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Monday, July 19, 2010

More on national park campsite length restrictions

In last week's post I wrote about whether the maximum size stated for a national park campground meant that anything over that length would not be permitted to camp. My answer was that if you could fit into a space, even if you were larger than their maximum length, you could still camp in that space.

A few commenters stated that they had been asked upon entry what size they were, and one even had their length measured. I contacted the National Park Service and asked the following question:

"I post on four blogs, teach RV classes and seminars, and write for RV
publications on camping on public lands. I have always taught that RV
campground length limitations stated in a National Park or Monument's
description indicated the length of RV that MOST sites could accommodate,
but that if you could fit your rig into one of the larger sites without
overhanging or obstructing, it was OK. Several commenters to my recent blog
wrote that they were being turned away at entry because they were over
size, even though there were some sites in the campground that would
accommodate them. What is the current policy toward length and does it
apply to all parks and monuments? Thank you."

I received the following reply:

"It is best to check with individual parks to see what length trailer they
can accomodate. It is up to the individual park.
From the NPS website :"

The link produced the following information:

"Maximum Trailer Lengths

"Maximum lengths for trailers, campers and motorhomes vary from park to park. The average maximum length permitted is 27 ft, but some parks can accommodate up to 40 feet in length. Some parks may have electrical hookups and dump stations. You should check with your favorite parks for their specific maximum lengths and available facilities so you won't be disappointed when you arrive.

"Please note the following is prohibited: Operating motorized equipment or machinery such as a electric generating plant, motor vehicle, audio device in a manner that exceeds a noise level of 60 decibels at 50 feet; or if below that level nevertheless; makes noise which is unreasonable considering the nature and purpose of the actor's conduct, location, time of day or night, purpose for which the area was established, impact on park users, and other factors that would govern the conduct of a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances."

So they didn't quite answer my question. Without saying so, it appears that it may be up to the park supervisor's discretion. Therefore, if you do have a large rig and are over the stated maximum size, your options would be:
  1. Avoid camping in the park and find a private RV resort or forest service boondocking campsite close by.
  2. Plan on entering the park mid-week, early to mid-morning, and drive in to see if you can find a suitable campsite, before it gets crowded and you are cut off at the entry and asked your length.
It is doubtful that once you are set up and not sticking out into the road or obstructing anything that you would be questioned.

If you have experiences directly related to length acceptance, please comment with your personal findings.


  1. I was one of those "few commenters," and since you've asked for detail, I'll refer you to my blog posts detailing each experience:

    Turned away at Mather Campground, Grand Canyon south rim (strictly enforced 30' limit).

    Measured and just shy of being turned away at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

    Turned away at Madison Junction, Yellowstone National Park, by a concessionaire with a strict list of what each site will fit.

    Turned away at Acadia National Park by an imperious volunteer with a chip on his shoulder.

    As I wrote earlier, we've also been turned away at some state parks. But overwhelmingly our experience has been that most rangers will at least let you hunt for a site, at your own risk, and as long as you fit without sticking into the road or driving off the designated parking pad, will let you stay. This is why the handful of exceptions stand out so vividly.


  2. Thanks Sean. Check out his links (above) to these size limitations being questioned. Is this a new trend in parks?

  3. Many state park reservation pages list the maximum length RV that's permitted in each individual site. If the various state parks departments can gather and provide this information, then the National Park Service can do it to -- IF they have an interest in serving the American Public, the people who pay their salaries.

  4. I was turned away at the Organ Pipe national monument for being over lenth. Not because the sites could not accomadate me, but because of the twisting winding roads that you would have to navigate to get to a site.

  5. Trying dragging your (whatever length) trailer or your long Class A up to Chisos Basin campground at Big Bend. You'll then learn that's there's more to the size limitations than just the campsite size.
    Again, the author is pretty limited in his experiences if he still persists that "they can accommodate longer than they advertise" mantra. Time for him to get out more and do his homework.

  6. Regarding Chisos Basin at Big Bend: the switchbacks are very tight, BUT I've seen numerous Commercial Tour Bus Companies off load large groups up there. To the point, only a few camping sights in the Basin would accomodate anything large, and usually are taken by Hosts.

  7. The problem seems to be that the people with a 40' + class "A" pulling a Hummer do not understand that many state parks etc. were built for the tent crowd in the 50's. If you have a unit like that, go some place else.

  8. We took our 39 ft. motorhome up to Chisos Basin with little trouble. Once we were up there, we saw a 45 ft. tour bus in the parking lot. We only need one campsite, and we found one that fit us just fine!

    Those of us with longer RVs also pay our taxes and would like to stay in the US National Park system. We appreciate when a camphost/ranger will at least let us try a few spaces, provided we don't damage any trees or other natural resources.

  9. Saw this in a National campground, maybe you can clarify this "RV or tents, trailers up to 24 feet, campers up to 27 feet". Why the differences lengths

  10. TJ - The 27 feet refers to overall length of trailer and tow vehicle. So, by restricting trailers to 24 feet, it allows for a tow vehicle of 3 feet in length. Ever try towing with a Smart Car?
    Does anyone have a better explanation?
    Have a great day.

  11. I think they're using confusing terminology.

    I think what they are trying to say is that if the vehicle is a motorhome moving under its own power, it's allowed to be 27 feet long. If it's a trailer, it’s only allowed to be 24 feet long, which could make sense, because of the added length (unspecified) of the tow vehicle.

    Apparently TENTS are also limited to 24 feet long? What’s that!

    About the Chisos Basin Road, from the Big Bend website:
    "Due to the narrow, winding road to the Basin, and small campsites, trailers over 20' and RV's over 24' are not recommended at this campground."

    Apparently they define only self-propelled motorhomes as "RVs". (Possibly including truck campers?) Anything that's towed behind is defined as a "TRAILER", but apparently ISN’T called an "RV".

  12. I believe it's time for the Forest Service to exit the 50's. Everything else in our lives must change to keep up with the times, whether we like it or not. a 27' motor home is quite outdated.Suspect that restriction was placed when 27" was the larger motorhome on the road. Maybe a few "Stimuless" dollars could be put into the park systems.

  13. There is no notion that the NPS is there for the benefit of the public users. They are there only to limit the use of facilities and prevent damage to the nature or decrepit campsites.