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Old 10-07-2021, 08:52 AM   #1
Old Okie
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Any trouble finding overnight camping while travelling?

We love to do long vacations in our Montana High Country 305RL, particularly in the West/Northwest US. We typically make reservations well ahead of time in places we know will be crowded or where we want to stay for awhile. On the other hand, I prefer not to try to guess where I'll wind up every single night of the trip and usually just try find a place park overnight--and I want a campground, not a WalMart or other parking lot.

With all the newer RVers on the road, I would like to know your experiences in finding an overnight spot just by checking campground availability on the 'net, say mid-afternoon of the travel day or just by dropping in.

In particular, we live in Oklahoma and have a several day reservation in Yellowstone next summer. We also want to do a few days around Rocky Mountain National Park (Estes Park area). The distances between where we live and Estes Park, and between Estes and Yellowstone are further than we like to drive in a day, so I'm talking about overnighting somewhere in western Kansas and in rural Wyoming.

What would you folks recommend--make reservations in advance, or just winging it?
 
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Old 10-07-2021, 08:57 AM   #2
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In Wyoming there are lots of boondocking options other than Walmart. We found last summer heading to Glacier that lodging was hard to come by. We made reservations in April and had to boondock on the 4th of July. So, we took advantage of Harvest Host and other boondocking options. Camping is changing with all the newbies out there.
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Old 10-07-2021, 09:29 AM   #3
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As Ron said there are plenty of boondocking places to stay in Wyoming. You can stay on any BLM Land in Wyoming, probably any state. If a gravel road runs through a private ranch that has some BLM Land in it you can stay on it. The rancher may not like it but it’s perfectly legal. Lots of ranches have BLM Land on them.
If you are looking for rural Wyoming check out the Shirley Basin. It’s 440,000 acres 70 miles north of Laramie. It’s what the prairie was a hundred years ago. Your GPS will take you to an abandoned trailer park between one and two miles from a two lane road. You can sit there for weeks without seeing any person.
If you like fishing and game species try Union Pass. It’s 8200 feet up and all the big game species in Wyoming are up there. Every creek and all the lakes have trout in them. Lake of the Woods is an easy lake to get to with your truck. You can camp any place you choose.
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Old 10-07-2021, 06:59 PM   #4
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Overnight stops on trips

Thanks. guys, for the ideas on boondocking. I had not heard of Harvest Host, but looked it up after rames14 mentioned it. What a great concept! I do plan on trying it. And, Lynwood, you gave some really interesting suggestions for boondocking in Wyoming.

However, what I am really looking for is experience on how difficult is it in our covid or post-covid world to just drop in on a relatively full service campground near the highway and expect to find a spot. Pre-covid, we really never had a problem finding something thru Passport America or similar, although some were a little sketchy!

As for boondocking, we're pretty good at "living on our tanks", but currently only run one 12v Interstate battery, so we've considered a 30A AC hookup as a minimum requirement. I've no problem going to two batteries in order to do some minimal boondocking (2-3 days depending on weather?), but am not convinced I'd do it enough to start thinking about aux generators or the expensive solar slippery slope.

I'd welcome any other wisdom or experiences you'd like to pass on!
Thanks!
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Old 10-07-2021, 08:23 PM   #5
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You may find some along the road that have a spot, but I wouldn't want to count on it. We made advance reservations for our trek from Western NY to Florida by way of Western Tennessee, some places we stayed still had spots, but many were full if you didn't have a reservation.
We try to keep our days travel to 225 to 250 miles, so not hard wo figure where we'll be for the night to make a reservation.
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Old 10-08-2021, 10:17 AM   #6
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Depends on where you are traveling and what kind of campsite you are looking for.

We have found and are very disappointed, that it's getting harder and harder to just call ahead an hour at KOA's and make sure they have a spot open. We now have to plan ahead at least a week, and even then, we run into some KOA's that are booked solid.

