Let’s hear it for state parks everywhere.
After two solid years of travel, we’ve come to realize that staying in state parks is the gold standard in the RV lifestyle. Besides being able to camp in beautiful surroundings, the amenities are fantastic.
Full hookups, anyone?
Much is made of America’s national park experience, and rightly so, but the camping itself is pretty basic. In most cases, RVers are dry-camping, needing to run a generator for power and then going to the all-important wastewater dump every few days.
Meanwhile, state parks are about making the camping experience comfortable, with water, electricity and on-site wastewater dumps.
Over the last few months, our travels have taken us to an array of coastal state parks in the Pacific Northwest. We’ve just completed a tour of five state parks on the Oregon Coast, and in every case, the camping was excellent. And last summer, we camped at five different state parks in Washington state, also with beautiful facilities.
That got us thinking about the state park experience in general. During our travels around the country, we’ve had some of our best RV camping experiences in state parks from coast to coast.
Some of our favorites:
- Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia, where extensive trails lead to an Instagram-worthy waterfall.
- Gulf State Park in Alabama is near two miles of white sand beach.
- Grand Isle State Park in Louisiana, steps from a stunning beach. (Don’t forget the bug spray!)
- Brantley Lake State Park in New Mexico, not far from Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
- Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Arizona, just down the road from Sedona.
And then there’s California, which may have the best state park system in America. We’ve had memorable stays from desert (Anza-Borrego Desert State Park) to sea (Half Moon Bay State Beach, Prairie Redwoods State Park, San Elijo State Beach).
So what makes the state park experience so nice? For starters, it’s affordable, often priced at $35 a night or less for a full or electric/water hookup.
And for that price, you get a lot. Generally state park campsites are spacious, much larger than you get with a commercial RV park.
At your site, which usually offers privacy from your nearby campers, you’ll have access to a full bathroom, shower and in some cases (such as Louisiana), laundry facilities. Some state parks even offer free WiFi.
Then there’s the setting. Again and again, we’ve parked our rig in a beautiful site within earshot of the ocean. Open the RV door, walk outside, and within a few steps you’re on the beach.
Which brings us back to the Oregon Coast. If you’re still looking for a fall adventure in your RV, you still have time to explore the state parks of Oregon scattered from the border of Washington to California.
From Fort Stevens State Park in the north to Harris Beach State Park in the south and everywhere in between, most parks are open through fall and into winter. Check out the Oregon State Parks website for a full list of openings.
Shout-out to Newhalem Bay State Park in Manzanita, Ore., for offering us another exceptional experience. We completed our tour of the Oregon Coast last week in this scenic spot and really enjoyed the beach hiking and nightly campfires.
And the town of Manzanita is cute, offering nice shopping and eating options. It’s small, so if you’re worried about hordes of people overcrowding a tourist town, you won’t feel overwhelmed here, as you might at busy Cannon Beach just up U.S.101.
Plan on a seven-hour drive from Spokane to get to Newhalem Bay State Park. You must snag a reservation online before showing up -- go to oregonstateparks.reserveamerica.com.