forgotten either. We have found some very lovely county and town parks that rival any state run park.
We always stay at the Hoover Met RV Park (closed for renovations until June 2017) while in the Birmingham, Alabama area and while visiting Charleston, SC we stayed at the James Island County Park Campground. There are a few choices around the Charleston area but we did not want to go to a commercial campground like a KOA. While they do serve a purpose for us (we stay at them while traveling from point A to point B and need hook-ups), we try not to frequent them as we have no kids and we do not wish to partake in any activities, so why pay for something we will not be taking full advantage of.
In fact, our very first stop after picking up our new 45-foot Tiffin Allegro Bus was this lovely campground just north of Red Bay, Alabama where the Tiffin plant is. It’s the McFarland Town Park Campground in a town called Florence, AL and is located right on the Tennessee River. It has boat drops and hiking trails and a disc golf course. Right across the river is the Muscle Shoals area where there is lots to do as far as the history of music and recording studios. And in Sault Ste Marie in the UP of Michigan is a great county/town run campground called Aune-Osborn Campground where you can spend your days watching the huge freighters pass through the Soo Locks and travel up and down the great lakes. Which let me tell you, can be very addicting. Who knew?!
These are just some of the places that we have stayed and there are many more out there. We have yet to stay at a COE (Corps of Engineers) Park, which we hear are lovely.
Some things to consider while staying at National, State or County/Town Parks is that you may not have access to Wi-Fi, you may not have full hook-ups if you want them and there may be additional fees such as a one time park fee. The state parks usually have a state park pass; they are usually good for one year. So if you know you will be frequenting one particular state for a while, or coming back to it a few months later but within a year’s time frame, then you would more than likely be better off buying a yearly park pass. It’s good for any of the state parks, not just that particular one that you may be at at the time. In the long run it would be cheaper than paying the additional park fee every time you camp.
Make sure you also look out for discounts. Georgia State Parks have a great RVer program and it’s free! The more you stay at their parks, the more stickers you will earn and you can work your way up to a free night of camping. Not all state parks may participate so just check the website before you book and see. To learn more info about this RVer program, visit this page.
Wow, that was a lot on places we have been. But the point is, they are all places we were able to go without issue even with a 45-foot motorhome. When we were looking for a motorhome, we did not even consider the issue of not fitting into places. Why? Simple, we knew we would be happier with a larger home on wheels. So you see from the above, it is indeed possible to stay in National, State and County/Town parks in a “Big Rig”. We have stayed in more than I thought we had and we will most certainly continue to do so.
If there is a place that you really want to go to and looking at the website of that particular park shows that you can not fit into the campground, remember that there are always campgrounds just outside of the parks that will accommodate you. We here it now and again, “you can not go everywhere with that large rig.” True. However we have yet to find anyplace we wanted to go that we could not go, either staying inside the park or just outside it’s borders. And if we need to drive 30 mins to go see a site…so be it. After all, that is more of the area we are in to see along the way. So while we may not be able to get into “everywhere”, consider that we also may have a much more comfortable time if stuck inside the motorhome for five days as it rains.
Would we by a large motorhome again? Seeing we have already gone from a 43-foot to a 45-foot, the answer seems to be yes. Again, we knew we would be happier with more space. And lets face it, it is all about living like you want to live and what is right for one person, may not be for another. So buy what you want and enjoy your travels!
Not sure if you trust what you just read…Well here…watch a video instead….
Please be so kind to share this post as it seems to be asked often on many community forums.
Thank you for this post. Wife and I are looking to purchase a motorhome within the next year and I am all for 40+Ft, however I was concerned about rather that would be to big for sites. Thanks to this post we will make it work. Thanks for the confirmation of buy what you want. After all that is a lot of money to not purchase what you want. Thanks again. You guys rock.
Great article. Thanks.
Good video guys. I want a 45 ft coach it’s just my bank account says no.
awesome insights, thanks!
