One of my favorite things about the RV lifestyle is the family aspect. Being a part of Safford RV has certainly exposed us to RVing more than most, but Mr. B and I love to find great places to explore in our RV with the boys.
I see so many people rent or buy RVs because they like the idea of taking their kids or grand kids on trips and showing them all the amazing landscape in our country. Fortunately my kids like RV trips, but sometimes in the past, I have to admit, I’ve planned a trip or two, to a national park or a campground that I’M excited about, but the boys were less than enthusiastic.
Who knew that a twelve and fifteen-year-old wouldn’t ooh and aah when we crossed over our 32nd wooden bridge, or jump for joy when told they would be spending four days in our RV parked in a National Park?
What should a parent do? It just takes some good research. (Luckily, I’ve done it for you!) Recently, I scoured the internet and some RV reference sites, and I found a good selection of National Parks that I think will be enjoyable for the whole family:
MAINE, Acadia National Park: Those who have been there know: the Acadia region of Maine is unlike anywhere else in New England — or anywhere else in the country, really. The lobster claw of an island off the Downeast Maine coast has been beguiling visitors for hundreds of years with its jaw-dropping scenery. A hike to the summit of 1,532-foot Cadillac Mountain rewards you with views across the Atlantic and the lobstermen picking up their catch. Watch for harbor seals farther out in the water. Sea-life bingo keeps youngsters excited tallying green sea urchins, orange sea stars, and other curious marine creatures that reside in tide pools that surface at low tide.
After a day outdoors, everyone rewards themselves at a Maine clambake, including lobster, steamers, corn on the cob and a cup of New England clam chowder. The town is ideally suited for families, with countless diversions and family friendly restaurants, as well as a downtown ready-made for strolling on soft summer nights. It’s a ready antidote for kids overwhelmed by too much of the great outdoors who need a little jolt of civilization or just good, unpretentious fun.
Acadia has two well-appointed campgrounds. The larger one is Blackwoods Campground, located just south of Bar Harbor at the beginning of the Park Loop; it offers more than 300 tent sites, along with hot water shower and evening campfire programs. More secluded and peaceful, Seawell Campground has some 200 sites well off the beaten track on the western side of the island. While its possible to reserve sites here as well, half of the sites are kept open on a first-come, first-served basis. If you arrive there before 10 a.m. in summer, you have a very good chance of securing a spot.
FLORIDA, Biscayne National Park: Biscayne National Park is a United States National Park located in South Florida that consists of 44 islands. It’s the perfect place for some wet (!) outdoor recreation.
Pottery-shaped sponges, brown pelicans, mangroves, gentle manatees, turtles, ferocious crocodiles and brilliant butterflies are but a few of the species making their homes in Biscayne National Park, just across the Biscayne Bay but a world apart from downtown Miami. The waters of the bay hold secrets of natural and human history, from pirate wrecks to luminous coral reefs, while the land above encompasses four protected ecosystems, hundreds of species of wildlife and many historical landmarks.
If you like camping in the outdoors with views of Miami islands, you can visit the Boca Chita Key. Elliott Key is the most comprehensive place on Biscayne National Park. Elliot Key is a beautiful island that offers facilities for camping, picnics, swimming, wildlife watching, hiking and fishing.
Families visiting Biscayne between December and April can sign up to attend “Family Fun Fest” – a day-long program held on the second Sunday of those months and focused on activities tied to the park’s diverse resources.
WYOMING, Grand Teton National Park: Grand Teton National Park is infamous for its endless amount of outdoor activities. There is so much to do, that even the locals have a hard time getting it all in each season. Best of all, there is literally something for everyone—from the most extreme outdoor sports to leisure activities such as wildlife viewing or simply soaking in the surrounding natural beauty.
Some of the activities include traditional mountain park hiking, walking, wildlife viewing, photography, backpacking, camping, climbing and fishing, swimming, boating, floating, canoeing and biking in the summer to skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling in the winter.
Teens looking for a challenge can measure themselves against the Tetons, thanks to climbing schools where world-class guides will teach them the basics and lead them to the summit of 13,770-foot Grand Teton.
All five campgrounds of Grand Teton National Park are first come first serve. Jenny Lake campground is for tents only. Even though the other four will accommodate trailers and RVs, there are no utility hookups. All campgrounds have modern comfort stations. Reservations are available for groups of ten or more by mail. Camping in the backcountry requires a permit and you may camp only in designated camp sites.
