In Search of the Perfect RV Campground

When we started full-timing, we were seeking the "perfect" campground. The perfect RV park would have the best of everything including a rustic setting, a mountain stream, and instant phone hookups at the site. We quickly found that there are always tradeoffs. For example we love to be surrounded by trees, but we also want an opening in the trees to point our satellite dish. A quiet area close to nature is important; however, it's great to have a Walmart, a nice restaurant, a movie theater, and a good regional airport within a few miles too.
We'll probably never find that perfect RV park, but we've been able to find some great spots in particular categories. We hope you enjoy our list.
Absolute Favorite Campground
Zion River Resort. In the Fall of 2002, our fourth year on the road, we were looking for a new location. We had spent previous winter months in Arizona, Southern California, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas. Annette suggested the southwestern Utah area, somewhere near St. George. We checked our camping guides and searched online. That's when we discovered the Zion River RV Park & Campground, near the small town of Virgin. Zion River is a recently built facility located west of Zion National Park. Now after spending two winters at Zion River, we can say that it is without-a-doubt the best campground we have found - - we will return again and again.
Utah's "Dixie Region" provides relatively mild winters. There are a few snowfalls that usually melt in early morning. Temperatures drop below freezing but warm up most every day. Sunshine lights up the surrounding red and gold mountain and mesa vistas. There is great hiking, backroading, and beautiful scenery in every direction. Day trips can be made to the Grand Canyon's north rim (Toroweap) and the Arizona Strip, Bryce National Park, "The Wave"/Coyote Buttes, Elephant Butte area, Kolob Plateau, Cedar Breaks. and much, much more. Wildlife viewing and photography that we have experienced nearby include wild turkey, mule deer, coyote, porcupine, and bald eagle. In addition to the fantastic setting, the campground is excellently maintained and operated. The staff is led by on-site managers, Sue and Joe Bomer. They arrange frequent group activities, hikes, and outings. Everyone works to make this a wonderful place. The experience "spoils you" for other campgrounds; we go through ZR withdrawal every time that we leave.
Tourist Park
Elk Meadow RV Park (Formerly Blue Arrow Campground). We found a great combination of nature and tourism at Elk Meadow. Our campsite was surrounded by picturesque mountain views. Many early mornings and late afternoons, the motorhome was surrounded by a grazing elk herd - - we mean right outside our window! On one side of the campground the road immediately enters the Rocky Mountain National Park and a mile to the east is the tourist town of Estes Park. The campground has full-hookups and easy access to a modem hookup in the recreation center. Their historic buildings included a large meeting room where we spent an evening eating homemade pie, listening to live music, and feeling pretty silly dancing the two-step and waltz.
Address: 1665 Colorado Hwy 66, Estes Park, CO 80517
Phone: (800) 582-5342 or (970) 586-5342
Mountain Stream
Pleasant Valley. We're always admiring the covers of travel magazines. The photographs often show an RV against a beautiful setting such as a grove of trees, an ocean view, or colorful canyon cliffs. Our favorite setting is a mountain stream. We found such a campground in western Colorado between Gunnison and Montrose. Pleasant Valley Campground was nestled among tall trees and had just a sprinkling of campsites. Our motorhome was backed in, less than ten feet from the picturesque, rushing Cimarron mountain stream. We spent most of the day sitting in our lawn chairs, relaxing, and reading. While exploring the park, we discovered a litter of baby kittens, a small fishing pond, and a wooden bridge over the stream. That evening we made s'mores at our campfire. Our cell phone was out of range, 30 amp electricity was the only option, and the country store was our only source of supplies, but it was one of our favorite parks of the summer. Nearby is Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and hiking in the Curecanti National Recreation Area. This campground isn't in the guidebooks; but you can find it east of the town of Cimarron (about 3-4 miles) on Hwy 50, on the south side of the highway. Don't mistake it for the nearby Good Sam park!
