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As full-time RVers, we have always made a point of seeing national parks during our travels. Who wouldn’t? These parks are some of the most beautiful places in the country and are probably some of the most popular destinations for RV travelers. This is for good reason, of course, and we 100% recommend seeing as many national parks as you possibly can during your travels.
That said, we also highly recommend weaving some state parks into your adventures.
Oddly, we’ve been on the road for 6 years now and have only just begun to dive into the magical world of state parks. Sure, we’ve visited a few of them here and there during our adventures, but I don’t think we really realized how amazing state parks can actually be until a couple of years ago. Since then, we have made a point of visiting state parks in almost every state we’ve visited, and we will continue to do so for as long as we continue to explore.
Read on to learn why we will do this, and why you should too.
As mentioned above, our country’s national parks are absolutely stunning. They are definitely some of the most beautiful places in the US, and possibly even the world. That said, state parks—which are often completely missed by travelers—can be just as beautiful.
From gorgeous beaches to magical wooded areas, we’ve seen pretty much every landscape you can imagine during our state park adventures. Some of our favorite hikes have been hidden away in these lesser-known parks, and some of the best views we’ve ever encountered were discovered in state parks.
If you are a fan of beauty in nature—and we’d say most RVers are—state parks absolutely need to be on your list of things to do as you travel.
We travel full-time. While we definitely like to see and do new things as we travel, we cannot live like we’re on vacation 24/7. This means we have to find affordable places to visit as we explore.
Often, we do this by using reciprocal museum memberships or theme park passes that work nationwide. We also have an “America the Beautiful” pass that allows us to visit national parks without paying entrance fees. State parks have made excellent additions to our list of free or inexpensive things to do. Best of all, there are state parks everywhere we go!
We’ve found that most state parks charge under $10 for a vehicle full of people to enter, and some are totally free. Sometimes, if we are in a state long enough, we will even invest in a state park pass that gives us access to all of the state parks without paying entrance fees. This was an excellent investment for us in both Washington and Texas in particular.
State park activities vary based on the natural landscape. Most have some hiking trails and many have a swimming beach of some sort. Several state parks also offer Junior Ranger programs, which are fun and a great way to get the kids engaged and learning during your visit. (We love using Junior Ranger programs in our road-schooling curriculum.)
Other activities we’ve enjoyed in state parks include sandboarding, kayaking, and bouldering, but these are far from the only options you’ll find.
In addition to providing us with inexpensive entertainment, state parks also tend to offer inexpensive camping options.
Now, for the most part, we try to stay in the Thousand Trails system, and whenever we leave that system, we will stick to free campgrounds and boondocking locations. That said, when none of these options are available, state park camping can be incredibly helpful.
Some state parks will charge as little as $12 to $15 a night for camping, but we’ve found the average cost per night at a state park is closer to $25 or $30. In some cases, it makes sense to purchase an annual state park pass in order to save on camping fees, but you really have to look at each individual state and situation to know if this option is right for you. We’ve purchased state park passes to save on camping fees in Texas, and we know that the New Mexico State park pass is an excellent deal for campers.
All of the state park campgrounds we’ve stayed in have been lovely and well kept. Some provide electric and/or water hookups and most have a dump station. During our stay in Louisiana, there were even laundry rooms available and there was no charge to use the machines!
Other amenities that a state park may or may not have can include a playground, a dog park, a swimming beach or pool, showers, and toilets.
Clearly, state parks are a wonderful addition to any RVer’s travels. Why not give one a try on your next big adventure? We’re betting you’ll fall in love just like we did!
About the author: Chelsea Gonzales
Chelsea has the amazing opportunity to take part in full-time RV living and traveling with her tiny tribe. She homeschools her five-year-old son as they travel, and takes full advantage of their unique situation by using the entire world as her son’s classroom. A group of total Disney fanatics, Chelsea and her family often find themselves in the Orlando area in order to visit the Disney parks, but they have also visited over 25 of the 50 states with plans to see many more along the way. No matter where her travels take her, Chelsea enjoys riding bikes, gazing at beautiful sunsets, finding new coffee shops, Irish dancing, and sitting around a campfire with her family.
You can join her adventures through her blog, Wonder Wherever We Wander.
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