COLORADO, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve: Because the dunes and surrounding mountains are designated wilderness, this is a great place to enjoy unspoiled natural beauty in a variety of ways. Whether you play in Medano Creek, build a sand castle, slide down the dunes, go birdwatching in wetlands, or ascend a 13,000′ peak, you will discover plenty of kinds of outdoor recreation for all ages.
Kids love to get sandy on the tallest sand dunes in North America. Rising to about 650 feet, these dunes in the heart of the park are perfect for skiing, sand-boarding, or just plain old rolling down.
The park is surrounded by a lot of other great things to do too: San Luis Lake State Park features a large natural lake that is maintained at year-round levels through a canal system for fishing and water sports. Another is Fort Garland which is home to Adobe buildings that have been reconstructed to their original 19th century appearance. Dioramas, exhibits, tents and tepees, and scheduled living history events make this a good place for all ages to learn about this era. And finally, Mosca, Colorado, the closest town to the park, features western pioneer festivals and parades, and American Indian dances and Hispanic heritage events. The San Luis Valley has a diverse heritage and an eclectic ambiance that is reflected in its architecture, art, and cuisine. This valley is even home to an alligator sanctuary and a “UFO Watchtower”! (something any 12 and 15-year-old boy would love to see!)
CALIFORNIA, Lassen Volcanic National Park: The dominant feature of the park is Lassen Peak; the largest plug dome volcano in the world and the southern-most volcano in the Cascade Range. Lassen Volcanic National Park started as two separate national monuments designated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907: Cinder Cone National Monument and Lassen Peak National Monument.
The source of heat for volcanism in the Lassen area is subduction off the Northern California coast of the Gorda Plate diving below the North American Plate. The area surrounding Lassen Peak is still active with boiling mud pots, stinking fumaroles, and churning hot springs. Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the few areas in the world where all four types of volcano can be found (plug dome, shield, cinder cone, and strato).
Lassen Volcanic has eight campgrounds that range from developed to primitive. Approximately half of the park’s campsites are reservable. Four campgrounds are only first-come, first-served. All group sites and stock corrals require reservations. Each campsite has a picnic table, fire ring equipped with grill, and a metal bear box for food storage. There are no hookups in the park. A dump station is located near Manzanita Lake.
KENTUCKY, Mammoth Cave National Park: Mammoth Cave, as its name suggests, is the world’s most extensive cave system, with over 300 miles of passages that are known and more that have not been explored. Located in central Kentucky, this subterranean phenomenon was created more than several million years ago as water worked its way through limestone deposits, dissolving the rock and carving underground passageways to connect with the nearby river. Over the ages, the water table slowly dropped leaving narrow horizontal tunnels, broad caverns and giant vertical shafts linked in a many-leveled labyrinth. The lower passage ways are still being enlarged by streams and rivers. Water seeping into the cave creates stalactites, stalagmites and white gypsum crystal formations that decorate some of the passages and rooms.
A Mammoth Cave trip is definitely built around a cave tour with the family! Take the Violet City Lantern Tour to experience the passageways by flickering lamp light as many of its first visitors did, view the incredible flowstones on the Frozen Niagara Tour, or visit the Snowball Room with its ancient autographs inscribed with soot.
There are four campgrounds in Mammoth Cave National Park. They are: Dennison Ferry, Headquarters Campground, Houchins Ferry camping area, and Maple Springs Campground. All campgrounds are first come first serve except for Maple Spring Group Campground.
MICHIGAN, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: No matter what the season, there is plenty to do at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. There are over 100 miles of hiking trails and many of them can be skied or snowshoed in the winter. The 35 miles of mainland Lake Michigan beaches offer great swimming and sunbathing in the summer and incredible views for a quiet hike at any time of the year. Kids and adults can even sled down the 100+ ft. Dune Climb.
Kayakers will find several good access points to Lake Michigan and for those who want to float the rivers, bring your boat or tube or rent them here and enjoy a leisurely float on the Platte or Crystal rivers. Hunters and fishermen will also find an abundance of opportunities.
The Platte River Campground offers sites with electric hook-ups for RVs and trailers as well as walk-in sites for those who want to carry their tent off the beaten path. Showers and modern restrooms are available here. The Platte River and Lake Michigan are close by, too. Reservations are available by phone or over the internet.
With all of these great options, I’m very excited. I am a little unsure of just how the four of us will manage to clear our schedules all at the same time….but I am very sure that from the start of the trip I won’t be hearing, “RV there yet?!?!?”
Come visit us at Safford RV, pick up an RV for your family, and we’ll meet up at the top of Grand Teton with the kids….well, at least the boys and I will be there. ( someone in this family’s afraid of heights! )
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