I think what is happing with KOA's is they are flipping from overnight "transient" camping, easy to get into, on the fly type camping, to seasonal and long term camping. Their campgrounds may have 100 sites, and only 5 are open for "transient" overnight travelers. The other 95 are occupied by season, long term campers. This is very frustrating.

We also checked Good Sam campgrounds and they seem to be doing the same similar thing.

I can certainly understand it from the campground's position though. It's better to have a guaranteed income at 95% occupancy 100% of the time with full time, seasonal "tenants" at a slightly lower rate (if figuring it out on a daily basis), than the risk of having no occupancy or occupancy only on week-ends at a higher rate.

Still, the flavor of KOA's and a lot of other private campgrounds has changed, so yes, reservations and call aheads are almost always essential now.

Forget about just dropping in on virtually any State Park anywhere. If reservations are not made months ahead, you simply do not get in anywhere.

Yes... it's tougher right now. The days of "willie-nillie" traveling are pretty much over, until all the pandemic crazed people start selling off their campers.
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Old 10-08-2021, 12:03 PM   #7
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Any trouble finding overnight camping while traveling?

Well, it sounds like overnighters need to make reservations ahead of time or be prepared to boondock, where available. That sure takes some of the spontaneity and fun out of road tripping! Oh well, it is what it is.

Thanks for the feedback!
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Old 10-08-2021, 12:28 PM   #8
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Ron,
You mentioned "Harvest Host and other options" for boondocking info. What other options do you use?
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Old 10-08-2021, 12:38 PM   #9
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Lynwood,
You mentioned both Union Pass and Shirley Basin. I looked them both up on Google maps and really liked the looks of the photos posted there of Union Pass, particularly considering the fishing you mentioned. How long do you usually stay there?
Thanks
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Old 10-08-2021, 07:17 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Old Okie View Post
Lynwood,
You mentioned both Union Pass and Shirley Basin. I looked them both up on Google maps and really liked the looks of the photos posted there of Union Pass, particularly considering the fishing you mentioned. How long do you usually stay there?
Thanks

About a week. Do a Google of both you will find lots of information and pictures. If you go when the going gets steep put your truck in low range 4X4 to keep your transmission cool and you wont have any problem.
If you like fishing Alcova is a great place to stay. Itís a small town with a free camp ground just out of town, less than a half mile. The CG is on the bank of the river. The trout start at 18 inches and you wont be but a hundred feet from your camper. Alcova is about halfway between the Shirley Basin and Dubois and Union Pass.
Donít plan on Union Pass until about the middle of July. Snow but you will have plenty of ice, and itís free. You will go in from Dubois the Pinedale side is too rough and steep but there is some great fishing in the Green River on that side just take your truck and not the camper. Get out early and look for moose and elk.
A friend who lived in Dubois and I were walking on a mountain on Union Pass. He had his dog with his so I ask what would happen if his dog found a grisly bear. Dan had been an outfielder all his life. He smiled and said ďdonít worry he would bring him right back to usĒ. I said Iíll walk behind you.
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Old 10-09-2021, 08:30 AM   #11
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Agree up to a couple of years ago, always traveled without reservations and never had a problem. Exceptions: Seasonal sites in Florida and holiday weekends. Currently campgrounds are pretty full, particularly on the weekends.
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Old 10-09-2021, 06:12 PM   #12
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Lynwood told me about Union Pass years back. It IS beautiful and wide open. I went in from Dubois. I would not tow my rig up that mountain. It is very washboardy. Not so steep, but definitely a slope. I think towing would be hard because of the washboard. I have gone up steep mountains and a few dirt roads, but would not try this. If you want to take a look, there are several campgrounds in Dubois. Then if it looks ok to you go for it, because you don't need a reservation!! LOL
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Old 10-09-2021, 07:36 PM   #13
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I take my camper places some people wouldn’t. I’ve been on Union Pass several times with no trouble. It’s a special and beautiful place to stay. One you can’t fully appreciate without staying up several days and especially nights. The night sky is especially beautiful partly because you are at 8200 feet and because there is no light pollution. Night is when the game species are most active.
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Old 10-10-2021, 02:03 PM   #14
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We're getting ready to travel from Charlotte to Albuquerque and are thinking about stopping to boondock at Camping Worlds along the way. Most close at 7:00 (if there are gates). Any experience with these locations? The parking lots are huge. We've also started asking about some Cracker Barrel options but wonder about safety.
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Old 10-10-2021, 02:14 PM   #15
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Lucky, Cracker Barrel’s aren’t bad, in our limited experience but spots are usually short. Have you looked at Harvest Host? We have been using them a lot this year.
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Old 10-10-2021, 02:19 PM   #16
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To me Cracker Barrel is perfect. A nice breakfast, supper or dinner depends or where you are from. To us it’s supper.
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Old 10-10-2021, 03:36 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by DutchmenSport View Post
Depends on where you are traveling and what kind of campsite you are looking for.