California is always the exception when it comes to going big or keeping under 40 feet. CA State Parks – especially the beachfront sites – do not accommodate big rigs. It is our home state and the reason we opted for a rig under 40′.
Great write up and I love the pictures that accompany it!
Great info thanks for sharing. Always enjoy your posts
There is also a Rand McNally App for the iPad/iPhone which is identical to the RVND 77xx system. It’s great because the screen on an iPad is significantly larger than our “in-rig” RV system. (If you have an iPad WITHOUT GPS you will also need to get a “Bad Elf” GPS with lightning connector). The app is significantly less expensive than the RVND 77xx systems and many people already own an iPad.
Jim and Irene,
Do you know if the current version of the Rand McNally map for iPad has those features?
I am sorry, I do not.
Great article and video. We drive a 38ft coach and have found the Army corp of Engineer parks to by consistently good. We found only one two (out of ten or so) where the sites were too small. Those were ones built very many years ago.
Great information… How’s Brenda feeling?
We have a 40ft Allegro Bus and a 25ft enclosed trailer.. at times we do have an issue finding a site or we need to unhook… Its all about planning…
We started at the opposite end of the spectrum – full timing in a 16′ travel trailer. And have since upgraded to larger RVs twice (currently in a 35′ no slides motorhome).
With each upgrade in size, the number of options for spaces to park decreased for us.
Yes, we can still find amazingly awesome sites with our larger setup. But there are favorites we simply can’t return to anymore.
We’ve caravanned with friends in larger setups than our current motorhome, and there are places we could go that they could not. And there are more sites available in a campground open to us (ie. a campground may only have a handful of site suitable for a larger RV.)
Does that mean someone in a larger RV won’t be able to find options? Of course not. But there are trade offs. And is all about finding your own unique balance of living space and the surroundings you most enjoy.
For us, 35′ is that absolute largest we would consider to keep our unique balance. And even then, we still think 28-33′ would have been more ideal.
EXCELLENT ARTICLE, and thanks so much. Great timing for me to read, we are looking at a 43 ft tiffin and I was getting discouraged by reading about people not getting in places or downsizing, etc. but this just settled it for me. Thanks for all the camping places also. Enjoy your blogs and thanks so much for sharing. Have a blessed day.
Thanks for your article. We started full time at the end of August of 2015 in a 45 Tuscany. We started looking at 40′ originally but ended up with the 45′. To long a story why. At the end of the day, we love the space for us and our dog Brutus (Bernise Mountain Dog, now 95 pounds at 10 months) and have always been able to find a space either in or near where we wanted to be. There are older parks that we will not fit in, but as you indicated, we can always find something close by. We recently made a journey down the Oregon and Northern California coast, with a plan to continue on down the Pacific Coast Highway after reaching San Francisco. However, after a harrowing drive through the redwoods on Highway 101 in Northern California, we decided that the PCH would be more of a challenge than we wanted to experience. So far, this is the only time that we have had to change plans. We periodically discuss downsizing but a lot of pieces would need to fall into place before that would happen. For now, we are content with what we have.
Keep up the good work.
Good article, We enjoy a 2016 45 ft Entegra Anthem and have had no issues going where we wish to go. It just takes a little planning. We have been out west as well as a 7,000 mile trip to Seattle, then thru Oregon and California and then down I-10 to Florida and then back to Pennsylvania all with no issues. Get what you want and don’t look back.
My question from your build video, why the Vila l type couch?, loved all your stuff, looking to move up from tiffin gas , but my have to do some remodel hence the question, also about the swing arm on the tv, type locks? Thanks,see you on the net or road Bill and Lynn Cauger
Not sure what you are asking on the couch. This model came with a L shaped couch but it was very, very uncomfortable. We worked with Villa, along side Tiffin, to design a new couch for this coach which is so much better. They now offer the better coach or they have already moved to it. The locks on the TV arm are two 10lb drawer locks. —> http://goo.gl/uS8EVL
How much does it cost for wash and wax on ur home?