Family Connection
Lithia Springs. When we started full-timing, we knew that we'd want to spend quite a bit of time in central Illinois near Larry's family. An Army Corps of Engineer park (St. Louis District) on Lake Shelbyville has become our home base when visiting family. The campsites at Lithia Springs are situated in the trees around the lakeshore. Although there's no water or sewer hookups, we have no problem getting by with just electricity for a few days. Convenient showers and a full-service dump station provide the essentials. On our first visit, the camp hosts greeted us with open arms and encouraged us to become member of the Boomers group in Escapees. We've maintained email contact with Dave and Linda ever since. Note: Recently a number of sites have been upgraded to include water and sewer connections.
Campground reservations: Phone (877) 444-6777
Internet reservations: at the Natl Recreation Reservation Service
Historical Ties
Three Island Crossing State Park. While traveling backward along the Oregon Travel from Portland through Idaho, we discovered an oasis. The Three Island Crossing State Park is located on the site of an Oregon Trail campground where travelers prepared to ford the Snake River. Today, the campground contains deep green grass, full-hookups, and a beautiful view. Deeply worn wagon ruts can be seen across the river. The park's historical exhibits will soon be moved to a new Oregon Trail History and Education Center that was under construction the summer of 1999. Nearby the nice, quiet town of Glenns Ferry will surely come alive as the new center opens.
Address: Mailing Address: P.O. Box 609, Glenns Ferry, ID 83623
Phone: (208) 366-2394
Metro Park
Salt Lake City KOA / VIP. Salt Lake City was our home base for much of summer 1999. With phone hookups and easy access to the airport, Camp VIP is a great place for working on-the-road. Within walking distance of the state fairgrounds, we spent an evening in midsummer at a demolition derby. During the Days of 49 celebration, we biked downtown for the parade. While walking or biking in the large park, we often forgot that we were living in the center of a large city.
Address: 1400 West North Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84116
Phone: (801) 328-0224
Work and Play
Santa Fe Skies RV Park. Located just a few miles west of the regional airport and 'instant phone' connections available at the site made for this being a great campground for an extended stay. The weather here is great! Oh, there can be wind . . . but hey, you're in the west. Otherwise its generally 40 to 80 degrees. July brings the summer rains; this is high desert so it averages under ten inches per year. (Hey, where we grew up its been known to rain half that much in one day.) And the owner-operators here, the Brown family are great people. They have a brand-new, modern park that is kept in tiptop condition. The park is just a couple of miles from the edge of the city and sits up on a high knoll, that gives a great view in every direction - - look out to the mountains and across the desert pinion. Thirty minutes away are gorgeous hiking trails in wooded mountain forests. Day-trips can be taken in almost every direction. To the west is nearby Bandelier National Monument and Los Alamos. Visit the nearby historical areas of Taos, Glorieta Pass, Pecos National Historic Park, the Turquoise Trail, and the like. For us, this is truly a favorite place to work and play.
Address: 14 Browncastle Ranch, Santa Fe, NM 87505
Phone: (877) 565-0451 or (505) 473-5946
Campfire Lodgings. When we decided to head to the eastern US, we quickly found that the number of campgrounds with 'instant phones,' Internet service, and major airports close by were few and far between. We finally located a campground in Asheville, NC that recently reopened after being totally redesigned and renovated. Located outside and north of the city (about ten minute drive to downtown area) on the top of Golden Knob - - a mountain ridge, Campfire Lodgings is a quiet, scenic campground surrounded by trees and a few miles of hiking trails through the woodlands. The park is relatively small; 20-25 campsites that accommodate everything from tents to motorhomes. They also have a few cabins and a yurt to rent. This was also a great place for an extended stay; a location where we had direct connection to the Internet via our EarthLink account and service from a regional airport. We also used the Greenville-Spartinburg, SC airport that was a little over an hour away. Nearby playgrounds were the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Cades Cove, the Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, Chimney Rock, Biltmore Estate, Blowing Rock, Grandfather Mountain, Looking Glass Falls, Bent Creek, and lots, lots more. The park is well-managed by Donna and David Henry. And finally, we had our own resident weatherman neighbor, Bob Child, who works at the local Asheville station and at the Weather Channel. Bob posted weather forecasts for all on the bulletin board.
Address: 7 Appalachian Village Road, Asheville, NC 28804
Phone: (800) 933-8012 or (828) 658-8012

Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 7/00 Updated 11/04.
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