We have found and are very disappointed, that it's getting harder and harder to just call ahead an hour at KOA's and make sure they have a spot open. We now have to plan ahead at least a week, and even then, we run into some KOA's that are booked solid.

I think what is happing with KOA's is they are flipping from overnight "transient" camping, easy to get into, on the fly type camping, to seasonal and long term camping. Their campgrounds may have 100 sites, and only 5 are open for "transient" overnight travelers. The other 95 are occupied by season, long term campers. This is very frustrating.

We also checked Good Sam campgrounds and they seem to be doing the same similar thing.

I can certainly understand it from the campground's position though. It's better to have a guaranteed income at 95% occupancy 100% of the time with full time, seasonal "tenants" at a slightly lower rate (if figuring it out on a daily basis), than the risk of having no occupancy or occupancy only on week-ends at a higher rate.

Still, the flavor of KOA's and a lot of other private campgrounds has changed, so yes, reservations and call aheads are almost always essential now.

Forget about just dropping in on virtually any State Park anywhere. If reservations are not made months ahead, you simply do not get in anywhere.

Yes... it's tougher right now. The days of "willie-nillie" traveling are pretty much over, until all the pandemic crazed people start selling off their campers.
-------------------
Totally agree with this...we can not just call KOA's anymore on a whime. They are filled UP with full timers who live like bums? Can I say that...but it has been our pov for 2 years now about.
There is no way, NO way I would just wing a trip. Go find a Truck stop, I am pretty sure you can over night there as long as you do NOT just drop your rig anywhere.
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Old 10-10-2021, 07:10 PM   #18
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Ever since we began fulltiming 5 yrs ago, we rarely make rsvp. We have noticed most places in popular areas are booked. There are many apps avail from free places (BLM, NFS, etc.) to paying for COE, state, city, county & fairgrounds. Subscription apps we use range from Harvest Host, Boondockers Welcome, Passport America, AllStays, ParkAdvisor, Freecampsites, iOverlander, etc show a variety of places to stay besides Walmarts. For short term stays we opt to dry camp in less crowded places. So you really decide which comfort level you're willing to enjoy. A small quiet generator to keep your 12v charged (not run ac) will be important.
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Old 10-10-2021, 08:12 PM   #19
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If you really prefer not dry camping/boondocking I would not wait until afternoon to call campgrounds for a site, and certainly not just drop in. Last thing I would want would be to drop in and find no vacancy. And then repeat at other campgrounds until I found something or ended up with nothing and trying to figure out where to go.
I would at least call early morning if not the evening before. But then I just don’t like the uncertainty of not knowing.
I love Cracker Barrel food but at most all I have seen the RV spaces, if not occupied by cars, were not long enough for a 40’ 5er. Not to mention the narrow drive to get in.
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Old 10-10-2021, 09:58 PM   #20
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Thanks, Lynwood! Good info and story--you should write a book!
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