You mean like this… https://www.outsideourbubble.com/professional-rv-wash-and-waxing/ About $400.
Hi David & Brenda: Thanks for all the blogs and videos. My wife and I are currently in our 2nd motor home part time. first was a C class, now an A class gas. We have had 5 Factory tours in the past 12 months the last was Tiffin. We are almost ready to order our retirement Motor home and have decided on the Tiffin Phaeton 44OH. We like the idea of 40% more basement storage, 253 cubic ft in that model, and a flat floor the whole length of the coach. we will add 2 solar panels and the upgraded battery bank. our question to you folks is “how long can you go with the residential fridge on the inverter whithout running the genny while dry camping”? would more batteries, solar panels and larger inverter be worth it, if only dry camping for a week at a time, sat at QS? We don’t plan on spending the money the Wynns did on there solar upgrade. Thank-you from Sherry and Andrew from Ottawa, Canada.
Hi…Congrats on the choice of your new home. ;) I have a larger battery bank and two 180watt panels and I would not spend the money again as we do not dry camp enough and it does not help enough really based on the improper instal Tiffin does of the panels to make them the most affective. When we stayt in Quartzsite each year, for just over a week, we run our generator twice a day. Moving when we get up for about 2 to 2.5 hours and then in the evening for about the same. The only thing I would do for sure is put in AGM batteries so you do not need to do any maintenance on them. I did that but also went larger with which was not needed to spend the $$$. So unless you dry camp a lot and do solar RIGHT, IMHO, do not waist the extra money and count it as going towards fuel you will burn in the gen when needed.
Thanks David: We appreciate your response and trust your judgement in this manner. from what we have seen unless the entire solar setup is done right ( heavier gage wires, shorter runs, proper size inverter to panels & battery bank ), it’s just not all that effective. Like you folks we enjoy the creature comforts while tavelling, and don’t mind running the geny a couple times a day, why else would we choose the luxury Motorhome option. It would appear the RV industry has lagged behind in solar requirements on rigs this size, with the energy draw placed on them, untill they catch up we are on our ownas far as the self sufficient RV er is concerned. Thanks again Sherry and Andrew from Ottawa, Canada.
We are just getting ready to buy our first ever and it is a Tiffin Bus and it’s 45ft and will be pulling a Jeep. We are really excited but scared because we are first timers! Are we crazy? How long in advance do you have to book? Just called park in Sedona and they said Year, year and a half before space needs to be booked! This was alarming cause we just want to get up and go! Andy and Brenda Grasso, Las Vegas, NV
Hi Brenda. Congrats on your new coach! Unfortunately booking RV Resorts and parks with short notice can be difficult in certain locales. In this case it is location, location, location. The more popular the location, the harder it will be to get in to said location. If you find yourselves really wanting to go someplace special, ie: Sedona, Key West, etc, then yes, you do need to plan in advance. There are also lots of rv parks in the surrounding areas or Sedona that can be just as beautiful and you could always drive into Sedona. Here’s our post on the area we stayed when we drove into Sedona. https://outsideourbubble.com/dead-horse-ranch-state-park-in-cottonwood-arizona/ :) And here’s the post we did on Sedona itself and other towns in the area. https://outsideourbubble.com/exploring-sedona-and-jerome-arizona/ :) Hope these help.
RVing is at an all time high and space is getting limited around the country. We have found this to be true the last few years. However, no, you are not crazy. There are still plenty of places around the country you can just “pick up and go” to. You will find that making your plans in Jello is helpful :)
Thanks for the info guys! Do you believe the same would be true for 5th wheel? We are thinking of buying a 44′ one and a truck, but that would make our rig very long.. Although I’m sure lots of motor homes toe card behid. Any opinion or advice on that?
Yep…Same thought would apply. We are 64 feet with are Jeep Grand Cherokee hooked up.